Grendel Chapter 7
Grendel is half bored and half excited by his long war against the Danes. He knows it defines them, like the dragon said--it gives them something to focus on. And he knows the war does that for him too. He is still confused about it, though, and wonders if he is going crazy. Winter of the twelfth year is coming soon. Grendel hopes something will change this year. He wonders what would happen to him if the men decided to ignore him. Then he thinks, "Enough of that! A night for tearing heads off, bathing in blood!" Chapter 7, pg. 93 He feels the dragon's presence. He is happy that he and his cave are in good physical condition, and knows that he has not yet done the worst thing he could do, the thing that would hurt the Danes' confidence most: he has not killed the queen. He self-consciously theorizes about killing her. What is the queen, after all? How much of her presence is her body itself, and how much of it is her influence? He has a flashback to the second year of his war with the Danes. He remembers that they were going through tough times, and could not defend themselves the way they could before. Another king was using Hrothgar's same strategy as Hrothgar, conquering his neighbors and growing stronger, and now he was a threat. Grendel watched as Hrothgar's men banded together--they who, just recently, would have killed one another for almost no reason. This made Grendel furious. They formed an army, and Grendel saw that it was huge. One night he watched the meeting between Hrothgar and the other king, Hygmod. Hygmod, leading a bear by a chain, saw that he could not defeat such a large army. He had a short conversation with an advisor, then offered Hrothgar a truce. He wanted to give Hrothgar so much treasure that he wouldn't even be able to pay his army anymore: then Hrothgar would be rich, and Hygmod's people could no longer threaten him. But Hrothgar refused: he had all the money he wanted, and besides, Hygmod could easily steal it back from him. He wanted to fight. Then Hygmod brought out something Hrothgar couldn't refuse: his sister Wealtheow. Grendel watched this, scoffing at the ridiculous ceremony. But he also saw in Wealtheow something as touching as one of the Shaper's songs: she was innocent, beautiful and pure. He hated himself for loving her (or, at least, the idea of her), but he couldn't help it. He laughed and cried, a prisoner of his emotions even though he knew the whole ceremony was a sham.
For the rest of the winter, Grendel was unable to attack Hrothgar. He stayed in his cave. His mother knew something was wrong, and was upset that she couldn't help him. Grendel knew that she, like Wealtheow, would give her life to protect those she loved. All females are the same, he thinks. He feels the dragon's presence. Sometimes, he remembers, he went down to the meadhall to watch the queen. She gracefully served the men at the table, preventing arguments and making everyone feel calmer and happier. One night, she asked Unferth if he wanted anything more to drink, and he declined. Another man made a joke about something from Unferth's past: one night when he was very drunk, he killed his brothers. Everyone was shocked into silence. Grendel understood what had happened to Unferth: he had been exposed as a meaningless fool, who pretended to be a hero but was really just a simple man with a shameful past who would have killed himself if that hadn't been "unheroic." Unferth sat there, ashamed. Then the queen spoke. "Impossibly, like roses blooming in the heart of December, she said, 'That's past.' And it was. The demon was exorcised." Chapter 7, pg. 104 Everyone relaxed. Grendel knew that the queen was not giving happiness and peace to everyone because she herself was happy and peaceful. He watched her lie awake at night next to Hrothgar, and he knew she was thinking about her home. Sometimes she went outside at night, just standing there, not letting her constant guards know she was upset. She was a child, but she was very mature, and Grendel was impressed and moved.
One winter her brother came to visit, bringing his bear and many friends. Grendel could hardly watch the celebration. Hrothgar seemed happy and thoughtful as he watched the queen with her people. The queen seemed to forget he existed, she was so happy. Grendel vaguely saw that the king and queen seemed somehow distant from each other. The queen's brother played a harp and sang. Though he was not talented, everyone listened to him because of the story he told. His song was about "a hero who'd killed a girl's old father out of love for the girl, and how the girl; after that had both loved and hated the hero and finally had killed him." Chapter 7, pg. 107 Wealtheow listened sadly, and Hrothgar seemed a little nervous about the harsh looks her brother was giving him. Grendel watched that night as the queen looked thoughtfully at her husband as he slept.
Grendel feels ridiculous. He knows life is meaningless--he met the dragon, after all--but he cannot shake his feelings for Wealtheow. He believes that what the Danes are doing is meaningful, and he feels happy, even though it has nothing to do with him. He is so disturbed by his conflicted feelings that he attacks the castle. He kills the bear easily, then decides, once and for all, to brutally kill the queen. "So much for meaning as quality of life! I would kill her and teach them reality." Chapter 7, pg. 110 Then he realizes that to kill her would be just as meaningless as her life. He lets her go, and the people are amazed. Grendel decides to kill himself, but changes his mind immediately.