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Grendel, by John Gardner

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1 Grendel, by John Gardner
Written in 1970, published in 1971 The Beowulf story from the point-of-view of the monster

2 Writing Style Stream of consciousness
Kenning: an Anglo-Saxon literary device that combines two words to give a third meaning, e.g. Whale-road for sea. Alliteration: a characteristic of Anglo-Saxon poetry

3 People Thane: a nobleman
Scop: a poet who sang or recited epic poems either from memory or by making up verses. The original composer of Beowulf was a scop. Scribe: provides a written copy of a text. The Shaper: Grendel’s name for a character who resembles the scop, but brings in the Christianity of the scribe

4 Meaningless cycles repeat endlessly and mechanically
2. Taurus, the bull 3. Gemini, the twins 4. Cancer, the Crab 5. Leo, the lion The dragon tells Grendel “the truth” Bible stories define Grendel Solipsism: “I alone exist, nothing else.” Grendel is torn between dual visions of the world 1. Aries, the ram Grendel mocks the notion of heroism Meaningless cycles repeat endlessly and mechanically 6. Virgo, the virgin “Accident” vs. meaning 12. Pisces, the fish 7. Libra, the scales Wealtheow saves her people Beowulf arrives Anarchy, Machiavellian Religion Death: “We’re alone again. Abandoned.” 8. Scorpio, the scorpion 11. Aquarius, the water-carrier 10. Capricorn, the goat 9. Sagittarius, the archer

5 Links to Beowulf Style: kenning & alliteration
Characters, setting, plot Songs the Shaper sings: The prologue to Beowulf Creation of the Earth Cain and Abel

6 Structure 12 chapters Each chapter covers one month in Grendel’s final year of life Each chapter features one sign of the zodiac The chapters bring us full circle from spring through the year, back to springtime, which offers both life and death

7 Chapter 1 Aries, the Ram, symbolizing lust and procreation – life
Grendel sees death everywhere Everything is mechanical The Ram’s springtime lust Grendel’s springtime hatred The seasons

8 Chapter 2 Taurus, the Bull Grendel discovers solipsism: I alone exist
Another thing that operates “mechanically” Grendel discovers solipsism: I alone exist Grendel’s first encounter with men: pattern-makers

9 Chapter 3 Gemini, the twins
The development of dual visions of the world: Grendel’s observations, which show men to be brutal and wasteful The Shaper’s songs, which show men to be noble, and Hrothgar to be wise Grendel is torn between these belief systems

10 Chapter 4 Cancer, the Crab
The Shaper sings Bible songs, which are also in Beowulf: Creation of the Earth Cain and Abel, which shows Grendel to be cursed Grendel attempts to claim kinship with humans, and they try to kill him

11 Chapter 5 Leo, the Lion, king of beasts (the dragon)
Offers a rational, scientific vision of life Everything is just matter (dust) Dust forms patterns (sensitive dust, copulating dust) which are inevitably destroyed Echo of the Biblical “Dust thou art, and dust to dust returneth.” Defines Grendel’s role as the “brute existent”

12 Chapter 6 Virgo the Virgin
Unferth responds to the challenge of the brute existent by acting the part of the hero Grendel mocks the idea of heroism: by throwing apples (symbolic of a loss of innocence) at Unferth By consistently sparing Unferth’s life

13 Chapter 7 Libra, the balance scales
Wealtheow demonstrates true nobility by giving herself to Hrothgar to save the lives of her people Wealtheow has the power to forgive Unferth – but Grendel can never be forgiven Grendel threatens and humiliates her, but lets her live

14 Chapter 9 Sagitarius, the Archer Grendel tests the limits of religion
Ork and the young priest are true believers Other priests care about: Doctrine (it is written that…) Appearances $$$

15 Chapter 10 Capricorn, the Goat The inexorable approach of death
The death of the Shaper (“We’re on our own again. Abandoned.”) Loss of a sense of history – the past does not exist

16 Chapter 11 Aquarius, the water-carrier Beowulf arrives
Grendel realizes that both he and Beowulf are mad

17 Chapter 12 Beowulf speaks the dragon’s words, but goes beyond what the dragon had said Grendel rejects the idea that anything – art, heroism, beauty, nobility – has any significance With his dying words, Grendel affirms the dragon’s vision and curses everyone to a life and death as meaningless as his own

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