Why does Grendel decide to attack Hart?

Before Grendel launches the initial attack that begins his 12-year war with the Danes, he teeters between wanting to be accepted by humans and entertaining himself by frightening them. Although he’s hurt by humanity’s refusal to see him as anything but a monster, he doesn’t have any intention to become violent. However, as Grendel learns more about The Shaper and is introduced to nihilism by the dragon, his worldview grows increasingly dark. Grendel notices the deceit and hypocrisy in the romanticized tales of The Shaper, and while he isn’t entirely convinced by the dragon’s philosophical ranting, he does adopt some of the dragon’s cynicism. When a group of Hart’s guards find Grendel hiding in the woods near the fort one night, they attack, and Grendel kills one of the guards. The guards are the first to enact violence, but Grendel decides to return the gesture, attacking Hart several nights later, this time on the offense. Grendel’s decision to attack Hart is described as an acceptance of his fate. The Danes see Grendel as their enemy and the villain of their story, despite Grendel’s behavior to the contrary, and Grendel eventually agrees to play this role. It’s almost as if Grendel is compelled by forces beyond himself to begin his war with Hart.

Who is the dragon?

The dragon is one of Grendel’s only companions, and it also may be a reference to the original epic poem Beowulf. In Beowulf, the titular character’s final battle is against an ancient dragon – both Beowulf and the dragon perish from the fight. In Grendel, there is no concrete confirmation that these two characters are the same, but Grendel’s dragon does briefly mention that it will one day be killed, so it may be referring to its death at Beowulf’s hands. When Grendel is still young and struggling to understand his place in the universe, he encounters the dragon, who perceives time non-linearly and can therefore see the entirety of the universe’s past and future. The dragon introduces Grendel to a number of intellectual and philosophical concepts, including existentialism and nihilism, which have a great impact on Grendel’s worldview. While Grendel yearns to believe in the romantic stories of the Danes, the random, chaotic, and meaningless universe of the dragon appears a more logical and likely reality. Throughout the novel, Grendel is often caught between these two juxtaposed worldviews. It is unclear if the dragon of Grendel is a real creature or a figment of Grendel’s imagination. As a deeply lonely being, Grendel may have invented the dragon as both a companion and a sounding board for his own ideas. Certain evidence supports this hypothesis, such as Grendel’s conversations with the dragon seeming to take place almost telepathically rather than physicallybut the presence of the dragon in the original source material Beowulf suggests that he may be a real, separate being.

Why doesn’t Grendel kill Unferth?

When Unferth and Grendel first meet, Unferth attempts to kill Grendel. A strong and respected warrior, Unferth hopes that his battle with Grendel will cement him as a hero of the Danes. Instead, Grendel disarms Unferth by mocking him, deconstructing and insulting the idea of heroism to the point that Unferth cries. Grendel has the upper hand, but he chooses to let Unferth live. Grendel realizes that, should he kill Unferth, Unferth will be remembered as a hero. Grendel refuses to give Unferth the satisfaction of a glorious warrior's death, and in doing so, keeps Unferth’s goal of heroism tantalizingly out of reach. When Unferth later finds Grendel in his cave, Grendel once again refuses to kill him and instead returns him safely to Hart. Throughout his 12-year war with the Danes, Grendel makes a point of keeping Unferth alive. Grendel doesn’t save Unferth’s life out of any kind of fondness; he is generally indifferent to Unferth as an individual. However, Grendel is opposed to the Danes’ beliefs surrounding heroism, glory, and morality, and his relationship with Unferth becomes a way for Grendel to impose his own worldview onto the Danes. By denying Unferth the chance to be considered a hero, he makesUnferth’s attempts at glory meaningless and futile, and forces Unferth to consider that the mythologies and beliefs he has dedicated his life to may be unachievable and even untruthful.

Who is Beowulf?

Beowulf is a great Geat warrior and Grendel’s final nemesis. The Geats were an ancient Swedish people, whereas the Danes were ancient inhabitants of Denmark, so Beowulf is technically a foreigner in the eyes of Hrothgar’s Danes. While both tribes would have inhabited territory in Scandinavia, they were separate peoples, which is why some of the Danes treat Beowulf with suspicion upon his arrival in Hart. Grendel’s Beowulf is a rethinking of the titular character of the epic poem Beowulf, in which Beowulf is a classical hero figure who is invited to Hart in the hopes that he can destroy the monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the fort. But the Beowulf of Grendel differs from his ancient namesake—unlike the honorable warrior of the epic poem, Grendel’s Beowulf is a dark, almost divine harbinger of death. He is cold toward other people, and, as Grendel describes, operates like a machine. When he speaks to Grendel, it is not with the practical words one might associate with a warrior, but with dramatic, poetic, and almost biblical prophecies. Beowulf appears as a Christ-like figure who has the power to both take Grendel’s life and also birth new life and hope for the rest of the world. He represents the antithesis of Grendel’s cynical, lonely perspective—where Grendel’s universe is chaotic, meaningless, and isolating, Beowulf’s is glorious and marked by destiny.

What happens to Grendel after his battle with Beowulf?

During Grendel’s battle with Beowulf, Beowulf rips off Grendel’s arm, causing a terrible wound. Grendel escapes the fort, and heads out into the wilderness toward his home. The novel ends with Grendel standing at the edge of a cliff, an abyss that is seen earlier in the novel and symbolizes death and oblivion. The many animals that Grendel has taunted throughout his life sense Grendel’s oncoming death and gather to watch the scene. Although the novel ends before Grendel actually dies, his destiny is sealed. Grendel’s wound is fatal, and he will soon perish. In the epic poem Beowulf, Grendel returns home after his fight with Beowulf and dies of his wounds. Beowulf then invades Grendel’s cave and kills Grendel’s mother as well. Despite Grendel’s unresolved ending, the plot of the original source material ensures that we know what fate awaits these characters off the page.