Cast of Characters

Grendel: The narrator and antihero of the story. In the original poem known as Beowulf, dated between the 8th and 11th century, Grendel is the first brute monster that the hero Beowulf defeats. He is described as being large and bear-like. In this story, Grendel borders on a parody of the Byronic hero, searching alone for his place in a hostile world. Separate from society and possessing an unnaturally long lifes pan, he watches and criticizes human society.

Hrothgar: The King of the Danes, Hrothgar spreads his influence across the land quickly, unit Grendel starts raiding his village. Grendel thinks of Hrothgar as his personal enemy for much of the novel. Although the original Beowulf portrays Hrothgar as an ideal king, in Grendel, Hrothgar is presented more realistically. Toward the end of the novel, Hrothgar feels trapped by all he has built.

The Shaper: A singer, storyteller, and creative historian who comes to Hrothgar’s court for employment as an entertainer. The version of the Danes’ history he creates provides a false continuity for them, but also provides an ideological value system that inspires men like Hrothgar and Unferth. Grendel is attracted to this worldview, although it contracts his own observations. In the novel, the Shaper stands for the power of art to impose meaning on a chaotic universe.

The dragon: A intellectual, cynical monster who lives in a large cave, guarding gold and treasures. According to the dragon, who claims he can see everything in the past, present, and future, life is meaningless. Grendel doesn’t fully understand the dragon, but is still influenced by the serpent’s nihilism throughout the novel, though he is also drawn to the Shaper’s effort to create meaning.

Beowulf: Known in the novel only as "the stranger,” Beowulf is a hero who sails across the ocean to defeat Grendel. Described as “grotesquely muscled,” Grendel can immediately see...

Sign up to continue reading Cast of Characters >

Essays About Grendel