Chapter 5 Notes from Grendel

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Grendel Chapter 5

The dragon is a terrifying creature, even to Grendel. He sits in his lair on a neverending pile of beautiful jewels, and his eyes look dead. The dragon knows him, and seems happy to see him. His voice sounds ancient. The dragon talks kindly to Grendel, but in a mocking sort of way. Grendel is too afraid to speak--the dragon speaks quietly and with disinterested amusement, and that is worse than a monstrous roar. He sees Grendel's fear, and begins to laugh horribly. Grendel gets angry and starts to throw a large emerald, and the dragon commands him to never touch his possessions again. Grendel realizes that this is how men feel about him, and he decides never to frighten or eat them for no reason again. Suddenly the dragon interrupts his thoughts. "Why not frighten them?" Chapter 5, pg. 61

The dragon is irritated: he knows everything Grendel is thinking--in fact, he knows everything. He gives Grendel a terrible look, which almost kills him, and the dragon doesn't even seem to care. He saves Grendel from dying of fear with a laugh--not because Grendel matters to him in the least, but simply because he is amused. He says, "You want the word. That's what you've come for. My advice is, don't ask! Do as I do! Seek out gold--but not my gold--and guard it!" Chapter 5, pg. 62 The dragon tries to explain the Shaper. He says that dragons can see everything, past, present and future, as if from a mountaintop. He stresses that this doesn't mean dragons cause things to happen. He says there is no free will: he always knows what will happen before it does. He says that men don't do anything worthwhile, they just think they do. All their theories and strategies amount to nothing. They just know a bunch of facts, without understanding the whole picture. They think the Shaper gives them that understanding, but it's a fake feeling of connectedness. It's made up. Grendel doesn't understand this at all, but the dragon thinks Grendel is a good listener, so he tells him about Time and Space. He explains that creatures like Grendel think that because something is true for them, it must be true for the rest of the world, too, which is not logical. He begins to talk pompously about how limited most creatures' thinking is: they can only see certain ways of categorizing or naming things. He sees that Grendel is very confused and bored, and gets angry.

Grendel protests, assuring the dragon that he is interested in other things besides violence. Frustrated, the dragon changes course. He tells Grendel that it is very hard for him to talk to a creature of "the Dark Ages." He mutters that no age is darker than any other--that's just a name that a later (but not better) age decided to give to the time that this story takes place. Faltering, the dragon tries to explain that the universe is made up of both order and randomness. He stops, and continues in another vein, holding out a golden jug but being careful not to let Grendel touch it. He rambles nearly incoherently about the difference between a jug and a living thing: living things exist individually, because they can express themselves, but objects like jugs are generalized, because they have no way of changing themselves. A jug can be nothing but a simple, complete, whole jug. The dragon seems to believe he is being perfectly clear, and gets angry when Grendel doesn't understand. He tries again: vegetables are different from people because none of their parts are essential to their functioning: if you cut the top of a carrot off, it can still be a carrot as much as it was before. But if you cut a man's head off, he cannot function as he did before, because he has individual parts that are all essential in different ways. The explanation is vague and half-baked, but again, the dragon gets angry when Grendel doesn't get it. He tries to tell Grendel that people relate to the world in different ways than do rocks: rocks "relate" to everything the same way, while people have different attitudes toward different things. Grendel gives up. "It was unfair. For all I knew he might be telling me gibberish on purpose. I sat down. Let him babble." Chapter 5, pg. 70

The dragon tells Grendel he shouldn't have come, then tries one last time to explain simply. Nothing is permanent, he says. Everything happens over and over again, in different ways. Grendel sees that the dragon knows this for a fact. It's all dust, no matter how it behaves, says the dragon. Everything will end one day, in an ugly, pointless way. Grendel thinks of the Shaper and doesn't believe it could be true. The dragon is getting sick of Grendel, and hardly cares if he believes what he's being told. When Grendel asks him why he thinks it's stupid to try to improve one's character, the dragon brushes him off. He tells him that Grendel actually improves the Danes with his attacks: he forces them to think, and write songs, and plan ways to kill him. The dragon says that if he stops torturing the Danes he will be replaced by another monster, and whether or not he continues to kill them makes no difference, so he may as well do it. He says that his own goal is to count all his jewels--which, according to him, is a goal no different from helping the poor or killing random people. Grendel tries to tell him about the Shaper, and when the dragon scoffs, Grendel somehow knows the dragon is right. The stories the Shaper tells about God and the beginning of the world are made up. Still, Grendel believes "something will come of all this." Chapter 5, pg. 73 The dragon disagrees.

Topic Tracking: Philosophy 6
Topic Tracking: Identity 5

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