Hey there folks,
Wrote this observation up late last night. I reckon it might make far more sense with all the allusions and what have you if you’re familiar with Beowulf, the epic poem (not the shitty movies), and Grendel, the novel.
“Why do you speak so badly about yourself,” she said with genuine sincerity. He couldn’t really fathom a response apart from the fact he’d always spoken poorly about himself – it was his kneejerk reaction to being praised.
He pondered her question, trying to formulate a proper response, but nothing seemed to fit. Everything that came to mind was either rubbish, hearsay, or an outright lie.
“Have you ever read Grendel by John Gardner,” he finally asked.
“The beauty of the novel,” he said, “is that you’re rooting for the monster. You want the bad guy – the perceived bad guy – to triumph.” He paused. “But he doesn’t.”
“He loses his self-proclaimed war and finds himself dying at the Abyss, a Fate he brought upon himself because he could neither embrace humanity nor forsake it.”
“That,” he said, “is the beauty of the work, for I see myself in the tortured monster.” He grabbed his well-worn copy from his sturdy desk (a gift from his doting grandmother) and pointed to the cover. A hairy beast, mouth agape, seemed to be yelling to the heavens – not in agony, but in understanding. “Why me,” the creature seemed to be shouting into the cosmos, “why have You forsaken me?”
“Grendel,” he added, “reminds me of myself. The monster doesn’t realize he’s considered as such until he interacts with Man, and, even then, he attempts to change their opinion before ultimately accepting he is little more than a beast – a savage – sent to scourge and scour their ranks until his untimely demise.”
“It’s beautiful,” he said, “so tragically beautiful because I am that monster. I am Grendel. And it will take some nameless Geat to rip my arm from my body before I realize otherwise.”
She pondered his words, trying to make heads or tails from his maddened speech before uttering a response.
“Do you love me,” she finally whispered through frail lips and searching eyes.
He stared up at the night sky, watching the faint wisps of smoke dance about the darkened backdrop.
“No.” he muttered.
“I cannot,” he continued, “because a beast has no concept of love. Certainly,” he said, turning toward her, “I am familiar with the idea, but I have accepted that I am selfish foremost, and ignorant secondmost.”
The pain cracked in her forlorn eyes.
He returned to the night sky, praying a meteor would strike him down, freeing him from earthly bondage, but the gods oft fail to answer such direct prayers. The breeze was the only sound – the only feeling – between them.
“After Grendel realized the Dragon made him invulnerable to Man’s weapons,” he finally uttered, “he forsook any chance of mingling and comradery with Men. He accepted – because of his immunity – that he was meant to be an instrument of terror, of understanding, because terror makes Men realize what is good and wholesome in the world.”
“In a sense,” he laughed, “Grendel is the greatest force for good because he is a harbinger of evil, thus creating the ultimate irony and paradox: without Evil there can be no Good.”
She said nothing in response, merely shrugging her shoulders and dabbing at her moistened cheeks.
“Think of it – of me – like this: a port in the storm.”
“I can get along with anyone because I have natural charisma: professional bullshitter and all that. Getting along with people is easy: provide them with an open arm, a welcoming ear, and a shoulder to cry on and you’ve created a perfect relationship.”
She nodded; shrugged?
“Like a ship at sea during a fierce storm, any port shielded from the raging tempest is welcome and better than the alternative: dock here and live, or brave the waters and surely perish.”
“Grendel has that moment of being a port in the storm because he offers respite from carnage to Hrothgar: through assiduous bloodshed and constant butchery, he unites the people under a single ruler, a sole idea: defeat the monster. Through his warlike ambitions, he brings peace.”
“I,” he said through a plume of smoke, “am offering the same.”
“I cannot bring perpetual peace because my Nature is inherently violent and self-obsessed – like Grendel – but I can bring calm and clarity to those who seek me out – the port in the storm. The monster stalking the dark woods. Through destruction, I bring renewal. Through strife, I bring calm. Listen,” he urged, “our time together ushers in newer, better things for you – for me – because after this emotional roller coaster, you will only be stronger. Every time Grendel destroys Hart’s doors, he strengthens Hrothgar and his people, not realizing – perhaps otherwise – that he’s ultimately building up to his inevitable demise.”
“And that’s fine,” he blinked, “because Grendel is both the port and the storm. I am both the port and the storm.”
She stared into the darkness that was the sky, counting the constellations, studying the stars.
“What of me,” she finally whispered.
“You,” he laughingly said, “will rebuild the gates of Hart.”
“And I,” he exhaled, “will bathe in a pool of my own blood.”