In what specific ways does Herot contrast with Grendel's home?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the text, Heorot is described as helearna maest, "the best of halls." It was deliberately crafted to be the epitome of what a mead-hall should be, with the work of many people from different nations contributing to this "folcstede fraetwan," or "hall of folk." Heorot is the center of the community and from its inception has been a symbol of togetherness. It is "high and horn-gabled," but it is not its physical beauty which awakens Grendel's displeasure. Rather, it is the "noises of revelry" from within the hall which make Grendel, sé þe in þýstrum bád ("he who dwelled in darkness"), feel inclined to attack. The defining feature of Heorot, then, is that it is a place where people come together to enjoy themselves, a place where boasts are made and rings exchanged, the symbols of pacts and relationships in Anglo-Saxon communities. Grendel is excluded from this, dwelling alone in darkness.

Grendel is an "infamous stalker in the marshes," "fen ond faesten"—the desolate stronghold of the fens is his home. The idea of "the fens" recurs in Old English poetry as representative of the hinterlands outside of the warm glow of acceptable society. As an outcast living in these hinterlands, Grendel is "in darkness" in contrast to the light of Heorot, and he is alone by contrast to those who enjoy togetherness in Heorot.

In describing Grendel's home, the poet actually says "men ne cunnon / hwyder helrunan / hwyrftum scríþað," which means "nobody knows where hellish enigmas like this make their homes." However, the poet is certainly sure that wherever Grendel's home is, it is not like Heorot. After Beowulf has wounded him, Grendel flees "to seek his joyless abode."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Herot (the "heart" of the people) is the center of activity of the town.  The throne where the King sits in Herot is protected by God.  It is bright, covered in gold and other precious metals and gemstones.  It glitters and is a happy, social place.

The lair where Grendel lives is anything but bright.  It is dark, gloomy, and unpleasant.  It smells, and the water above it bubbles with foul smelling gas.  No one goes there but Grendel and his mother, so there is no social atmosphere.  It is a den of evil as they are descended from Cain, who murdered his only brother, Abel.  They are unkind, unpleasant, and just plain grumpy.  God does not protect them, nothing good comes from this place.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Herot is a "mead hall" or a place where men gather to drink and socialize with friends. It was originally built for soldiers to come before and after battle to relax and have a good time. Herot and Grendel's lair are almost exact opposites. Grendal lives alone, away from all human and probably all animal society. According to the text, Grendel attacks Herot because he cannot stand the joy and the light. By inference, we can conclude that Grendel's lair was a sad, dark place. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The mead hall is a place of comfort for the warriors. It is a place where loyalty is rewarded by the king and reputations are gained. The author describes it as a place of light, warmth, and good cheer, where the community meets to eat, drink, sing and enjoy one another. Contrasting this is the description of Grendel's home. Here is a dark, murky place where the water itself burns and the animals fear to go. The author goes so far as to say animals would rather die than drink from the lake. There is no community, only the lonely, outcast souls of Grendel and his mother. It is a place of doom and isolation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial