Quote 2

Thus I fled, ridiculous hairy creature torn apart by poetry—crawling, whimpering, streaming tears, across the world like a two-headed beast, like mixed-up lamb and kid at the tail of a baffled, indifferent ewe—and I gnashed my teeth and clutched the sides of my head as if to heal the split, but I couldn’t.

Here, at the end of Chapter 3, Grendel reacts to hearing the Shaper’s song for the first time. The lines—directly quoted from the opening of Beowulf—divide Grendel into two halves. This split Grendel, clutching his head in mental agony, foreshadows the division he later feels when he attempts to reconcile the opposing views of the Shaper and the dragon. The Shaper and the dragon inspire very different reactions in Grendel: the Shaper inspires incredible emotion, while the dragon appeals to Grendel’s rational mind and logical reasoning. The portrayal in this passage of Grendel as a beastlike, barely verbal fiend comes straight out of Beowulf, and it contrasts with the articulate, self-aware creature we have seen thus far. The Shaper’s ability to immediately transform Grendel suggests the power that the Beowulf story, as told by the humans, will have over Grendel’s life in the future. Grendel, before even hearing what part he will play in these human stories, has internalized the role the humans ascribe to him, turning into the crazed, instinctual beast they expect him to be. By comparing himself to several bleating, dumb animals, Grendel applies to himself the same criticism that he has previously directed at the mindless animals of the forest.