Analysis of Grendel Grendel Grendel through Monster Theory | by Stetson Thacker
The cinematic rendition of Beowulf, Grendel Grendel Grendel, provides an enlightening perspective on the monster, Grendel, by elucidating the concept monster theory in literature. The first segment of the video presents an explanation of monster theory as man’s subconscious or conscious projections of foreign, frightening, or frustrating elements of culture into a horrifying and monstrous form. This allows man to rationalize, cope, or understand these challenging elements of existence that birthed their monsters.
Ambiguous Relationship between Paganism and Christianity
The beginning segment then asserts that this process is responsible for the character of Grendel. Thus, we are left with a question: what is Grendel’s purpose? Or more specifically, what does he tell us about his literary creator and the culture in which this creator lived? The answer seems to be made manifest in the ambiguous relationship between Paganism and Christianity expressed in the video and the inherent instability of a world that is under the constant threat of an attack.
Grendel’s Nature as a Monster
The crucial scene in the video that reveals Grendel’s nature as a monster that has been created by humanity is the first dream sequence with the dragon. The dragon pontificates about the balance inherent to the world, explaining that with an existence comes counter-existence. Consequently, Grendel exists as an “anti-man,” a force or idea that will drive men out of fear and curiosity to religion and other organized social institutions.
This logic resonates with Grendel and he realizes that his attempts at friendship with man were foolish and frivolous. As Grendel’s true nature is revealed it is almost tragic because he seems completely bound by his fate and the identity the dragon’s philosophy has ascribed him. He has nihilistically resigned himself to monstrosity, which is revealed in the passive way in which he murders men in Heorot and his sorrowful meditation on Hrothgar neglectful and inconsiderate treatment of Wealhtheow.
Being that Grendel is a manifestation of man’s anxious and troubled subconscious, he shares an inherent link to humanity and, when evaluated closely, is human. Ironically, throughout the entire film the redeeming qualities of mankind are ascribed to Grendel, while the men of the film act barbarically, pettily, and treacherously. Grendel behaves urbanely, engages in inquiry, and analyzes human behavior – characteristics of a sensitive and ethical intellectual.
Portrayal of Man
However, Hrothgar, Unferth, and Beowulf are marred by negative traits such as jealousy, insecurity, or arrogance; they are animalistic at best in their portrayals. This is interesting in that it inverts the typical binary of man as an intelligent being and monster as a visceral brute. Moreover, the uncivil behavior of man is further illustrated by the film in the Danes’s disregard for religion, especially with the abrupt transition that Hrothgar makes so that he can take Wealhtheow as his wife.
The events of the film and the epic poem are both a muddling of paganism and Christianity. The numerous sacrifices made behind the scene and the many apotheoses of man’s actions by their bard reveal the pagan elements of the film. Not to mention Hrothgar’s belief in the king of gods until corrected on multiple occasions by the bard. Also evident in the movie is the burgeoning momentum of Christianity. This develops a tension that I think is dealt with in Grendel’s existence, which seems to be corroborated by his behaviors and the dragon’s expostulations. Grendel, in this context, begins to represent the dangers of paganisms reflected in human brutality, but also the fear that drives man into accepting Christianity.
Image Credit: http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/?p=562
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