What do the characters Grendel, Grendel's mother and the dragon symbolize in the story?

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In the version of Beowulf recorded by Christian monks, the hero is depicted as a Christ figure who must fight and defeat the forces of evil. The forces of evil are symbolically represented by Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon. Both Grendel and his mother are described as being descendants...

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In the version of Beowulf recorded by Christian monks, the hero is depicted as a Christ figure who must fight and defeat the forces of evil. The forces of evil are symbolically represented by Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon. Both Grendel and his mother are described as being descendants of Cain and depicted as society's outcasts. These monsters do the devil's bidding as they terrorize the Danes by ruthlessly killing warriors and holding the great mead hall hostage.

The personalities and actions of each monster can represent various evil behaviors that humans engage in, which are discouraged against in the Bible. Beowulf is affiliated with the forces of good and is an agent of God who courageously defeats the evil monsters in the name of the Lord. The Christian monks hoped to inspire positive, righteous behavior and used Beowulf as a motivating figure to follow the Lord.

From the more traditional Anglo-Saxon perspective, the monsters symbolically represent threats from Germanic tribes and the dangers of not conforming to society's expectations. The Anglo-Saxon society valued comradery and family ties, obeyed their kings, and participated in social events like gathering at mead halls. Grendel and his mother embody anti-social behavior, disobedience, jealousy, and isolation, which were taboo behaviors in Anglo-Saxon society. Grendel's mother's actions illustrate the dangers of being consumed by revenge, while the dragon depicts the evils of excessive greed and isolation. Therefore, the three monsters symbolically represent the dangers of taboo behavior and other threats to Anglo-Saxon society.

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Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon all appear in the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

The Geats and the Danes depicted in the epic were Christian, shown through the Christian perspective the epic was told from. That being said, there are many references made to the fact that the Geats and Danes followed God and honored him through their epic battles and buildings which they erected (Heorot).

Therefore, any of the battles depicted in the text took place between a hero of God (Beowulf) and a monstrous, God-hating foe (Grendel, his mother, and the dragon). Evidence of this hatred is found in the following lines:

Thus the clan's life was one of good cheer and revel until that fiend of hell began to work evils. Grendel was this grim beast called, who haunted the moors and secluded fens; this accursed one had long dwelled with monsters since the Creator had decreed his exile. On the kin of Cain did the sovereign God avenge the slaughter of Abel; Cain gained nothing from this feud and was driven far from the sight of men for that slaughter. From him awoke all those dire breeds: ogres, elves, and phantoms that warred with God a lengthy while; He paid their wage to them!

Therefore, all of the monsters depicted in the text symbolize the pagan creatures and images which needed to be fought and destroyed in the name of God.

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