ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing

Grendel: Human or not?

Updated on August 23, 2017

Grendel is a Human

There are many ways in which people judge books. Most of the time, the characters are the main influential point. Characters can be humans, animals, and even other unknown creatures. This is the case in the Danish epic Beowulf. One of the main characters is a vague character. Grendel, the antagonist, does not have a distinct status as a human being, though based on his physical characteristics, emotions and relationships, and his ancestry Grendel is a human gone wild.

Essay for English class

This is an essay that my daughter wrote for an English project in 11th grade. She wanted to share it and hopes that you like it.

Grendel's physical appearance

Throughout the story, the narrator describes Grendel's physical appearance using human parts of the body. During his battle with Beowulf, "[he] suffered grievous pain; a gaping wound opened on his shoulder; the sinews sprang apart, the muscles were bursting." (L. 725) Also "Grendel's head was carried by the hair onto the floor", (L.1332) both these passages make references obvious to Grendel's human body parts. The mention of hair signifies Grendel's physical attributes as being human. Animals or monsters have fur, or wool, but not hair. Not only does Grendel have human body parts, but so does his mother. In the poem, during the battle with Beowulf at the bottom of the lake, "[she] drew her dagger", (L. 1237), to fight off Beowulf, a feat which could not be accomplished unless she had human hands. The use of a weapon, proves that Grendel's mother and her son were human because as humans, they use their intelligence and weapons instead of claws, teeth , and instincts, like an animal. The use of a weapon effectively supports that Grendel is a human. Furthermore, Grendel's mother had "a neck and [a]smashed vertebrae", (L. 1259). Again, these parts of the mother's body correspond to human parts. In addition to the parts mentioned above, footprints, a thumb, blood, and flesh refer Grendel and his mother in context. As Grendel nears the end of his life, Beowulf pays him a visit. Grendel is described as "lying on his death-bed", (L.1272). Lying on a death-bed indicates human form because only humans lie on beds. These aforementioned physical traits humanize Grendel and his mother.

Grendel's human-like emotions

In addition to Grendel’s physical characteristics, Grendel's emotions and relationships to the people around him amplify his humanism. For example, “grim and greedy, brutally cruel,” (L) describes Grendel at the beginning of the poem. Greed is not something that can consciously be felt by an animal, yet Grendel grasps that he is afraid. Being capable of this higher intelligence proves that Grendel is a human. Though all living creatures have emotions, human emotions manifest themselves most uniquely. Another of Grendel’s human emotion becomes evident when he “[is] seized with terror,” (L. 662) after finding out that Beowulf is stronger than any other man he has ever known. Terror, in this context, shows how Grendel’s human instincts are ingrained in his brain, and how they affect him. Grendel doesn’t solely have human emotions, he has human relationships too. For example, Grendel had a “kinswoman”, (L.1086) which exhibits Grendel’s tie to his mother, which is the human emotion of love. Love, an emotion which humans pride them of having, again, demonstrates Grendel’s humanity. Grendel’s mother in turn, returns Grendel’s gestures of love by “[returning] to avenge her son’s death”, (L.976). These types of close bonds are only apparent in human relationships. Grendel not only has a relationship with his mother, but with the people of the town which he ravages every night. This town has a law that says “The price set upon a man according to his rank could be claimed from the slayer by the relatives of a man wrongfully killed.”(L.129) also know as wergild. Grendel was expected to pay this wergild by the townspeople. How could the townspeople ask Grendel for money unless they thought him a competent human? It stands to reason that if Grendel was some type of animal or monster, the townspeople could not expect money from him to compensate for the deaths, nor would they expect for him to comprehend and abide by their law. In addition, Grendel called “hellish,”(L.94). Hell is a human creation for where bad people go. Hell received [Grendel] there” (L.761)Only if Grendel is a human can be go to hell because how can someone who is not human go to place for bad humans? The association with God shows that Grendel is in fact a human because of his connections with the human god. Grendel’s relationships and the emotions he displays during the story confirm that he is a human.

Grendel's Ancestry

Along with physical traits and emotions and bonds, Grendel’s ancestry clearly proves that he is a human. The human characteristics of Grendel’s mother make obvious her humanity. She goes on a journey to “avenge her son’s death” (L.976), which proves that Grendel’s mother has human emotions. Her emotions as well as her anatomy, as described in the previous paragraph, provide valuable information in confirming that her son is a human. Not only is his mother a human, but “The Creator had condemned him as one of the seed of Cain.” (L.86) As a descendent of Cain, who was a human, Grendel would also, by logic, be a human. Grendel’s father “[is] a fiend once begotten by mysterious spirits.” (L.1051) Basically a human who has been plagued by spirits; presumably evil because he is begotten. The fiend description is not only of the father, but it also perfectly fits Grendel. Grendel’s ancestry and lineage proves that he is a human.


Obviously Grendel from the epic poem, Beowulf, told by the Danes is a human who is very different from other humans. All of his physical characteristics coincide with human characteristics and his emotions and connections with other humans and his family making Grendel almost positively a human. Even Grendel’s ancestry clearly supports this conclusion. Grendel is a human.


If you like a lens, don't forget to give it a good rating.

Is Grendel a human or a fantastical creature?

What do you think?

Tell me what you think. Also please post lower down to have your opinion heard.

Reader Feedback

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • SaintFrantic profile image

      SaintFrantic 6 years ago

      Great Lens

    • davemin profile image

      davemin 7 years ago

      interesting reading


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)