John Gardner created an antihero explanation of Beowulf most memorable villain in 1971.grendel

For those of you unfamiliar with Beowulf (I’ve never read it), it’s renowned as an incredibly important poem due to being the oldest known existing poem from English literature.  For an easy, and entertaining way to understand the story, you can watch the recent movie representation.  I watched that some years ago and it was actually very well done.

This work takes a nontraditional look at Grendel, who is the main antagonist of the normal story, by creating a first person perspective of his time on Earth.  He is an oafish monstrosity, but much more intelligent than what a person may consider of a “monster.”  His dialect of English makes him near impossible for humans to understand him — likely due to not having discussion with others.

Most of Grendel’s days are spent lamenting the boredom of his time.  He seems impervious to time itself, not aging or at least none so much to make time valuable.  He eats cattle, sheep and other animals.  He terrorizes the local gentry and finds fleeting humor in situations where he’s seen as the tyrant.

What’s interesting here is Grendel’s non-human humanity.  He is a simple creature, yet arrogant and amidst existential misunderstanding.  He seems to have no real purpose, even to himself.  For many, this book would serve little purpose, but if you enjoyed Beowulf or found Grendel to be an interesting creature in his own right, this is worth the few days it would take to get through.