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Thread: Thoughts on Grendel?

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    Question Thoughts on Grendel?

    Beowulf, the Germanic hero, slays Grendel in heroic style. On the face of it a straightforward Good versus Evil conflict but the true nature of this fiend remains shady. I have always had the feeling that there is far more to it than that.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this monster?
    A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors
    will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendents.

    Lord Macauley

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    All Germanic tribes had tales about giant demons concerning the beginning of the world. Words like "giant" or duris, thuris (old upper german), hiune (middle upper german) point to special powers of these ogres.

    There were different categories of these giants: Giants of the mountains, of the woods, o thunder, clouds and so on, which makes one come to the conclusion that giants are in some way connected with nature. Every moment, men could be afflicted by gigantic nature phenomenons and so meet the giant-demon. Natural phenomenons were impersonated by giants, so a giant was the swamp itself, the mountain itself, the storm itself - not the builder or maker of it.

    If now Beowulf is fighting against Grendel, it could be - in my humble opinion :-D - an epic transference of the fight against the ague. The swamp was finally dried up - and Grendel beaten.

    The power of Grendel is the swamp, the impersonated monster, and the dangers of the swamp, e.g. the fever, are the weapons of the impersonated swamp.

    Just a thought....
    Lík börn leika best.

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    Senior Member Sigel's Avatar
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    A good theory. I have always wondered about the 'sacred' but dark side of swaps to the early Germans. Votive offerings, including human, were deposited in them, hence bog-bodies, weapons etc.
    It's perhaps telling that such a pool was his abode. Beowulf was written by a Christian who was trying to synthesise the pagan tale with his Christian world view. How would a pagan have interpreted the swamp I wonder?
    A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors
    will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendents.

    Lord Macauley

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    I am inclined to think that this interpretation is too facile. It leaves too much in the Beowulf legend unexplained. How does it account for the fact that Grendel's mother returns almost immediately and exacts a horrible vengeance for her son's slaying? How does it account for Beowulf's having to fight Grendel's mother under water? What is the explanation of the third ogre whom Beowulf fights much later in his life and defeats only at the cost of his own life ? :haha IF Beowulf is symbolic, the symbolism is much more complex than a mere nature myth.
    As to "Beowulf" 's having been written by a Christian, the version WE NOW HAVE was transcribed and evidently extensively edited and re-written by a monk who has not completely succeeded in Christianizing a pagan story, the values, atmosphere, and phraseology of which are basically pre-Christian. The Christian element in "Beowulf" is a pious veneer overlying an obviously much older pagan story.

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    Senior Member Sigel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Egil Skallagrimsson
    The Christian element in "Beowulf" is a pious veneer overlying an obviously much older pagan story.
    I agree. It is obvious, as you say, that the deeper elements are only thinly covered.
    The contest, and combat, with GrendelÍs mother is, itself, quite other worldly. Beowulf has no problem being submerged in water for a great length of time, which raises questions as to the nature of the encounter.

    I have often felt that Grendel can also be interpreted in various ways. Firstly as a stock-in-trade monster, secondly as a metaphor for the manifestation of jealousy incurred by the house of Scyld, in its somewhat uncompromising rise to prominence, and thirdly as a tenuous folk-memory of early Germanic encounters with Neanderthals or other early humanoids.
    This latter idea was explored in ïEaters of the deadÍ and portrayed in the film ïThe 13th WarriorÍ.

    Although an early extinction date
    Quote Originally Posted by BBC page
    Modern humans leave Africa about 60,000 years ago and arrive in Europe around 40,000 years ago. By 27,000 years ago, the Neanderthals are extinct.
    is given, the possibility remains, especially in light of the recent Javanese discoveries, that we do not yet have the full picture.

    In any case, my mental image of Grendel is one of a massive, muscular humanoid with claws and black fur. A creature of the mist and night, an implacable race-enemy of mankind.
    A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors
    will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendents.

    Lord Macauley

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    Senior Member Vanir's Avatar
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    I've wondered what it means that Grendel only comes in the night, and that Beowulf meets him arm to arm (or man to monster, “since Grendel shuns weapons, I will also”) The strength of Beowulf, that indomitable strength to overcome that he possesses seems perhaps to be a metaphor for his spiritual fortitude, that his self-belief, his knowledge of right & wrong, is insurmountable. A when some manner of darkness, represented by Grendel, confronts him, he is able to best it and tear it asunder. His strength comes from his resolve, and grows to match whatever is asked of it in a way…

    I have also heard that the evil creature
    in his recklessness heeds not weapons;
    then I it scorn --so that for me Hygelac may be
    my liege-lord blithe in his heart--
    that I bear a sword or broad shield,
    yellow-rim to war, but I with my grip shall
    fight with this fiend and over life strive,
    enemy against enemy;
    The JWO~PC version of events is, of course, that Grendel is a Negro, and that everyone in the North is a Racist and is persecuting Grendel, who only comes to the Hall to be friends, and has to kill everyone to defend himself. Only Beowulf is wise enough to understand that we are "One World, One Race" and confronts Grendel sadly (http://www.beowulf-movie.com/) They have actually made this movie, and it is due to be released soon I gather :angry Way to go to ruin and corrupt an ancient Heathen Myth with politically correct poison to ruin it for the next generation, but there you go...

    I like this thread, I shall have a think about the deeper metaphors of the myth, I wouldn't mind adding to this thread.

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    Senior Member Sigel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SURT
    The JWO~PC version of events is, of course, that Grendel is a Negro, and that everyone in the North is a Racist and is persecuting Grendel, who only comes to the Hall to be friends, and has to kill everyone to defend himself.
    It says a lot about the times in which we live that a deep and profound tale must only ever be seen through such a divisive and twisted prism. True intellectual poverty IMHO.
    A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors
    will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendents.

    Lord Macauley

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    Quote Originally Posted by weiSSesMädel
    The swamp was finally dried up - and Grendel beaten.
    Wait a sec, I did not know that the swamp was dried up. I knew that Beowulf killed the monster underwater and then came on the surface with the two heads ( mother-child Grendel ). I did not know what happenned afterwards.
    ANAKTAS

    Magna Europa Est Patria Nostra

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    Quote Originally Posted by anaktas
    Wait a sec, I did not know that the swamp was dried up. I knew that Beowulf killed the monster underwater and then came on the surface with the two heads ( mother-child Grendel ). I did not know what happenned afterwards.
    I think she means it was ultimately tamed.
    A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors
    will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendents.

    Lord Macauley

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