Echoes of MonstrsitiesBeowulf




Echoes of Monstrosities
Every society has demons and monsters that the members of that society are fearful of. Those fears are only reflections of the society that are seen in that monster. In the long epic poem, Beowulf, there are three monsters that reflect aspects of Germanic warrior society. Grendel is portrayed as a vicious flesh-eating monster, yet the Germanic warrior fear of loneliness resides within him. Grendel’s mother harshly revenges the death of her son, which exactly relates to the code of blood revenge in the warrior culture. The last of the monsters in the poem is the fire-breathing dragon that is an echo of the ultimate hlaford and symbolizes the circle of life. All three of the monsters symbolically represent aspects of the Germanic culture.
Grendel is characterized as the embodiment of evil, and his narrative function is to parallel Cain or Satan. Throughout the introduction of Grendel’s character, there are countless references to the devil and hell to illustrate him. “…A fiend out of hell, began to work his evil on the world (ll 100-101).” “ Cain’s clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts (ll 106-107).” He is also described as a “God-cursed brute (l 121)”, and “the Lord’s outcast (l 169)”. The author even goes on to compare Grendel to a vampire: “Then as dawn brightened and the day broke, Grendel’s powers of destruction were plain (ll 126-127).” This metaphor depicts Grendel as a blood-sucking vampire whose powers are greater in the time of darkness and night.

Why, then, is Grendel so malevolent? Why would he want to cause so much harm to Herot? Throughout the descriptions of Grendel, the narrator portrays him as a man on a lonely mission. “So Grendel ruled out in defiance of right, one against all…(ll 144-145)” Grendel has been exiled because of his monstrous appearance. “He had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters (ll104-105).” Grendel is symbolic of a Germanic warrior who has been banished from his kin and because of this Grendel is envious of Herot. “Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him to hear the din of the loud banquet every day in the hall (ll 86-89).” Grendel wants so much to be part of the warrior society. Since he has been exiled, Grendel “wages his lonely war (l 164).”
In Germanic warrior society it is necessary to have kin and an hfalord, someone to provide treasure and wergild. Without kin there would be no one to revenge the deaths, and the ultimate purpose in warrior culture is nonexistent. This is the fear that is represented in the character of Grendel. Not having any kin to relate to, to protect you, and being banished from the only society one has every known. Those are the fears that symbolically shape the character of Grendel.
The narrator portrays Grendel’s mother as sadistic monster from the depths of hell, yet the parallels between Grendel’s mother and Germanic culture are astounding. The code of blood revenge is one obsession that keeps the fight inside the warriors of Herot. Revenging the death of ones kin is the greatest honor in their society. “But now his mother had sallied forth on a savage journey, grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge (ll1276-1278).” Beowulf came to Herot to revenge the havoc that Grendel had spread, and now Grendel’s mother will revenge the slaying of her son. “She had snatched their trophy, Grendel’s bloodied hand. It was a fresh blow to the afflicted dawn. The bargain was hard, both parties having to pay with the lives of friends (ll1302-1306).”
The symbolic nature of Grendel’s mother is to show the monstrosities that lay in the hearts of Germanic warriors as well as Grendel and his mother. Both Grendel’s mother and the warriors of Herot revenge the death of their kin, which not only shows the monstrosity of the warrior society but also the humanity in Grendel and his mother. The last monster that Beowulf must defeat is truly not a monster at all. The Dragon is the most honorable of all the monsters, and there are many parallels between the Dragon and Germanic warrior culture.
The Dragons soul purposes in life is to guard the riches of the past