Grendel is a vicious monster who appears in Danish poem, Beowulf, living in a subterranean cave with his mother, rampaging through the kingdom of Hrothgar. Grendel is described as a 'fiend from Hell', enraged from the laughter and merry-making coming from the Hrothgar's meadhall, and goes a terrible rampage, slaughtering and eating 50 of the kings warriors on the first night. This goes on for the next 12 long and bloody years, with nobody being able to stop Grendel. Eventually, King Hrothgar tires of this so he sends for a champion to final rid him of the monster. The mighty Thane warrior Beowulf and his men are eventually called upon and sent to the kingdom.
Once they arrive, they make merry in the meadhall to get Grendel's attention. Later in the night, Grendel sneaks in and begins eating Beowulf's men. Unfortunately for him, Beowulf had been waiting for him and when Grendel tries to eat him, Beowulf grabs him by the wrist and they begin to fight. A horrific battle ensues, climaxing with Beowulf ripping off Grendel's arm at the shoulder socket. Grendel retreats to his cave where he bleeds to death in his mother's arms, having just enough life left in him to tell his mother the name of the man who killed him. She later confronts Beowulf for revenge.
His most famous media portrayal was in the Rendered 3D motion capture film directed by Robert Zemeckis, where he was played by Crispin Glover. He is portrayed as King Hrothgar's illegitimate son after an affair with his mother. Essentially in this version, he is a very sympathetic villain because he's an outcast. When not attacking the Danes, he is shown as a timid and quiet creature that speaks in Olde English around his mother.The reasons for his attacks are due to having hyper-sensitive hearing from an exposed eardrum, and the racket from the meadhall was causing him physical pain. Despite being more sympathetic, his fate is still the same as in the poem. Beowulf slams the door into his arm with enough force to take it off, and hang it over the meadhall door.
The philosophy professor Stephen T. Asma argued in the December 7 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education that, "Zemeckis's more tender-minded film version suggests that the people who cast out Grendel are the real monsters. The monster, according to this charity paradigm, is just misunderstood rather than evil. The blame for Grendel's violence is shifted to the humans, who sinned against him earlier and brought the vengeance upon themselves. The only real monsters, in this tradition, are pride and prejudice. In the film, Grendel is even visually altered after his injury to look like an innocent, albeit scaly, little child. In the original Beowulf, the monsters are outcasts because they're bad (just as Cain, their progenitor, was outcast because he killed his brother), but in the newer adaptation of Beowulf the monsters are bad because they're outcasts [...] Contrary to the original Beowulf, the new film wants us to understand and humanize our monsters."
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The Australian animated film Grendel, Grendel, Grendel, is based on John Gardner's the story, told from Grendel's point of view. The film shows how the events weren't his fault, and were mostly to blame on the green and aggression of the humans. He is voiced by Peter Ustinov. He was a highly intelligent being, possibly smarter than the humans living in his time period. He questioned the purpose of his existence, and was very philosophical, reflecting on the humans and hating them, but secretly wishing he was one of them.
In The Wolf Among Us, Grendel is a fable that lives in Fabletown located in New York City. He is very ill tempered and tired of being treated like a second rate citizen. He sees the establishment of Fabletown as corrupt and only interested in the rich, and he aims these frustrations mostly at the sheriff of Fabletown, Bigby Wolf, otherwise known as the Big Bad Wolf. Grendel serves as an antagonist in the first episode of the Wolf Among Us.
Grendel's personality varies in each interpretation. In the original song, he was simply a one-dimensionally evil and greedy creature, apparently shaped like a human, but also possessing thick, almost indestructible skin and having thick claws.
In the 2007 movie, he was portrayed as being hideously disfigured, and suffering from a severe skin infection. In place of his right ear, he had an enlarged and totally exposed eardrum, which may have enabled him to stalk his victims quietly, it also meant loud, and especially echo-based sounds where over stimulating and possibly agonizing to him. This, and the fact he has a messy genetic conformation made him into an insane and bloodthirsty psychopath, with an intense hatred of humans, although he tolerated his father, Hrothgar, and did love his mother. In the 2007 movie, he spoke in Olde English and was an immature, simple creature, doting towards his mother, although he was also short-tempered, vengeful and never showed compassion to anyone smaller or weaker than himself.