The Monsters of Beowulf: Physical Appearance, Behavior, and Symbolism

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 565 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Words: 565|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Physical Appearance
  2. Behavior
  3. Symbolism
  4. Conclusion

Beowulf is an epic poem that dates back to the 8th century and is considered one of the most important works of Old English literature. Throughout the poem, Beowulf encounters various monsters that he must defeat in order to protect the land of the Danes. These monsters are depicted as powerful and menacing creatures that pose a significant threat to the community. In this essay, I will explore the characteristics of the monster in Beowulf, focusing on their physical appearance, behavior, and symbolism within the poem.

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Physical Appearance

The monsters in Beowulf are often described as grotesque and monstrous in their physical appearance. Grendel, the first monster that Beowulf faces, is depicted as a giant humanoid creature with sharp claws and teeth. He is said to be descended from Cain, the biblical figure who committed the first murder, which further emphasizes his evil nature. Grendel's mother, who Beowulf encounters in the second part of the poem, is similarly described as a monstrous creature with a powerful, almost inhuman presence.

Another prominent monster in Beowulf is the dragon that Beowulf faces in the final part of the poem. The dragon is described as a fearsome beast with scales like iron and a breath that can melt steel. Its immense size and strength make it a formidable adversary for Beowulf, highlighting the danger that these monsters pose to the community.


In addition to their physical appearance, the monsters in Beowulf are characterized by their violent and destructive behavior. Grendel, for example, is known for his attacks on the mead hall of King Hrothgar, where he terrorizes the Danes and kills many of their warriors. His mother, seeking revenge for her son's death, also engages in violent behavior by attacking the halls of the Danes and killing one of their most respected warriors.

The dragon, likewise, is depicted as a destructive force that terrorizes the land of the Geats by burning villages and killing innocent people. Its greed for treasure leads to further conflict and tragedy, ultimately culminating in a final confrontation with Beowulf. The behavior of these monsters underscores the chaos and danger that they represent, posing a significant threat to the societies in which they dwell.


While the monsters in Beowulf may serve as physical adversaries for the hero, they also carry symbolic significance within the poem. Grendel, for example, has been interpreted as a symbol of the destructive forces that threaten the social order. His attacks on the mead hall can be seen as a metaphor for the breakdown of civilization and the need for heroic intervention to restore order.

Grendel's mother, on the other hand, has been viewed as a symbol of the power of maternal vengeance. Her relentless pursuit of retribution for her son's death highlights the strength of a mother's love and the lengths to which she will go to protect her offspring. The dragon, with its hoarding of treasure and destructive tendencies, has been seen as a symbol of greed and the corrupting influence of wealth.

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In conclusion, the monsters in Beowulf play a crucial role in the development of the poem's plot and themes. Their physical appearance, behavior, and symbolism contribute to the overall impact of the narrative, highlighting the dangers that they pose to the characters and communities within the story. By examining the characteristics of these monsters, we gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that Beowulf must overcome in his quest for glory and heroism.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Monsters of Beowulf: Physical Appearance, Behavior, and Symbolism. (2024, March 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from
“The Monsters of Beowulf: Physical Appearance, Behavior, and Symbolism.” GradesFixer, 06 Mar. 2024,
The Monsters of Beowulf: Physical Appearance, Behavior, and Symbolism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jun. 2024].
The Monsters of Beowulf: Physical Appearance, Behavior, and Symbolism [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 06 [cited 2024 Jun 17]. Available from:
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