Author Topic: Grendel police line-up  (Read 1986 times)

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Offline Fuzzy Necromancer

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Grendel police line-up
« on: July 04, 2007, 12:29:14 PM »
This has been bugging me for a while. I remember reading "Beowulf" in my senior year of high school, and I remember meticulously going over every detail, and I cannot for the life of me find a decent description of grendel's appearance, a reasonable sketch of what sort of creature this monster is.

Can anyone confirm or refute this?
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Offline SharpMonkey

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2007, 02:49:25 PM »
I did some googling and it appears you're right.  The poem was sparse in detailing Grendel's physical appearance.  I found the excerpts that describe Grendel only as:

Snarling and fierce, his eyes
Gleamed in the darkness, burned with a gruesome
Light.


...and..

Human
Eyes were watching his evil steps,
Waiting to see his swift hard claws.
Grendel snatched at the first Geat
He came to, ripped him apart, cut
His body to bits with powerful jaws,
Drank the blood from his veins and bolted
Him down, hands and feet; death
And Grendel's great teeth came together
Snapping life shut.


Many of the sources I found contended that the author's lack of description was a device to heighten fear, and that by describing the creature mainly in terms of its monstrous deeds allow the reader to create their own impression of a suitable beastie.  I think this is a good trick, especially considering how many movies get worse after showing the monster...  ;)


Offline Fuzzy Necromancer

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2007, 05:57:46 PM »
Maybe it's true, but I feel a little cheated by the situation, considering how Grendel suffers an anti-climactic off-screen death.
Love doesn't hurt. It kills.

"Where there's smoke, there's a smoke-making machine."


Offline the long undertow

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2007, 06:26:41 AM »
Doesn't his mother get described in more detail?


Offline Tripe

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2007, 08:02:37 AM »
Many of the sources I found contended that the author's lack of description was a device to heighten fear, and that by describing the creature mainly in terms of its monstrous deeds allow the reader to create their own impression of a suitable beastie.  I think this is a good trick, especially considering how many movies get worse after showing the monster...  ;)

It's what Lovecraft does in his stories, when one wants to instill horror  "show don't tell" isn't always the best advice.


Offline Fuzzy Necromancer

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2007, 10:31:51 AM »
That is true to an extent, but lovecraft usually gives some tantalizing peaks or visual revelation near the end of the story. With Grendel, it seems less like he keeps just off the edge of the reader's mental camera (as would a lovecraft beasty), but simply that he remains blurred and out of focus wheneve we cut to him. His appearance is directly described, but it lacks detail or specifics. Lovecraft on the other hand cannot help but pack scentences with adverbs and adjectives and vivid visual imagery.
Love doesn't hurt. It kills.

"Where there's smoke, there's a smoke-making machine."


Offline Tripe

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2007, 05:57:32 PM »
I assume you're reading a modern English translation right?

The Anglo Saxon is much more evocative.


Offline gbeenie

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2007, 07:57:39 PM »
You guys made me do this...

"All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

- Conan O'Brien


Offline SharpMonkey

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2007, 12:31:41 PM »
I love matt wagner's comics.  Still, that's not really how I pictured this particular fell beast. 


Offline Tripe

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Re: Grendel police line-up
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2007, 12:47:55 PM »
OK based on descriptives of Grendel in the Anglo-Saxon:

ent, etten and even

Suggest that Grendel probably looked a bit like these lovely fellas:



Not the Chickie in the off the shoulder number.

See this is because the first two are descriptive of a type of creature that would already be fixed in the minds of those hearing the poem while the third is descriptive of the charcater.

Take for example a passage where i describe a dragon.

Now at first I only have to state that the creature is a dragon and you already have a basic idea in your mind about what it looks like. The descriptive paragraphs would be secondary, they would further set the image of what this particular dragon looks like (his wings, or his scales or the size of his teeth). However say hundreds of years from now people have forgotten what a Dragon is, those secondary descriptives aren't all that helpful.

Likewise a Saxon knew what an etten was, it was a troll/jotun, but what was the jotun Grendel specifically like? Well that's what the descriptives do. However in translating the poem into modern English people seem to focus just on the secondary descriptives and a whole host of confusion arises, but that confusion added a useful ambiguity to the telling and I think that's why it's been retained in most translations.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2007, 01:00:46 PM by TripeHoundRedux »