In Beowulf, what are Grendel's characteristics that make him particularly terrifying to the Danes?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Grendel is presented as a monster, a demon, and a fiend. He was "spawned in that slime," a reference to the biblical story of Cain slaying his brother Abel, a horrible sin. Grendel is the incarnation of evil itself.

Grendel instills horrendous fear in the Danes, and with good reason. He haunts the moors and marshes and attacks the warriors while they sleep at Herot. Grendel is carnivorous; he feasts on human flesh and drinks human blood. He is incredibly strong, once smashing thirty men at one time before dragging them all back to his lair. Despite his size and strength, Grendel can also be quick, quiet and stealthy. He can sneak into Herot without being detected. Grendel hunts at night in the darkness. He has "swift hard claws," "powerful jaws," and "great teeth." Grendel also has magic powers. He has cast a spell so that the warriors' weapons cannot hurt him: "[T]he hardest iron could not scratch at his skin."

Grendel is filled with hatred and blood lust. He terrorizes Herot completely until Beowulf comes to help the Danes. The fact that Grendel is such a dangerous, horrible  monster emphasizes the greatness of Beowulf when Beowulf destroys him.

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