Elements of a Series
Grendel, a prequel to the popular epic Beowulf, provides a look into the dismal life of the unearthly monster. Grendel and Beowulf are clearly similar but also show striking differences in the elements of each story through the formulation of the setting, the portrayal and development of certain characters, and the depiction of motifs. In both Grendel and Beowulf, the stories take place in the land of the Gaets, ruled by Hrothgar. The Gaet people living in the town experience Hrothgar’s gratitude with his providing of Heorot, a town hall. In both stories, the townspeople gather there and drink mead with each other. This hall is the main spot of attack for Grendel, as he attacks the drunken people who are clueless. Since the main characters in the stories are different, the setting does comprise of minor differences. A main, reoccurring event in Grendel is the trek from Grendel’s cave down to the low-lying town of the Geats. Grendel’s cave is lodged in a mountain, near his mother. Grendel walks down the mountain, across a field, and eventually down to the town of the foolish Gaet people. The setting of Beowulf constantly jumps from one area to another. The story follows Beowulf, an epic hero, from Denmark to the land of the Gaets. The story takes place in both Denmark and the land of the Gaets as the narrator constantly jumps time frames to different stories and times. The setting of both stories is very similar in the set up of the town and the importance of Heorot as the attacking spot for Grendel. The constant depiction of motifs and underlying symbols are very prevalent in Grendel but not so much as in Beowulf. John Gardner, the author of Grendel, uses the Zodiac signs during the entire story. Each of the twelve zodiac signs, assigned to a chapter, represent the changing seasons and time periods as well as the changing of and description of characters such as Grendel, Hrothulf, and Red Horse. These motifs show the transition of the story and the time and season in which the chapter is occurring. In Beowulf, the monsters are all recurring symbols. The three monsters represent the three sections of the story. Also, with each monster comes an increased toughness. Beowulf defeated Grendel with his hands, defeated Grendel’s mother with a sword and chain-mail, and killed the dragon but eventually died from the monster. The three monsters represent the transition of the story to Beowulf’s death. The stories both contain underlying motifs based on transition and time, but in regard to different subjects and characters. Many of the main characters in Beowulf appear scarcely, if all, in Grendel, and many new characters appear in Grendel. The characters Grendel and Beowulf both propose polar characteristics in the two stories, and a new character, The Shaper, plays a large role in the Grendel story. In Beowulf, Grendel appears to be a ruthless and miserable monster that wreaks havoc on the Geats. He struggles with violence and power and ends up being killed by Beowulf. However, in Grendel, he is portrayed as a lonely creature. He attempts to understand how to live and be accepted in a world he does not know. He starts out as a childish figure and transitions into a strong-minded monster. Beowulf rarely appears in the John Gardner version of Grendel. However, Beowulf appears as a true superhero. He exemplifies superhuman attributes and does certain uncannily feats. In both stories, Beowulf rips off the arm of Grendel with his bare hands and sends him to his death. Both Grendel and Beowulf undergo drastic character changes in the two stories. Grendel and Beowulf both have certain elements of their story that are alike and also differ including the setting, characters, and display of motifs. They differ drastically in the language of the stories and the portrayal of the story as a poem compared to a book. The language, affected by the time period it was written in, is much more modern in the John Gardner version. The stories differ in the elements of the setting and motifs, but mostly, in the depiction of the characters.