Book - 1989
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Grendel, the monster, tells his side of the Beowulf story, and compares his values with the chief values of human beings.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1989, c1971
Edition: Vintage Books ed
ISBN: 9780679723110
Branch Call Number: PS3557.A712 G7 1989x
Gardner, J
Characteristics: 174 p. : ill. ; 18 cm


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Explore a Classic Epic Poem: Beowulf

Beowulf is an epic poem that is both one of the most important works in English literature, and a great adventure story. While it is set in Scandinavia in the early sixth century, the poem was composed in England somewhere between the seventh and the end of the tenth century. It concerns the heroic deeds of Beowulf, a Scandinavian warrior who offers his services to King Hrothgar of the Danes… (more)

From Library Staff

Gardner, a professor of medieval literature, retells the story of Beowulf, the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon classic, from the point of view of the villain of the piece, the monster Grendel. Check it out and see whether it changes your perspective on the tale.

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Mar 27, 2021

Wonderful. I read this twenty-five years ago, when I was only partially familiar with the epic of Beowulf, and I enjoyed it then. Reading it now, knowing more details of the story, I find it marvelous. Gardner not only made the villain of the old poem into a fascinating and even likeable monster, he created a whole world populated with brilliant nihilistic dragons and Bards whose songs had the power to shape reality. Oh, but Grendel himself - self-pitying, self-mocking, part Hamlet, part Caliban - is one of the greatest characters of all.

alburke47 Feb 17, 2021

Ever feel like reading a book where the Grendel from Beowulf was the hero, and it was the actions of us petty humans who turned him into the monster that was slain by the legendary hero? Well, look no further. I really enjoyed this book, mostly for how different it was. The Grendel is a self-taught creature, smart and appreciative of all of nature, until one day he comes across a group of humans. He attempts to make friends, but they just see a monster and attack him, sparking the events of the classic tale. It's quite bonkers but humorous, and even features the Grendel's mentor, a philosophical dragon. You'll like the Grendel so much, you'll feel a little sad when he meets his inevitable end (I hope this is not a spoiler).

Dec 14, 2020

The 1971 novella Grendel, by John Gardner, is an honest reflection of humans’ lives today, even though the story is told in the perspective of a cruel monster. In the story, we are introduced to Grendel, the antagonist of Danish hero Beowulf, in a very different perspective. Rather than being talked about as evil or bloodthirsty (though he is), the monster is described as a lost, confused human, making Grendel a story of understanding and coming of age. Grendel’s interactions with a dragon, King Hrothgar of the Danes, and the hero Beowulf force him to change throughout the story. He starts off as a jumpy, excited, clueless being, and toward the end, becomes a nihilistic, depressed monster. His issues parallel that of a human’s - the monotony of a 9-5 job and life in general, and the journey to find oneself. Personally, Grendel opened my eyes to a greater understanding of myself, and more specifically, allowed me to appreciate the things that break the monotony of my life. Therefore, I would definitely recommend this great novella to anyone who wants to find themselves or to understand their lives more. Thanks to John Gardner, we all might be able to see the world in new ways.

Oct 22, 2020

Grendel is a must-read. It takes the classic epic of Beowulf, which focuses on the Germanic-Christian milieu of heroism, and shifts the focus to Grendel, the main enemy of Beowulf. Gardner illustrates Grendel’s life story, describing a desolate backstory, and takes us, the readers, through Grendel’s life and his conflict with heroism. Parallel to the events of the story, however, Gardner introduces an existential despair in Grendel, and chronicles the different philosophical approaches to finding meaning in life that Grendel encounters. The book discards heroism as a valid form of meaning, unlike its source material, and explores many other avenues: nihilism, or a lack of meaning; aestheticism, or meaning in beauty; religious mysticism and fervor; rationality and intellectualism; existentialism, or creating one’s own meaning; and many others. Grendel’s journey becomes a lot more significant than just killing Danes and facing off with Beowulf in this modern retelling, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in ideas exploring ways of finding meaning in life.

Jan 03, 2020

This has to be one of the books that takes a classic work of literature ("Beowulf," the bane of many lit. students.) and tells its from a different point of view. Without it we probably wouldn't have "Wicked," "Lo's Diary" ("Lolita" from Lolita's p.o.v.), and that book that tells "Moby-Dick" from the Whale's perspective. I like that Gardner doesn't try to write in an old English-timey way.

Sep 25, 2017

Oh I absolutely LOVED this take on a new perspective... the monster, and the monsters... who's the true monster? I read Beowulf in the 10th grade or so, and found it brutal. The whole "hero's archetype" thing. Well, this is rather horrifying, but one begins to sympathize and truly see through Grendel's eyes. His flaws, Beowulf's flaws, the world and society and their flaws. But not the book itself-- this book is great!

FW_librarian Jun 19, 2015

Not having read Beowulf, I didn't have that connection that friends of mine relayed to me about this novel but, I do feel it's a good YA discussion book because teens can readily relate to the feeling of being an outsider looking in and trying to understand (and wishing) how to be included in a larger (popular) group.

Oct 24, 2014

While the description on our site calls Grendel merely a re-telling of the story "Beowulf," it's a lot more.

Grendel focuses on the titular character, the monster Grendel, as he lives, plots, and imagines in his life in Denmark in the early years AD. Most of the story is written using modern terms (sometimes in a hilariously anachronistic way) and is much more accessible than the original epic.

It's a short read, but (as any high-schooler might tell you) there are innumerable ways to interpret Grendel and his way of thinking.

Try it out!

MeeisLee Nov 09, 2011

"Grendel is a beautiful and heartbreaking modern retelling of the Beowulf epic from the point of view of the monster, Grendel, the villain of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon epic."


I found Grendel to be an interesting take on the Beowulf epic. I actually read Grendel before reading Beowulf, and it changed how I viewed the original epic. Grendel, a monster, reflects some of the confusion and questioning present in humans. The setting is in 4th century AD in Denmark but his language is obviously modern. I don't think it takes away from the story as I found the old English in Beowulf overbearing and confusing.


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Oct 22, 2020

monicajain12 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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