Reflection 1 – Grendel is Jealous

I think Grendel’s jealousy is the source of his anger.

On page seven, we learn of the songs sung in Heorot. Specifically, lines such as “the Almighty made Earth for us” and “fens full of creatures for our feasting, mere to quench our thirst.”

Later down on this same page, we read, “He’d been […] ruling the wild: the mere, the fen, and the fastness, his kingdom.” In a story of grudges and debts and kings, it makes perfect sense to frame Grendel as a king of sorts, one whose land is being depleted for the joy of another. And the song sung by his enemies, then, rubs salt in the wound. We learn that his line descends from Cain, who God went against by supporting Abel and banishing Cain. Of course Grendel feels snubbed by a song proclaiming ‘the Almighty made Earth for us’ when he himself is specifically excluded from that! On page 8, he visits Heorot originally to just see “what horde haunted [the] hall” and his actions from there are clearly outlined: “Grendel hurt, and so he hunted.” “The Danes had slept sweetly in a world that had woken him, benefited from bounty, even as they’d broken him.” On page nine, “this was what they call a blood feud, a war”.

Page 10, “ringless, Grendel’s fingers, kingless, his country.” Grendel is the closest thing his home has to a king, he is acknowledged as ruling an area, but specifically has no one to rule over, no men to claim a kingdom. Grendel is portrayed in many ways as alone, and this is yet another reason that the songs of Heorot doubtless hurt him so.

I’m not excusing Grendel’s actions here at all, but he is portrayed largely like a lonely king with no company, whose claim to his home is threatened by kings far greater than he in political if not physical power. Grendel’s jealousy, at the end of the day, is what drives him to kill, and to some extent, there is a justified reason for it.

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