Grendel Chapter 9
It is December, and the landscape is frightening and dangerous. Everything is dead or dying. Grendel is afraid without knowing exactly why. He watches one of Hrothgar's men hunting a deer. It is an image of beauty and calmness. It almost looks as if it were planned from the beginning, as though the deer was waiting for the hunter. Everything is slow and still, until the deer is hit with the arrow. Then time speeds up--the deer crumples to the ground and abruptly dies. "The image clings to my mind like a growth. I sense some riddle in it." Chapter 9, pg. 127
Grendel watches a religious ceremony. The priests, using a language closer to Grendel's than to the Danes', pray to each of their many gods. Grendel and Hrothulf's advisor are equally disgusted. It's all ritual, with no feeling behind it. Years ago, Grendel remembers, he destroyed their holy place, smashing their statues. No one, he says, minded much except the priests. The place was restored--people seemed to think doing so was boring, but necessary--and Grendel never bothered to attack it again.
At midnight, everyone is at home, sleeping fitfully or trying to sleep. They know Grendel is probably coming. But Grendel waits in the holy place, and hears someone walking near. It is Ork, an ancient, kindly priest. Grendel pretends to be the greatest god, the Destroyer. Grendel teases Ork, asking him what he knows about the King of the Gods. Unexpectedly, the priest begins a complex speech: there can be no rational explanation for the god, because he is beyond rational thought. He is, in fact, the basis of rational thought. Grendel is surprised to see that Ork is crying. Ork continues: the King of Gods creates meaning for humans. He is the reason life is not pointless. "He is the eternal urge of desire establishing the purposes of all creatures." Chapter 9, pg. 132 Ork says that the mystery of god is that in order to be truly human, one must also be limited, and eventually die. The ultimate wisdom is in knowing the way things are connected, even though they might not seem to be. Grendel is utterly confused, but he hears people coming and is forced to sneak away. Three priests approach Ork, and Grendel listens secretly. They chide Ork for staying out late in the cold. None of them believe that Ork talked to God, and they are all preoccupied with being proper and holy in every way. Another, younger priest runs up. He is very excited that Ork has seen the Destroyer. He says that Ork never used to be able to see anything but rational, concrete ideas and things, but now, he understands the absurd and the fantastic. The young priest is thrilled and keeps yelling, but the other men seem to think he is a fool. Grendel no longer feels like killing them, and leaves.
Everything is quiet now. The king and his people are asleep. Grendel watches, knowing he should be at home too. He would like to go to the dragon, but he can't. He looks up at the sky, and sees that it is black, but bright. He is confused, and feels uncomfortable. He is waiting for something.