The Mere-Wife

In the introduction of Headley’s version of Beowulf she talks about how she liked Grendel’s mother because she was a strong woman. The entire time I was reading the part with Grendel’s mother I couldn’t help looking up to her. She wanted revenge and she killed people, but only because they did it to her first. I personally think she is awesome; she never gives up and she is extremely powerful. I want to read The Mere Wife because I want more background on her and see more into her life. In class last week and class today we talked about race and how Grendel and his mother could have been a different race. She is described as a warrior, almost in a masculine tone, as if she is not a woman, but something very different.

“An avenger lay in wait,

counting sworded seconds until the latest hour,

her heart full of hatred. Grendel’s mother,

warrior-woman, outlaw, meditated on misery.

She lived, ill-fated, sinking beneath cold currents…” (Page 56, lines 1255-1259).

I recently learned what mere-wife means, it has different connotations that I think connect well with this poem. One case means a noble or royal man marries a woman with lesser status, which could go along with the theory that Grendel was actually Hrothgar’s son (if you want to believe that). It can also mean the woman that lives in the mere. A mere is a dark and mysterious pool and a wife back then didn’t mean just “spouse” is also meant woman, hence her being the woman that lives in the mere. We see that she lives in a cave that is in “cold currents”, she has creatures that do her bidding for her, unless they make it far enough down like Beowulf does. I have a hard time choosing which interpretation I like better, I think it would be a cool theory that Grendel’s mother had bed with a royal man, hence the king wanting Grendel and her dead so bad, but the woman that lives in the mere makes so much more sense.

2 thoughts on “The Mere-Wife

  1. Both of these theories are so interesting and bring such a cool lens to Beowulf! I also really want to read The Mere-Wife; it seems like it would be fascinating. I also picked up on how Beowulf/Headley describes Grendel’s Mother in a more masculine tone. It’s interesting to think about this through Beowulf’s eyes, and brings up quite a bit of misogyny within his mind (no surprise there).

  2. Very interesting definition. I was thinking how awesome a story on her would be! She is a total badass let’s be honest. Maybe you should ask Dr. Helms if that could be your project? I think that would be a really cool perspective and you could also have a lot of fun with it!

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