In Beowulf, is grendel an actual monster or a symbol of immorality?    I know he does represent something, im not sure of what though, could anyone give me some supporting sentences to prove...

In Beowulf, is grendel an actual monster or a symbol of immorality?

 

 

I know he does represent something, im not sure of what though, could anyone give me some supporting sentences to prove this right?

Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the plot of the original Beowulf, Grendel is an actual monster.  He has been terrorizing Hrothgar's people for many years and succeeding in killing them.

Remember, however, that Beowulf is considered the first story to be written in the English language.  This means it was passed down orally for many years, and by the time it was actually written down, it was told from the Christian perspect of the monk who recorded it.  In this way, the entire story became an opportunity to show a Christian perspective on a traditional good vs. evil story.

Grendel, was written as a descendant of Cain:

Grendel this monster grim was called,
march-riever mighty, in moorland living,
in fen and fastness; fief of the giants
the hapless wight a while had kept
since the Creator his exile doomed.
On kin of Cain was the killing avenged
by sovran God for slaughtered Abel.

This means he could be symbolic of jealousy, weakness, and the "less than" brother - as Cain was the one of two brothers who did not please God with his sacrifices in Genesis (of the Old Testament).  As a result, God honored his younger brother Abel, Cain became jealous, and killed Abel.  If Grendel is a descendent of this man, he would symbolically carry the same characteristics and shame.