What role does the monster play in Beowulf?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All three of the monster's exemplify evil in the story. Both Grendel and his mother are described as descendants of Cain, the first murderer depicted in the Bible. This associates both of them with evil motives. In addition, they both live in the wild and are not part of human civilization. Grendel attacks on Herot are caused because he cannot stand the joy and light that emanates from the place. Thus, Grendel and later his mother are archetypes for the evil monster. The third creature in the poem is the dragon that appears in the end. The dragon has always been a symbol for evil or the devil and the actions of this creature are no different. As expected, this dragon is overcome by the great hero of Beowulf, who, in a Christlike manner, sacrifices his own life in order to destroy the devil and save the people of his kingdom.