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Literature / Grendel

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Grendel is a novel by John Gardner, retelling the epic of Beowulf from the point of view of the monster Grendel.

An Australian Animated Adaptation of the novel titled Grendel Grendel Grendel featuring the voice of Peter Ustinov as the titular monster was released in 1981.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Beowulf in the animated movie is even more malicious and creepy than in the book He even goes as far as murdering Unferth under orders from Hrothgar.
  • Affably Evil: Beowulf in the animated movie.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: invokedGrendel is a poor lonely misunderstood guy who can't communicate with humans despite not meaning them any harm. At first. Beowulf, on the other hand, is a cold-blooded killer.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Is the dragon real, or is it just a figment of Grendel's imagination? Convincing arguments could be made for both.
  • Angst: Lots of it - mainly of the "What's the purpose of it all?" vein. Leads to Wangst.
  • Animated Adaptation: The Australian film Grendel Grendel Grendel made in 1981.
  • Anti-Nihilist: While he's ruining Grendel's various body parts, Beowulf, according to Grendel's increasingly all-too-literally addled mind, begins chanting to him that, no matter how cruel and meaningless the suffering of the world may be, no matter what damage is inflicted, the world will always recover and regenerate in the end.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The Dragon's name is The Dragon, just like in the source material.
  • Ax-Crazy: Grendel thinks that Beowulf is this, and it's kind of hard to argue with him.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Grendel mourns the death of the Shaper, the bard that created the myth of Grendel as a child of Cain.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Just to make it clear that Grendel has fully stepped into villain territory, he throws rocks at a goat climbing up a rocky cliff, bludgeoning its skull until it dies.
  • Black Comedy
  • Butt-Monkey: Unferth.
  • Byronic Hero: Grendel.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Grendel himself has at least two such moments while Beowulf is smacking his head against a wall.
    "I sing for the hardness of walls. Hooray for the hardness of walls."
  • Death by Adaptation: Poor Unferth gets stabbed in the back by Beowulf in the animated movie.
  • Dirty Old Man: This version gives us the dragon that Beowulf fights at the end of the poem as one.
    "Boobies, hemorrhoids boils, slaver (nyeh heh heh)..."
  • Downer Ending: Grendel dies from his wounds after his fight with Beowulf. His final thoughts are about how, unlike the Shaper, his "funeral" will be attended by only the animals that he's grown to hate and shows that he seems to have completely accepted the dragon's hideous worldview.
  • Doomed by Canon: Guess who.
  • Draconic Humanoid: Grendel’s pained-induced hallucinations cause him see Beowulf as looking more like a dragon.
  • Dragon Hoard: The dragon not only hoards gold, he also advises Grendel that the only point of life is to "find a pile of gold and sit on it."
  • Dying Curse: "Poor Grendel's had an accident," I whisper. "So may you all."
  • Dysfunction Junction
  • Epigraph: Opens with a quotation from "The Mental Traveller" by William Blake.
  • Foreshadowing/Dramatic Irony: In the animated movie, the shaper sings an ironically happy song about Grendel and mentions that 'Removal of an arm or two would benefit us all'. This alludes to the method Beowulf uses to kill Grendel near the end of the film.
  • Foregone Conclusion: If you're familiar with the source material, you know Grendel dies at the end.
  • The Four Loves: Grendel seeks Storge and Phileo but can't find it because he can't communicate with the humans well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Unferth in Chapter 6 wants to do this so that his name will live on in poetry and songs and to avoid being labelled a coward, and he even visits Grendel's home hoping to be killed but Grendel decides to keep him alive as one of the few survivors of his raids to avoid giving him this satisfaction
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Apparently being raised by a barely-sentient monster doesn't help one's view of women. Grendel might be applying little bit of Ho Yay jealousy to the king's wife as well.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Doubles as a non-fatal version of Always a Bigger Fish, the dragon notes to a terrified Grendel that he now he knows what it must feel like when humans see him.
  • Humanoid Abomination: What Grendel perceives Beowulf as. Aside from his strength, Grendel can't help but notice something wrong about his face and shoulders, which isn't helped by Grendel's pain-induced hallucinations featuring Beowulf sprouting flaming wings.
  • Idiot Ball: It apparently never occurred to Unferth, after he followed Grendel back to his cave but failed to kill Grendel, to return to the cave with more warriors.
  • In Medias Res: The story begins with Adult Grendel knocking on Hrothgar's door and kidnapping 7 men to eat, and then cuts back to his childhood.
  • Innocence Lost: Grendel loses his when he leaves the Cave for the first time and gets trapped, his mother doesn't show up for days and he is attacked by an ox and a pack of humans. This experience gives him a more nihilistic worldview.
  • Karma Houdini: In the 1981 Animated Adaptation Beowulf, under orders from Hrothgar, murders Unferth, while the film ends shortly afterwards with the death of Grendel (who will mostly likely be blamed for killing Unferth), we know from the original story that Beowulf will go on to be hailed as a hero and become a king, with no indication that he will answer for murdering Unferth.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Animated Adaptation Grendel Grendel Grendel done in 1981 adds plenty of comic relief, cutesy moments and Disney-esque musical numbers. However, it does have very brief moments of blood and even one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bit of nudity and keeps the same unhappy ending of the novel.
  • Mook Horror Show: The scene where Beowulf gets ahold of Grendel.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Grendel started of as this, it wasn’t until in his younger years when he became trapped in a tree and was attacked unprovoked by humans that became the turning point when he started becoming hateful and violent towards mankind.
  • The Omniscient: The dragon claims to know everything, past, present and future.
  • Perspective Flip
  • Precision F-Strike: "you're crazy," I say. "If you think I created that wall that cracked my head, you're a fucking lunatic."
  • Start of Darkness: Grendel starts out simply being misunderstood. However as he endures more and after his talks with the Dragon (who is not a good role model to say the least), he starts becoming more violent, aggressive, and starts deliberately killing people instead of trying to make friends with them.
  • Straw Character: A variety of viewpoints are mocked, particularly religion.
  • Straw Nihilist: The dragon, who also manages to convince Grendel to stop trying to make up with the Danes and just kill them instead.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Part of the reason Grendel turns on Humans despite relating to them a bit initially is that they keep attacking him and treating him like an abomination.
  • Twice-Told Tale
  • Uncanny Valley: Lampshaded. Grendel notes repeatedly that there's just something... off about Beowulf.
  • Villain Protagonist: Starts off as more of a Byronic Hero and then becomes this shortly after Grendel's one chapter conversation with the Dragon.