Who is the Monster - Beowulf or Grendel? My first impression of Beowulf was that of an enigmatic, somewhat esoteric work, a necessary evil on the way to reading the more important works. After a closer reading of the much-celebrated epic, I had a revelation. And what a revelation: Beowulf is wonderful! Perhaps it was the translation, or it might have been the basic substance of the work itself, but I found myself devouring the poem. I discovered two specific areas of appeal: 1) The fundamental attraction of the archetypical super-hero and 2) the more contemporary trend in modern culture to attempt to recapture the experience of this particular era via popular fiction and film. The ideal of the hero is a concept so
…show more content…
In the light of such mass-entertainment trends, it is curious that more people have not discovered the original, the story that started it all. For years I have heard the name "Beowulf" uttered with a shudder and a sneer. What is it about this enjoyable read that so terrifies the average college student? Could it be the inevitable scholarly prerequisite status attached to it? Is the etymological significance, the historical importance of the work so intimidating that it convinces the reader that it is not actually...interesting? To those students who tremble at the mere mention of the name of the son of Ecgtheow, I offer John Gardner's Grendel. Here is a companion piece if ever there was one, a modern-day debunking of the Beowulf legend.
As much as I enjoyed reading the exploits of the great Geat, I must say that Grendel resonated at a deeper level for me. In the title character's first-person narrative I found a personal corollary: Gardner's Grendel, though man-eating beast, is a thinker, an intellectual trapped and isolated in a world without peers. As strange as it might sound to say that I identified with a monster, that is exactly how I felt reading this novel. To experience acutely the scorn and/or fear of a world with which one feels no affinity, and yet, at the same time, to perceive the vapidity and obviousness of that world; to feel