Thursday, 8 August 2013

Grendel, Grendel, Grendel's Mother

This has to be one of the coolest book covers around

Another Grendel's Mother post, yaaaay! Today I'm going to write about John Gardner's novel Grendel, and the animated film adaptation, Grendel, Grendel, Grendel. That's a lot of 'Grendel's in one sentence.

Grendel was one of the first (and most popular) adaptations of Beowulf, being written in 1971, and is known for its sympathetic treatment of Grendel. The story is told from Grendel's point of view, with very little focus on Beowulf (he isn't ever named, and we only meet him at the very end). As Alexander Stitt's film narrates, "it is told "through twentieth century eyes, where one is more likely to see the humanity in a monster" - yeah, well, not for Grendel's Mother.

This retelling of the Beowulf story, features one of the most monstrous and animal-like Grendel's Mother around, and although the story is seen through Grendel's eyes, even less of his mother is seen than in the original poem. And although it is a different view of her, it's not necessarily anyway less monstrous than any translations of the poem. She is described as a "life-bloated, baffled, long-suffering hag", a "horrible, humpbacked, carp-toothed creature", with "strange eyes" and "bristly fur". Can you feel the love that he feels for his mum? She is obviously not human-like at all...well, I guess you could find some people who fit those descriptions, but anyway...

Even more notable than appearance, is Grendel and his Mother's intelligence - where Grendel is portrayed as intelligent, rational, and quite philosophical (along with the dragon), ad even has an upper class British accent in the film, while his mother has no voice at all - "she'd forgotten language long ago, or maybe had never known it" - she cannot even comprehend what Grendel says.

Despite all this, there is a small amount of sympathy for Grendel's Mother - perhaps she is not all that monstrous - "I was, in her eyes some meaning I could never know and might not care to know", "she would have given her life to end my suffering". And although we know how it pans out in the original poem, we can only presume that she avenges her son after the novel ends. This love for her son of course, isn't necessarily a human trait, but could rather be an animal's maternal instinct - I mean, shit, the Moorwen in Outlander was almost more human-like than this Grendel's Mother!

Brian Froud's depiction of Grendel

So, despite being a book that was great for Grendel, it's not exactly great for his mother. It is a good book however, and worth a read if you're into Beowulf. Sure fuckit, aren't we all. And this is where I realise I'm turning into one of those people...those people who write blogs on academic stuff. Goodbye childhood.

Grendel, Grendel, Grendel can be found here! It's worth watching especially for the part at the start.

And now I'm off to London. Goodbye, suckers!

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