Project 1: Beowulf-Grendel, Eve and Garden of Eden

Jordan Smith

Grendel from Beowulf is alleged to have a direct bloodline to Cain, whose bloodline is eternally punished by God for the murder of Cain’s brother, Abel. In the bible, it is stated that “Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘with the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.’ Later she gave birth to his brother Abel” (Genesis 4). Thus, making Grendel also a descendent of Adam and Eve. “Grendel, enemy to everyone, waged his war without an army, lonesome as he lapped the luxurious lengths of Heorot. He howl-haunted the hall at night, the gold-gifter’s throne throwing shade at him, his soul burning with dark flame. He couldn’t touch the treasure, or tame his yearning, for he’d been spurned by God” (Beowulf, 23). This connection to Cain’s bloodline perhaps is what demonizes Grendel. Like Cain, Grendel has also been “spurned by God” because of Cain’s bloodline being eternally punished. “But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.’ Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4). The significance of Grendel and Cain being spurned by God is an important distinction.

“The image of Eve as sexual temptress has remained frighteningly constant, even in products and programs that purport to challenge ingrained sexist tropes” (CNN). In this drawing, I hoped to portray Eve in a way that exposes her portrayal as this “sexual temptress.”

“Early Christian writers depicted Eve as subordinate and inferior to Adam — because she was created after and from him — and as weak, seductive and evil, the cause of Adam’s disobedience. Not only was Eve regarded as ‘the mother of all living things…’ she was also held up as the paradigm for the evil inherent in all women — except of course for Mary, the mother of Jesus, who later became the paradigm for idealized womanhood. These concepts formed the basis for later deprecatory patriarchal Christian theologies of woman” (Washington Post). This depiction of womanhood and Eve punishes women for being women. It depicts them as evil, and the fall of man.

  • First featured is an oil sketching of Eve. She is pictured nude, reaching to pick an apple from above her. Several depictions of Eve have the serpent, or “Lucifer” lurking somewhere in the background, but I decided to keep this image singularly a portrait of Eve. Seeing as how Adam and Eve were first created by God, she does not have a belly button. An apple, or “forbidden fruit,” is drawn in place between her legs where her genitals would be. This was a choice to symbolize not only the innocence of womanhood and purity culture, but also how several depictions of Eve and the forbidden fruit symbolize her finding pleasure in sex and awakening her sexuality at the tree. Eve is “pure and fair” when she is created by God. I think the apple being in place of her genitals is symbolic of her being untouchable, and devotedly pure to God.
  • “The story of Eve in the book of Genesis has had a more profoundly negative impact on women throughout history than any other biblical story. For at least 2,000 years it has been interpreted in patriarchal and even misogynist ways by male biblical scholars and theologians” (Washington Post).

  • Next is the apple. I used a simple sketch with fine lines to depict the apple that Eve picked. Hanging from a branch, it is cut in half, and resembles Eve’s genitalia. The inside of the apple is red, instead of white, which I think helps to give it the appearance of a female genital organ. For the vulva, I drew the core with seeds inside, one for each child she had. There is an extra seed still attached to the top of the apple, unlike the other three which are down towards the middle. I liked the additional seed as a symbol of procreation, and her ability to bare another child. A symbol of her fertility, perhaps.
    • “Though never explicitly named in the Bible, the apple has become the de facto “forbidden fruit” — powerful nomenclature for that which is fatally desirable, and therefore all the more tempting and worthy of moral rule-breaking. The apple’s shiny red skin and juicy interior make it an apt stand-in for sex, and the seductive way in which Eve is often depicted eating it only reinforces its libidinal connotations” (CNN).

  • Following is the tree of knowledge. I don’t know how else to describe this one besides the fact that it looks like a tree. Oh, and there’s a snake/serpent thing coiled up on one of the branches which is supposed to be Lucifer/the Devil/evil. I did not really color in the leaves, because I don’t particularly like drawing trees. So you get a giant coffee-brown oil-crayon tree trunk instead.

  • Lastly, I made a simple sketch of Grendel’s hand plucking a leaf from the apple tree. Like the monster he is described as, his fingers are clawed like that of a beast. It took some editing to capture this picture the way I wanted. I found with color-contrast, I was able to achieve the look I wanted by having a pitch-black base, and Grendel’s clawed hand being outlined in bright white. The leaf is a pen-sketch, done in pea-green and some loose line-work to achieve the look of it falling.

“To the woman he [GOD] said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3).

Overall, I enjoyed this project. It challenged me artistically to really consider the significance of Eve, mother of Cain. I do think Eve is important to think about when considering Grendel. Grendel is directly related to Cain, who was first-born to Eve. Unlike Eve and Cain, when Cain sinned, Eve could no longer be there for him. But Grendel’s mother sought vengeance on Beowulf upon her son’s death. Ultimately, if God put a mark on Cain so that anyone who “kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over,” and Grendel is also condemned by the same bloodline and mark of Cain, isn’t it also true that upon killing Grendel, Beowulf will be doomed to suffer vengeance seven times?

Works Cited

“Genesis 2 (NIV).” Bible Gateway,

“Genesis 3 (NIV).” Bible Gateway,

“Genesis 4 (NIV).” Bible Gateway,

Milne, Pamela. “GENESIS FROM EVE’S POINT OF VIEW.” Washington Post, 26 Mar. 1989,

Wolkoff, Julia. “Decoding Depictions of Eve in Art and Pop Culture.” CNN, 31 July 2019,

Leave a Reply