What are the characteristic of Grendel?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Grendel is the poem's first major antagonist.  I say "first," because later in the poem Grendel's mother is the new antagonist.  Grendel is described as a man-eating demon.  It's not clear if Grendel is a man that is demon possessed, or if Grendel is a legitimate demon.  I've always, in my head, pictured Grendel as an actual monster with big teeth and claws.  I've come to think that is incorrect.  The poem states that Grendel is a descendant from the Biblical line of Cain.  Cain was the first human to commit murder and was banished to a far off land by God.  

"Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild Marshes, and made his home in a hell Not hell but earth. He was spawned in that slime, Conceived by a pair of those monsters born Of Cain, murderous creatures banished By God, punished forever for the crime Of Abel's death."

Because Grendel is a descendant of Cain (a human) I believe that Grendel is a man.  

It doesn't really matter though if Grendel is a human or not though.  All of the other characteristics would stay the same.  Grendel loves violence.  He loves killing people, and he does it night after night.  Man eating means that Grendel is also a cannibal.  Yuck.  He's a successful killer, which tells me two things.  First, Grendel is smart.  He has to be to successfully infiltrate Hrothgar's stronghold and kill warriors over and over again.  Second, Grendel must be quite strong.  He's battling and defeating experienced warriors.  Beowulf is a beast of a man, and the fight with Grendel is not a walk in the park for Beowulf.  

lovealliyah187 | Student

In the epic of Beowulf, Grendel is presented as a coward, a monster, and an insensitive character. According to the story, Grendel was referred to as "spawned in that slime,” a biblical allusion to the story of Cain and Abel. Grendel was born as a monster into exile; his life was cursed because he was a distant offspring of Cain. According to the Bible, all of Cain’s decedents were punished by God because of Cain’s sin. Despite Grendel’s evil motives, he is determined to be the best and overcome any obstacle that interferes in his way.

Grendel was big in size, and had the strength of many. But he was not brave at all; he is described as a large figure with the strength to pick up the weight of a grown man and consume him whole. But, Grendel is shown as somewhat of a coward because he only attacks at night when the guards of the mead hall are asleep. He attacks the mead hall under the cover of nightfall to avoid any type of physical abuse that would probably happen in the daytime. Grendel is afraid to fight, but becomes a problem that Beowulf needed to put an end to.

Grendel can be proved as a monster for multiple reasons. First and foremost, he lived with his mother in an open cave at the bottom of a boiling lake. Second, he was raised to be wicked, and never had the chance to become good. All Grendel knew was iniquity, and lived by what he was taught at a young age. Also, whenever Grendel would hear music, or the sounds of pleasure and joy, he would be filled with anger and hatred. Grendel seeks vengeance on good rather than evil mainly because of his family history.

In Beowulf, Grendel was portrayed as “insensible to pain and human sorrows, “or incompetent of any mental feeling. Grendel is unconscious and unaffected by the pain and suffering he causes others. Even though he is evil, he does not know how his actions affect other people. He was taught evil; therefore he does evil, making him evil. One can also sympathize for Grendel; if he feels no remorse, he has no opportunity for change.

As a result, Grendel was “grim and greedy, brutally cruel,” the “gruesome prowler of the border land, ranger of the moors, the fens, and the fastness.” Grendel’s character is portrayed in many different ways in Beowulf. All traits coincide with Grendel being a beast, and the offspring of Cain. It is the opinion of the reader to whether to agree or disagree with the characteristics that the author used to describe the nature of Grendel

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