REVIEW: ‘Grendel’ showcases the making of a monster

Cover art for "Grendel" by John Gardner.

From the epic poem “Beowulf” comes the villain Grendel, a grotesque creature who is vaguely human-like in form. From this villain comes the spin-off book titled “Grendel” by John Gardner.

This book is essentially Grendel’s life up until his fight with Beowulf, and how he came to terrorizing the city he lived near.

The book starts heavy, asking a lot of existential questions about life and what it means. Those questions remain throughout the book as a driving theme.

This book draws readers in with the curiosity of seeing something through the bad guy’s point of view and keeps the reader engaged with how amazingly depressing it all is.

His journey starts by being open to the idea of friendship with the humans, but after they betray him he starts to lose faith. It is a very good representation of what it is like when you are a child and you meet other people and find the first person who is mean to you.

You recoil and slowly begin to understand that not everybody is as nice as they had seemed. “Grendel” is a good example of what can happen if you let that first experience with a mean person get into your head.

The book gives reasons for why the monster is the way he is in “Beowulf,” while also being a very fair explanation.

While Grendel can come across as a petty and naive beast, one can’t help but feel pity for him. I found the book refreshing. It makes you think about more philosophical concepts and ask big questions about the world.

By the end of the book, Grendel is actually afraid of Beowulf, but he understands that somehow this is his time and this man will be the one to set him free.

This book seems along the existential crisis lines of “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, another very depressing — but good — book to read.

This is a tale of curiosity, growth, revenge and acceptance.

This is a good read if you like philosophy and putting little clues together, especially if you like questioning your own existence and seeing emotions through a creature who has no idea what they are.

It is like watching a child discover sweets for the first time and then later seeing them come home crying because someone took their sweet away and they don’t understand why. Instead of a parent or friend there to guide them, however, the child has to figure out how to fend for themselves, and nothing good ever comes from a hurt and spiteful kid.

This book is a way to look at how much we are shaped by the people around us and makes us grateful for the friends we have.

Alycea Hammond is a sophomore in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to