The novel Grendel depicts a completely different character than that of the one in the epic poem Beowulf. Although in both works, Grendel is understood as an outcast shunned from human kind, he is portrayed in two different perspectives. The reader understands that Grendel in both works is a monster. The reader, however, cannot discern Grendels identity beyond the fact that he is some type of monster. This mystery as to what Grendel is, leads to the perspectives represented in both the novel Grendel and poem Beowulf.
Beowulf conveys Grendel as an animalistic beast with murderous desires. Grendel is confined to the swamp lands hidden amongst the outskirts of where the humans live. The poem sees Grendel as an outcast descended from evil, Cains clan, whom the creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts. (Beowulf 106-107) He had adapted the animal instinct to kill anything and everything and does not posses any human characteristics. Grendel is seen as being ferocious and a high threat to Hrothgar. This blood hungry beast is an unsympathetic monster according to the humans and is living evil. The poems views Grendel as being ambiguous about his nature.
The novel however, views Grendel as being significantly different from how he was in the poem. Grendel is still thought as being non human, but rather than being monstrous like in Beowulf, he is expressed as being a confused creature. This confused creature strays all over the forest. One day he comes across a doe who is startled by him and scatters away. This upsets Grendel and he says, Blind Prejudice (Grendel 7) Ah, the unfairness of everything, I say and shake my head. It is a matter of fact that I have never killed a deer in all my life, and never will. (Grendel 8) Grendel longs to communicate with someone and be compatible with others. The closest companion Grendel has is his mother, but he cannot understand her moans and shrieks. Grendel is an extremely frustrated character because of his isolation from humans and creatures of all kind. This however, does not necessarily mean he is a monster like the poem Beowulf thought of him.
In the poem, Humans are seen as superior to creatures such as Grendel and being more intelligent. Beowulf views Humans as being greater than anyone and anything. The poem did not show the intelligence that Grendel had such as the novel did. The novel conveyed Grendels thoughts on humans as being stupid and ignorant. They were too busy trying to figure out theories on why life is. Grendel uses the humans stupidness by playing with them while they are in the meadhall. The humans think that if it is dark it will prevent Grendel from seeing, but Grendel is able to see perfectly in the dark. Because of this, Grendel is able to kill and eat a man in complete darkness. This shows that Grendel takes advantage of humans lack of intelligence. Grendel doesnt even like the taste of humans, it makes him ill, but he loves the thrill of playing with them. Grendel gets agitated on why humans waste their time with theories of life and confronts the dragon about it. The dragon however, tells Grendel to not let the humans problems affect him and let them continue to be ignorant. The dragon says how humans waste their times coming up with all these stories when he says, They would map out roads through Hell with their crackpot theories!(Grendel 72). The level of intelligence is seen different between the poem and novel.
The killing of Grendel by Beowulf in the poem differs from that of the killing in the novel. The fight in the meadhall with Beowulf against Grendel was the same as in the novel but how Grendel was seen during and after his death were different. In the meadhall, it depicts Beowulf as completely over powering Grendel, and shows no struggle or trouble defeating him. Beowulf is seen as a hero killing the monster Grendel. Beowulf whispers harshly into Grendels ears showing his power over Grendel. When Beowulf finally kills Grendel, the poem Beowulf says, There the lake water boiled with blood, terrible surgings, a murky swirl of
hot dark ooze, deep sword-blood; death fated he hid joyless in the fen, his dark stronghold, till he gave up life, his heathen soul; there Hell received him" (Beowulf 847) This leads the reader to think that Beowulf just killed an evil bloody cold hearted monster.
In the novel Grendel, Grendel is attacked at the meadhall by Beowulf just like the conflict in the poem. When Grendel escapes from the meadhall and is walking back to the forest drenched in blood, he wanders off into a clearing were the animals surround him. Grendel says, Is this joy I feel (Grendel 173) This shows how Grendel is relieved that he no longer has to live his live confused or lonely any longer. His frustration is over and can now die in peace. The novel of Grendel shows the death of him as being joyful and finally a confused creature is able to lay at rest in harmony . This ending to Grendels life and how it is seen is drastically different in each piece of literature.
Grendel as a character, in the poem Beowulf and in the novel Grendel was considerably different. The views, opinions, and thoughts on Grendel varied in each work. The entire identity of Grendel changed from the poem to the novel because of the major differences between them. One, Grendel was seen as this evil, heartless, monster while in the other was only a confused, lonely creature. The descriptions in each writing on Grendel not only change the character but the entire story itself.