Beowulf and Grendel are actually the same stories in the fact that they are based on the same epic “Beowulf. ” “Beowulf”, that is told of here is translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland, and there are many different translations which makes Beowulf the epic so interchangeable. Although “Beowulf” and “Grendel” seem very similar they do have many differences as well. Reading the two stories back to back gives you the impression of how many differences there are. For example, “Beowulf” is written from an outsider’s point of view. “Grendel” is written from Grendel’s point of view.
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This changes the whole perception of the book. Seeing a story written from two different points of views not only helps you to understand the story better, but can also change the story dramatically. These stories were written during the Anglo Saxon period. Lifestyles and culture were very different from those of today. Anglo Saxon time was a time of Medieval England. When envisioning medieval England one sees a time of kings, knights, meadhalls, loyalty and devotion to the king. The two epics show medieval society throughout their entirety.
Beowulf” and “Grendel” are very different, but are in fact based on the same epic, the different points of view allow the stories to change from the original version, and create two different stories. One major difference in the two stories is that “Beowulf” and “Grendel” are written from two different points of view. “Beowulf” is written from an outsider’s point of view and “Grendel” is written from Grendel’s point of view. This makes a big difference in the stories. It leads to differences in how you look at the characters, the point of the story and also the scenes change as well.
The points of view allow a reader to read two stories based on the same epic, but get two different stories out of it. The stories actually differ in ways that make your feelings change about the plot. These two stories were written during the Anglo Saxon period. Anglo Saxon was also the time of Medieval England. Each story gives a good representation of this time. It is necessary to learn about this period in order to get the full impact of these stories. To understand that Medieval England was very different compared to the current time is very important before reading the two stories.
In the Anglo Saxon time they had no rights for animals, they would simply slaughter them for all the food they could eat. In today’s time there are animal rights. For example, there are animal rights activists. They believe that animals should not be killed for food or sport. Today’s societal views would have been laughed at from the point of view of the medieval world. Today we have the luxury of being able to drive down the street, run into the grocery store, and purchase whatever food we need. The Anglo Saxon’s did not have cars nor were there grocery stores.
As for the Anglo Saxon’s, they had to get their own food whatever way possible. That meant they had to go out and kill animals for their meat, have their own gardens in order to have. The medieval period was one of wars, fighting, and killing. In that time people were killing other people without the consequences of jail time like there is today. They would have a little trial type situation where the king would decide if the person had good reason, if the did not they were to be exiled. Exiled means that the person would have to leave the kingdom and live on their own in another place without their king or kin.
In today’s society, we have neither a king nor can someone be exiled. In today’s society if someone killed another person it can lead to a large amount of jail time. Another difference is that Anglo Saxon’s had a comitatus, which are thegns that follow their king because they are devoted and the king gives them gifts. In today’s society it is extremely difficult to find a person who is completely devoted to the president nor does the president give money and gold to everyone. The biggest difference that comes from the different points of view is that when you read “Beowulf” you look at Grendel as being a big, bad, mean monster.
When you read “Grendel” your thoughts turn around and actually feel bad for Grendel. As for “Beowulf” the story begins with them speaking of Grendel’s power and destruction towards them. In the story it says, “Then Grendel ruled, resisted justice, one against all, until the best of halls stood deserted”(unknown, 77). This quote is showing that the story begins with the reader thinking that Grendel is a monster and is killing off the people. At this point, we as readers, have no sympathy for Grendel. As the story progresses, it gets deeper into the horrible things that Grendel was doing to the Geats.
As soon as Beowulf arrives at Heorot, he made a speech to the people that address Grendel’s bad deeds. He said, I achieved many daring exploits. Word of Grendel’s deed has come to me in my own country; seafarers say that this hall Heorot, best of all buildings, stands empty and useless as soon as the evening light is hidden under the sky (unknown 84). This simply explains how bad Grendel was to the Geats. The best of all buildings would have to be empty at night in fear that Grendel would come and kill more of their people.
Also, by the news traveling of Grendel went all the way to Beowulf’s country proves that there were some extremely bad things going on in Heorot. As for “Grendel” it is told from Grendel’s point of view. This changes the story around completely. It starts out with Grendel speaking of his childhood. It goes into the fact that Grendel actually wanted to befriend the humans. He was lonely and wanted to know why he did not have anyone to talk to. When Grendel writes of his first encounter with the humans, is when you start to feel bad for Grendel, and change your mind about him being such a mean monster.
His first encounter was when he was a child and he was stuck in a tree. The humans found him and thought he was a fungus. Then Grendel scared them. He said, “ ’Pig’ I tried to yell it scared them” (Gardner, 27). The humans at first were afraid of him. Then the humans turned on him. The story says,” ’Surround him! ’ the king yelled, ‘Save the horses’-… Darts like hot coals went through my legs and arms and I howled more loudly still” (Gardner, 27). This quote allows the reader to feel bad for Grendel because all that he was doing was asking for a pig because he was hungry, and then the humans attacked him.
As this story progresses you saw that Grendel did not really want to kill the people, he wanted to talk to them, but they did not accept him therefore he got even. He said, “The world resisted me and I resisted the world”(Gardner, 28). This version emphasizes Grendel as humanlike with feelings, and in “Beowulf” it only emphasized the monster aspect of him. In “Beowulf” Grendel’s relationship with his mother was not a big point to the story. Although there were a few times when his relationship to his mother was mentioned, but not in great detail.
In “Grendel” on the other hand, his relationship with his mother was brought into the story much more, and in detail through the direct view of Grendel. Grendel did not have a very good relationship with his mother, partially because he could not communicate with her. He could speak and he was not sure if she could or if she did not know how to since she never spoke. The story says, The fire in my mother’s eyes brightens and she reaches out as if some current is tearing us apart. ‘The world is all pointless accident’ I say. Shouting now, my fists clenched. ‘I exist, nothing else.
Her face works. She gets up on all fours, brushing dry bits of bone from her path, and, with a look of terror, rising as if by unnatural power she hurls herself across the void and buries me in her bristly fur and fat. I sicken with fear (Gardner, 28-29). This quote shows how bad Grendel’s relationship with his mother was. Throughout the story Grendel goes on to explain how much he did not like his mother and that they just simply did not speak or even know each other. The statement shows that Grendel was disgusted by his mother, and did not like to be near her.
In “Beowulf” the relationship is not emphasized. The only part that is emphasized is when Beowulf kills Grendel; Grendel’s mother comes to revenge her son’s death, but also fails against Beowulf. Now just looking at this part you may get the impression that Grendel and his mother had a good relationship since she risked her life for revenge of her son’s death. The Shaper in “Grendel” was an important part to the story. The Shaper was one of the people that Beowulf actually related to. Grendel never killed the Shaper because he was interested and entertained by all of his stories.
The Shaper was alone just as Grendel was alone. He realized this about the Shaper and felt for him, and never killed him. Grendel said, “He was the king of the Shapers, harpstring scratchers (oakmoss-bearded, inspired by winds). That was what had brought him over wilderness, down blindman’s alleys of time and space, to Hrothgar’s famous hall”(Gardner, 42). This simply explains the respect Grendel had for the Shaper. How he felt that the Shaper was the best all around, and he was interested in listening to his songs. In “Beowulf” the Shaper is not emphasized as much.
It did speak of the Shapers songs, and how the people would listen to him sing, but there was no indication of Grendel listening to the Shaper or having respect for him. There are also a lot of little differences in the two stories that hold bits of importance. In “Grendel” there was a man named Unferth, which Grendel would not kill because he spoke of how important it is to be a hero and die for his king. Grendel made sure that he lived so he could not die for his king. He did this in order to torture Unferth. In “Beowulf” this aspect of Unferth was not represented.
Unferth was mentioned but not the fact that Grendel was making sure that he lived. In “Grendel” Grendel had a long encounter with the dragon. The dragon actually has a huge impact on Grendel. In fact Grendel felt a presence around him, which we come to find out, that is the dragon’s presence. Grendel said “And yet I’d be surprised, I had to admit, if anything in myself could be as cold, as dark, as centuries old as the presence I felt around me”(Gardner, 54). This is an example of the presence of the dragon that Grendel felt but was not sure what it was.
In the stories when Beowulf kills Grendel, there is a distinct difference between the two stories. Because “Grendel” is told from Grendel’s point of view it is the end of that story once he is killed. As for “Beowulf” the story goes into Beowulf and Grendel’s mother fighting, Beowulf killing her and then becomes king, and then dying in his battle against the dragon. In “Beowulf” the killing of Grendel was portrayed to show that Beowulf was the hero and that he killed him with his strength and wit. As for “Grendel” Grendel makes it seem like it was an accident that Beowulf killed him.
He said, “He penetrated no mysteries. He was lucky. If I’d known he was awake, if I’d known there was blood on the floor when I gave him a kick…”(Gardner, 172). Grendel felt as though it was an accident that Beowulf was able to kill him. “Beowulf “ and “Grendel” are very different, but are in fact based on the same epic; the different points of view allow the stories to change from its original version to create two different stories. Although both stories follow a similar plot, they do come off as different. An outsider tells one, and the other is told from Grendel’s point of view.
Some aspects in “Grendel” were emphasized and were barely mentioned in “Beowulf”, this is because Grendel is looking at it from himself. We could never get the actual picture of Grendel’s relationship with his mom, through another person’s eyes. The Anglo Saxon world was very different from that of today. In medieval time there was much devotion to the king, fighting, and wars. In today’s society we do not even have a king nor would we respect him enough to do good deeds for him. “Grendel” and “Beowulf” are two very good stories that are based on the same epic but are in fact there own stories.