The poem called 'Beowulf' is to Anglo-Saxon civilisation what 'The Iliad' is to the Greeks. Written during the eighth century AD, it concerns the doings of kings and their warriors in Denmark and Sweden - several of them are historic characters who are known to have lived in the sixth century, and we can identify the site of the great royal hall, Heorot, where much of the early action of the poem takes place
This Nordic tale resembles classical myths of the Mediterranean region in that it embodies traditions about historical events. But 'Beowulf' is a myth built around specifically Christian ideas; it is one of the most significant achievements of early European literature. Grendel, the monster who is at the centre of the action in the opening phase of the poem, is half-man, half-fiend; a notorious ranger of the borderlands, who inhabited the fastnesses of moors and fens. The unhappy being had long lived in the land of monsters, because God had damned him along with the children of Cain. For the eternal Lord avenged the killing of Abel. He took no delight in that feud, but banished Cain from humanity because of his crime. From Cain were hatched all evil progenies: ogres, hobgoblins and monsters, not to mention the giants who fought so long against God - for which they suffered due retribution. The hero Beowulf grapples with Grendel when the monster raids Heorot, and wounds him mortally. This proves, however, to be only the beginning of a sequence of trial and struggles: Grendel's mother takes up the battle, and, later in the poem, Beowulf has to confront a terrible, fire-brething, gold-guarding dragon. All monsters are representations of the evil against which man must ever be prepared to do battle. The structure and meaning of this great epic have been brilliantly analysed by J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, who drew on 'Beowulf' for much of his own inspiration. Text Copyright Wessex Books 2007 Written By Michael St John Parker-Every 500 years or so, a Hag will give birth to a horrible monster known as a Grendel. Grendel's have an amazing capacity for strength and speed. Because of their abilities, they are revered by the underworld as the champion of all monsters. Mostly humanoid in shape, a Grendel is covered in shaggy fur and stands over ten feet tall. Manufactured weaponry is insufficient against a Grendel, and a single Grendel has the ability to dispatch an entire army. The first Grendel was believed to be the son of Cain, and history's most famous Grendel was the beast that faced the warrior Beowulf. After the Grendel's ruthless slaughter of a band of soldiers, Beowulf grappled with the beast in a hand-to-hand combat. Beowulf ripped the arms off the massive beast with his bare hands, which is quiet an impressive feat for the world's first monster hunter.