Grendel

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Hrothgar is the king of the Danes. After rising gradually to power, Hrothgar created a vast kingdom. As the leader of the Danes, Hrothgar is Grendel’s main rival. His kingdom flourishes on ideals of justice and heroism, which the Shaper’s glorifying (and propagandistic) songs help establish. As he ages, though, Hrothgar faces numerous threats—from rival kingdoms and from unhappy inhabitants of his own, such as his nephew Hrothulf and his scheming adviser Red Horse, to Grendel himself. In the end, Hrothgar must rely on the help of the Geats to defeat Grendel.

Hrothgar Quotes in Grendel

The Grendel quotes below are all either spoken by Hrothgar or refer to Hrothgar. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Grendel published in 1989.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The king has lofty theories of his own. “Theories,” I whisper to the bloodstained ground. So the dragon once spoke. (“They’d map out roads through Hell with their crackpot theories!” I recall his laugh.)

Related Characters: Grendel (speaker), Hrothgar, The Dragon
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Grendel talks about the prevalence of "theories" among human beings. Grendel notes that most of the humans with whom he's fighting believe that he is a punishment sent from god. Grendel also notes that the king of the humans, Hrothgar, has different theories about the Grendel--theories which are no more accurate than his subjects'.

There's a lot to unpack here. First, it's clear that Grendel rejects humans' theories--indeed, much of human culture--as nonsense. The belief in god, for instance, is just a superstition to Grendel. Grendel is dismissive of human beliefs, but he's also insightful enough to tell the difference between Hrothgar's beliefs (the belief in heroism, it's implied) and his subjects' beliefs (a more religious belief in god and divinity).

The passage also mentions the Dragon--an almost omniscient yet somewhat unreliable character who embraces chaos and sneers at anyone who tries to make sense of it. The Dragon believes that all religions and beliefs are attempts to make sense of pain and suffering--attempts that do nothing to alleviate this suffering. (Hell burns, whether you have a theory about it or not.)

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Chapter 7 Quotes

What will we call the Hrothgar-Wrecker when Hrothgar has been wrecked?

Related Characters: Grendel (speaker), Hrothgar
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel goes on, the Dragon's theory of antagonistic cooperation becomes truer and truer. Grendel had initially sneered at the idea that humans and monsters "need" each other.  But here, he realizes that the Dragon was right all along. Grendel could easily destroy Hrothgar and his kingdom altogether. But then, Grendel would be all alone in the universe once again--life is better for Grendel and the humans when Grendel holds back and spares some lives.

The passage reiterates that Grendel depends upon some form of interaction with other people. Grendel can't stand to accept the fact that he's all alone in the universe. Even if his interactions with other beings are horribly violent, they still serve a useful purpose by reminding him that he's not all by himself--he has a name as long as others are there to give it to him, even if that name is monstrous and antagonistic.

Chapter 8 Quotes

This nobility of his, this dignity: are they not my work? What was he before? nothing! A swollen-headed raider, full of boasts and stupid jokes and mead. ...I made him what he is. Have I not a right to test my own creation?

Related Characters: Grendel (speaker), Hrothgar
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Grendel wonders why he continues to terrorize Hrothgar, even after Hrothgar has become an old man. Grendel's answer to his own rhetorical question is very interesting: he claims that he can do whatever he wants to Hrothgar, since he made Hothgar what he is today. Grendel seems to have accepted the Dragon's theory: Grendel knows that he is useful to the humans, since he gives them something to unite against. His role as "monster" has essentially allowed Hrothgar to solidify his role as "king"--they are two sides of the same coin.

And yet the passage also represents a turning point in the novel. Previously, Grendel criticized humans for their excesses, and for wasting valuable resources. Here, however, Grendel seems to be sinking to humanity's level, wasting his time terrorizing a village and wasting the villages' resources for no practical reason whatsoever. Grendel has become the thing he hates most: a bored, corrupted human being.

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Hrothgar Character Timeline in Grendel

The timeline below shows where the character Hrothgar appears in Grendel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
Nature and Time Theme Icon
...of his own voice. Leaving the cliffs, he makes his way for the meadhall of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, and continues to talk to nature. Wolves and other animals are... (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Grendel comes to Hrothgar’s meadhall, where he’s been busting down the door and terrorizing the inhabitants for eleven years... (full context)
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
...saying that he is a punishment sent to them because a god is angry and Hrothgar’s people are sinful. He leaves the meadhall, as the humans are praying to their gods,... (full context)
Chapter 2
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
...One suggested that he was a fungus or growth. One human, identified as a king (Hrothgar), suggested that they could cut the fungus out of the tree, but another thought that... (full context)
Chapter 3
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
Grendel says that he didn’t decide to be Hrothgar’s enemy because of the axe he threw, and only decided to take that role once... (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...Grendel watched season after season, sometimes from the high cliff wall near his den, as Hrothgar gradually rose above the other men in power. Hrothgar collected tribute from nearby groups, who... (full context)
Nature and Time Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Hrothgar met with his council about these problems and decided to build roads throughout his realm.... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
One night, watching from behind a cowshed, Grendel saw a blind man arrive at Hrothgar’s meadhall with a harp and a young companion. The harper went inside and talked to... (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...about how true or false the Shaper was. From the top of the cliff overlooking Hrothgar’s realm, he screamed loudly. The scream sounded ugly compared to the Shaper’s beautiful music. He... (full context)
Chapter 4
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In the present day, the Shaper still sings, as Grendel continually spies on Hrothgar’s greatest meadhall, Hart. Grendel says that the Shaper built the hall with the power of... (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
Grendel knew the Shaper was lying but his words sounded true. Hrothgar gathered a slew of workers to construct the new meadhall. Grendel kept listening to the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
In the summer of the first year of Grendel’s war with Hrothgar, Grendel was drawn to the meadhall though he had not yet begun systematic raids. He... (full context)
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...against the dragon’s charm. Grendel laughed as man after man attacked him, shouting about honor, Hrothgar, and God. Though laughing, Grendel felt empty and imagined himself going on killing without difficulty... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...to himself as a hero, which annoyed Grendel. Grendel decided to carry Unferth back to Hrothgar’s meadhall safe and unharmed. (full context)
Chapter 7
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
...do define themselves against him, just as the dragon said. He could kill all of Hrothgar’s men in one night, but he restrains himself, realizing that he needs the humans, as... (full context)
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
As Grendel’s stream of consciousness continues to alternate with third-person narration, he thinks of Hrothgar’s queen, Wealtheow, and tries to define her geometrically and physically as a cross-section of time-space. (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Hrothgar met with the other king. Grendel anticipated a battle, but the king asked for a... (full context)
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
...times Grendel would go to the meadhall and watch Wealtheow serve all the tables, charming Hrothgar like the Shaper. She softened tempers and mediated arguments, her beauty resolving men’s disputes. She... (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
...in the wall. The humans were all merry, though Grendel noticed some underlying tension between Hrothgar’s men and Wealtheow’s brother and his men. Back in his cave, Grendel was frustrated by... (full context)
Chapter 8
Language Theme Icon
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
Imitating an epic, heroic style, Grendel tells of how Hrothgar’s brother was murdered and so his young nephew Hrothulf came to live at Hart. Grendel’s... (full context)
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
...scene, Hrothulf is in the yard, thinking about all of the peasants that toil in Hrothgar’s kingdom. Hrothulf is frustrated that the entire kingdom is predicated on violence that is deemed... (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Loneliness and Isolation Theme Icon
...why he is so sad at his young age. She speaks of future generations inheriting Hrothgar’s riches. She says that she used to love unthinkingly, but has now had more life... (full context)
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Grendel notes that Hrothgar is no longer physically strong and is aware of the scheming of his various relatives... (full context)
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Grendel thinks of a dream to “impute” to Hrothgar. Hrothgar then narrates the dream he has: he is alone standing in a thicket. There... (full context)
Chapter 9
Nature and Time Theme Icon
...night. He feels that some event is coming and feels afraid. Grendel watches one of Hrothgar’s bowmen hunt a deer. He watches the deer die and the image sticks in his... (full context)
Chapter 10
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At dusk, Grendel watches Hrothgar’s men going about their business. There are guards posted throughout the realm, though there is... (full context)
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The Shaper is sick. Grendel watches as Hrothgar, Wealtheow, and Hrothulf go to visit the Shaper’s sickbed. Grendel laughs, asking “Where are all... (full context)
Chapter 11
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
...come ashore. They got off the boat, decked out in armor, and met one of Hrothgar’s guards. Grendel particularly noticed the strangers’ leader, a huge, strong man (who is never named... (full context)
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
Grendel sees that Hrothgar’s Danes are embarrassed and frustrated that foreigners have come to save them. It offends their... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...says that Beowulf lost the contest and predicts that he will be defeated by Grendel. Hrothgar’s men laugh. Beowulf responds that he actually won the swimming contest, in which he swam... (full context)