Beowulf and Grendel Comparison

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Apr 30, 2024
Read Summary
Cite this
Beowulf and Grendel Comparison

This essay will compare and contrast the characters of Beowulf and Grendel in the Old English epic “Beowulf.” It will explore their respective roles as hero and monster, analyzing how they represent the themes of good versus evil, heroism, and the warrior culture of the Anglo-Saxons. The piece will discuss the contrasting depictions of heroism and villainy, examining how each character’s actions, motivations, and symbolism contribute to the epic’s narrative and its underlying moral and cultural values. PapersOwl showcases more free essays that are examples of Beowulf.

Date added
Pages:  3
Order Original Essay

How it works

Beowulf is a heroic epic poem written by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, circa 1000 A.D, making it one of the oldest surviving literary works in Old English Literature. Beowulf follows the story of a young Geatish warrior who uses his strength, courage, and bravery to slay a monster named Grendel, who terrorizes the kingdom of Hrothgar, the King of the Danes. In Beowulf, Grendel is depicted as a man-eating monster who represents evil and is a descendant of Cain, the first murderer.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

However, in John Gardner’s Grendel, readers get to read the situation from Grendel’s perspective. Both Beowulf and Grendel differ greatly, especially in the sense of how Grendel is depicted in these two stories. While Grendel is portrayed similarly in both of these stories when it comes to his nature and actions, he is portrayed quite differently regarding his purpose and initiative. Furthermore, Beowulf simply portrays Grendel as vile, heartless monster, whereas Grendel dives into the philosophical ideas and reasoning as to why Grendel is the way he is.

In Beowulf, it is evident that Grendel is perceived as the villain, a ruthless monster who goes around mercilessly killing people out of pleasure. “The monster relished his savage war on the Danes, keeping the bloody feud alive, seeking no peace, offering no truce, accepting no settlement, no price in gold or land, and paying the living for one crime only with another.” (Beowulf, lines 86-193). However, in Grendel, he is victimized as an outcast who is simply alone and full of curiosity. In Beowulf, it can be inferred that Grendel gained pleasure out of killing, whereas in Grendel, he kills and eats them not only for survival but also because it makes him feel in control and as if he has a place in society.

Grendel was already known as an outcast prior to his birth and because of this, he has never been able to truly live peacefully within society. While it is unjust that Grendel was unwelcome before he was even born, it is all part of the reason why he is a monster. In Beowulf, the difference between good and evil is clear. The humans all believed that God had separated them from banished monsters such as Grendel, whereas in Grendel, Grendel genuinely believes that every individual is evil in their own form, to a certain extent. “… I had to squeeze with my elbow the corpse of the proof that both of us were cursed, or neither, that the brothers had never lived, nor the gods who judged them.”(Grendel pg. 51).

One major difference between Grendel in Beowulf and Grendel in Grendel would be Grendel’s emotions and overall character. Grendel has little to no human emotional qualities whatsoever in Beowulf, and clearly lacks any empathy of any sort. John Gardner’s Grendel paints a much different picture of Grendel and portrays him as a lonely, confused, outcast who is gentle towards other animals. One of the biggest aspects of Grendel is the many philosophies mentioned throughout the novel such as nihilism, existentialism, empiricism, skepticism, etc. Grendel largely exhibits the philosophies of existentialism and nihilism when he is introduced to the big vast world, once he has left his mother’s cave. Therefore, he establishes himself as an existentialist as a defense mechanism against the rest of the universe. Grendel is later introduced to the concept of nihilism in the lair of the dragon when they are conversing with one another. Therefore, it is evident that readers are introduced to a different side of Grendel, in which he is philosophical, emotional, and overall more humanistic, as opposed to the viscous killing-machine he is made out to be in Beowulf.

Despite the differences of Grendel’s character between these two novels, there is still an extensive amount of similarities found in Grendel’s character. In both Beowulf and Grendel, Grendel feels abandonment from his mother, which can be represented by Grendel crossing the physical boundary between the mere and human world. Physically, Grendel can be described in both of these stories as an upright, hairy creature, resembling an ogre. In both of these stories, citizens still act and respond the same towards Grendel. Despite the difference in how he is portrayed in these two tales, Grendel is still guilty of the same crimes, those crimes being relentlessly killing and consuming innocent people.

In conclusion, Grendel is almost a different character in Beowulf and Grendel. Although the same plot and ending take place, readers see a different side of Grendel, the real side of Grendel. It goes to show readers that there really are two sides to every story. While readers are aware of the atrocious actions Grendel is capable of, Grendel shows the readers Grendel’s reasoning as to why he does such terrible things and almost victimizes him in a way, whereas Beowulf solely portrays Grendel for what he truly is: a villain. Beowulf, however, only shows the readers the heroic world of Beowulf and his accomplishments, while Grendel sheds a light on the tragic life Grendel is forced to live. These two different perspectives are vital to these two individual novels, as they are used to create two strikingly different stories that the world has come to know and love. 

The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Beowulf and Grendel Comparison. (2021, Apr 15). Retrieved from