Likely the poem’s most memorable creation, Grendel is one of the three monsters that Beowulf battles. His nature is ambiguous. Though he has many animal attributes and a grotesque, monstrous appearance, he seems to be guided by vaguely human emotions and impulses, and he shows more of an interior life than one might expect. Exiled to the swamplands outside the boundaries of human society, Grendel is an outcast who seems to long to be reinstated. The poet hints that behind Grendel’s aggression against the Danes lies loneliness and jealousy. By lineage, Grendel is a member of “Cain’s clan, whom the creator had outlawed / and condemned as outcasts.” (106–107). He is thus descended from a figure who epitomizes resentment and malice. While the poet somewhat sympathetically suggests that Grendel’s deep bitterness about being excluded from the revelry in the mead-hall owes, in part, to his accursed status, he also points out that Grendel is “[m]alignant by nature” and that he has “never show[n] remorse” (137).

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