As described by John Gardner, Grendel is a giant monster who subsists underground with his mother in a cave. Grendel’s exact nature is left mysterious since he resembles a huge man that takes four troopers to lift and transport his head. He is believed to be an offspring of Cain, the Biblical being who God cursed for murdering his brother, and he is also a border-stepper. John Garden defines Grendel as a symbol of unknown threats which lie outside the human knowledge borders. In Grendel, there is a relationship between the monstrous to nature, which is different, and the monsters are described as unnatural.
Relationship of The Monstrous to Nature in Grendel
The characters of Grendel demonstrate the features of a monster and human-like characteristics. Grendel displays his evil character by eating human beings. He says, “I will move from bed to bed and destroy them all, swallow every last man (Gardner, 2018).” As he nears to attack the asleep Danes and plan what to do, his willingness to consume human beings unbridles the monstrous nature inside him. Beowulf, who is of monster resemblance by his enormous stature, brings about fear to Grendel. Beowulf aims to slay Grendel to decline the suffering of the Danes. Grendel describes Beowulf as a symbol of evil since Beowulf torments Grendel by willing to kill him (Gardner, 2018). Gardner has pointed the Grendel and Beowulf’s encounter as something that has never occurred before on middle-earth. He says, “I realize, have encountered a grip like his scream facing him, grotesquely shaking hands-dear long-long lost brother (Gardner, 2018).” Grendel is tormented as a true monster by Beowulf though they both demonstrate their monstrous qualities and have human-like qualities in nature.
Grendel, a supernatural creature, is constantly discerning about the world surrounding him, just as most human beings do. Beowulf, bared a human, displays human characters through an heirloom of human traits. Beowulf’s encounter with Grendel has also demonstrated some human qualities through a willingness to save Danes from Grendel, as it is in human nature to help each other (Gardner, 2018). In that way, Beowulf and Grendel demonstrated monstrous characters, yet they exhibited human features. The monstrous nature of Grendel came as an inheritance from his lineage to Cain, Adam and Eve’s evil son (Gardner, 2018). He is subjected to living sinful life since God cursed Grendel’s existence via Cain. Grendel demonstrates his monstrous behaviors that he is a descendant of Cain via consuming human beings.
Grendel appears as a monster since his physical feature demonstrates an evil mind state with some thoughts. He also thinks on higher ground compared to other creatures and is also philosophical as a human being. The ability of Grendel to think about the world around him and not act on instinct alone but also exemplifies his human nature (Gardner, 2018). Beowulf’s willingness to help human beings and Grendel’s ability to think demonstrate human nature in two distinct beings. Grendel also exhibits the features of a monster when he tortures the Danes by killing a twelve-year spree of King Hrothgar’s men.
Throughout the novel, Grendel is speaking to nature and most times is surprised if there is some form of spirit in nature, as Danes believe it. He ultimately concludes that the world comprises patterns of mindless and mechanical processes (Gardner, 2018). His actions state that he is carrying out a natural process driven by his desires or decisions to act in a particular way. Grendel laughs at the narratives of the history of human beings as he has existed for a long time than the Danes; hence, he understands the world better. From the monster’s outstanding perception, the world is mere “a swirl in the stream and a temporary gathering of bits (Gardner, 2018).” Later on, Grendel develops some feeling of a mysterious presence, in disparity to his notions that he exists alone and that nature is barren of realization.
Grendel Relation to Humans as Unnatural Beings
In Grendel’s novel by John Gardner, nature fighting the unnatural is reinforced by the subjects of different creatures such as snakes and bulls. The occurrence of nature’s clang with unnaturalness is apparent in the reappearing images of creatures throughout the novel. Gardner has emphasized nature’s confrontation with Grendel as “a bull snorted through this nose and pawed more deeply, spattering grass and black earth at his sharp rear hooves (Gardner, 2018).” Since both humans and nature program Grendel, he can be termed as an unnatural being since he has no home in the world. Grendel is clearly in discord with nature as animals, such as the bull that attacked him with the intent of killing him (Gardner, 2018). As a result of the attack, Gardner used the theme of animals attacking Grendel to demonstrate how nature as a whole can be against anything foreign. Therefore, from that perspective, Grendel views animals as unnatural since they attack him regardless of him having some human features hence, he terms humans as natural due to their certain similar characteristics.
Human Beings Monster’s View as Natural or Unnatural
Different characters portray their supernatural natures throughout the novel. For example, the dragon can fly and float without wings and also has the ability to spitfire. There is no average human that naturally can spit fire; hence, the dragon is considered unnatural (Gardner, 2018). Grendel’s mother, who stayed underwater fighting with Beowulf, can also be termed unnatural since no human can survive underwater for long hours. The theme of supernature throughout the poem can be clearly outlined by Grendel, the dragon, and Grendel’s mother, who are all seen as serpentine creatures living in the lake (Gardner, 2018). The monsters are described as antagonistic to humans and hence considered unnatural since they harm human beings.
As one of the personas in the novel, the dragon can be seen claiming to know everything that exists. As a more extremely evolved being than the humans and Grendel, the dragon has a vision regarding the world far from anything the low creatures can understand. Sometimes the dragon can see both forward and backward, although he swiftly deprives Grendel of believing that the vision provides him with any authority to change things (Gardner, 2018). Humans cannot have a real vision that the dragon has; hence they approximate things by gluing secluded facts together and try to relate them into sound systems and logical chains. Therefore, its ability to foresee things away from human ability classifies it as unnatural.
John Gardner has highlighted how nature can respond to anything unnatural by analyzing different monsters such as Grendel, his mother, and the dragon. Monsters have extra powers to do things beyond human capabilities, making them supernatural. Grendel, who is seen as the main character in the poem, receives resistance from human beings and other creatures, such as the bull. The resistance is due to his behavior of eating human beings, which later causes a fight between him and Beowulf, and later Grendel ends up being killed.
Gardner, J. (2018). Grendel (pp. 303-328). ARC, Amsterdam University Press.