Grendel

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Ork is an old priest, who encounters Grendel at a sacred religious site one night. He cannot see who Grendel is and so believes him when he says he is The Destroyer, the king of Ork’s gods. Pretending to be a god, Grendel teases Ork but is put off by his intense, earnest faith. The ease with which Ork is tricked demonstrates the fallacy of the Danes’ religious practices, which Grendel sees as particularly foolish.

Ork Quotes in Grendel

The Grendel quotes below are all either spoken by Ork or refer to Ork. 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 9 Quotes

The ultimate evil is that Time is perpetual perishing, and being actual involves elimination. The nature of evil may be epitomized, therefore, in two simple but horrible and holy propositions: ‘Things fade’ and ‘Alternatives exclude.’

Related Characters: Ork (speaker)
Page Number: 132-133
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Grendel meets a pathetic priest named Ork. Ork is the very embodiment of mankind's overemphasis on order and control. Ork is extremely religious--he believes that the universe works according to a number of specific laws. There are only two such laws: 1) Things fade, and 2) Alternatives exclude.

It's worth thinking about these two laws a little more closely. Ork believes that all of life will eventually deteriorate into death; in other words, he accepts his own mortality. Second, Ork believes that it's impossible to believe two contradictory things at the same time--you can choose one or the other, but not both. Choosing one belief necessarily means not choosing another.

Grendel's existence challenges the validity of both rules. Grendel is a monster and seems to be exempt from the rules of mortality (he certainly can't be hurt in battle, thanks to the Dragon's charm). Furthermore, Grendel refuses to believe that "alternatives exclude." Instead, he embraces his own contradictions, criticizing waste while being incredibly wasteful; attacking humans while also acknowledging that humans are his only friends, etc. In short, Grendel sneers at Ork and the rules by which Ork lives his life and tries to find meaning in the universe.

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Ork Character Timeline in Grendel

The timeline below shows where the character Ork appears in Grendel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
...the priest’s god. The priest is terrified and bows down to pray, introducing himself as Ork. Grendel asks him what he knows about the king of the gods. The priest offers... (full context)
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
Ork moans, shaking violently, and presents two axioms: “things fade” and “alternatives exclude.” He continues to... (full context)
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
...other priests arrive. Grendel narrates a dramatic dialogue of what follows. The priests ask what Ork is doing. Ork tells them that he has talked with the king of the gods.... (full context)
Chapter 11
Monsters and Humans Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Philosophy, Theory, and Belief Theme Icon
...and frustrated that foreigners have come to save them. It offends their sense of honor. Ork in particular looks frustrated, as the Geats, and not the gods, have come to their... (full context)