Line 64 of Beowulf states: "By hell-forged hands / His misery leaped." What does the kenning "hell-forged hands" suggest about Grendel?

Saying that Grendel has "hell-forged hands" suggests he was created by Satan. His powerful, claw-like hands are particularly inhuman. They represent the malice in his heart as well the physical threat he poses to the mead hall.

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Grendel's hands are “hell-forged” in that they were forged, or made, in Hell—by the Devil, no less. This indicates just what kind of foul, Satanic creature we're dealing with, the very same kind of hideous monster who's been terrorizing the Danes for so very long.

It also makes us realize...

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Grendel's hands are “hell-forged” in that they were forged, or made, in Hell—by the Devil, no less. This indicates just what kind of foul, Satanic creature we're dealing with, the very same kind of hideous monster who's been terrorizing the Danes for so very long.

It also makes us realize just why it is that the Danes have been unable to find anyone willing or able to take on and defeat Grendel. There's something hellish about him and his appearance, something that appears to come from a completely different world.

Although Beowulf is very much of this world, there's also something superhuman about him. He may be a warrior, but he's certainly no ordinary warrior: he has a very special set of skills. It is because of this that he is the ideal candidate—indeed, probably the only candidate— to slay Grendel and bring his long reign of terror to an end.

Only a hero with super special strength and courage can possibly dream of engaging in battle with Grendel and his “hell-forged hands.” The forthcoming battle won't just be between a warrior and a monster; it'll be a titanic struggle between good and evil. The use of the kenning “hell-forged hands” is a reminder of this.

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"Hell-forged hands" imply that Satan, depicted here as a blacksmith, made Grendel to be an evil force bent on destroying humans. In the poem, Grendel's hands have an impossibly strong grip and are inhumanly claw-like. These superhuman hands will force Beowulf, who represents the good, to rely on God to help him in the struggle against this Satanic creature.

Grendel's powerful hands are a synecdoche for his demonic evil. The next line, which mentions that his "misery leaped" from his hands, suggests that this hell-spawned creature is also driven, at least in part, by deep unhappiness. He wants to eat the men of the mead hall, and for a long time he is able to eat his fill, but the implication is that he is also driven, as the devil's spawn, to spread his own innate misery to humankind. His hellish hands are part of a creature whose intent is not just to survive but to be malicious.

Grendel is described as a creature of nature, but that nature is always depicted in the poem as threatening and monstrous, the chaos that exists outside of the mead hall. This is not the benign nature of pretty flowers and tweeting birds infused with the divine spirit later described by Romantic poets. Grendel is a manifestation of nature's evil, its destructive potential. In attacking the mead hall with his "hell-forged hands," he is threatening to rip apart civilization itself, the very force that keeps evil at bay.

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A kenning is a feature of Old English poetry that involves creating a compound word with metaphorical meanings. "Hell-forged hands" to describe Grendel means that he has come from a long line of devils. In other words, his hands were made in hell, and he traces his ancestry back to devils. The use of this kenning suggests that Grendel is the spawn of the devil. Grendel does battle with Hrothgar and his people, who long suffer at Grendel's hands. Grendel lurks in the marshes beyond the mead hall, suggesting that the lands that lie beyond the mead hall are the domain of the devil.

Grendel's hellish ancestry explains some of his strange qualities, such as that he cannot be harmed by weapons. Instead, Beowulf must wrestle Grendel to death and kill him with his hands. In slaying the spawn of the devil, Beowulf acquires saintly qualities, as he does battle for God.

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The Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is one of the oldest works of literature still in existence, and it tells of the heroic deeds of a man named Beowulf who fights against three non-human foes. The first of these is Grendel.

Grendel is a great monster who "nursed a hard grudge" against Hrothgar and Hrothgar's mead-hall, Heorot. He is a night marauder, killing at will, and no one is able to stop him. A few lines before the quote you mention we read this:

Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend

Grendel who haunted the moors, the wild

Marshes, and made his home in a hell.

Not hell but hell on earth. He was spawned in that slime

Of Cain, murderous creatures banished

By God, punished forever for the crime

Of Abel's death.

The clear implication of this description is that Grendel is somehow from the devil, just like the other fiends and demons. WHen the poet says Grendel made his home in hell, he is of course suggesting that Grendel is connected to Satan. This is intensified by the reference to Cain being banished by God.

The full quote which contains the description from your question is this:

Twelve winters of grief for Hrothgar, king

Of the Danes, sorrow heaped at his door

By hell-forged hands, His misery leaped

The seas, was told and sung in all

Men's ears.

This description of Grendel is fitting for the evil he does. "Hell-forged hands" imply that the creature to who the hands belong (Grendel) was shaped (formed, birthed) in hell by the devil. It is one of many descriptors we are given that implies that Grendel is pure evil.

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