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5.0 out of 5 stars GRENDEL LIVES!
This is a great reworking of Beowulf. I read it before I read the original, and drove my Anglo-Saxon classmates in university completely crazy because I continued to root for the monster, the mother, and the dragon.. The monster is a sort of Viking-age eco-terrorist. His behaviour is totally understandable in the face of the onslaught of the encroaching humans on his...
Published 4 months ago by Eli Graham

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hardcover is a Ripoff.
Great book, but don't waste your money on the hardcover: it is a paperback edition pasted (not bound) into a hard cover. Save your money, buy the paperback.
Published on June 15 2000


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hardcover is a Ripoff., June 15 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Grendel (School & Library Binding)
Great book, but don't waste your money on the hardcover: it is a paperback edition pasted (not bound) into a hard cover. Save your money, buy the paperback.
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5.0 out of 5 stars GRENDEL LIVES!, March 7 2014
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This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
This is a great reworking of Beowulf. I read it before I read the original, and drove my Anglo-Saxon classmates in university completely crazy because I continued to root for the monster, the mother, and the dragon.. The monster is a sort of Viking-age eco-terrorist. His behaviour is totally understandable in the face of the onslaught of the encroaching humans on his pristine forest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grendel, Oct. 31 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
I'm going to be truthful in the fact that I did not enjoy the epic poem, Beowulf . Yet, I did enjoy the modern novel, Grendel. Grendel was a story less about egotistical men and more about a tormented creature trying to find the point of his isolated life. Due to the fact that I found the characters in Beowulf self-absorbed, I was humoured by Grendel mocking and torturing them. In addition, this tale was enlaced with nihilistic views that questioned existence. This agonized soul ponders the purpose of being: is there any point in living if everything is predestined? Not only did it question life, but also government, religion, ethics, and morals. I would recommend this novel due to the fact that it is intriguing with an underlying theme that is simple and direct.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great the first time through, and even better the second., June 15 2004
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This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
Clever, touching, creative, and thought-provoking, _Grendel_ is a work of art that, through the perspective of a naive monster, comments on the hypocrisy and anthropocentric nature of humans. John Gardner's mastery of creative fiction writing is evident in every word of this book. Highly recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Serious angst!!!, June 5 2004
By 
Munir F. Bhatti (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
This is the Beowulf story from the monster's point of view and, in some sense, the coming of age story for the monster. He starts out as a young monster briefly lost from his mother and trapped in a tree by the future king and his group. He's saved at the last minute, and becomes fascinated with the strangely acting humans who are somelike like him but mostly not.
From forest shadows, he views--through his primal lens--the duplicitous, scheming and barbaric true nature of the king's growing empire and the warring clans around it. No animal, points out Beowulf, would treat his own kind so cruelly.
Later in the novel, as Grendel grows out of young adulthood into complete monster maturity, he begins to interact more fiercely with the humans. He wants to show them how wrong they are, how vulnerable, how false their gods. To his surprise, however, the beauty of Beowulf's queen--who is completely inaccessible--enchants him. Rather than seriously persue the queen, however, he views the king as unworthy of her and this feeling builds his resentment toward the king and his domain.
Outside of the monster Grendel, there are two arresting figures in the book. The first is the dragon, who sits in a subterranean lair and, more importantly, stands outside of time and thus can see eons of events at glance--before and after they occur. From this perspective, the dragon attempts to school the young monster in the finer points of space-time. This is an entertaining sidetrack from the novel's main thrust, and the dragon's viewpoint of time (analogous to surveying a plain from a mountaintop) leaves a lasting impression on the reader. To Grendel, of course, the concepts are beyond him and the dragon becomes upset at Grendel's obvious boredom and disquiet.
The other captivating character is not that of Beowulf (who comes across as an irrational, primal force himself) but a young man in the king's court whom Grendel refuses to kill. The young man tries to die a hero by stalking Grendel alone, something everyone knows would lead to death. But Grendel sees what he's up to and, to deny him, leaves him a hairsbreath from death and deposits him back at the king's main hall. In subsequent encounters, Grendel also leaves the man unharmed while killing everyone else around despite the man's calls to fight.
The shame of repeatedly being the sole survivor disgraces the man. His self-image is wrecked and, in a time when dying in battle is a great honor, is publicly disgraced and laden with survivor guilt. It is this broken, dispirited man who over time is the only human to win Grendel's respect. It's as though, by finally abandoning the achievement of what's expected in human society, he lands closer to Grendel--the natural purist, the exile, the free thinker. Indeed, near the conclusion of the novel, this 'chosen' man scorns Beowulf's bravado.
The story broadcasts, more than anything else, the flaws of human societies: their impurities, iniquities, injustices. Nature, in the novel, is elevated and becomes something that is pure, vibrant, wholesome, and greater than petty and repetitive struggles of human society. Grendel and his kind symbolize the collective forces of nature.
The writing is casual, open, modern. That's a relief if you've read older translations of Beowulf. The character viewpoints of the three I mention here (Grendel, the dragon, and the defeated man chosen by Grendel) ring true and are innovative in their dialogue and description.
This is one of the best novels I've encountered. I recommend it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grendel: Apples and Pain, Dec 12 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
Grendel has a sarcastic and cynical mind, which serves to entertain both him and the reader. Through his expositions of situations, we see humor where others would simply see violence, and irony where others only fact. These others are the humans, the Danes, unwitting neighbors of Grendel, forced to stand night after night of slaughter. What is a traumatic and terrifying experience for them, is simply a game to Grendel, and the reader. Grendel bursts in on the Danes, ready to kill, and they squeak. They are funny in their fear, laughable in their drunken fighting. The reader is focused on Grendel's perception of the Danes. The deaths go by easily, because of the humor involved. It does not cross the reader's mind that these are people Grendle is killing. The humor allows the reader to sympathize with Grendel's position, that of the predator. The prey is not meaningful, only nutritious and entertaining. It is a macabre humor, which accentuates how no death is noble, it is simply death. By making the Danes un-heroic and un-ideal, cowards and drunkards, the author is presenting the reality through the humor.
In contrast to the drunken lurching of the others, Unferth comes toward Grendel with speeches and bravery. He is a puffed up as a peacock, proud and ready to die for his king, his people, his ideal. Grendel simply states, "He was one of those." Grendel sees Unferth with a clear and unbiased mind. He is ridiculous. His exaggerated heroism, his words, even his first move, to scuttle sideways like a crab from thirty feet away, is laughable. Grendle does with him what he does with no other Dane in the story, he talks.
Unferth offers Grendle death, and Grendle sends back taunts. The reason this scene is funny is because the taunts are sharply accurate. The self-sacrificing hero is shown to be a spotlight loving fool, serving only his own reputation. Grendel continues talking to Unferth, making the poor wretch angrier by the moment. At one point, he compares Unferth to a harvest virgin. Unferth attempts to begin his own speeches, but is always cut off by Grendel, who has another barb to throw at him. Finally, Unferth screams and charges, his voice breaking.
This scene, of escalating argument, presents a different type of humor. While the first was a slapstick, exaggerated and dark humor, the argument is more sarcastic, intelligent and cutting. It exposes the cruel reality of the hero; he serves only himself and his fame when helping others.
When Unferth charges him, Grendel does the unthinkable. He throws an apple at him. Unferth is astonished, and even loses his heroic vocabulary. He continues charging, and Grendel continues the barrage of apples. This scene is pure humiliation for Unferth, pure delight for Grendel, and entertaining for the reader. Grendel, murderer and monster, is hitting the hero with simple red apples. By doing this, he is breaking any type of significance the battle could ever have. The bards cannot sing of how the monster threw apples. It is symbolically important that Grendel throws apples. Unferth symbolizes a virgin, pure in ideal and purpose. The apple brought down the first virgin, Eve, as these apples bring him down. They represent the truth, the knowledge that Grendle is pelting him with. The hero ends up on the floor crying, and Grendel remarks to him "Such is life...such is dignity." This remark holds no pity, only scorn, and is funny in its viciousness.
Most of the humor in the novel is followed by some of the most chilling and melancholic pieces of prose. This contrast of the humoristic with the somber makes the despair Grendel feels a more striking emotion. Before being completely exposed to nihilism and solitude by the Dragon, Grendel is compared to a bunny rabbit because he was startled. The monster that terrified the Danes is terrified by the Dragon, who continues poking fun at him and his fear. The reader is presented with the impotent figure of Grendel, trying desperately to react in some way to the dragon's laughter, and not knowing how. He gets angry, which immediately makes the dragon deadly serious. What follows is the dragon stating in turn his truths about life and snide side remarks on humanity. The humor allows the reader to connect slightly with Grendel's feelings as they transition from the comedy to the drama, sometimes in a jarring fashion.
This same transition occurs in the interaction of Grendel and Unferth. The Dane is a broken man, both physically and mentally. He cries. He has a broken nose. The humor is lost as the reader begins to feel pity for him. Once we feel connected to the being suffering, the humor evaporates, leaving behind the message, ideals are false. The humor sets up the atmosphere and the elements of the message, but it is only in the alternate tone that the message is truly established.
Grendel's humor is the truth in some aspects and a farce in others. It contrasts sharply with the Dane's views but it is a valid view. At the same time, the humor in Grendel hides a deep despair and the root messages. Grendel makes fun of Unferth, but is more like Unferth that he could possibly guess. Unferth represents the hero brought down by the monster, and the shattering of his own beliefs. Grendel is a monster who has no beliefs, and is brought down by an unnamed hero. The dragon spares Grendel, while Unferth is by Grendel. Unferth is a cast out among the men, and Grendle is a cast out to all human society. Unferth seeks desperately to die in the fight, and regain some type of honor. Grendel seeks the fight for some type of recognition from the Danes. In a way, when Grendel makes fun of Unferth, he is hurting that part of himself he dislikes. He, through Unferth, is hitting at the pretensions
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4.0 out of 5 stars The existentialist monster, Nov. 10 2003
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This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
John Gardner's "Grendel" shines an odd spotlight on English literature's earliest antihero. When reading "Beowulf," who really ponders the character of the monster Grendel, who after all is not so much a literary character as an object for Beowulf to defeat as an exhibition of his heroism? Gardner sees the shaggy, anthropomorphous monster as a painfully self-conscious creature bellowing in rage at the forces of nature in agonistic protest against his miserable existence as a descendant of the cursed race of Cain.
Grendel is sad, lonely, and bored. His only friend (besides his mother, who offers little conversational companionship) is a wise ancient dragon who sits on a massive treasure hoard and mentors the young beast in the significance of being a monster, that having the power to terrify and brutalize is just as much an affirmation of life as killing to eat. And killing is Grendel's forte: He repeatedly targets the thanes of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, who, as descendants of the blessed race of Abel, intrigue him; voyeuristically he spies on them in their meadhalls, sardonically observing their folly, believing that he provides for them a healthy challenge to their complacency. He particularly enjoys the ineffectual assaults of a warrior named Unferth who seeks hero status by trying to slay Grendel numerous times and whom Grendel always spares out of spite, to dishonor him and amplify his ineptitude.
If Grendel were human, he'd be called a sociopath. He hates himself, men, and the world, but he turns his extreme negativity into a strange attitude of superiority -- he likes to show his enemies that he can always beat them, that they're defenseless against his aggression and foolish as well. Of course, he finally realizes his limits when one fateful day an unnamed Geat prince arrives on Hrothgar's shores, ready to claim his own superiority.
A few weeks ago I read Jean Rhys's "Wide Sargasso Sea," which invents a background story for a mysteriously obscure but important character from "Jane Eyre." Gardner employs the same concept in "Grendel" and even uses a similar postmodern prose style, but he succeeds where Rhys failed because he gives Grendel a personality, a reason to exist as a character, and doesn't just make him a mute symbol of victimization. Grendel is a powerhouse and doesn't need anybody to feel sorry or make excuses for him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Monster, His Mother, and The Meaning Of Life, Nov. 6 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
I found John Gardener's Grendel to be a very good read. It was the kind of book that you could just read, and leave it at that, or you could also go deep into it and discuss it in a book club kind of setting. In discussing the book you get the point that sometimes you have to look at things from the other person's perspective. The main character, a monster of unknown origin, is struggling as he explores the world around him and realizes life's harsh and brutish reality. The book really makes you think about your own view of life and humans. I recommend this book to anyone who has a love for good literature, internal conflict, with a bit of philosophy and a dash of blood.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grendel, Oct. 31 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
Spinning-off from human history's original epic, Grendel tells the story from the monster's perspective. Philosophical, humorous and very well thought out, Grendel raises captivating questions. Deceptively complex, Grendel depicts the life struggle of innocence and experience, structure and chaos, purpose and chance, throughout the ages of time and existence. Who knew Beowulf's monster was so deep?
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Gardner's GRENDEL, Oct. 31 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
John Gardner's GRENDELis a retelling of the epic poem BEOWULF from the monster's point of view. It paints a touching picture of Grendel's (the monster) struggle between his need to be a part of the human world and his disgust of human transgressions. I enjoyed the book, because it lends more depth to the characters than BEOWULF did. I found it thought provoking and sometimes humorous to follow Grendel, his mother, the dragon, Hrothgar, Wealtheow, Unferth, and the Shaper through the tortuous moment of space-time that encompassed their lives.
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Grendel
Grendel by John Gardner (Paperback - May 14 1989)
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