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Misunderstood Monsters: Grendel
Transcript of Misunderstood Monsters: Grendel
What about him?
Grendel: Basic Facts
Author: John Gardner
Purpose: Retelling of the Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem Beowulf
Age Level: Secondary
Content Area: English
The Way out
This book helps students to understand perspective. The truth is hard to understand and even though the two narrators believe their version of the events, the reader can see how personal experience influences interpretations.
There is also the debate of the nature of evil. In Beowulf Grendel is "born of Cain" so naturally evil. In
he lacks a nurturing upbringing and his surroundings are responsible for his actions.
The theme of Nihilism is also present, and while most students react adversely to this theory it is still helpful in understanding Grendel's point of view about how life has no intrinsic value. Value is only present, because humanity insists there is value.
Finally existentialism is present, due to how disoriented and confused Grendel is in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.
You all know these guys, right?
Victor Frankenstein's Monster
The lovable Ogre Shrek
Meet Grendel, he is the first villain and arguably the most complex monster in English Literature.
Teaches Students About:
Nature Vs. Nurture
The novel begins with a 12 year war between Grendel and the Danes
Grendel reminiscences about the how the war began. When he was younger he encountered all manners of creatures: a ram, the sky, his mother, fire snakes, and a lot of others...all of which are mute. (Existentialism)
One day Grendel leaves his cave to explore the world and gets stuck in a tree.
While stuck a bull repeatedly and senselessly attacks him. He cries for his mother, but there is no response (Nihilism)
Finally the Danes find him stuck in the tree and mistake him for a tree spirit. Since they cannot understand his language, they misinterpret him and begin to attack.
Grendel's mother appears and saves him from the humans.
Super Condensed Version
Beowulf is a great prince and warrior for the Geats
Hrothgar (King of the Danes) invites Beowulf to come aid them in ridding their mead hall Heorot of the monster Grendel.
Beowulf kills Grendel (brutally) and kills Grendel's mother (brutally).
Beowulf returns home and becomes King of the Geats. Fifty years pass, and now a dragon is plaguing Beowulf's people. Mainly because a thief stole from the dragon.
Beowulf with the help of his kinsman Wiglaf kills the dragon, but Beowulf is mortally wounded.
Beowulf receives an amazing burial
Grendel becomes obsessed with understanding these people when he overhears a poet retelling the rise of Hrothgar and his people.
After seeing two lovers, Grendel sees a corpse and is overcome by this juxtaposition. He takes the corpse to Hart (the humans hall), and begs them for mercy.
Again, they mistake his actions as an attack on them.
Later Grendel meets an omniscient dragon who explains the futility of humanity. The dragon says the poet's only ability is to make humans seem logical.
After years of battling with the humans Grendel finally comes to the same conclusion as the dragon, and stops sympathizing.
Beowulf arrives and defeats Grendel.
On his deathbed Grendel either falls or jumps into an abyss and contemplates if he is feeling joy.