It's safe to say that the ancient Spear-Danes, and the monarchs that ruled over them, were fearless and strong. We've all heard about the princes' valiant campaigns. Beowulf is portrayed as a hero, a famed warrior on the lookout for 'heroic campaigns' in the poem Beowulf. On the other hand, Grendel is trying to figure out why he's such a social pariah. Although Grendel and Beowulf play opposites in the novel and poem, some of their goals are comparable. Despite the vast differences between man and monster, one can see that, in the end, Beowulf the man and Grendel the beast are not that dissimilar in terms of purpose.
In response to what inspires Beowulf, the Heroic Code, as well as the excitement of many conflicts and trials, motivates him. Beowulf comes to the Danes' aid partly because he is looking forward to the adventure that lays ahead, the battle with Grendel. This hall must be cleansed of all evil by me and my men alone, o defender of warriors and valued friend of your people. Please give me this one favour." (Heaney, pp. 257-261.) He pushes ahead, his desire satiated by blood flow, fight after battle and challenge after challenge. "Beowulf does not expect to return from his battle with the dragon," Jokinen says. Regardless, he joins the fight. Songs will be written and sung about him because of his heroism and commitment to his country" (Jokinen 48). This demonstrates that his people's praise fuels Beowulf's incentive for action for his bravery.
Grendel performs what he does on the opposite side of the water for various reasons. His envy of the regular, average-sized individuals' is the fundamental cause for this. Although Grendel tries to socialize with humans at the novel's beginning, one will note that Grendel does so later on. "It filled me with delight, though it was all weird, and before I realized I could do it, I laughed," Gardner says of Grendel's sentiments (Gardner 26).
Grendel's motivation for frightening Herot stems from his dissatisfaction with the fact that he is a descendent of Cain. While he believes this should be sufficient justification for him to mix with humans, the Danes disagree. Not only has that, but the sound of revelry enraged him beyond comprehension. And he vents his rage on Hrothgar's troops, murdering them in the most heinous manner.
The second portion of his motivation stems from Grendel's envy, which drives him to become violent to the point that he begins to display his accurate colours as a monster. Amidst the din, Beowulf was "harrowed" by "the clamor...the beating of the harps and the great poet's song /narrating with mastery of man's origins," to use Beowulf's words (Heaney 86-91).
When they meet for the first time, they see how similar their motivations are. Beowulf and Grendel battle in both the poem and the novel, with Beowulf cutting Grendel's arm off. Grendel's and Beowulf's motivations diverge from this point forward. Grendel is keen to learn more about Beowulf's remarkable power, while Beowulf is determined to accomplish the mission of murdering Grendel. "I look down astounded," Gardner says of Grendel's ideas. He's ripped my arm off at the shoulder!" (Gardner 172,)
They are both outraged, which is another commonality in their purpose. Grendel is upset by Hrothgar's nightly festivities, whereas Beowulf is offended by Grendel's rash and unjustified murders.
"It is in combat that the epic hero's mettle is tested," Jokinen writes in her critique (Jokinen 22). Beowulf is referred to as a hero in both the poem and the fiction. His bravery is partly to blame for this, and the moniker pushes him to fight brutal fights and take on challenges like the one with Breca. "I assert the truth, / that I had more sea power than any other man, greater ocean endurance" (Beowulf 533-535). Herein lays the distinction between Grendel's and Beowulf's intentions. Beowulf appears to have a good cause to do what he does best: battle. This also demonstrates that his assassinations are justified. However, unless one considers why Grendel was murdered, one may not appreciate the validity of Grendel's situation. This is because regular humans are averse to doing anything with him due to his looks and speech problem. And it's not that Grendel didn't attempt to be one of them; he was turned down based on his appearance. And while his killing methods may appear brutal, he kills mainly for social isolation.
Despite their differences, the reasons underlying Beowulf's and Grendel's acts are far more similar than one might imagine. Even if one is the hero and the other is the antihero, one may blame Grendel for his unjustified and violent nocturnal rampages, and one wouldn't be entirely wrong; nonetheless, if one looked closely, one would notice that Grendel and Beowulf are pretty similar. Nowadays, activities are justified only based on their appearance. However, as the adage goes, "Never judge a book by its cover"; it's better to investigate the motivation behind the behaviour because reasons may shift over time, as in the case of Grendel and Beowulf.
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