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Grendel Paperback – May 14, 1989

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Editorial Reviews Review

Grendel is a beautiful and heartbreaking modern retelling of the Beowulf epic from the point of view of the monster, Grendel, the villain of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon epic. This book benefits from both of Gardner's careers: in addition to his work as a novelist, Gardner was a noted professor of medieval literature and a scholar of ancient languages.

From Library Journal

George Guidall's crusty but spirited narration is perfectly suited for the monster Grendel. Gardner's 1971 classic takes the Anglo Saxon Beowulf epic and uses varying translations of the poem and other writings from the period to tell the story from the poor monster's viewpoint. Most first-person narratives translate well to the audio format, and Grendel especially enchants, casting a spell not unlike a grown-up "Lord of the Rings." The monster observes humans from a revealing and telling vantage. Just like a child in the schoolyard, Grendel picks up certain curse words and takes joy in repeating them. This has resulted in Gardner's book being challenged at the many schools where it is rightfully part of the curriculum. Guidall's voice is familiar enough for a still-fresh tale. This is storytelling at its best.?Gerald A. Notaro, Univ. of South Florida, St. Petersburg
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 14, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723110
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (296 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 87 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Of all the novels on my bookshelf, John Gardner's Grendel is the most dog-eared, highlighted, and thorougly enjoyed book of the lot. After reading Beowulf for a high school british literature class, we read Grendel and I fell in love. Haunting, beautiful, captivating and at all times mysterious, Grendel is able to capture the essence of our collective struggle to understand - to understand our reason, purpose, and meaning (if we indeed have any). Life is Grendel's great burden and he draws the reader into his world of confusion and hypocracy. At times utterly heartbreaking, at others sublimely beautiful, Grendel should be read over and over and over again.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I recently read Grendel for a high school course and found myself shocked from the beginning at the quality. The normally distasteful nature of reading assignments aside, Grendel was a stunning book. Though Grendel is always physically described as a monster, I know people whose mental state is very nearly the same as his. Reading the pain of such a despicable creature that hits so close to home was stomach-wrenching and breathtaking-- unlike the epic poem, Beowulf, Grendel made it difficult not to see the characters as real. Despite Grendel's purportedly evil and inhuman nature, I couldn't help but see him as someone I knew, feeling what he went through. By the end of the book I loved and hated him, and was given a good bit to think about with the Danes and Geats, and especially the dragon. A definite must-read for would-be philosophers (no, not that annoying high talk you may have been forced to read while "studying philosophy") and anyone intrigued by the darker side of human nature.
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98 of 111 people found the following review helpful By bixodoido on April 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
What if you could see into the mind of Grendel, the terrifying creature of the night from Beowulf? Well, with this book by John Gardner, you can. Brutal at times, irreverent at others, and very cynical at others, Grendel wanders around for many years watching the development of the various human tribes and the emergence of Hrothgar as a sort of king among them. He spends twelve years in a unique relationship with the king, trying first to make friends with the Danes (he is attacked) and later making raids and killing the most drunken of Hrothgar�s thanes. The notorious coward Unferth (the one who later insults Beowulf) is also developed here--Grendel has such contempt and pity for Unferth that he will not kill him (thus giving him a hero�s death) despite Unferth�s repeated attempts to fight him.

In the poem Beowulf, Grendel is a very flat character. He is, in fact, the epitome of evil, unfeeling and cruel. He comes, he kills and eats people, he leaves. Then he comes back. This book gives Grendel a personality. He knows he is a member of the fallen (Cain�s) race, and accepts that fact. He is lonely, and cannot even get companionship from his mother, who has long ceased to communicate. In fact, his only real �friends� are the Danes he kills. Still, he knows he is dependent on Hrothgar�s survival. �If I murdered the last of the Scyldings,� he muses, �what would I live for?�

This book gives excellent insight into the character of Grendel, and will definitely change the way you look at the poem Beowulf. Gardner�s Grendel is a creature who determines to kill Beowulf for the honor of Hrothgar, so that his thanes will not have been outdone by a newcomer. I highly recommend this short work for anyone interested in the great old English epic.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on November 10, 2003
Format: 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.
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