Chapter 1 to Chapter 3

Chapter 1 Summary:

The novel begins with Grendel, a bear-like monster, watching a “stupidly triumphant” ram standing at a cliff’s edge. Grendel tries to scare it away, eventually howling so terrifyingly that the water nearby freezes, but the ram doesn’t react. Grendel knows it is because spring has come and the ram is now fueled by lust.

This spring marks the twelfth anniversary of what Grendel call his “idiotic war” against humanity. Repulsed by the sexual desires that the spring weather has awaked in the ram, Grendel asks the sky why animals can’t “discover a little dignity,” knowing the sky won’t respond. He raises his middle finger at the sky and kicks, claiming to hate the sky as well.

Grendel says he is also like the animals, however, a pointless, “ridiculous monster...stinking of dead men, murdered children, martyred cows.” He walks around screaming, crying, laughing, and behaving in a “mostly fake,” melodramatic way. As he goes along, he notes places where he has killed various humans, destroys trees, and observes the signs of spring. He scares a doe, then screams that her reaction is unfair, as he has never hurt a deer.

Passing by his “foul,” sleeping mother, he swims through a lake of firesnakes that leads to the realm of humans, deriding his mechanical urge to follow the same pattern each spring. Upon reaching the cliff at the edge of his land, he screams into the abyss, which echoes his own voice, surprising him a little.

He continues to advance toward the meadhall of the king of the Danes, Hrothgar. Thinking of his mother, he describes her as feeling guilty for some “unremembered, perhaps ancestral crime,” and concludes she must be related to humans. She can’t speak or answer Grendel’s questions beyond using body language, which she employs to try to stop him from asking questions.

Grendel arrives at Hrothgar’s meadhall and knocks down the front door. The humans...

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Essays About Grendel