The novel Grendel by John Gardner portrays a significantly different picture of Grendel than the epic poem Beowulf paints. Grendel is a non-human being who posses human qualities. In either story it is not specified what type of being Grendel is, nor does it tell of what exactly Grendel looks like. The only idea the reader has of the sight of Grendel is the small hints either author gives. We know he stands on two feet as humans do, we know he is covered in hair, and we know he is monstrous.
Although there are many significant differences between the two stories there is one idea that stands out the most when I read Grendel. That idea is in the poem Beowulf, Grendel is portrayed a large animalistic beast. This gives the reader the feeling that Grendel is solely driven by his animal instincts and does not posses the same thought processes as humans do. For example the line “the monster stepped on the bright paved floor, crazed with evil anger; from his strange eyes an ugly light shone out like fire” (Beowulf line 725), proves this point.
In the novel however this point lacks development. Rather Grendel is portrayed as a confused creature passing through life looking for answers. Surprisingly Grendel walks the forest in harmony with the animals. He does not act like the blood hungry beast he is seen as in Beowulf. In the novel --



Grendel is walking the forest and comes across a doe. He notices that the doe is staring in fright and suddenly runs away. One would assume from the ideas hinted in Beowulf that Grendel would have attacked the deer. However Grendel appears upset with the deer’s actions. He says; “Blind Prejudice” (Gardner 7) “Ah, the unfairness of everything, I say and shake my head. It is a matter of fact that I have never killed a deer in all my life, and never will.” (Gardner 8)
Grendel is a confused creature. Since he walks alone he has more than enough time to think about his life. He always used to ask his mother “why are we here” (Gardner 11) the only way he realized the truth was from the words of the old dragon. “You are mankind, or man’s condition” (Gardner 73) Unfortunately the Dragon did not make a whole lot of sense. The dragon’s final advice was “find the gold and sit on it” (Gardner 78). Unfortunately this advice left Grendel more confused than ever.
The only part in the poem Beowulf that Grendel appears in is the attack on the meadhall where Beowulf puts an end to Grendel. In the poem it says “ Then his heart laughed; evil monster, he thought he would take the life from each body, eat them all before the day came; the gluttonous thought of a full bellied feast was hot upon him.” (Beowulf line 730) This portrays Grendel as an evil, cruel and --

unsympathetic being, but this is not entirely true. Grendel has been attacking the meadhall for eleven years. This fact alone points out the utter stupidity of man kind. Always the same attack Grendel follows just for fun. He does not really like the taste of humans, it makes him ill. The people in the meadhall always do the same thing, which is make the meadhall dark so as to blind Grendel. The thought never occurs to the people that Grendel can see easily in the dark, which is why he always manages to kill and eat someone.
In my opinion Grendel is far more superior than man is. The novel displays the idea well. He knows that the people fear him because he is different and he uses that to his advantage. He also realizes that human waste all their time thinking about theories to why life is. As the dragon says “They would map out roads through Hell with their crackpot theories!” he also tells Grendel “You improve them my boy ! Can’t you see that yourself? You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme.” (Gardener 72) This proves that Grendel is a more superior than humankind is.
Finally Grendel meets Beowulf in the meadhall. He has never met a human quite as strong and brave as this one before and he is, in fact, surprised.