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Grendel's Mother Paperback – March 16, 2016
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About the Author
Diana Stout, MFA, PhD is a screenwriter, author, former English professor, an award-winning writer of multiple genres. She considers herself a medievalist without the degrees. Her favorite movies and reading material include The Game of Thrones, Vikings, Dragonheart, and everything King Arthur. Grendel's Mother was born from the studies of Beowulf, realizing that this character had no voice. And then she became hearing the character's voice...and the story began to unfold...
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Wrapping her setting in a dark and mysterious atmosphere, Ms. Stout presents a story of abandonment, desperation, survival and strength. How surprised I was to find myself rooting for a character I had always thought of as menacing. I love when an author can cause a paradigm shift in the telling of a tale, and Ms. Stout has certainly done that. The motifs of water, dandelions and the forest vs. the settlement add layers of meaning to the story.
I wondered if having read Beowulf helped with my understanding of Grendel’s Mother, and perhaps it did. But this enjoyable book stands on its own merit.
by Diana Stout
Grendel’s mother (a 15-year-old girl at the start) is the narrator of the story and remains, from beginning to end, a nameless, faceless, nobody. As a girl of the time period (1000 a.d.-ish) she is seen more as property than cherished child by either of her parents. She is a vassal to be exploited, something to give away in a marriage arrangement meant to prosper her father, not herself. After being raped and impregnated by a stranger, her worth plummets when the prospective (ancient) bridegroom balks at the loss of her virginity. It is decided that she will become a sacrifice for the local dragon, to appease the town, her parents and...the dragon. After her “death” is when the story truly begins.
I have never read the centuries old epic poem BEOWULF. I didn’t even see the animated version of it, that came out a few years ago, starring the voice of Angelina Jolie. However, I’ve been around this old world long enough to pick up the basic theme of the story. So, it was somewhat easy to drop into the book GRENDEL’S MOTHER, by Diana Stout, which takes a very large look at what I’m told is a very small portion of the original story—the mother of Beowulf’s monster.
I was actually surprised by just how much I enjoyed this book. I wasn’t really expecting to (since I’d never read Beowulf), however the author delves exclusively into the mother; it’s a separate story and totally her own.
Here’s what I liked about the story:
1. As readers, we’re given a great deal of information about how girls were treated ages ago. That information lends itself to this particular girl’s motivations for acting and reacting the way she does to the action that spur her forward in the story.
2. I truly liked that at 15, pregnant and alone, she’s able to not only survive her forced separation from society, but she thrives in her solitude. She learns to hunt, forage, protect herself and create a safe, comfortable home for her and the baby that arrives soon after. I love reading stories about women who can survive whatever life throws at them with relying on a man to take care of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love men. I have one of my own. But, women don’t have to be mousy, meek and good-for-nothings just because there is no man around.
3. I even liked that the author included information about how hard it was to mother Grendel. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns and yet, she never stopped being his mother and loving him anyway.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
1. I would have liked to have seen a little more of Grendel’s growing up years. Just a little more. We saw that he wasn’t an angel to raise…but, I would have liked a little more insight into the possible causes for his depravity. Maybe it was in his father’s DNA—even though the story wasn’t about dad at all…maybe a little larger glimpse into that side of things would have helped???
2. I don’t want to give the ending away…but, I guess I have to say it seemed forced and rushed. I would have liked to have seen that painted with a little more detail.
Overall, the story is unique and entertaining. I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Fantasy stories with a little bit of as adventurous thriller slant.
What attracted me to this story was the author’s notion of delving into what kind of woman would birth the legendary monster Grendel and be capable of deeming him worthy of her deadly vengeance. In the epic poem, Grendel’s Mother is nameless, perhaps because her issues are not recognized within the culture of that time, and she remains nameless in Grendel’s Mother.
Grendel’s Mother is a dutiful young lass with typical aspirations for a normal life. She planned to use the survival skills and traditions of her primitive upbringing to build her own future family. When an act of violence leaves her pregnant there was no mercy for Grendel’s Mother. She and her unborn child were offered as a meal to a fire-breathing dragon.
In a culture where survival and daring are held in such high esteem, Grendel’s Mother had learned a thing or two and she avoids her fate so she can go on to birth and raise her child. When Grendel turns out to be monstrous in both looks and behavior, he and his mother they find themselves at sword’s point of the epic hero of the time, Beowulf.
If you’re the kind of person who likes behind the scenes stories about how movies were made or acts of daring are accomplished, and the evolution of social justice, you will find Grendel’s Mother by Diana Stout your kind of story.