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Beowulf and Grendel Essay

The epic poem Beowulf describes the adventures of a hero who saved the people of Danelaw by defeating the terrifying monster, Grendel. Centuries later, John Gardner narrates the tale as seen from the monster’s point of view. Even though both pieces of literature relate the same events, their stories differ in many ways including the way in which the character Beowulf is portrayed, the way in which the character Grendel is portrayed, their descriptions of the fight scene between Beowulf and Grendel, as well as the overall tone of each literary work.

One major discrepancy between the epic poem, Beowulf, and John Gardner’s novel, Grendel, is the way in which the character Beowulf is portrayed. In the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf, the character Beowulf accepted the challenge the horrific monster, Grendel. Beowulf chose “the bravest and best of the Geats, fourteen / In all, and led them down to their boat” (206-7). Eventually, Beowulf defeats Grendel and is celebrated as a hero:

Beowulf,
A prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel,
Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering
Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people
By a bloodthirsty fiend. No Dane doubted
The victory, for the proof, hanging high
From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was
the monster’s
Arm, claw, and shoulder and all. (829-36)
On the other hand, in Gardner’s Grendel, Beowulf is described as being cruel and being a bully. Grendel describes what happens as Beowulf smashes him into a wall, “[Beowulf whispers] ‘Feel the wall: is it not hard?’ He smashes me against it, breaks open my forehead. ‘Hard, yes! Observe the hardness, write it down in careful runes. Now sing of walls! Sing!” (171). Grendel thinks of Beowulf as an intelligent, yet crazy, lunatic: “He’s crazy. I understand him all right, make no mistake. Understand his lunatic theory of matter and mind, the chilly intellect, the hot imagination, blocks and builder, reality as stress”...
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