Comparison Between Free Will And Fate In Grendel And Beowulf

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Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” Unlike Roosevelt’s quote, though, is Grendel really just a prisoner to his mind, or is it wyrd that destined Grendel to be the vicious monster he is? It is the controversial discussion between free will and fate, and which are prevalent in Grendel, written by John Gardner, and Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel. Both stories include this theme of free will against fate, which is still a debate that can pertain to today’s society. Beowulf and Grendel share their differences on the outlook throughout the book, but both the epic poem and the novel have similarities in their take on the epic hero archetype and the Anglo-saxon culture. Both …show more content…
In Grendel, the question about whether he chooses to be a monster, or if he does not have a choice, is shown throughout the book. Grendel might think he is deciding his actions, as shown in this quote: “I changed my mind. It would be meaningless, killing her. As meaningless as letting her live” (Gardner 110). While this quote shows free will, that may have lead to Grendel into becoming the murderous, lonely monster he turned out to be. In Grendel’s mind, it was his decision to let go of the queen and spare her life. Was it really his choice, though, or was it fate that took over and forced Grendel to drop the queen’s legs and move on? This is one of the many questions that can sprout from the theme shown throughout Grendel. Every action Grendel takes, it leads to a debate on whether or not Grendel made the decision, or if it was all apart of Grendel’s vicious and cruel fate. This same theme is threaded throughout Beowulf as well. In the epic poem, fate is often being preached about. For example, Beowulf stated, “Fate sent him to the dragon and sent him death” (Beowulf 2400). It was still Beowulf’s choice to go after the dragon, even though the warrior was aware of the procussions. Throughout the epic novel, fate is a common word, and is used as a reason for everything--Beowulf swam to Brecca because of fate, Beowulf killed Grendel because of fate, and he killed the Dragon and then died all …show more content…
An epic hero can be characterized as a hero who undertakes a great quest which relates to society’s values, someone who must battle a great evil, and appears superhuman. When Grendel came across Beowulf in the novel, he was shocked and described him in a way that can fit into the description of an epic hero: “He has wings. Is it possible? And yet it’s true: out of his shoulders come terrible fiery wings” (Gardner 169). Beowulf did not really have wings--he was just a normal human with super strength--but in the novel, Grendel saw him as almost immortal, and appeared superhuman to the monster. This is similar to the epic hero portrayal in Beowulf. As Beowulf was battling against Grendel, it was written in such a way that showed Beowulf was much more powerful than Grendel, which can be seen in this quote “Screams of the Almighty’s enemy sang in the darkness, the horrible shrieks of pain and defeat, the tears torn out of Grendel’s taut throat . . . ” (Beowulf 785-790). Beowulf was seen as an incredible hero from this victory, and it seemed as though the murder of Grendel was a simple task. As for the Anglo-saxon characteristics, Grendel and Beowulf both hold elements of wyrd, which was a large part of the Anglo-saxon culture. As stated previously, both stories had a focus on the fate

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