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 narration starts to alternate with dramatic scenes of dialogue. In the first scene, Wealtheow welcomes Hrothulf to Hart. Grendel thinks the boy may already have thoughts of challenging Hrothgar’s authority. Grendel presents a theorem that he ascribes to the Shaper: “Any action of the human heart must trigger an equal and opposite reaction.”
Grendel again imitates the language of the Shaper (and perhaps mocks it). As his narration experiments more with different forms and styles, Grendel may be attempting to approach the art and skill of the Shaper’s storytelling. Grendel, like the humans, continues to draw new theories and conclusions from new experience.
In the next 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 legitimate.
Hrothulf provides another example of the questioning, theorizing nature of humans, as he thinks critically about Hrothgar’s kingdom.
The next scene presents Hrothulf enjoying the shade of a tree in the woods and philosophizing. He debates whether the tree could be called tyrannical, since it doesn’t allow other plants to grow where it is, and then thinks of Wealtheow and her kind love.
Hrothulf is further developed as a critically thinking person. Humans are defined by their theories and beliefs, but do not all subscribe to the same ideas. Hrothulf, in particular, develops ideas and beliefs against the power of Hrothgar.
In the next scene, Wealtheow is beside Hrothulf’s bed and asks him 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 experience and often cannot sleep.
While Grendel sees the humans as annoyingly happy in their community, this scene reveals that humans, too, often feel lonely, sad, and isolated within their communities. In this way, Grendel and the humans are actually similar.
The novel returns to Grendel’s narration, as he describes how he saw Hrothulf increasingly take to the idea of violence. Hrothulf was generally quiet and sullen, and spent much time with an old man named Red Horse, who advised him. Grendel followed the pair once and overheard them theorizing about rebellion and whether such violence could be legitimate. Red Horse claimed that the power structure of the kingdom protected those in power and oppressed others. Hrothulf agreed that the system was a fraud.
Hrothulf and Red Horse exemplify mankind’s thinking and theorizing nature. Their critique of Hrothgar’s kingdom and its supposedly self-sanctioned legitimate violence is noticeably similar to Grendel’s earlier critical observation of the development of Hrothgar’s kingdom out of small warring groups.
Red Horse proposed revolution as a simple act of violence, seeing all systems and states as equally evil. But Hrothulf disagreed, saying that he wanted a state with more freedom and that only a crazy person would praise violence for the sake of violence.
Hrothulf and Red Horse differ in their political philosophies. While they are similar to Grendel in their view of Hrothgar’s violence as no more legitimate than any other, Hrothulf’s refusal to praise violence for its own sake differentiates him from the bloodthirsty Grendel, and establishes Hrothulf as perhaps the most noble character in the book.
Grendel notes that Hrothgar is no longer physically strong and is aware of the scheming of his various relatives and children who are eager to take over the kingdom. Grendel wonders why he continues to terrorize Hrothgar, despite all the king's problems. His answer to himself is simple: why not? Grendel sees Hrothgar’s realm as the product of his own work, since it was he, Grendel, who drove the humans to improve and build their kingdom.
Grendel takes responsibility for the humans’ achievements, echoing the dragon’s idea that Grendel improves the humans. Grendel further embraces the dragon's emphasis on selfishness in his reasoning for continuing to terrorize the humans. But note how Grendel, who used to deplore the human's wastefulness, now terrorizes them for no purpose other than enjoyment. In his conflict with the humans, he has become more like them.
Grendel thinks of a dream to “impute” to Hrothgar. Hrothgar then narrates the dream he has: he is alone standing in a thicket. There are two trees that have grown into one, winding around each other. There is the flash of a blade striking the tree.
Hrothgar’s dream is vague and mystical, but the two intertwining trees (and the fact that Grendel can basically send him a dream) can be read as symbolizing how the lives of Grendel and Hrothgar are intertwined and have grown mutually dependent on each other.