Grendel – a descent from Cain who lives under an inherited curse – disrupts the joyous and peaceful meadhall of Heorot and commits various murders without apparent provocation. We can argue that the Beowulf-poet succeeds in giving the figure of Grendel his memorable power precisely by keeping him flickering in that half world of the edge of the human – far away form mankind, yet an essential part of him. In your estimation, what foremost characteristics of mankind are revealed in the poet’s representation of the monster? Do Grendel’s mother and/or the Dragon serve similar purposes?
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Grendel has the jealousy, anguish, hatred and even fear that the humans have. He sneaks upon the humans and hears their singing and their stories. This enrages him. I always thought that he was a lonely figure which again would reflect human emotion. The communion the vikings share contrasts with Grendel's very solitary life. Even when Grendel attacks, he picks and choses his victims, sparing others he feels the least bit of sympathy for.
I don't think Grendel's mother or the Dragon share the same human-like characteristics in general. Their motivations are different from Grendel's save for some vengeance that mother would have had for Grendel's demise. Dragon simply didn't want his treasure messed with. That is kind of human but tends to be a dragon trait as well.
Grendel's physical charactertistics are definitely unhuman, but Grendel exhibits many human qualities. He's intelligent and temperamental; he's lonely, jealous, and bent on revenge. What we see in Grendel is a primitive glimpse of mankind, and it's difficult not to feel empathy for him.
Grendel's mother is a far more human character. We FEEL her pain, the death of a child is universal...... even animals love their children. She adores her son, and she seeks vengeance against his murderers............. you also have to remember who killed Grendel's father. His mother, she has plenty of reasons to go on the rampage.
The dragon is the only character that doesn't fit here. I don't see a glimpse of humanity in its portrayal, but maybe I'm missing it, and you might see something I haven't.