Vast, red-golden, huge tail coiled, limbs sprawled over his treasure-hoard, eyes not firey but cold as the memory of family deaths.
Grendel’s first description of the dragon includes many common features that come to mind when thinking of dragons except for one: his eyes. Rather than being full of fire and bloodlust, the dragon has cold eyes that imply that he feels weary from all his knowledge of the true state of the world. The fact that he knows everything but controls nothing makes him more jaded and resigned than other dragons readers might have encountered in other texts.
“Ah, Grendel!” he said. “You’ve come.” The voice was startling. No rolling boom, as I would have expected, but a voice that might have come from an old, old man. Louder, of course, but not much louder.
Here, the dragon welcomes Grendel. Like his eyes, the dragon’s voice does not appear as Grendel expected, as he sounds like a tired old man instead of a vicious creature. The fact that the dragon knew Grendel would one day come to see him reveals his all-powerful knowledge before he even reveals such an ability to Grendel.
We see from the mountaintop: all time, all space. We see in one instant the passionate vision and the blowout. Not that we cause things to fail, you understand.
Here, the dragon explains to Grendel how he sees the world: not as events happen, like Grendel and humans do, but rather as everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. He clarifies that he has no control over what events actually occur and that even if he does take some action, such action was fated to happen already. Even though the dragon knows everything, he does not actually have more power than anyone else.
They only think they think. No total vision, total system, merely schemes with a vague family resemblance, no more identity than bridges and, say, spiderwebs. But they rush across chasms on spiderwebs, and sometimes they make it, and that, they think, settles that!
The dragon explains to Grendel the uselessness of how humans act. He points out that humans create civilizations by establishing random rules and patterns and then praise themselves for their success. As someone who can see their ultimate demise, the dragon recognizes the futility in the efforts of humans and looks down upon all humans for their stupidity.
All around their bubble of stupidity I could feel the brume of the dragon.
After Grendel meets with the dragon, he watches Hrothgar and his men in the meadhall, telling fictitious stories and praising one another, and feels as disgusted by their ignorance as the dragon. The fact that Grendel feels the dragon with him even though the dragon is nowhere nearby reveals how powerful an influence the dragon has had on Grendel and hints at the idea that the dragon may only be in Grendel’s head.