There are two sides to every story. The events may be the same, but the tone in which the story is told shapes the reader’s understanding of the events. This idea is never more evident than through the disparity between Burton Raffel’s translation of Beowulf and John Gardner’s Grendel. Both novels are based on the idea of Beowulf killing Grendel. However, the two different points of view telling the story create vastly different novels. Beowulf highlights the heroic and positive world in which Beowulf lives. Whereas Grendel elucidates on the miserable life that Grendel is circumscribed to. The consistent variance in tone skews the events in two completely different directions. The tone between Beowulf and Grendel differ in perception, righteousness, and maturity.
First and foremost, perception is the key ingredient in shaping the tone of the novel. Narrators tell a story like they see it, and a difference in perception can create two very dissimilar stories. In Beowulf the events are perceived as a positive. When Beowulf slays two adversaries King Hrothgar notes, “Your fame is everywhere, my friend, reaches to the ends of the earth, and you hold it in your heart wisely” (Raffel 72). Beowulf views the world as positive, and the world reciprocates by lavishing him with praise. Now look at the world from Grendel’s perspective. Everyone views him as a hideous monster that is the epitome of evil. After a deep philosophical talk with the Dragon, Grendel is convinced that there is no way in which he can win. With a negative mindset, Grendel takes a look at his environment: “Futility, doom, became a smell in the air, pervasive and acrid as the dead smell after a forest fire” (Gardner 75). It no surprise that he sees the world as a negative place; one in which there is no hope. Both Grendel and Beowulf live in the same area at the same time. However, the difference in the description of the events comes from the difference in perception.
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