What Does Grendel Represent in the Epic Poem Beowulf?

What does grendel represent what kind of monster is itWhat does Grendel represent in the Old English poem, Grendel? The answer to this question is complex and requires a bit of a back story. Grendel was the main protagonist against Beowulf in the poem where the poet used symbolism in the poem which is quite subtle. Here we bring you an in-depth analysis of the poem Beowulf and what Grendel symbolizes in the epic.

What Does Grendel Represent?

Grendel represents the essence of heathenism in addition to hatred towards the upper class. In other words, the epic Beowulf is a monstrous representation of social injustice and also prejudice against looks and self-loathing. The connection between Cain and Grendel can also be taken into account.

The poem also explains the double standards of people based on looks and appearances. If a person does not appear a certain way, he or she is ostracized and distanced from society. It is quite interesting to see the injustice be told through Beowulf’s poem, which takes place in Denmark.

The poem serves as an excellent example of symbolism. Let us read about the poem and its characters in detail to thoroughly understand the symbolism that the poem represents.

The Vilain in Beowulf

Grendel is the villain in the epic poem of Beowulf. He lived nearby in a swamp and hated the noise that came from Heorot. He was evil hence he killed a lot of people for 12 years and made sure that the King knew of his disgust and agitation with their celebrations. Beowulf, a hero comes to the rescue and kills Grendel, setting the people free from his terror.

The story of Beowulf is quite interesting because of many reasons. Among many other things, the poet has used symbolism which can be interpreted in more than one way. Grendel, an outcast, lives in the swamps with his mother. The pair is not a part of any activity of the nearby kingdom solely because of their looks.

This is one way to describe the main idea of the poem the second or the opposite idea is that Grendel, knowing his ways of life and looks, chose to terrorize people who were just living their lives. He misused his powers to bring havoc and cause trouble. These two notions can be used to symbolize heathenism and abuse of power in the real world.


In the epic poem, Beowulf, Grendel is seen destroying the Heorot because of the noise the people were making there. It can be suggested from his character that Grendel represented solitude. He used to live alone in the forest with his mother. So when his solitude was disturbed, he took it upon himself to get rid of the problem.

Solitude is an addictive feeling. Once you learn to live on your own, there is no going back and this was the case for Grendel. He was so used to living alone that even if the society came over its prejudice against different-looking creatures and invited him to join them in the feast, he would have declined. Just because he had become so accustomed to his routine that he would not make changes in it for anyone.


Another rationale that Grendel represents is his nonconventional looks. Society hardly accepts any person that chooses to live according to their own wishes when it comes to appearance. A man has to dress a certain way and make his looks manly while a woman has to dress a certain way all the while making sure that her looks are delicate and sophisticated enough.

Grendel does not look like a conventional man yet he is a descendant of one. The society around him cornered him to the forests away from civilization because of his hairy body and pointed teeth.

Representation of Cain

Grendel is a direct descendant of Cain who was the son of Adam and Eve. Cain killed Abel, his brother, out of jealousy. The poem specially mentions the connection between Cain and Grendel. This could be a direction for Grendel’s character.

Grendel represents the jealousy and ungratefulness Cain had. The people were having a good time and were not harming Grendel in any way but Grendel was jealous of their merriment which is why he took up violence and brought havoc to them.

So the character of Grendel and his apparent connection to Cain is a basis on their similar characteristics.

Heathenism and Abuse of Power

The poem portrays Grendel as the major protagonist against Beowulf. Grendel is a weird-looking creature who resides in the swamp, away from civilization. He knows that he can bring terror to the people and so he does. The same logic can be translated into real-world problems.

People that have no sense of compassion destroy the hopes and living of other people in a second and do not reconsider their actions. This has a dire effect on society and nothing good has ever come out of this.

If we talk about abuse of power, Grendel and his mother were murdered without being given a chance of repentance. A lot of people are murdered in cold blood nowadays because of the power the murderer holds. Power can terrorize without having to pick up any weapons.

Why Is Grendel Symbolised as Evil?

The reason why literature has symbolism all over is that in old times, there were great penalties and restrictions on speaking openly about serious matters that involved the government, rich people, or people in power. Hence, in this poem, Grendel was seen as the villain, who was against the goodness that took place in the area, he wanted to get rid of everything that was kind and caring. In short, Grendel was the evil monster against the

In other words, free speech was a luxury that many could not afford. If the common people voiced their concerns about any situation, they would be sentenced to jail time, or at times even worse they would be killed because they made a comment.

The poets and the writers of the time came up with clever ways to get their message across to the people and the world, and in this case, Grendel was portrayed as a sinner, a jealous monster. This is why poets started using subtle symbolism in their work.

Symbollism was a clever way of getting their word across and in the process keeping their life safe, through character development. Nonetheless, most of the work of olden times, when the civilization was swiftly marching towards modernism, has a lot of symbolism that is easy to understand.


What Does Grendel Look Like?

Grendel looks like a man with some modifications. He has long arms and legs that are covered in thick brown hair that have a red shade to them. He has long claws and is not very pleasant to look at. He can be best described as a man with a head of a monkey.

What Are the Origins of Grendel in ‘Beowulf’?

The origins of Grendel are very interesting as he has the descendance of Cain. Cain was the son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother Abel because of jealousy. Grendel is portrayed as the direct descendant of Cain in the epic poem. Interestingly, no mention of his father is seen anywhere.

What Is the Importance of Beowulf’s Battle With Grendel?

The battle between Grendel and Beowulf is so important because firstly it is the first battle in the epic poem and secondly it was portrayed as the triumph of good over evil and also as the first victory of Beowulf. He would later go on to fight Grendel’s mother and a roaring fire-spitting dragon.


What does grendel represent the evil monster

The possibilities of symbolism and representation portrayed by Grendel in the epic poem Beowulf are endless and very subjective. The stanzas are open to interpretation and who knows your ideology would match exactly with that of the Beowulf writer. The article aimed to bring forward a view of thought about Grendel. Here are some points that would sum up the article:

  • Grendel represents the essence of heathenism and hatred towards the upper class. He destroys their homes and their place of merriment because firstly he is not part of it and secondly he is annoyed by the noses because all his life he has lived in solitude with his mother.
  • The epic poem Beowulf is one of Old English’s most treasured pieces and is written in an Anglo-Saxon dialect. The most interesting thing about the poem is that its author is unknown at the time of publishing. The manuscript is currently present in the British Library in the United Kingdom.
  • The poem portrays Beowulf as the main character that fights off three protagonists, Grendel, his mother, and later a fire-breathing dragon. Beowulf comes out victorious in all three fights and is praised for his bravery and valor.

Here we come to the end of the article. Grendel and his representation are open for interpretation at your expense. We hope you found a different perspective of Grendel’s representation and symbolism.

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