BeowulfWhat do you think causes Grendal to attack human beings?

5 Answers

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is actually an interesting question.  From a characterization point of view, we don't really get a lot of insight into Grendel.  On the other hand, from a plot point of view Grendel is the villain.  There has to be someone for our hero to fight, and we'd probably think Beowulf was cruel if he attacked a fluffy defenseless creature as opposed to a man-eating monster!

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I tend to agree with post 4. I always thought Grendal mainly attacked because of the sound the people made. He is described as child-like. I took that description to mean he reacted on basic instincts. Young children will lash out when they are frustrated or don't like what is going on. If a noise is too loud, they might just cry, but they might hit the person making the noise. Of course, children don't react this way out of violence or evil, but rather out of a lack of self-control. Grendal is both child-like and evil. He is unable and unwilling to control himself. His reaction to the joyful noises he hears in the hall begins as a lack of self-control and continues as an evil act of anger and vengeance against the people.
lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The text also specifically says that he can't stand the noise of the "revelry" in the Hrothgar's mead hall.  Grendel is perhaps attacking because the joyful camaraderie reminds him each day of his own isolation -- owing to his connection to the Biblical Cain.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a sense in which we can relate Grendel to a simple dichotomy of good/bad. Grendel at various points in the text is likened to a child of the devil and is described as being wicked and evil. By contrast, humans and in particular Beowulf are described as agents of good. Therefore, this creates an opposition. Grendel, having been shunned by the world and being an agent of the devil therefore will attack those who support the powers of good.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Basically, Grendel attacks humans for one reason. He, a descendant of Cain, has been exiled into darkness. Therefore, as a foe of God, Grendel is angered at the fact he cannot exist in light. Given that he cannot enact his revenge upon God himself, Grendel enacts his revenge upon God's people.