Disclaimer: I may or may not have gotten a bit carried away with this.
All jokes aside, I had always wondered what a *civil* conversation between Grendel and Beowulf would have looked like. This “skit” (or whatever you’d like to call it) was written to take place of the fight between Beowulf and Grendel. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I think it exposes the other side of these characters. It’s possible that Grendel was just a lonely swamp-creature, that was jealous of the shenanigan’s he was missing out on in Heorot. I’ve always considered Beowulf to be lucky in his fights. I believe that the fight against Grendel’s mother was a bit of a fluke; he got lucky (I’m not buying the sword being there for no reason). This feat stuck with him and only fed his arrogance, which lead to his eventual doom. He was a great warrior, but even the most honorable warriors have flaws.
Throughout these 5 weeks, the inability to understand another’s perspective has been stuck in my mind. Grendel was immediately villainized by the people of Heorot. It was never even a consideration that they were in the wrong. After all, they were the ones who invaded his home and disturbed HIS peace. He was instantly the “bad guy” for simply protecting his home. But, terrorizing the village was probably not the best way to go about. Since both sides were at fault, I thought Dr. Phil would’ve been a great mediator. Beowulf is portrayed as a mighty, honorable hero; but he’s also a bit cocky. That other side of him isn’t shown much throughout the story, until the end when he “heroically” insists on fighting the dragon himself. Grendel is portrayed as an evil, fiendish ghoul who can feel no emotion. But no one cares for his side of the story. Just because he is different from Beowulf, Hrothgar and the rest; he is instantly considered evil. Terrorizing a village is definitely evil, but the story fails to recognize his perspective. At the end of the day, Grendel was most likely a representation of a society/group of peoples that had opposing views. Since their beliefs were different, they were seen as “evil,” as Grendel was. He was different, that was his downfall. While this was supposed to be a story of “Good vs. Evil,” it was no more than two independent parties acting with their own best interests in mind.
I believe that Dr. Phil serves as an all-knowing mediator that eliminates bias from the story. In his show, he does his best to get to the root of the problem and considered both sides. Each side believes they have done nothing wrong, it was a huge “he-said, she-said” conflict blown out of proportion. I think this story is important because it can be applied to almost any situation. Even though most of us will never fight a mythical creature like Grendel, we have all been apart of misunderstandings. It’s crucial to do our best to try and look at a situation from all points of view. Just because someone is different, doesn’t mean their opinion isn’t valid. It’s much harder to walk in someone else’s shoes than brush them to the side. We can learn so much from other people, it’s counter-productive to ignore a perspective just because it’s “different.”
[Lights come up, revealing the lovely, charming and warm-hearted Dr. Phil. Theme music echoes throughout the studio.]
[Dr. Phil is sitting center stage, with one empty chair on either side of him.]
Dr. Phil: Welcome to a very SPECIAL episode of Dr. Phil: Through the Ages! [Applause] Thank you, thank you. Today, we have two very special guests. These two characters are very important when discussing British Literature. Some would even say without their story, we wouldn’t have the modern fantasy today that we hold so near and dear to our hearts. But why are we here? Well, they seem to have a bit of a… disagreement. Let me give you some background.
[Audience erupts in applause]
Dr. Phil: Thank you kindly. One of our guests is considered one of the most famous characters in literature, a mighty Hero! His story has been re-told by many generations, and eventually written down. That is the version we know today. A Brave, Honorable, Mighty… and Handsome
[Dr. Phil gives the crowd a dashing smile, highlighted by his timeless mustache]
Dr. Phil: [continuing] …man who comes to the rescue when all else seems lost; saves the day and seems to defeat evil itself! Now does anybody have some guesses of who this Titan of British Literature could be?
Crowd Member 1: Aragorn from Lord of the Rings?
Dr. Phil: Close. Many believe that Aragorn was inspired by the “hero” in our story. There are a lot of similarities between Aragorn and our guest! Not a bad guess… Any others?
Crowd Member 2: Uhm… Oh! Robin Hood?
Dr. Phil: Swing and a miss… While Robin Hood is a mighty, Noble hero who spits in the face of evil; he wouldn’t appear until the 14th or 15h Century in English ballads. Well, it seems our Hero has been forgotten in our Modern times. Please welcome the mighty Beowulf!
[Beowulf enters from the right. Applause fills the room! Clearly, he is the crowd favorite.]
[Dr. Phil and Beowulf shake hands.]
Dr. Phil: You know, Beowulf; I’m really happy you were able to make it ALL the way from 6th Century England.
Beowulf: Good morrow Phillip. Why yes, I come from the 6th Century; but doth I notice an error in your claim? The land of the Danes is where I hail from-
Dr. Phil: [Interrupting] Now let me stop you right there son. You see, we’re in the 21st Century. I understand that your story has been translated many times?
Dr. Phil: Well… do you think you could act a bit more, Modern? Just so my audience can understand your side of the story easier!
Beowulf: Sure Doc, whatever helps get MY side of the story out there.
Dr. Phil: Thank you for being so understanding. Compromise and patience is how we’re going to get to the bottom of this. Now, tell me a little bit about yourself and the situation.
Beowulf: Well it’s quite simple Phi-… Can I call you Phil?
Dr. Phil: Whatever makes you more comfortable.
Beowulf: Well Phil, I’m a simple guy really. I’m a Geat, born and raised. Hrothgar knows I’m the best warrior around so he recruited me to kill Grendel, who has been TERRORIZING Heorot for no reason!
Dr. Phil: Interesting…
Beowulf: Absolutely. I’m simply the best. Without me, none of your “Hero’s” today would even exist. I AM THE MAN! Hope you’re watching, Unferth. Bet you’re super jealous! No wonder Hrothgar chose ME to fight back the foul beast!
[The crowd seems a bit disturbed by Beowulf’s arrogance, but is intrigued by who this beast may be]
Dr. Phil: I’m sure you are. Anyways, on to our next gue-
Beowulf: NO one can defeat me!
Dr. Phil: Alright Beowulf, just take it down a notch for me please. Our next guest claims to be “criminally misunderstood.”
Beowulf: [Muttering under his breath] Yeah right…
Dr Phil: Son, please. We respect each other on this show. Our next guest is known to “bore God’s wrath” and has been described as a “cruel beast…” But as we know, Never judge a book by it’s cover! I present to you, as he calls himself, “the surprisingly loveable” Grendel!
[Grendel peeps his head around the curtain, and as he exposes himself the crowd gasps! As he fully exposes himself, it’s clear he isn’t alone.]
[His mother walks him to his seat and stands behind him, eyes locked on Beowulf.]
Dr. Phil: Oh Grendel… Who did you bring with you?
Grendel: Well you see… this was a big step for me. I asked my mom to come with me for moral support.
[Beowulf lets out a cackle]
Beowulf: Can’t fight your own battles huh? What a LOSER.
[Grendel’s lip begins to quiver]
Grendel: Stop it!
Beowulf: Awww… gonne cwie??? Baby Grendel needs his mother?
Dr. Phil: [Snaps at Beowulf] Now listen here! We’re here for SOLUTIONS. If y’all can’t be friendly then we’re just gonna have to call it off and you two can duke it own the old-fashioned way. Is that what you want?
[Both guests fall back into their seats, and collectively groan]
Beowulf and Grendel: No Dr. Phil…
Dr. Phil: That’s right. Beowulf, that wasn’t very “heroic-code-like” was it?
[Beowulf attempts to respond]
Dr. Phil: Don’t answer that! Now Grendel, I understand that you’ve been terrorizing the people of Heorot! Why is that?
Grendel: Well! Well…
[Grendel attempts to hold back tears, his mother gives him a supportive pat on the back]
Grendel: If they weren’t so loud and didn’t disturb my home I wouldn’t have done anything in the first place.
[Dr. Phil sits back and strokes his mustache, eventually locking eyes with Grendel]
Dr. Phil: Was that the most productive way to deal with this situation?
Grendel: But they’re so loud and obnoxious! Always drinking, singing and boasting about how strong they are!! I… I…. I guess I’m just jealous I was never invited… So I invited myself.
Dr. Phil: Invited yourself… and then killed villagers and destroyed their homes?
[Grendel seems to begin to connect the dots]
Beowulf: [Interrupting] See! He’s a fiend! He had to be dealt with, and I was clearly the man for the j-
[Dr. Phil shifts his glare over to Beowulf, who instantly looks down in shame]
Dr. Phil: Like I said son, we respect each other here. It’s important that we understand each other’s feelings. Let Grendel Finish.
Grendel: ….I probably shouldn’t have done that.
Dr. Phil: See what happens when we talk things out? Now Beowulf… Was planning to fight Grendel the best idea?
Beowulf: [visibly angry] Uh… DUH? He’s a fiend. Hell-spawn! A Ghoul. Look at him! Ugly, long claws, gross teeth, he’s so different than me; a handsome warrior. Obviously he’s just trying to raise hell.
[Dr. Phil tilts his head downward, still staring straight at Beowulf]
Beowulf: [continuing] Why would I ever consider talking to him? He’s a nobody, A fiend! A… A…!
[Beowulf becomes intimidated by Dr. Phil’s gaze.]
[Grendel puts his head in his arm and tries to hide the tears. His mother scowls at Beowulf, continuing to support her son that she cares for very much]
[Beowulf’s Eyes widen. He looks at Grendel, then back at Dr. Phil]
Beowulf: You’re going to feel sorry for him? He terrorized a village.
Dr. Phil: But… y’all disturbed HIS peace and invaded HIS home. Where’s the honor in that? Just because he’s a bit different from us doesn’t mean he’s a monster. How do you think your words made Grendel feel? How would you feel if he called you ugly, fiendish or a hell-spawn?
[Beowulf seems shocked to his very core]
Dr. Phil: You see y’all… This is what happens when we make assumptions. Grendel, it was wrong for you to terrorize the village. You ASSUMED you couldn’t make peace with Hrothgar and company. Instead, you resorted to violence and look at the situation you’re in! You should be ashamed of yourself.
[Grendel picks his head up out of his arms, tears rolling down his face]
Grendel: You’re right…
Dr. Phil: Now… I think you owe someone an apology.
Grendel: Yeah… okay… Beowulf, I’m sorry for being a real jerk…
[Grendel’s face pans to the camera]
Grendel: [continuing] And Hrothgar… I’m sorry for terrorizing your great hall, it was real stupid of me. I was just… I was just so lonely and sick of being treated like a nobody! I was enjoying my life, it was so peaceful until you guys came along and caused a ruckus. But, I shouldn’t have acted the way I did… I’m sorry.
[Dr. Phil pats Grendel on the back as the crowd applauds]
Dr. Phil: I know that was hard for you son. But how do you feel now that you’ve opened up to your neighbors?
Grendel: [shakes his head, and hugs his mother] I feel much better.
[Grendel’s realization is followed by a collective “Awwww” from the crowd]
Dr. Phil: [smiling] Alright Beowulf, it’s your turn.
[Beowulf scowls away from Dr. Phil’s gaze]
Dr. Phil: Now, when does fighting fire with fire ever work?
[Beowulf pretends to ignore Dr. Phil]
Dr. Phil: Never. Now, it’s extremely unfair that Hrothgar invaded Grendel’s land and put you in charge of fighting his battle. But see how far a little understanding and shift of perspective can go? You probably would have never known that Grendel was just a bit lonely. You definitely wouldn’t have known that if Hrothgar hadn’t disturbed the peace, this whole dispute wouldn’t have happened! Demonizing Grendel before you even met him was unfair and certainly not honorable! Never assume a book by it’s cover, or more importantly; never assume a monster by their fangs.
Dr. Phil: [facing the crowd] Folks, this is a perfect example of a…
Crowd: [simultaneously] Misunderstanding!!
Dr. Phil: [smiling] Y’all know it. But with a little patience, compassion and conversation… we were able to get to the bottom of this.
[Dr. Phil looks to Beowulf]
Dr. Phil: [softly] Beowulf, do you have anything to say to your pal Grendel?
Beowulf: [initially pauses] I… I think so…
[Dr. Phil tilts his head downward, keeping his gaze on Beowulf]
[Beowulf Looks at Dr. Phil, then to Grendel, then back to Dr. Phil]
Beowulf: Oh alright!!! I’m sorry! There’s just so much pressure on me to be a “manly man” and defeat foul beasts!! I shouldn’t have just assumed you were a bad guy… Can we get a drink?
Grendel: That’s all I’ve wanted.
[The two shake hands, and the crowd erupts in applause.]
[Grendels mother sheds a few tears and hugs all three of them simultaneously]
Dr. Phil: Well that’s it for this week folks! Tune in next week when we get the inside scoop from Hoccleve HIMSELF as he opens up about his “disease…” It’s gonna be juicy. Seeya next week!
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2 thoughts on “What if Grendel vs. Beowulf was Mediated by Dr. Phil?”
Well this was just delightful!
You really ran with this idea, and you spun it out into something funny, clever, and wholesome. I remember being very skeptical of the push to make Grendel likeable in our class. I thought that we ended up constructing a lot of his backstory out of thin air, but you really managed to contextualize Grendel, to make him more worthy of empathy, without adding anything to the story. You really just used Dr. Phil to reframe the story as it already existed, and I think that really worked for you. Thank you for such a cool piece!
This is so fun! The whole skit has a balance of comedy, canon parts of the story, and tidbits about British literary history. It’s really well written and I love the absurd image of these two beings, who duked it out mercilessly in the original, being made to talk out their differences and apologize to each other on live television.