The story of Grendel, written by John Gardner, tells the tale of Beowulf, but from a slightly different angle. Instead of talking of Beowulf as being the hero, the story is told from Grendel's perspective. During the course of the book, Grendel attempts to explain many of his misguided attempts at friendship and other ways that he tried to make Beowulf understand that he was a living creature as well. He was treated as a monster, but he was not as hateful and horrible as he was made out to be in Beowulf's tale. In fact, Beowulf’s side of the story made Grendel appear incredibly inhumane and unmerciful, when in reality, Grendel was just misunderstood. In Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel, the main character of Beowulf is the ultimate hero. He is constantly saving the town and is looked up to by all the townspeople. Beowulf has also had encounters with Grendel, the town’s monster, where Beowulf always saves the day and chases the monster away. These two stories can be looked at many different ways; there are always multiple sides to a story. The order in which an audience experiences both stories, significantly affects their perception on the same events. If one were to read Beowulf first, for example, their views on Grendel would be very different compared to someone who read Grendel first. “..snatched up thirty men, smashed them unknowing in their beds and ran out with their bodies, the blood dripping behind him, back to his lair, delighted with his night’s slaughter,” (Beowulf, pg. 7) Grendel is made out to look like a terrible monster that terrorizes everyone. The reader would think that Grendel had bad intentions and killed people for fun. Audiences that experienced Grendel’s story first would think very differently, he was only trying to get some food, it just so happens that he eats people. In Beowulf, they also find Grendel “disrupting” their parties, he enters and everyone panics, assuming Grendel is there to harm them. In fact, he was just curious as to what all the commotion was about, it was disturbing his nap. Anyone is cranky when mysterious music wakes them up. The many perceptions of Grendel positively contributed to the holistic worldview of the entire story. The character of Beowulf was perceived in many various ways, as well. Audiences that read “Beowulf” initially would most definitely view him as a hero, which was his main role in the story. He is constantly being praised for his good doings throughout the story, “..though they fought no enemy like yours. Glory is now yours forever and ever, your courage has earned it, and your strength. May God be as good to you forever as he has been to you here!” (Beowulf, pg. 39) Hrothgar is admiring Beowulf for his courage and strength for defeating Grendel once and for all. This flattery was not uncommon within the story; modest Beowulf was praised all the time for his good deeds. On the contrary, Grendel viewed Beowulf as the opposite of a hero, he was a threat. Grendel’s story consisted of him minding his own business and living his own life, and then Beowulf comes out of nowhere and attacks him. “The room goes suddenly white, as if struck by lightening. I stare down, amazed. He has torn off my arm at the shoulder!” (Grendel, pg. 153) Poor Grendel! All he wanted was some food and instead he got his arm torn off, that would most likely be the perception of primary Grendel readers. They would most likely feel bad for Grendel when all he wanted was to eat, but instead Beowulf just comes along and tries to kill him. The effect of experiencing Grendel’s side of the story initially plays a significant role in the holistic view. The holistic worldview is enhanced greatly, because there are always many sides to a story. By having all the different views, the meaning of the events is better comprehended and understood.
❖ Beowulf. Trans. Burton Raffel. McDougal Littell, 1998. ❖ Gardener, John . Grendel. n.d.