Grendel by John Gardner


The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic Beowulf, tells his side of the story in a book William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions."

Details Grendel

Release DateJun 2nd, 2010
PublisherRandom House Vintage Books
GenreFiction, Fantasy, Classics, Academic, School, Literature, Mythology

Reviews Grendel

  • karen
    this review may or may not contain spoilers. i assume that most bookish people are familiar with the basic plot elements of beowulf, either through high school required reading or that video-game-looking movie, or cocktails at the heaney's. if not - this could ruin everything! but it won't. ah, existentialism... when i was a young lass with my fontanelle as yet unfused; when i still liked the doors and books about manson, i dabbled briefly and em...
  • Stephen
    If I could ADOPT that big, lug of a monster, I would be signing the papers right now because Grendel really, really needs a friend something awful. That lonely, melancholy maneater gave my soul a migraine and his final "haunting" words spent me like loose change from the sofa. I can't tell you (though I'm still gonna try) how much I loved this book. It is definitely being added to my list of ALL TIME FAVORITES. I have rarely fallen so completely ...
  • Heidi The Hippie Reader
    Grendel is the ill-fated monster from the ancient story, Beowulf. This is his tale.There are very few details shared about Grendel in Beowulf. I thought that this story would be an opportunity for the reader to get to know him.Unfortunately, we spend most of the time in Grendel's mind, circling endlessly around the ideas of time, brutality, nature and the meaninglessness of existence.I wanted to know more about Grendel's mother, but there was ver...
  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    Philosophies clash, along with monsters and men. This story of Grendel, told from his point of view, is an unusual amalgamation of Grendel's stream-of-consciousness thought (which becomes more clear and organized as Grendel grows and develops) about his loneliness and self-centeredness, his attempts to make sense of the world, and his cruelty and hatred toward men, while being drawn to them at the same time. Grendel watches the Danes at Heorot at...
  • Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
    During a routine walk from the kitchen to the main room, he stopped mid-stride and suddenly realized that no actual speech had escaped his mouth in what was, sadly, many years. And even very few non-lingual sounds aside from occasional coughs and heavy, anxious breathing ever passed between his lips and the world. He scrolled through his long-term memory for the last time he'd spoken and before reaching a definitive answer he interupted himself w...
  • Arianne Thompson
    Look, I'll be honest: I'm never going to win a triathlon. Yes, scrubbing floors and wrestling dogs keeps me stronger than your average sedentary librivore, but my ecological niche is definitely chair-shaped.Even so, I was surprised at how challenging this book was. Take this sentence, for example:I am aware in my chest of tuberstirrings in the blacksweet duff of the forest overhead.The first time is pretty much "bwah?" The second time, your brain...
  • Rebecca
    I feel a little ambivalent about this book. It was definitely intellectually appealing, and the conversation that Grendel had with the dragon was very well done. But Grendel didn't really do what I expect novels to do: it didn't make me care about anything. Part of that may be because it's only a meager 174 pages - probably technically a novella - but I think even in 174 pages Gardner could have engaged the reader more.While I was able to scrape ...
  • Michael
    Every once in a while a book comes along that is so beautifully written it shames me to think I should ever consider putting verse to paper. This is one such book. -m
  • John Farebrother
    A curious yet compelling read. It tells the story of Beowulf, but from the perspective of the monster, Grendel. Grendel, whose only companion is his taciturn mother, is a lonely creature, and each chapter is an excerpt from his solitary musings as he attempts to make sense of the world and his place in it. As such he is psychotic, but he is also very young, an adolescent, which elicits a reluctant sympathy in the reader. He is fascinated by the w...
  • Vivian
    An existential crisis told from the monster's point of view. Grendel tells of everything before Beowulf, a prequel. This was far more abstract and philosophical than I expected incorporating Grendel's arc from fumbling child learning his environment to elder bored with existence. "I understood the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears.""Then the wars began, and the war songs...
  • knig
    Beowulf is a an 11c heroic epic poem, written in England, in old English, by newly Christianised monks, but set in Scandinavia. If one can’t handle the Nowell Codex, the film does a pretty good raconteur job.Grendel (1971), of course, precedes both the film and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) which subsequently utilises similar techniques: interweaving highly theoretical discourse with quotidian and utilitarian undertakings.Eff...
  • Jordan
    After reading "Beowulf" in my Brit Lit class, I was turned onto "Grendel", by my English teacher. I truly love this book, and the way that John Gardner plays with the character Grendel, and the humor within the writing. After all Grendel was just a misunderstood pagan monster. What's a monster to do? : )
  • Warwick
    This smallish book, published in 1972, is an interesting exercise in examining a well-known story from an unexpected viewpoint – in this case it's Beowulf retold by the monster Grendel. It could have been a bit naff, like one of those awful ‘reinventions’ that certain novelists seem to knock off every couple of months, like Hamlet narrated by Ophelia. And actually I didn't really like it at first, for exactly the reason that it seemed a bit...
  • Connie
    "Grendel" is a retelling of the epic poem "Beowulf" from the point of view of the monster, Grendel. The poem was written in Old English sometime between the 8th and 11th Century. The monster had been attacking the Scyldings in the mead hall of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes. The hero Beowulf, a Geat, destroyed Grendel. Although the poem "Beowulf" also tells of further adventures of the hero, the retelling ends with the death of Grendel.In "Grand...
  • Zach
    Grendel can't settle on a single idea or voice. Whiny, self-involved and "tediously poetic," this retelling of the epic Beowulf from the monster's point of view is full of existentialist pity-parties (the dragon gives a tiresome lecture on the brevity of the universe) and anachronistic outbursts (Grendel suddenly gives the empty sky an upraised middle finger). Eventually the rapidly shifting topics and themes blurs together into an unholy literar...
  • Terry
    (my thanks to Rich for the Christmas gift)It's sort of weird that I've never read this book before. Having grown up with an English teacher for a father, I've known the story of Beowulf ever since I watched an 8mm film project one of his students made, the chief special effect of which involved flushing a yearbook photo of the boy who played Beowulf down the toilet in order to simulate the hero's diving into the haunted mere. I've known about Joh...
  • Peter Watson
    Grendel is John Gardner’s endeavor to squeeze as many schools of thought (nihilism, existentialism, solipsism, you name it) into 174 short pages. The result is an intense and quirky philosophical treatise on beauty, evil, culture, love, and humanity’s search for meaning (or meaninglessness) that raises several uncomfortable questions — why do I feel compassion and empathy for a bloodthirsty monster? Why are some people “good” and others...
  • Dracostellarum
    I'm not sure of what to think of this book. The style shifts a lot, and clearly Gardner put a lot of work and thought both to its narrative construction and to the themes he was covering in the book. That being said, I was more aware of how the book was written rather than why. The words and the construction of the narrative got very much in the way; I was too aware of them. It seemed very skeletal, not a whole lot of flesh or life to it. There i...
  • Alex O'Brien
    'Grendel' is a brilliant retelling of the Old English poem 'Beowulf' from the perspective of the monster. Immediately, Gardner's first person voice enticed me into the story, and his lyrical prose, poetic sensibility, and articulate language kept me reading, as did his breath-taking existential meditations on the nature of good and evil, the power of art and story-telling, our constructions of religion and heroism, and the meaning of life. This s...
  • SatouCeesay
    This book was one of great self discovery. John Gardner takes us through the “highs” and lows of a beings life that has been forsaken by society. Taking philosophical ideas as a guideline, Grendel struggles with the thought of existence and meaning in his life. With two different kinds of influences pulling at him from both directions, Grendel must find the side where he belongs the most. I think the book could relate to people’s own strugg...
  • Brian Symons
    John Gardner’s Grendel takes readers on a journey for meaning. Grendel, the protagonist, uses the plot of the novel to find a purpose in a world that has left him alone and isolated. However, Grendel is not alone, Gardner teaches readers that everyone has trouble finding meaning in a sometimes-cruel world. It’s not only the low-life (Grendel), it’s also the elites (Hrothulf). Gardner leaves readers with the same question, what is our purpos...
  • Sophie Mcintyre
    Gardner's retelling of Beowulf not only alters the lens on the classic hero, but on humanity in its most complex form. Tackling the way we define "evil", Grendel's unconventional, antiheroic journey has readers shamelessly rooting for a blood-thirsty monster. Gardner crafts a careful tale of death and redemption, but takes on such a swirl of conflicting ideals, nihilism, existentialism, solipsism, even the human condition, that it becomes hard to...
  • Arun Divakar
    History could very well be interpreted as a stream of stories penned by victors. There have been battles,coups and epoch changing events and almost all of which have been stories told by those left alive or those left on the winning pedestals. Did anyone tell us much about Ravana's thoughts as his entire kingdom was ground to dust by a man and his army of simians ? What of Ernst Blofeld whose plans were doused in hot water by a dapper Brit ? I co...
  • Rob
    Something I had forgotten in the 20 or so years since last I'd read Grendel, was that it is not a necessarily a book about the solipsism of "the monster". No, Grendel is largely unconcerned with whether/not the Scyldings exist; his struggle is not with existence [1] but rather one with alienation and isolation. In some ways, he is the ultimate outsider: not human enough for the Scyldings, too human for the animals -- the only ones that will speak...
  • GiuliaMazz
    The novel opened as a wittily irreverent light read. "174 pages of a cynical monster," I thought. "How bad can this be?" Little did I know that John Gardner would soon give my mind an "obscene little kick" and that I'd be unceremoniously thrown headfirst into a philosophical powerhouse. Grendel's strength lies not in the complexity of its prose (although the two UNCLOSED PARENTHETICAL ASIDES still infuriate me to no end), but rather in its capaci...
  • kari
    What beautiful prose. What a twisted idea for a narrator - giving voice to Grendel, who is fully aware of how others see him. And even when he describes his rides on the mead halls, when he commits murder with obvious contentment, he still earns the readers' sympathy, or at least some of it. "Grendel" is a compelling study in our own understanding of humanity, but... it's just half of the story. And I don't mean Beowulf, but Grendel's mother, the...
  • Anshul Baid
    Get ready for the best existential crisis of your life as you dig deep into your own morals and those of society.John Gardner's "Grendel" is a masterpiece which represents what it feels to be conflicted, lonely, guilty and relevant through Grendel's liminal lifestyle. Fascinated, but rejected by the humans the struggles faced by Grendel are more relevant to us than one could ever imagine. Grendel battles through his own dragon and multiple philos...
  • Lars Guthrie
    Marvelous. Everyone but me, it seemed, who was around in the early 70's, read "Grendel." I don't think I really even knew what Beowulf was all about back then, so wasn't interested. So now I'm glad to come to "Grendel" after many connections to the source. I work with someone who is getting her masters in English Lit, and she complained about reading Beowulf papers as a T.A. that were all about how Grendel felt. She was at first confused about th...
  • Nicholas Kaufmann
    I knew this slim, challenging, incredible novel would become an instant favorite the moment I experienced the monster Grendel's voice in the prose: acerbic, sarcastic, depressed, vulgar, philosophical, yearning, angry. Grendel is forever a prickly teenager, regardless of his age ("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 abso...
  • Avaciavolino
    John Gardner's Grendel dives head first into the world of existentialism and attempts to answer the age old question of what is the meaning of life. Readers are taken on a journey to seek this answer through the epitome of an outcast, the monstrous Grendel, who wrestles with grasping his own identity in the world. The struggle between nihilism and the existence of a meaningful purpose in life is clearly on display through the trials and tribulati...