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The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic Beowulf, tells his own side of the story in this frequently banned book. This  classic and much lauded retelling of Beowulf follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic. This is the book William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679723110
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1989
Edition description: REISSUE
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 8,060
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.93(h) x 0.49(d)
Lexile: 860L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

John Gardner received wide acclaim for his novels, his collections of short stories and his critical works.  He was born in Batavia, New York in 1933 and taught English, Anglo-Saxon and creative writing in Oberlin, Chico State College, San Francisco State, Southern Illinois, Bennington and SUNY-Binghamton. His books include The Art of Fiction, The Art of Living, Grendel, Jason, and Media, The Life and Times of Chaucer, Mickelsson's Ghosts, Nickel Mountain, October Light, The resurrection, The Sunlight Dialogues, Stillness and Shadows, and various books for children.  He died in a motorcycle accident in 1982.

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Grendel (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 224 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reversing the heroic epic of Beowulf, this novel attacks life from the side of the monster thrown into society. Good and evil, instincts versus reason, and existential wonderings make this novel a must for everyone trying to reason out his or her meaning in life. Gardner's Grendel is an antihero of self doubt, hatred, murderous rage, vengeful, and grotesque- the reader will fall in love with him.
Shadowphoenix34 More than 1 year ago
Grendel provides the reader with Grendels perspective on the Epic poem Beowulf. It gives the reader the reasons behind Grendels attacks and why he always spared two people in particular. This gives light on the poem that I as a reader took and I now understand the plot much better since i have an explanation behind the monsters seemingly pointless rampages.
Nathan_da_Brony More than 1 year ago
I¿d recommend reading Grendel by John Gardner as long as you¿ve fulfilled a few criteria: you read (AND ENJOYED) Beowulf and you are genuinely interested in the character Grendel in it. This may seem a bit too obvious, but I went into this novel with no care for the character and a decent understanding of the events of Beowulf. I didn¿t like the book at first but it grew on me. It shows an incredible new side to someone that I had assumed was just a monster. The story goes along the lines of showing how Grendel grew up and what led to his death in Beowulf. As long as you like Beowulf and are interested in Grendel as a character, you will enjoy this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Gardner is positively the best writer in the world. I wish he were alive today to produce more works like this. Grendel is deeply philosophical and rapturously complex in its content. John Gardner (this work in particular) has inspired me to become the writer that I am today. I will forever have nothing to say but excellent things when speaking or dissecting this brilliant work. It was awesome and I beckon you to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up quite by accident, as it was one of my father's old books hanging around the house. I was floored. This narrative of the Beowulf tale from the Monster's point of view is stunning. It brings you into Grendel's mind and lets you experience the raw,elemental nature of the beast. You get the sense Grendel is more than a being, but part of the very forces of nature that surround the human race. His being embodies these forces and matches them with an uncivilized mind. This creates an innocence that is fascinating, terrifying and pitiful. Grendel creates a contrast to the human being which is disturbingly unflattering for you and I . Read it and savor earth, wind and fire from the inside of a brilliant character. You'll be rooting for the monster.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 so
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book quite confusing. But i am only in 8th grade. The only reason I read this book was because it was on my sister's summer reading list, and she is a senior in high school. Even for not understanding it, i could tell that this was an excellent book. It was very well writen. It was also nice to read a book from the villen's point of view. I've always read stories from the hero's perspective, and it was a pleasent change to read the story from the outcast's view. This book was extremly good.
LIAMbryce More than 1 year ago
I had to read the book Grendel for my English class. At first I thought the book was interesting because it was in the view point of the monster Grendel from the original epic poem Beowulf. As I got in to the book I found it to be very confusing and hard to understand. The amount of flashbacks and the story going back in forth in time made it really hard to follow. Even though I found the book interesting I wouldn’t recommend it. You’re better off just reading Beowulf.
SBuerk More than 1 year ago
John Gardner had a creative idea to write the book to let readers see life through Grendel's eyes. However, the book was very long and dragged out. There wasn't a lot of action and fighting scenes as I had expected there to be. It was confusing how Gardner would jump back and forth between flashbacks and current events.
The_Beastlord_Slavedragon More than 1 year ago
This is a study in the things existential and the putridity and dark irony of living and dying. As many know Grendel is the beast who is hunted in the first Welsh tale by the Hero Beowulf. This is the beast's side of the story. Grendel's wretchedness and misery are complete. It is akin to a post modernist version of Dante's Inferno properly butchered anylyzed and demistified by the most sordid kind of realist, a murderous beast who can think and has the added lamentation of concioussness most cruely added to his plight. It calls to the face a dark chagrin. I thorougly enjouyed it. It deserves many readings, a rare quality indeed. Be certain to follow this book with Gilgamesh and Kipling's Jungle Books called Red Dog and The Day Fear Came. One Slavedragon and Beastlord
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You've heard the expression "there's two sides to every story?" Well, John Gardner heard it too. He gives us the story of Beowulf from the side of the monster Grendel. Or more precisely, he gives us the story of Grendel with a cameo by Beowulf at the well-known ending of Grendel's story. The book is funny, thought-provoking, and probably not for the overly squeamish. Blurbs from Newsweek and New York Times sing its praise, while The Christian Science Monitor compares it to Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies (I can definitely see the latter). A reader might get the sense that Grendel was a bit misunderstood and not really a monster. Of course, that reader would be wrong - he is a monster and a horrible one, but through the tale, the question arises, is he any more horrible a monster than man? And if he's not, does that lessen his monstrous status?
Awesomeness1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had to read both this book, as well as the poem, Beowulf, for my English class, and I liked them about the same. They are both intellectually stimulating, and make you consider the world around you, and are both written beautifully, but there is something missing from each of them. Neither of them grabbed me and made me stay up late into the night reading. They just weren't entertaining enough for that. Grendel, in particular, could get redundant at times, and you really had to focus or else look track. Neither are easy reads, but there is value in reading both.
baswood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh this is good fun. John Gardner subverts and reinvents the Beowulf saga. Gardner tells the tale from the monster Grendel's perspective. Mostly it is in the first person, but in typical modernist tradition this can change, for example an extract from a drama will suddenly appear:I resolved, absolutely and finally, to kill myself, for love of the baby Grendel that used to be. But the next instant, for no particular reason, I changed my mind.Balance is everything, sliding down slime........Cut BAfter the murder of Halga the Gooddear younger brother of bold king Hrothgar(helm of the Scyldings, sword-hilt handler,bribe-gold bender.......Grendel is a nihilist monster, sort of stumbling towards some idea of why he exists, realising that there is no one in the world like him. Gardner does not evoke our sympathies for Grendel, but then the humans in the story hardly fare any better as we see them through Grendel's eyes: their pointless fighting, their pride and their lust for power. All of this means nothing to the monster but his frustration with them leads him to go on his killing spree.There are many highlights as Gardner continues to play around, having fun with the genres of the modernist novel and the saga.There is Grendel's philosophical discussion with the dragon, where he is in fear of his life because he cannot grasp the dragon's thoughts. The dragon expounds his wisdom ie:Limited to a finite individual occasion, importance ceases to be important. In some sense or other-we can skip the details-importance is derived from the immanence of infinitude in the finiteOf course Grendel fails to understand and the dragon keeps trying to simplify his ideas until finally he says:My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on itThere are witty asides on religion and the power of the story teller: the person who tells the story shapes the history and Gardner also gets on with the story in hand, telling of the arrival of Beowulf and the fight with Grendel. It is as bloodthirsty and as exciting as the original.There is much to enjoy here and particularly if you have read the Beowulf saga, this is sure to amuse and delight
ksmyth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked Grendel, but somewhat less than I thought I would. I enjoy the story of Beowulf, and was attracted by the idea of the story from the monster's perspective. Gardiner's Grendel is interesting and erudite. His interview with the dragon is wonderful. Nevertheless, for a slobbering monster unable to make himself understood, he certainly goes on a bit more than I like. Interesting characters--the Shaper, Unferth, and the rather unflattering view of his mother.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Grendel is a retelling of Beowulf from the monster¿s point of view. The monster is an outsider who spies on men from trees and cliffs, able to understand them and even speak a rudimentary form of their language, so he knows he is related to them. But when he tries to join them, he is attacked and driven away. He finds the cave of an ancient dragon, and they have a conversation. Because the dragon can see all time at once, rather than linearly, he shows Grendel his bleak fate, as well as mankind¿s ultimate end, which he says no one can change or prevent. Caught in an existential malaise following this conversation, Grendel goes on a years-long killing spree and delights in humiliating his victims. Yet he seems almost relieved when an unnamed hero arrives from the sea with the sole aim of hunting Grendel down.Although short, Grendel was a tough novel to get into. As a solitary character, the story takes place mainly in Grendel¿s head, and sometimes his philosophical meanderings are hard to follow. But after Grendel talks to the dragon, I became fascinated. The discussion about time, fate and free will touches on themes I¿ve been reading and thinking about a lot lately (such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Watchmen, The Children¿s Hospital and even Lost). I could identify with Grendel¿s inner turmoil, and I wanted to know how ¿ or if ¿ he would resolve it.John Gardner is almost a mythical writer for me. I read and loved his dark but funny fairy tales as a children, such as Dragon, Dragon: ¿Dragon, dragon, how do you do? I¿ve come from the king to murder you.¿ Gardner died young in a motorcycle accident, and now these books are very hard to find. Because of my childhood love for Gardner¿s writings, I felt that his most famous novel, Grendel, deserved a very careful read, and I think it paid off.You will probably most enjoy Grendel if you are already familiar with Beowulf. If you like books that expound on classic works of literature and present a different point of view, or books with challenging philosophical themes, then you shouldn¿t overlook this gem.
ncnsstnt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a freakishly wonderful book. The story of Beowulf, as seen by the monster, Grendel. I re-read [book:Beowulf] before I started this and I am very glad I did. It is worth it just to be able to catch all the references that are made in the book. Sad and achingly funny... a brilliant existentialist novel. Thanks Dave!
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this book, Grendel tells the story of his early life and his ten year war with Hrothgar's people. In different ways he is affected by the philosophy of the dragon, whose cold had mind he can always sense and the songs of Shaper, the Danish Bard. Somehow he makes you feel some sympathy for him, even as he humiliates Hrothgar and his hero Unfer and devastates the meadhall, ripping thanes apart and eating them in front of the king.
jlparent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried and tried to get into this to no avail. Maybe if I read it years ago, immediately after reading 'Beowulf', it would have captured me. But reading it years after that, I just found it unimpressive.
sparklegirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a...I didn't like this book. Some parts were pretty okay, like I liked the Dragon's character, but half of the problem was my teacher, who made us read so deep into this novel that it lasted a few months. It's not that long of a read, it just took months to read it and it was hell and I don't ever want to read it again. Come at me, Grendel.
jebrou on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorites. The way Gardner presents Grendel is remarkable. The complexity of the character is a stark contrast to the original. Having read it for the first time right after Beowulf changed my views of the characters. It felt a little strange. I felt compassion for a character that I had just felt fear and disdain for. It does what true art should do: change you.
ABookVacation on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although it takes until the very last chapter or so to actually get to Beowulf, it was a pretty good read. Some chapters were a little long winded with philosophy and such, but mainly it was good. It gave a lot of background, and was actually somewhat similar to Frankenstein. 3 stars.
gazzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Grendel, the monster from Beowulf gets to tell its side of the story. No fun, unless one is familiar with source material. I could be wrong, but this might be the first to create the genre of derivative fiction (i.e. "wicked" "wind done gone")
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have mixed feelings on this way. I feel that at times it gets lost, and that at times it's longer than necessary, but in the end I also feel like it's an interesting book with a worthwhile look at another side of the story of Beowulf and his Grendel. If you're a fan of Beowulf, read it certainly, but don't set expectations beyond what a summary leads you toward. The writing and the imagination and the philosophy are all there loosely, but in the end, I believe it leaves most readers wanting a bit more.
mnobookclub on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A retelling of the Old English classic Beowulf from the point of view of the monster.
ggodfrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretentious, clusmily constructed, replete with POV errors and senseless anachronisms, Grendel is a good idea poorly handled. Toss it in the recycling bin and instead re-read Shelley's Frankenstein, which is far more elegantly done, far more interesting, and deals with the same major themes (Art, Isolation, the Monstrous in Man) in much more complex and illuminating ways. This book comes highly recommended by people who should know better. The 'witticisms' are painfully unfunny, and Grendel can somehow see through walls and into the inner chambers of meadhalls and houses without being seen himself. He can make elaborate metaphors about "misers caught at their counting" despite having been raised in a subterranean cave with his mother (and no, having the monster think "I don't remember who taught me language" when his mother doesn't speak at all is NOT sufficient). Grendel witnesses several funerals--all of them burnings on pyres--and yet he thinks "darkness lay over the world like a coffin lid."*This book is bullshit. What technique does Gardner employ to make it appear he was writing a sophisticated book about lofty ideas? Why, he has Grendel talk to a dragon who spews ten pages of high-fallutin' nonsense. Let's not try incorporating our ideas into the action...that might require work.Years back I read On Moral Fiction and thought it bunk. Then I read Gilbert Sorrentino's "John Gardner: Rhinestone in the Rough." You were right Gilbert--he sucks! Skip it.*I don't want to give the impression that I'm that much of a stickler for precise technique in fiction--but when a book is as dull as the begats chapters in the Old Testament, I'm bound to notice such faults.