Grendel Author:John Gardner John Gardner's Grendel looks at the story of Beowulf through the eyes of the monster. Gardner presents Grendel as a sentient speck in the universe, a creature painfully aware of its archaic-ness, of the futility of his actions, or, indeed, the lack of them. He is jolted into action by the arrival of a new Shaper, or scop, at Hrothgar's court. Hi... more »s song -- of Scyld and the Danish ancestry -- moves and confuses him: "The man had changed the world, had torn up the past by its thick, gnarled roots and had transmuted it, and they (the Danes, ed.), who knew the truth, remembered it his way -- and so did I". The feeling conjured up by the singer, according to Gardner, is not anger at a Christian message, but rather a conscious rebuttal of propaganda techniques employed by the Shaper. Grendel's defiance of the singer's attempt to rewrite history, his own as well as that of the Danes, is breaking into Hart, as Gardner calls it, and killing humans.
When it comes to intelligence, Grendel is outstripped only by the dragon, who knows that he -- like Grendel -- is destined to die at the hands of man, thus making his species extinct. Gardner's Grendel presents the society and the surrounding environment in which the events take place as places in a state of devolution, rather than evolution. In the end, the creatures with just enough brains and cunning (just enough not to be aware of their own limitations) conquer and survive, although given their thirst for blood it can only be a matter of time before they make themselves extinct as well, as Grendel observes: "... peace must be searched through ordeal upon ordeal, with no final prospect but failure" The monster is not jealous of these creatures, but feels driven to stint their progress, futile though he knows his attempts to be.« less