Chapter 10

Summary Chapter 10


Grendel watches a great horned goat attempt to ascend the cliffside toward the mere. Angered by the goat’s dogged pursuit, Grendel yells at the creature. When the goat does not respond, Grendel reacts by throwing trees and stones at it. The goat continues to climb even after its skull has been split, and appears to continue climbing even after it dies.

That evening, Grendel goes to watch the humans and their daily routines. An old woman tells a group of children about a giant with the strength of thirty thanes who will come across the sea someday. Later that same night, Grendel watches as people gather at the bedside of the ailing Shaper. The Shaper tries to make a prediction about the fate of the Danes, but he dies before he can finish the sentence. About an hour later, the news of the Shaper’s death arrives at the house of a sleeping nobleman, whose middle-aged wife seems to have shared an unspoken, unconsummated love with the Shaper. Grendel watches old women prepare the Shaper for burial, and then he returns home to the mere.

Back in the cave, Grendel’s mother is progressing further and further into insanity. Sensing some impending doom, she tries to prevent Grendel from leaving the safety of the cave. She struggles to speak her fears, but the only thing she can say besides her usual “Dool-dool” is the nonsense phrase “Warovvish.” Despite his mother’s protests, Grendel decides to attend the Shaper’s funeral.

At the funeral, the Shaper’s assistant, now a grown man, takes the Shaper’s harp to sing a song of a king named Finn, who battles with the Danes, his wife’s kinsmen. Finn’s troops are decimated in the battle, and King Hnaef of the Danes—the brother of Finn’s wife—is killed. Finn and the Danes make a truce, and Finn becomes lord of the Danes. Hengest, a Danish thane, resents Finn and misses his home. As soon as winter turns to spring, Hengest leads his men into battle against Finn. Finn is killed, and Hengest, the queen, and the Danes sail back to Denmark. After the Shaper’s assistant finishes the song, the funeral pyre is lit, and the Shaper’s body is burnt.

That night, Grendel awakens suddenly and thinks he hears the goat climbing up the cliff wall. His mother continues to make unintelligible sounds, and Grendel deciphers “Warovvish” to mean “Beware the fish.” Grendel is filled once again with a vague foreboding. He makes reference to another monster he has met in the woods, a wild old woman. He smells the dragon and finally decides to sleep, leaving his war for the springtime, as is his custom. Grendel wakes a final time in terror, imagining hands on his throat.


Grendel’s vague feelings of foreboding and anticipation intensify greatly in this chapter, while Grendel tries even harder to stamp them down. He appears to be receiving messages from the world around him. Some of these messages are blatant, like his mother’s ravings and the old woman’s pronouncement; some are more cryptic, like the goat’s mindless climb and the death of the Shaper. Everything around Grendel has become stale, dull and tedious. Despite his assertion that “there is nothing to expect,” he still finds himself awaiting a major change. The first step in that process of change is the death of the extremely influential Shaper. The Shaper’s passing not only ends an epoch for Grendel but also the very notion of history itself. The Shaper organizes historical detail in such a way that it gives meaning to the present moment. The Shaper’s glorification of Hrothgar’s ancestors, for example, legitimizes Hrothgar’s own rule. In his claim that Grendel is descended from Cain, the world’s first murderer, the Shaper employs a notion of history and lineage to justify Grendel’s extermination. Upon the Shaper’s death, Grendel finds that history has lost all its meaning. Events that occurred in the past stay in the past: neither the glorious deeds of Scyld Shefing nor Grendel’s own atrocities exists in the present moment.