Beowulf By John Gardner

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Beowulf, composed during the eighth century, has its roots in the traditions of the Anglo-Saxon tribes. King Hrothgar, a successful ruler, builds his mead-hall, Heorot, where he entertains his guests and warriors with songs and feasts. The jubilant songs and festivities anger a horrendous monster, Grendel, who begins to terrorize the Danes, slaughtering and feasting on their corpses. Beowulf, a Geatish warrior, sails to save the Danes from their misery by slaying Grendel. Beowulf remains one of the most influential works of literature today because of its elegant tone and many contrasts. John Gardner draws inspiration for his novel Grendel from Beowulf. The novel offers the reader insight into Grendel’s mind as he attempts to find his purpose…show more content…
He hopes to discover the answer to his philosophical question by observing humankind. The Shaper is the first significant figure who influences Grendel. The first song that Grendel hears is about Scyld Shefing, the first king of the Danes. Although the Shaper's songs were "magnificent" and "golden," Grendel knows that they are all incredible "lies.” He recounts the gruesome day when Scyld battles the kinsman-marauders. Grendel is "torn apart by poetry.” As the name implies, the Shaper shapes the world with his words into one that is more heroic and pleasant; his song promotes love, heroism, and beauty—all thoughts that instills meaning in the Danes' lives. The reader sees the extent of the Shaper's influence on men when Grendel says, "They would seize the oceans, the farthest stars, the deepest secret rivers in Hrothgar's name.” Moreover, the Shaper astonishes Grendel because "the man had changed the world, had torn up the past by its thick, gnarled roots and had transmuted it, and [Danes], who knew the truth, remembered it his way.” Although Grendel knows that the Shaper is lying, nevertheless, he chooses to believe him. Grendel is distraught; deceit consummates the Shaper's beautiful songs. However, the Shaper describes Grendel as a malicious beast, which makes Grendel furious. It is through the Shaper’s songs that Grendel begins to grasp men's real
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