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Chapter 11 Notes from Grendel

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Grendel Chapter 11

Grendel feels what he thinks is joy: something exciting is happening. "Heroes" from across the sea have just arrived by boat. He could feel them coming: a strange feeling he had never experienced before. He went out to wait for the boat, and his mother did not stop him. He heard it coming steadily, the oars moving almost mechanically, and finally he saw the sail of the boat. He watched them arrive, and a coastguard rode up to question them. Though the man acted self-important, Grendel could see that if these men wanted to fight, the coastguard was doomed. The guard asked who they were and why they were there, but they just looked at him. The leader, Beowulf, calmly told the guard that they were Geats. His father was famous. He came to kill Grendel. He said all this politely, but there was something unfeeling and mocking in his tone. Grendel, listening to all this, pretended to be confident, but he was nervous. Yet he was also excited--suddenly, looking at Beowulf, he felt alive. Grendel wanted to follow them to the meadhall, but he was afraid that, during the day, he might be seen. He went back to the cave and pondered the heroes, confused. He couldn't tell whether he was afraid or not. He felt like he was part of nature, as thoughtless and mechanical as a cave or a tree. He doesn't know what it means. He recalls seeing an otherwise rational, ordinary man, father of seven, travel one night to another woman's bed. Grendel can't make sense of this. Grendel believes that all sense of order in the world is just created by humankind. He knows he will go to the meadhall, though it might be safer to stay home. He knows he isn't free. His thoughts wander from subject to subject. He thinks about the time when he decided that since if the world exists, he is the negative half of the world--the dark half--then the world must not be real. He knows that his even his mother does not love him for himself. She loves him because he is her son. He believes he could destroy Hrothgar's kingdom if he wanted to--but then what would he do? He would have no purpose. He goes to the meadhall to see how Beowulf and his companions were received. The Danes are ashamed that they are being "saved" by strangers. The priests are unhappy because they have always said that God will save them. Grendel muses that religion thrives on inaction and decay. "Only in a world where everything is patently being lost can a priest stir men's hearts as a poet would by maintaining that nothing is in vain." Chapter 11, pg. 159

Grendel decides to kill Beowulf, to protect the honor of the priest, and Hrothgar's men. He sees that while the Danes would like to fight these strangers, Hrothgar is resigned to the fact that he needs the Geats. He can't beat Grendel alone. Suddenly Unferth speaks up. He asks Beowulf if he was the man who swam for seven nights against another man, on a dare. Unferth slyly proclaims that Beowulf lost the bet, and predicts that he will lose against Grendel tonight. Beowulf calmly tells Unferth that he in fact won the bet. He fought whales and sea monsters those seven nights, and beat them all. The men in the meadhall laugh at first, then realize Beowulf is crazy--he actually believes what he is saying. In the same calm, almost indifferent voice, Beowulf reminds Unferth that he murdered his brothers, and tells him he's going to hell. Everyone is shocked into silence. Whether or not he actually killed sea monsters, the men are afraid of Beowulf now, just because of the things he says. Hrothgar is pleased, though: this crazy man might be able to use his madness on Grendel. He calls the queen out to serve them, and she too praises Beowulf. Grendel listens to all this, confused. It is as if he can't hear or understand anything anymore. He is afraid. Then he abruptly abandons the fear: he has easily killed bulls as strong as Beowulf. Unferth is overcome with shame, and tries to feel hopeful for Beowulf's success, as a true hero would. He cannot do it, and leaves the room quickly, upset. Hrothgar is friendly with Beowulf, telling him about his plans for the future. Grendel sees that Beowulf knows that the kingdom is doomed. Grendel is more afraid of him, and at the same time wants to fight him even more. One by one, everyone goes to bed. Grendel knows that it is his place to fight Beowulf, just as it is Beowulf's place to fight him. They are like the mountain goat, who climbs by instinct.

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