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Compare Beowulf with Grendel

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Author: Anonymous John Gardner
Brief Author Bio: Beowulf was probably created by a scop, a professional Anglo-Saxon poet. Much like bards, scops created poems to preserve the myths and histories of their people. These poems would be performed from memory at feasts or other public… more John Gardner was an American writer, critic, and professor. After growing up in New York, he attended DePauw University and Washington University in St. Louis, studying English. He went on to get his M.A. and PhD. from the University of… more
Historical Context: The story told in Beowulf occurs around 500 A.D., and many of the characters in the story can be directly related to real historical figures. It is known that the historic Hygelac, for instance, died around 521 A.D. More generally… more While the novel does not refer to any actual historical events, the story of Grendel takes place within the context of medieval Anglo-Saxon culture and its emphases on heroism, kingship, and loyalty.
When Published: Beowulf exists in a single damaged manuscript in the British Library. The manuscript was probably written in England in the early eleventh century, though the poem itself was probably first written down in the eighth century, and was passed on… more 1971
Literary Period: Medieval; Anglo-Saxon Postmodernism
Genre: Epic poem Novel
Setting: Northern Europe, especially Denmark and Sweden, around the sixth century Scandinavia, in the mythic past
Climax: Beowulf's final fight with a dragon Grendel’s fight with Beowulf
Point Of View: The unnamed speaker of the poem First person, from Grendel’s perspective (with some passages narrated in third person)
Plot Summary Hrothgar is the King of the Danes in southern Denmark. Through success in battle he has become rich and mighty. As a symbol of his power and prosperity he builds a magnificent mead-hall, called Heorot, in which he and his loyal warriors can feast, drink, boast, and listen to the tales of the scops, the Anglo-Saxon bards. But soon after Heorot is finished, the mirth of the men and the music of the scop anger Grendel, a monster descended from Cain. Grendel raids the hall, snatching men and... Grendel is a fearsome monster who lives underground in a cave with his mother. As spring begins, he encounters a ram and, irritated at the stupidity of the creature, tries to scare it away. The ram doesn’t move. Grendel talks angrily to himself and heads for the meadhall of Hrothgar, whose kingdom he habitually raids.Grendel recalls his youth. Once, he got his foot stuck in between two tree trunks in the forest. A bull found him and charged at him, though unable to harm Grendel significantly....
Major Characters: Beowulf, Hrothgar, Wiglaf, Unferth, Grendel, Dragon Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, Hrothgar, The Dragon, The Shaper, Unferth, Wealtheow, Ork, Beowulf
Minor Characters: Ecgtheow, Hygelac, Hygd, Hrethel, Heardred, Breca, Wulfgar, Hondscioh, Scyld Scefing, Healfdane, Wealtheow, Hrethic, Hrothmund, Hrothulf, Beow, Aeschere, Freawaru, Ecglaf, Heremod, Modthryth, Finn, Hildeburh, Hnaef, Hengest, Sigemund, Cain, Grendel's Mother Hrothulf, Red Horse
Related Literary Works: Beowulf shares characteristics with many Old English epic poems. All contain heroic boasting, verbal taunting, and a hero with a troubled youth. In modern literature, J. R. R. Tolkien was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, and an authority… more Gardner’s novel is a rewriting of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf. This epic poem was written in Old English and, like other Old English epics, celebrates the daring feats of a hero, as Beowulf defeats Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a… more
Extra Credit: Beowulf is the longest poem written in Old English. Old English poetry uses alliterative meter, meaning that the stressed words in a line begin with the same sound. A line of Old English poetry has two halves, with a brief… more Gardner repeatedly uses astrological motifs throughout Grendel. Signs of the Zodiac appear both literally (with the ram, bull, and goat for Aries, Taurus, and Capricorn) and more symbolically, as the characteristics of different astrological signs can be linked with different… more
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