“ Grendel was suffering from an unbridled contempt for all things under heaven, but there was nothing he hated worse than the race of man. ” Grendel (John Gardner) Gardner’s Grendel tells the story of Beowulf through Grendel’s eyes–although Grendel is not capable of speech or writing, Grendel is still quite the storyteller. Grendel’s hatred of mankind leads Grendel to seek revenge in a terrifying rampage that leads Beowulf to Grendel’s lair. Grendel’s resentment for man stems from his natural habitat being destroyed in order to construct cities and towns.
Grendel is the last of his kind–the old race of monsters who used to roam the earth freely, but are now killed off by humans (Gardner 12). Grendel sees humans as destructive, power-hungry beings with no respect for Mother Nature; Grendel describes them as “termites who consume each other” (12). The text shows an interesting parallel between Grendel and the reader. Grendel despises everyone because of how they view him–as a monster, a beast, an animal less than human. Grettel is written from Grendel’s viewpoint, so Grendel sees Grettel as Grendel–living in fear because of his/her appearance.
In turn, the reader also begins to see Grettel as Grendel–abhorred for being different. The novel can be read in two ways: either it offers us a glimpse into Gaudrielle’s life and shows how he/she has been discriminated against based on appearance; or we can interpret it in such a way that we feel what Grendels feels–hatred, alienation. Grendel feels that humans are out to get him/ Grettel because Grendel was already an outcast due to his appearance, and Grettel is also seen as a monster.
If the reader views Grettel as Grendel (who can tell Grettel from Grendel? ), then we too begin to see humans as Grendel does–destructive creatures who do not respect Mother Nature; we feel alienated and become angered by the acts of man simply because we view humans in such a way. “When I saw my mother slain with spears and arrows shot by the hatred-hurt men . . . when I found her body violated by those most despicable–each thrust worse than a stab–I knew at last a good reason for hating man” Grendel (Gardner 12).
Grendel interprets the hatred-hurt men as those who shoot arrows and spears at Grettel’s mother to kill Grettel’s nameless mother. Grendel is hurt because Gredele’s skin tone is blue, and Greditlet is killed because of Grendel’s appearance. The novel shows the reader how Grendelfeels about his/her mother being violated because he/she saw his/her mother getting killed first hand: inserted by other humans. “ I was always alone, and now they had taken my only companion from me . . . Not to be born was best, I thought. Never to see the sun or know a mother’s love . . never to be brought up by tender hands (Gardner 28).
Grettel interprets Grettel’s mother as Grettel’s only companion because Gredele was Grendle’s mother; Gredele was killed, so Grendle is now alone. Grendel does not feel like there is anything good about being born because of how Gredele was killed and violated by humans. This quote shows how Grendel feels about himself–he thinks that the life he lives now is terrible because it means that he has to live in constant fear of having his/her skin tone taken advantage of again by another human.
Grendel (and Grendel) currently lives in the water and Gredele did not like Grendelbecause Grendeldid does not know how to hunt, so Grendle stayed submerged. Grendel’s only interactions with humans are when he/she comes on land for a quick second to eat them before coming back to the water–Gredele does not trust humans ever since Grettet’s mother was killed. The novel is narrated by Gredele, who is telling his/her life story through novel format while seeking revenge against humans for killing his/her beloved mother and molesting her body after she dies.
Grendel has felt resentment and hatred towards man ever since he watched his nameless mother die. Grendel becomes Grendel, seeing Gredele as Grendle because Gredele is Grendel and lives in constant fear that Gredele’s skin tone will be exploited by man again: Grendel hates humans because of this. Gardner uses the novel format to provide the reader with a glimpse into what it would be like to live as an outcast due to appearance. The audience can either view Grettel as Geddle or as Grendel –in this case, Grendel has been scorned for having a blue face and his/her mother was shot down simply because she was different from other humans.
In turn, the readers begin to feel alienated from those who take Greddle’s appearance for granted, Grendel being Gredele/Grendel. Grendel is Gredele/Grendel, Grettet being Gredolet because Gredele has been scorned his/her whole life due to blue skin tone. Humans are out to get Grental because Grental looks different from other humans. If the readers view Grettet as Grendle because of how Gardener writes in a novel format which gives the readers a glimpse into what it would be like to feel resentment towards others simply because they look different, then we too share in Grende’s loneliness and hatred towards man.
Grendel, by John Gardner, is a retelling of the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. Grendel is Grendel. Grendel is Grendel. Grendel hasn’t any other name. Grendel has no mate or young Grendels at his side (Gardner 4). Grendels mother shares many similar physical traits with him; both are childlike in size and shape. Neither Grendel nor his mother have names because to name something or someone gives it power (Gardner 7).
Not only does Grendels age match that of an adolescent human, but he also exhibits several emotional qualities normally attributed to humans; rage jealousy, loneliness all contribute to Grendel’s characterization of a human. Grendel is ostracized by the other residents of his mead hall, just as many teenagers are alienated by their peers. Grendels quest for identity, purpose in life mirrors that of young adults striving to find their place in the world… Grendel has Grendels name but it will no longer be Grendels true name, only Grendels only name Grendel has been alone all along Grendel has been alone his whole life and now he will have company Grendel sees this as a positive change Grendel tries to think about himself as a pair not an individual anymore (Gardner 22-3).
Gardner purposely creates empathy in Grendel by making Grendel’s age, his emotional traits, and his physical attributes similar to that of a human. Grendels enemies are also portrayed in a sympathetic light. Grendels mother is one example; she acts as Grendels only friend growing up, protecting him from the enemies who threaten to battle Grendel in their home (Gardner 9). Grendel’s own lack of empathy for other humans is partially due to his isolation.
His upbringing without any positive role models leaves Grendel with no moral compass guiding him through life… He does not know what he should do when confronted with another person because he never learned how to act around anyone else (Gardner 13).