Just for Fun
Thug Notes -- not for class...but fun.
Grendel, Grendel, Grendel -- Introduction to monsters, for children, reallly. Animated musical version oddly close to the book. Uses the text. Continues in 10-miniute segments to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10. 1981Australian film narrated by Peter Ustinov.
Shmoop -- Discussion, Analysis, and great answer to “Why Should I Care?”
Hold the popcorn, folks, because things are about to get real.
No, seriously: it doesn't get much more real than Grendel. John Gardner uses this weird story about a monster to tackle some huge issues, including, you know, life, death, and the nature of the universe. Our monster hero is just trying to figure out who he is and what his life means. Those are the same big issues we all have to deal with every day—but Grendel deals with them hard, maybe so that we don't have to.
What does this mean in regular terms? Well, have you ever taken a look at your parents (or your sibs) and thought, "Are we really the same species?" Have you ever questioned the motives or characters of authority figures?
Still not feeling it? Try this: ever wondered about your purpose in life or place in the universe... or if the universe is just an absurd joke? Ever looked in the mirror and seen a huge, hairy beast with out-of-control B.O.? (You know who you are.) If you answered yes to any of the above, you'll find Gardner's work easy to relate to.
But there's something even better in store: Gardner also delves into the minds of ancient storytellers and creates a new fictional world that weaves together everything the Beowulf-poet ever said with philosophical theories and modern angst that the Beowulf-poet could never have known. And that's not only cool, it's way hard to do. The result is nothing less than sheer geeky brilliance.
We can't ignore the elephant in the room, either. Fact: Grendel is a monster. So is the dragon. They are undeniably charming, and some of their ideas may hit the nail on the head. But regardless of what drove them to monsterhood, one devours humans, and the other is a fountain of cynicism and despair. The ultimate question that Gardner asks his readers is both simple and complex: whose side are you on?
This novel is meant to make us uncomfortable and put us to the test. It's also meant to put us in a tight spot, because neither the human nor the monster side is 100% appealing. As a novel, this is totally a twofer: morality and entertainment wrapped up in one slim, sleek book. Just try to pass it up.