Beowulf and Grendel

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Beowulf is a classical epic poem which describes Beowulf’s heroic deeds and his acts towards bringing justice and peace to the Scandinavian society by eradicating Grendel. The original manuscript (700-1000A.D.) and the modern film (2005) reveals significant differences between the characters’ traits and descriptions, an important quotation, descriptions of places, motives, a character’s presence and events that have taken place. Thus, this modern adaptation, Beowulf and Grendel, of an ancient text, Beowulf, is significantly flawed as any modern adaptation of an ancient text will be. In the film, specific characters are portrayed differently as they are in the poem. A significant example of this is from the character, Grendel. The poem portrays Grendel as a demon who is ultimately evil and a descendant of Cain. The image of Grendel the poem gives its readers is nothing compared to that of a human’s traits and characteristics. “ He was spawned in that slime, conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain, murderous creatures banished by God, punished forever for the crime of Abel’s death.” (Beowulf, lines 41-45) This quotation shows us that Grendel was portrayed as a very non-human character, he was displayed more of a monster and a creature than a human. “The Almighty drove those demons out, and their exile was bitter, into a thousand forms of evil---spirits and fiends, goblins, monsters, giants, a brood forever opposing the Lord’s will, and again and again defeated.” (Beowulf, lines 45-51) This quotation reveals the fact that Grendel was being contrasted to the many forms of evil in which none resemble any human characteristics or traits, and this quote also foreshadows the eventual defeat of Grendel. “ A powerful monster, living down in the darkness, growled in pain, impatient as day after day the music rang loud in that hall.” (Beowulf, lines 23-26) This quotation clearly states that Grendel is a monster which lives in darkness and antagonizes the celebrations in the mead-hall which is clearly a sign of a non-human characteristic. Grendel is a demonic and evil figure which represented evil within the Scandinavian society and also Satan’s presence on earth. “Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild marshes, and made his home in a hell not hell but earth.” (Beowulf, lines 39-41) In contrast, the film characterizes Grendel as more of a troll and savage than a demon. Also, in the film Grendel is given some human characteristics contrasting to the very non-human characteristics given to Grendel in the poem. These human characteristics in the film are illustrated in the following examples: Grendel urinates on the mead-hall’s front entrance while Beowulf and his soldiers are waiting to attack; when Grendel attacks the mead-hall he does not kill the monk which was outside praying because the monk was not Danish and had done nothing to him; and Grendel creates his own version of bowling with the heads of Danes being the pins and rocks being the bowling balls. These examples of human characteristics indicate that the film version of Grendel is portrayed as more “human” than in the epic poem. Also, another convincing example of character contrast is King Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, in the poem was displayed as a confident, courageous, and powerful King which reigned over the Danish territory. Even though Grendel’s haunt terrorized the Danes, Hrothgar is still shown to be there for his people and to lead the Danes out of this terrible situation. With the arrival of Beowulf, Hrothgar’s confidence and courage to defeat Grendel’s haunt is elevated even further. “ Hrothgar, gray-haired and brave, sat happily listening, the famous ring-giver sure, at last, that Grendel could be killed; he believed in Beowulf’s bold strength and the firmness of his spirit.” (Beowulf, lines 327-330) In the film, Hrothgar is shown as a weak and demoralizing leader which has no confidence or courage to defeat Grendel. He falls into a great...
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