Grendal, a descendant of Cain, is one of the main antagonist of the poem Beowulf. He lives under an inherited curse and is denied God’s presence. Throughout the story Grendal causes enormous grief and fear to the people of Herot. After so much pain and agony the king of Herot, Hrothgar, sends for the protagonist of the poem, Beowulf. He is a Geat and the epic hero of the poem. The wide variety of distinctions between Grendal and Beowulf is what develops the climax of the composition. Beowulf kills Grendal, so he is honored by the people of Herot for his heroic act. Since Grendal and Beowulf play opposite roles in the poem, Beowulf, they let the reader know how contrasting characters can develop the plot of the story.
Grendal is known as a monster and portrays one of the many villains in the poem. He is referred to as the "guardian of his sins". Grendal depicts a heathen the physical image of man estranged from God. Basically, Grendal reflects a physical monster, an ogre who is hostile to humanity. Grendal’s constant visits to Hrothgar’s mead hall for bloody feasts made him feel powerful over God’s humanity. Unfortunately, the night Beowulf lies in wait for him, he assumes that his bloody feasts will continue and Grendal gives no attention to his method of attack. Grendal is then killed.
Beowulf, the heroic figure in the poem, is known throughout the land as a courageous man who performs great deeds of valor. He is a Geat, who later becomes the king of the Geats. Beowulf’s strength seems to be a gift from God. As a noble and kind man, Beowulf comes to Herot to save them from God’s foe. Before Beowulf initiates battle with Grendal he exhibits a sense of fairness in not using a weapon against the monster.
This demonstrates a great difference between the two characters. Had Beowulf’s attack not been unexpected, Grendal surely would have used a weapon. Beowulf’s defeat against Grendal sets one of the first stepping stones to his long legacy of heroic deeds.
Both of these characters remain static throughout the poem. Beowulf portrays the heroic figure who saves everyone, while Grendal always remains evil with bad intentions. Grendal attacks mead hall because of jealousy. Grendal envies the fellowship and happiness he observes. He dislikes living in the outer world, excluded from the company of men; thus he stalks the moors, jealous of the pleasures of mankind. Beowulf is Grendal’s worst living nightmare. Beowulf represents everything that Grendal yearns to be: honored by God, a hero in strength as well as in spirit, accepted by mankind. Therefore the contrariety between them sets an exemplary contrast between a hero and a villain.
The two main characters of this poem, Beowulf and Grendal are characters that make the story an epic poem. Beowulf delineates the common hero almost mythological, because of his special strength. While Grendal is the common miscreant, who kills for his own entertainment. Both of these characters differ in disposition, however they both have a tendency to strive for what they want. Beowulf strives to be known as the best warrior. Grendal strives to get revenge on mankind for what he savors. Their comparison sets them apart both in temperament and in their mode of thought.