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Zodiac sign for the Ram (ch. 1)

Aries the Ram

Zodiac sign for Grendel's childhood (ch. 2)

Taurus the Bull

Zodiac sign for Hrothgar's rise to power (ch. 3)

Gemini the Twins

Zodiac sign for Grendel's reaction to the Shaper (ch. 4)

Cancer the Crab

Zodiac sign for Grendel's meeting with the dragon (ch. 5)

Leo the Lion

Zodiac sign for Grendel meeting with Unferth & making of a Monster (ch. 6)

Virgo the Virgin

Zodiac sign for Wealtheow (ch. 7)

Libra the Scales

Zodiac sign for the Red Horse & Hrothulf (ch. 8)

Scorpio the Scorpion

Zodiac sign for the Ork (ch. 9)

Sagittarius the Archer

Zodiac sign for the Goat & the Shaper's death (ch. 10)

Capricorn the Goat

Zodiac sign for the Stranger aka Beowulf (ch.11)

Aquarius the Water Bearer

Zodiac sign for Beowulf's beard (ch. 12)

Pisces the Fish

What does Grendel learn about Hrothgar and his theories?

His theories are to gain all the power he can by forming alliances with neighboring meadhalls that pay him monetary tributes, and building a road system with Hrothgar's meadhall in the middle of all his alliances

What is Grendel's thoughts on how men treat each other, animals, and surroundings?

Shocked. The men hurt each other until there is bloodshed, torture a horse by throwing stones, cut it with whips, and beat the horse's limbs, and the men destroy nature like they don't even care about it along the way

Why does Grendel fear Hrothgar?

Grendel fears Hrothgar because of the Shaper. The Shaper has formed a new identity of Hrothgar, which has made Hrothgar power hungry.

Why is Grendel so moved by the Shaper?

The power of the Shaper's music. The Shaper made everything sound real, but Grendel knew that the Shaper's lyrics were false

Why does Grendel fear the Shaper?

Grendel fears the Shaper by the power of his music, he is changing the minds' of innocent people, such as Hrothgar.

According to Grende, what is the truth about poetry?

There is no truth. Poetry is full of lies

Why does Grendel scream "Lost!" and crawl on all fours at the end of chapter 3?

He feels he doesn't know anything or anyone of the land in which he lives on anymore. He is lost, upset, angry, etc. at Hrothgar, his power, and the changes he is making to the world around Grendel

Hrothgar builds Heorot, the Hall of Hart, as a sign of what?

Justice and glory in honor of Hrothgar's Danes

How does the story of Cain and Abel affect Grendel?

He is cursed by it. Grendel is a punishment from God for Cain's actions of killing Abel. He is a savage that can only join humans by fighting them.

What is Grendel's "conversion"?

Grendel breaks down, accepting the words of the Shaper's vision of religion

What is the "presence" Grendel starts to feel when he is in darkness?

Evil. His imagination is turning him into evil

Why does Grendel visit the dragon?

Learn more about the Shaper

What does the dragon tell Grendel to do?

"Seek gold and sit on it"

How does the dragon's mind differ from humans?

The dragon can picture anything, seeing the past, present, and future

From the dragon's point-of-view, what is man?

Absurd, insane, selfish, and hypocritical. Man never has a total vision of things, but expect them to done in their way

According to the dragon, what is the role of the Shaper?

Provider of an illusion of reality. He puts together all their facts and spins them together playing the harp, so that people believe him.

How does Grendel "improve" men?

Making them think and scheme. He drives them to poetry, science, religion, and all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. Grendel is the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves

What is the dragon's ambition?

Count and sort all of his treasure

How does Grendel have a "caged and limited mind"?

He doesn't want to accept what the dragon is saying to him about new beliefs that could save his life since the dragon knows the future. Grendel is stubborn, being trapped in is own mind

What is the charm the dragon puts on Grendel?

No weapon could cut him

What does the Shaper sing about that enrages Grendel?


When is Grendel "born again"?

When he savagely attacks the meadhall. He calls himself "Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings!" The cold truths and heart-sucking conjuring tricks of the Shaper transformed Grendel into a blood-thirsty monster

Who does Grendel refer to as the harvest virgin?


What does Unferth say to Grendel when he comes to Grendel's home?

Unferth wants Grendel to kill him so no one will know what truly happened to him, but everyone will think he is heroic

What does Grendel do to Unferth?

Grendel throws an apple at Unferth, breaking his nose. Grendel takes Unferth, unconscious, back to Hrothgar's door, and lays him there.

What are Grendel's true motives for humiliating Unferth?

prove that he has power over men and that the Shaper's stories aren't all true

Why does Grendel refrain from killing all the men in the mead hall?

If Grendel killed them all, he would have nothing left to do

What does Grendel mean by "form is function"?

Grendel would have no function/meaning to his life if he killed everyone at once

What is Grendel's limit to desire (Grendel's law)?

death of all the men in the mead hall

What is the "ultimate act of nihilism" that Grendel has avoided so far?

Killing the queen

When does Grendel first see the queen (Wealtheow)?

Spying on the encounter between Hrothgar and the young king over mead halls and power. The young king surrenders to Hrothgar, giving away Wealtheow as his defeated gift

How does Grendel compare Wealtheow to his mother?

Both have loveable instincts... Grendel's mother would do anything to save Grendel. Wealtheow gave up her freedom

How is Grendel's decision not to kill Wealtheow an example of his philosophy?

It would be a pointless pleasure, an illusion of order to kill the queen

What does Grendel imply about Hrothgar?

No matter how evil he is, there is a good side to him

Describe Red Horse

red eyes and mouth, white hair that flared around his dome head

How is Red Horse similar to the dragon?

He is the mentor to Hrothulf and the dragon is a mentor to Grendel. Red Horse preaches to Hrothulf that humans exist to serve the ones who hold power, and to obtain power. He has the same dark views as the dragon does. The name Red Horse and his hair represent that he is an evil creature like the dragon. He wants power and wealth

According to Red Horse, what does a kingdom pretend to do?

save the values of the community, regulate compromise, and improve the quality of the commonwealth. A kingdom really rewards people who fit the system best

According to Red Horse, in general what is the government like?

All governments are evil, monstrously evil

What is the historical event Red Horse refers to?

Vietnam War

What are traps Hrothgar worries about while sitting on his throne?

trapped by Ingeld (ruler of the Heathobards),wealth, mind, Wealtheow

What does the twisted tree trunk represent in his dream?

What Hrothgar has made his life be; Grendel as a monster, but with pain and confusion that leads him to nothing. The two trees represent both ideas tangled together.

As Grendel passes through town, what are the children doing in the snow?

Making snow angels

Why is Grendel disturbed by the death of the hart?

The images stays heavily in his mind. Grendel feels the image is a riddle

What is the evidence that people are moving towards Christianity?

No one in the kingdom is convinced that the gods have life in them. The weak observe the rituals, but no one harbors unreasonable expectations

What are three bits of wisdom the priest gives to Grendel about the King of Gods?

The King is the ultimate limitation, His existence is the ultimate irrationality, and He isn't concrete but He is ground for concrete actuality.

What is the "ultimate evil"?

Our time on earth is limited... being on Earth means one day you will die. We have to experience suffering to feel happiness

What is the "ultimate wisdom"?

Everything you do matters... everything you do contributes to the Earth

Why is Grendel uneasy at the end of ch.9, when winter has begun?

He wants to go through time to see the dragon. Everything alive is asleep or dying. He is waiting for winter to move on, so everything can be alive again

What does the goat represent?

Death is inevitable, perserverance

How does Grendel feel after the Shaper dies?

Sadness and anger... He is sad that the history of the Shaper's poems are gone, but angry that he didn't get to kill the Shaper himself

What does Grendel mean when he says, "One evil deed missed is a loss for all eternity."?

Once time passes it is gone forever. Grendel wishes he could've killed the Shaper, and now he can never have to opportunity to kill the Shaper

How does Grendel feel about his mother after the Shaper dies?

He has power over her. He can do whatever he wants

How does Grendel's mother feel about Grendel after the Shaper dies?

She wants to protect him. She tries to stop Grendel from going to the Shaper's, but he ignores her

How does the Shaper die?

Old age

Why is Grendel "mad with joy" when he sees the strangers coming?

They are new people for Grendel to destroy; his new game

Describe the leader of the strangers

Strange face. The leader's eyes never blinked, didn't have a beard, and smiled as he spoke in a gentle way. "He has no more beard than a fish."

What does Grendel conclude about the way a man schedules himself?

Themselves and the world. They live off of lust, lies, and violence

What does Grendel think the world is divided into?

Things to be murdered, and things that would hinder the murder of things

How do the Geats fit into the way that Grendel thinks the world will be divided?

The Geats are both things to be murdered, and things that would hinder the murder of things

How does philosophy help explain why Grendel chooses to fight the stranger, rather than stay safe in his cave?

Their fate is for one of them to die, so Grendel is going to make their fate happen sooner than later

What is the evidence that the stranger is empowered by God?

The stranger grabs Grendel's wrist a burning sensation rushes through him and the stranger has wings

Why does Grendel say the stranger is able to defeat him?

Grendel has given the stranger a greater advantage because of accidents

Why does Grendel feel joy at his death?

He doesn't have to go through life alone and unwanted anymore. He is starting over in another world

How is it possible for Grendel to narrate the story when he is dead?

Grendel tells the story from his new life and order


• Philosophy used to deceive someone
• Sugar coat things so people believe & like their stories
• The Shaper uses sophism in his poetry

Old Testament

• Old Testament has a lot of punishment, New Testament is celebration
• Grendel is bad, God is good


Completely rejects established rule, law, and truth. The dragon teaches him that all things in the universe will come to an end and are therefore meaningless and discounts existentialism as a philosophy

Ethical Egoism

• Do good things to make themselves look good or feel better about themselves
• Unferth longs to be heroic. He makes a fool of himself to Grendel by asking Grendel to kill himself, so he can become a legend

Skepticism & New Testament

• Wealtheow brought peace and acceptance, Grendel brought skepticism and judgement
• Grendel is enchanted and repulsed by Wealtheow


• Describes someone who tries to undermine others for their own personal enjoyment
• Red Horse corrupts Hrothulf to think everything is evil, he wants an anarchy instead of government
• Red Horse wants revolution for personal satisfaction

Whitehead's Process

• Based on a categorical scheme of investigation designed to explain how concrete aspects of human experience can provide a foundation for our understanding of reality
• What people do in general defines what reality is
• Ork's reality is the gods that he worships


• Emphasizing the will to power as the chief motivating force of both individual and society
• Idea that God is dead
• Sense of destruction
• Radically questioning the value and objectivity of truth
• The Shaper's words "nihil ex nihilo" means that nothing comes from nothing


• Idea of individualism and finding oneself in society
• Based off of free will and one's own decisions
• Notion of forging your own purpose
• Grendel searches for his own purpose in life
• Beowulf puts himself above everyone and everything in his accomplishments


• Knowledge that comes from experiences
• Impossible to have an experience without gaining knowledge
• Grendel is awaken by learning that everyone needs to awaken from their mechanical attributes. At the end of the novel he tried to warn people to stop being mechanical

Grendel realizes he is alone in the world except for his mother, Grendel catches his foot in a tree and realizes that he could die and no one but his mother would miss him, and Grendel talks to the dragon, these are the causes of this.

Grendel's broken childhood

How does Grendel see those who are strong?


Grendel wants to join the humans, but they are frighten and reject him. He sees no difference in killing a human or cow. What is the result?

Killings in the mead hall

Is Grendel truly evil by the end of the novel?


What does Grendel mean by, "I've had an accident so may you all"?

Grendel had an accident and he wants people to fix their accidents before it is too late

Chapter 1, Page 8, "It is true, perhaps, that I feel some trifling dislike for deer..." What difference does Grendel observe between men and other animals?

Grendel believes that men have less purpose in life than animals, but they are more dangerous because they do have high intelligence, so they can plan and do very dangerous things.

Chapter 2, Page 16, "I lived those years, as do all young things, in a spell. Like a puppy nipping, playfully growling preparing for battle with the wolves." What spell is Grendel referring to in this passage? How is it broken?

Spell of childhood and being naive. It is broken when he is attacked by the bull, and no one comes to help him.

Chapter 2, Page 21-22, After his encounter with the bull Grendel says, "I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely, alone I exist." In what ways do you think Grendel's attitude about the world might contribute to pushing him towards evil.

Contributes to him becoming evil because he does not believe that anyone else in the world really needs to exist along with him. These views align with the dragons, so it was easy to him to turn Grendel evil.

Chapter 2, Page 27, Why does Grendel consider men to be the "most dangerous things I'd ever met."

Men can think for themselves, and make plans, and they are smarter than other animals that are around them.

Chapter 3, Page 33, Why do you suppose Grendel has a "stupid need to spy on them [bands of men]'?

He thinks they are evil, he admires their religion, and there conformity

Chapter 3, Page 36,Grendel is sickened by the results of the battle between two bands of men. "I was sickened, if only at the waste of it: all the killed- cows, horses, men- they left to rot or burn. I sacked all I could and tried to store it..." In what way might Grendel consider himself morally superior to men at this point in the story?

He only kills if he has to, because he needs to eat. Men kill for silly reasons, which he cannot understand.

Chapter 3, Page 43-44, Identify the following two literary terms: "The man had... torn up the past by its thick, gnarled roots..." "... the stars overheard were alive with the promise of Hrothgar's vast power."

The first example is a metaphor, and the second is an example of personification.

Chapter 6, Page 84, In the following speech Grendel sarcastically mocks Unferth. "I've never seen a live hero before. I thought they were only in poetry. Ah, ah, it must be a terrible burden, though, being a hero- glory, reaper, harvester of monsters! Everybody always watching you, weighing you, seeing if you're still heroic. You know how it is- he he! Sooner or later the harvest virgin will make her mistake in the haystack." What is Grendel referring to when he talks about the harvest virgin?

An old tradition where during the harvest a virgin is sacrificed to ensure good crops. He is saying she might make a mistake, the way Unferth may make a mistake and do something unheroic, like killing his brother.

Chapter 6, Page 90, At the end of this chapter, Grendel is pleased with the way he was humiliated Unferth. He say, "So much for heroism. So much for the harvest-virgin, So much, also, for the alternative visions of blind old poets and dragons." What does this passage suggest concerning Grendel's true motives for humiliating Unferth?

He wants to humiliate Unferth so he can prove to himself that the Shapers stories were not all true, and it is still possible for Grendel to rule over men.

Chapter 8, Page 113, Read about Grendel's theorem "Any action of the human heart/ must trigger an equal and opposite reaction." What does Grendel imply about Hrothulf with this theorem?

He is implying that however evil Hrothulf is, he also has to be equally good in some way.

Chapter 11, Page 133, What does the old priest mean when he tells Grendel "Things fade and Alternatives exclude."

He means that nothing lasts forever, and if you have one plan do not change it because any other alternative will exclude something from the plan.


Narrator, great, bearlike monster. He is a lonely creature who seeks an understanding of the seemingly meaningless world around him. As an outsider, he observes and provides commentary on the human civilization he battles.


King of the Danes. He maintains a highly powerful and prosperous kingdom until Grendel begins terrorizing the area. He is more flawed and human. Grendel often describes his war with the humans as a personal battle between this character and himself.


Sarpist and storyteller in Hrothgar's court. He provides the Danes with an image of the world as essentially connected and purposeful—an image that Grendel finds incredibly seductive, despite his awareness that the glorious stories of Hrothgar's court are built on a foundation of lies. This character represents the power of art and imagination to create meaning in a meaningless world.


A great cranky beast that rules over a vast hoard of treasure. He provides a vision of the world as essentially meaningless and empty. Throughout the novel, Grendel frequently finds himself weighing the fatalistic words of this beast against the beautiful words of the Shaper. Some critics hold that this character is not actually a separate character, but rather a personified aspect of Grendel's own mind. Although Grendel only visits him once, he feels its presence throughout the novel.

The Stranger (Beowulf)

Geatish hero who comes across the sea to rid the Scyldings of Grendel. Huge and exceedingly strong, he is cold and mechanical, showing little emotion or personality. In the climactic battle with Grendel, he appears to sprout wings and speak fire, prompting comparisons to the dragon.

Grendel's mother

Foul, wretched being, and Grendel's only apparent family member. She lives with Grendel in a cave in a vast underground realm. She desperately tries to protect Grendel from the humans and his fate. She has either forgotten or never knew how to speak, though at times her gibberish approaches coherent language.


Scylding hero who is unable to defeat Grendel in battle. He believes wholeheartedly in the heroic ideals of his warrior culture. When Grendel denies him the opportunity to become a hero, he becomes a bitter and broken man.


Hrothgar's wife and queen of the Danes. Originally a Helming princess, she represents love, altruism, and an ideal image of womanhood, bringing balance and harmony to her adopted community.


Hrothgar's orphaned nephew. He is a young man who forms ideas of revolution after encountering Red Horse

Red Horse

Hrothulf's mentor and advisor. An old man, he believes that all governments are inherently evil and that revolution does nothing but replace one corrupt system with another.


Old, blind, Scylding priest. Mistaking Grendel for the Destroyer, the supreme Scylding deity, he describes ultimate wisdom as a vision of a universe in which nothing is lost or wasted. He is one of only a few priests in the novel for whom religion is more than an empty show.

Fourth Priest

Younger priest who is overjoyed at the news of Ork's encounter with the Destroyer. The fourth priest has a vision of the universe to which Beowulf alludes in his battle with Grendel.


First creature Grendel encounters in the novel. It stands stupidly at the edge of a cliff and will not budge despite Grendel's repeated protests.


Animal that discovers Grendel hanging in a tree and attacks him repeatedly. The encounter with the bull is a formative event in Grendel's philosophical development


Animal that climbs a cliff despite Grendel's repeated yells and screams. Grendel tries to bludgeon the goat to death with stones, but it continues to climb.

Scyld Shefing

Legendary king from whom Hrothgar is descended. In his honor, the Danes are sometimes referred to as the Scyldings


Hrothgar's teenage daughter. Hrothgar plans to marry her off to Ingeld in order to avoid a war with the Heathobards

Shaper's Assistant

Young man when he first arrives at Hart with the Shaper, he takes over the Shaper's duties upon his death.


Hrothgar's brother and Hrothulf's father. When he is murdered, Hrothulf comes to live with his uncle at Hart


King of the Helmings and Wealtheow's brother. A young king who is gaining in power and prominence, presents Hrothgar with a constant military threat


King of the Heathobards and an enemy of the Scyldings.

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