John Gardner’s Grendel

Is it fair to say that there are monsters in Grendel? If so, who are they and what makes them monstrous?


This paper provides an in-depth review on Grendel. Some of the characters in the text include Grendel, Hrothgar the king, the Sharper, the dragon and Grendel’s mother. The epic story has a lot of similarities with the biblical narration of Cain and Abel. Interesting aspects of the texts and their significance are also highlighted in the essay.


In the book, there is a lot of evidence to support that there are monsters in Grendel that controls his actions and behavior. Two sides of the character are evident, that is the good and the evil, and this is a representation of the monsters that are within him. In Chapter 4, p.54, Grendel is guided by the evil towards crushing the guard on the tree but another voice deep within prevents him from eating the dead person. The significance of this quotation is derived from the fact that it shows that there are forces that drive Grendel’s actions. In this case, the good side overcomes evil. It is interesting to note that he traveled from the caves to listen to Sharper sing praise war but was on most occasions from the monstrous actions by the monsters representing the good just as portrayed by the quotation. All along, he had lived watching these people but had never thought of destroying them, yet he had the ability.

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Overtime, the evil and the darks monsters in Grendel overcomes the good and friendly forces. According to him, the charm is derived from the dragon that changes his perspective on the humans. He discovered that the dragon had put a charm on him and that he had developed resistance to any weapon and at the same time his heart grew darker (Chapter 6, 75-76). This is a confirmation of the genesis of Grendel’s evil phase driven by the dark monsters deep within him. His once friendly character disappears, and he turns against the same humans that he had grown in the caves with his mother, watching. Sharper’s songs that he had previously enjoyed now had a strange and enraging effect on him. Additionally, the quotation shows that the dark monsters in Grendel were just waiting for a triggering factor, which in this case happened to be the dragon. The quick transformation of Grendel from good and friendly to evil and non-accommodative is rather surprising. He also admired the humans and how they carried on with their daily lives but had never thought of causing massive destruction on them. Nevertheless, this view had changed, and all that covered his thoughts was the desire to kill.

While in the caves, the good monsters reign but this rapidly changes immediately when he gets to the meadhall of Hrothgar. In Chapter 6, p.79, Grendel decides to launch his first raid on humanity by waiting until they were asleep then snatching them from bed, slitting their bodies and devouring. In so doing, a sense of joy and satisfaction engulfed his entire self. This quotation signifies a transformed Grendel that is driven by the vengeful, dangerous and evil monsters that are up to destroying humanity. The quotation is a signification of the born again Grendel now riding in the life that he had searched for years. The damage that he instilled on the people of Meadhalls that he at once admired is thought-provoking. Despite the fight-back by Hrothgar and his people, they were always defeated in their game by the monster.


From the above three quotations and arguments, it is fair to say that Grendel’s character and actions were controlled by the monsters of evil and good that were found deep within him. His friendly and warm side is controlled by the good monsters while his dangerous and dark side is guided by the evil monsters.


Work Cited

Gardner, John. Grendel. Vintage Books, New York. Print.