From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ Grendel Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.
Grendel (1971) | Written by: John Gardner | Published by: Vintage
Grendel – Thug Notes Summary and Analysis
Yo yo yo, this here your boy Doc Sweets and this week we fiendin for meaning with Grendel by John Gardner.
It’s been nearly 12 years since a nappy-lookin beast named Grendel first started beefin with King Hrothgar and his peeps. After wreckin their meadhall like he always do- he starts thinkin back bout when he was a lil’ rug-rat.
Tired of hearing his mama say “dool-dool” all the time, this lonely-ass thug decide to see what’s good in the upperworld. After gettin stuck in a tree, Grendel try to conversate with some humans rollin by, but they don’t understand a damn word he say. So Grendel’s mama gotta step up, get CRUNK on dem humans, and save his ass. Mama says dool-dool. Grendel says “dafuq?” Humans attack him in tree. Hrothgar is one of the humans, throws an axe at Grendel.
Later, G-diddy watch some blind fool called “The Shaper” lay down some next level rhymes talkin up the Danes of old like they all righteous. Even though he know The Shaper spittin lies, he wanna believe it’s the truth. Grendel runs up on dat meadhall beggin for peace and hugz. But all them Danes see is a big fugly monster screamin nonsense, so they whip out their chrome and chase him away.
One day, Grendel finds himself chillin with a dragon sittin on a PHAT stack o’ bling. The dragon say the world’s a meaningless, mechanical void, and human beings- specially The Shaper- just tryin to fill dat void with pretty bullshit. Since we all gonna die, the only thing worth doin is stackin change like old folks, and plantin our fat asses on it.
Later 14 Geats led by Beowulf drop in on the land of the Danes. When Grendel peeps game Wulfy, it seems like his words don’t fit his mouth. Dafuq?? There’s somethin shady bout this thug.That night, Grendel decide: it’s time to wreck shop. So he busts in to dat meadhall and starts bangin with Beowulf.
Wulfy smacks his up, throw him dome against the wall and say:” You my bitch now. Sing walls sucka!” Then straight RIPS his arm off.
Grendel stumbles outside and right before he dies, he say “Poor Grendel had an accident… so may you all.” Now if you ain’t already in the know, Grendel the same gnarly beastie from the epic poem Beowulf. Cept in Gardner’s work, we hearin the story from Grendel’s perspective. And he one wicked smart G.
Gren-deezy so slick that none of the animals in his hood can keep
Even his own mama don’ understand him. And since them punk-ass humans ain’t nothin but a bunch of violent haters, Grendel feel like he all alone. Matter of fact, when Grendel gets stuck in that tree, he decide there ain’t nothin in this world cept him.
“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, I alone exist….I create the whole universe, blink by blink.” (21-22)
As lil’ Grendel gets older, he meets some G-ed up hustlas who make him marinate on all kinds of philosphies.The shaper always bustin sick flows
bout Danish myths that give them dopey-ass Danes a sense of meaning to their lives. He gives em hope by telling them that life is straight up righteous.
Whereas dat hood-rich dragon don’t play dat game. He say all those values ain’t nothin but lies told to keep stupid fools happy.
“That’s where the Shaper saves them. Provides an illusion of reality…It keeps them going – for what that’s worth.” (65)
How’s a brotha gonna argue with a dragon? After talkin wit dat scaley scrub, Grendel takes a big ol hit o dat nihilistic blunt and finally has a mission in life- if he can’t be accepted as man’s homie, then might as well be the mindless thug they see him as.
Not only did Grendel’s mind get fu**ed by a literal dragon, but a symbolic one too. When Grendel first peeps game at Beowulf, he knows SOMETHING’S UP. Later, he thinks he sees fire in his eyes and wings poppin out of his shoulders. And like any good dragon, Beowulf don’t just wreck Grendel’s arm, he also wrecks his philosophy.
“As you see it it is, while the seeing lasts, dark nightmare-history, time-as-coffin; but where the water was rigid there will be fish, and men will survive on their flesh till spring….Though you murder the world, turn plains to stone, transmogrify life into I and it, strong searching roots will crack your cave and rain will cleanse it: The world will burn green, sperm build again. My promise. (170)”
Beowulf basically sayin: “Look,son. Whether you sneer at life like dat dragon or try to dream up a better world and hustle to make it a reality all Shaper-style, it don’t mean a damn thing. There’s a hell of a lot more going on here than just you. So spit whatever verses you want. Life goes on playboy.
And nothing goes on as fine as Thug Notes gear. Sing Swag, B! See you next week.