Does Grendel plague Heorot Hall because he believed the people to be worshipping the wrong God?
I clearly remember this part while reading from the Longman's Anthology of World Literature. I can't find this part for the life of me now. It might have been a footnote in the book, but I believe it was actually said in the story that Grendel hated them for worshipping the wrong God.
Grendel, in the Epic Poem Beowulf, is a beast who was angered by the fact that he was forced to live in darkness while the men and women at Heorot were able to live jubilant and happy lives in the light.
The people of Heorot sang about the Almighty (God) and how He created the world for all to enjoy. Grendel was not able to join in this jubilation--he was banished to the darkness, unable to enjoy the light of the world and the things put on Earth by God, given God had enforced an exile upon him. Grendel is associated with being a kin of Cain and, therefore, driven from the light of the world like Cain.
Therefore, Grendel's anger stems not from the fact that the people of Heorot necessarily praise God; instead, he is angered because God looks down on the people of Heorot with the favor Grendel will never receive.
thankyou for your very detailed answer!
It is not stated in the text that this is the direct reason for Grendel's malevolence, although it is made clear that Gredel's evil is the result of hatred for the Christian God, and the Geats' suffering is partly a result of their ignorance of him. About Grendel it is said: "[The] land of marsh-monsters/ the wretched creature ruled for a time/since him the Creator had condemned/with the kin of Cain; this murder avenged/the eternal Lord/in which he slew Abel;/this feud he did not enjoy/ for He drove him far away,/the Ruler, for this crime, from Mankind;/thence unspeakable offspring all awoke/ogres and elves and spirits from he underworld/also giants who strove with God/for an interminable season..."
In other words, the narrator adds to the biblical account of Cain, the son of Adam who was cursed and cast out by God for killing his brother Abel, by stating that in his exile Cain fathered a line of grotesque monsters, including Grendel, who were evil and at enmity with God, and who shared in the curse of Cain. It is implied that Grendel's attacks on Heorot were partly motivated by desire to feed on humans and partly by envy of their happiness: "he that dwelt in darkness,/he that every day heard noise of revelry/ loud in the hall; there was the harmony of the harp/ the sweet song of the poet..." Grendels general evil seems to be fueled in part by jealousy of the human joys which he, in his cursed and outcast state, is denied. But it is also not implied that he takes into account who they worship.
The Geats, on the other hand, while not evil and cursed as Grendel is, are not worshipers of the God whom the narrator believes in either. They are described as heathens; when the attacks begin they offer sacrifices and vows to their gods, without a good result, and thus are driven to despair: "such was their habit:/the hope of heathens; on Hell they pondered/in the depths of their hearts; the Creator they did not know,/the Judge of deeds, they were not aware of the Lord God/nor yet they the Helm of the Heavens were able to honor..."
Thus we see that the Geats have no hope for relief in part because they don't worship the right god. Thus, to sum up in answer to your question, while it can be said that Grendel's malice is caused by hatred of the Christian God, and also that the Geats are defenseless against him because they do not worship this same God, there is nothing in the text to support the idea that Grendel terrorized Heorot specifically because he thought they worshiped the wrong god. Such a notion sounds a little too principled for a monster like Grendel, in my opinion.