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Grendel: A Manifestation of Medieval Fears

Grendel: A Manifestation of Medieval Fears

By Deanna Briscoe

Afternoons of Alterity: A Codex of the Medieval and the Monstrous (2011)

Introduction: Many of humanity’s most basic fears transcend culture, time, and geographic location; fear of death, abandonment, and pain permeate man’s psyche regardless of his location temporally or spatially. However, there are certain fears which plagued medieval societies that have either dissipated with time or have changed over the centuries. The manifestations of these fears have also changed, indicating a shift in what individual societies saw as threatening. In the medieval epic Beowulf, the monstrous Grendel can therefore be seen as the physical embodiment and culmination of specific medieval fears. He is physically other, is believed to be hated and abandoned by God, engages in ruthless displays of cannibalism, cannot be slain by normal weaponry, and dwells on the borders of the civilized Danish world.

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