Grendel’s Mother: or, if Mother Mary Went Off

Throughout our reading of Beowulf, a common theme has been that of Christianity. Grendel is a descendent of Cain, who in the Bible committed the first murder. Characters are openly believers in God, commonly saying things like “God’s in charge, always has been, / always will be” (Headley line 1060). There is no shortage of Biblical references in the epic poem, but one specific parallel I have noticed is between Grendel’s mother and the Virgin Mary.

As is commonly known, Mary is the mother of Jesus. Jesus was born through immaculate conception, meaning Mary was a virgin when he was born. Instead, he was placed in Mary’s womb by God. Similarly, Grendel is said to have no father. “He was named Grendel, a fatherless son” (Headley line 1352). This heavily implies that he, like Jesus, has no biological father.

In the Bible, when Jesus is crucified, Mary is there for him at his feet. Similarly, Grendel’s mother is implied to have been there when Grendel succumbed to the wounds inflicted on him by Beowulf. But instead of the acceptance that Mary showed because of her belief in God, Grendel’s mother seeks revenge.

“Now his mother was here, / carried on a wave of wrath, crazed with sorrow, / looking for someone to slay, someone to pay in pain / for her heart’s loss”

(Headley line 1274).

As someone who was raised Catholic and is pretty familiar with much of the Bible, I’m curious to see if the parallels between both Grendel’s mother and Mary as well as Grendel and Jesus continue. Is there a reason for it? Will Grendel’s fate be the same as that of Jesus (that is, being resurrected)? I guess we’ll see.

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