Monsters In Literature Essay

1147 words - 5 pages

Monsters run free in epic poems of centuries far past; horrific, villainous creatures of fantasy who illustrate all that is bad in the world and stand for the tribulations the epic hero much overcome. The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is no different. Some are born of, and in turn give birth to legends, such as the fire-breathing dragon, while others are tied to the bible. In studies, Beowulf's monsters are explained and will continue to be analyzed as symbolic of countless different ideas. In relation to each other and the epic's hero, the monsters of Beowulf represent the ever-present flaws of humanity and the monstrous feelings or behaviors that over take the mind in a moment of weakness, leading to eventual downfall.
Like all monstrous creatures, Grendel is introduced as being unnatural, a demon, a “prowler through the dark” (86). As a demon, Grendel is of biblical origin, or perhaps was given the biblical genealogy of the House of Cain in a later christian re-adaptation of the “pagan” story. Being of the line of Cain, Grendel exhibits direct lineage in his mirroring of Cain's fatal downfall: jealousy. For having killed his own brother Abel out of pure jealous rage, Cain's clan was banished by the Creator, who “had outlawed /and condemned [his descendents] as outcasts” of society to reside only in the miserable company of other monsters (106-7). IN a world where the mead hall was the center of society and the source of both wealth and community, Grendel is left on the outskirts and unwelcome within the warm walls. For years, he lurked alone, hearing “the din of the loud banquet … in the hall” (88-9), pacing in the marshes night after night, forced to listen to the music, the stories, the laughter taunting him, until he could not take it anymore. However, instead of acting as others would and steal the mead bench, he acts out of a jealous rage. Unwelcome to join in with the people of Heorot in their merriment, Grendel haunts them in the night, taking all joy out of the pleasures he can't enjoy. As the men lounge “insensible to pain / and human sorrow” (119-20), Grendel creeps amongst them, creating havoc and leaving “butchered corpses” (125) in his wake.
The character of Grendel shines light on the truth of jealousy; not only is it unwanted, but it is sudden and disastrous in it's strike, “the shadow stalker, stealthy and swift” (702) appearing suddenly out of the night. Beowulf is able to defeat Grendel when others can not because he realizes how this jealousy must be faced. As swift and overpowering as jealously is, it can not overtaken by a quick strike of a word or a sword. Instead, Beowulf defeats Grendel by holding him tight and firm as “every bone in [the monster's] body / quailed and recoiled” (752-3), crushing the creature's destructive hand until his power weakens; thus likewise crushing and quelling the jealousy inside until it fades, rather than allowing it to grow within and overtake him. Without an arm and thus...

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