Beowulf vs. Grendel’s mother

Beowulf’s fight against Grendel’s mother carries a very different tone than does the way the speaker languages and imagines his fight with Grendel.  What differences do you see? What do you make of the symbolism present in this battle?  What allusions or mythic resonances add to the symbolism of this scene?

Explicate your reading of this momentous struggle.

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18 thoughts on “Beowulf vs. Grendel’s mother

  1. The battle between Beowulf and Grendal was aggressive. It was violent and displayed the strength between the masculine figures. It was the force between good and evil. The narrator has Christian views that is clearly demonstrated through this battle. It is stated that Beowulf received his strength that defeated Grendal by God. What a great figure God is to make this battle end victorious. The narrator wants Christian values to be highlighted and accepted by the readers. The battle of Beowulf and Grendal’s mother was vicious. It was different because a woman is Beowulf’s contender. In this time period woman aren’t suppose to act violent, aggressive, and challenge a man. There were suppose to be the opposite. In this battle Beowulf’s armor helped him win the battle with Grendal’s mother. I think that this battle was more physical in this sense of Beowulf using his fighting skills and armor. I noticed that God gave Beowulf strength to win the battle. That wasn’t the case in this battle because Beowulf doesn’t need help from anyone including God to defeat a woman (Grendal’s mother).

  2. The description of the battle between Beowulf and Grendel is quite different from the description of the battle that takes place between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother. Whereas in the battle with Grendel, Beowulf relied on his God given strength, in the battle with Grendel’s mother he relied on, and was saved by, his war gear. In fact, Grendel’s mother would have defeated Beowulf several times during the battle had his armor not protected him.

    The way in which Beowulf defeats Grendel is different than the way he defeats Grendel’s mother. Beowulf inflicts the fatal wound with his bare hands, tearing off the arm of Grendel. To defeat Grendel’s mother, however, Beowulf requires “a blade that boded well, a sword in her (Grendel’s mother) armory, an ancient heirloom from the days of the giants, an ideal weapon, one that any warrior would envy” (ll. 1557-1560).

    For some reason, the narrator no longer portrays Beowulf as the hero who places his trust firmly in his God, but rather shows him to be a warrior who depends on weapons. This change may indicate that the poem was written by two different narrators. The first an adherent of God, the second a proponent of valor in battle.

  3. In the epic, “Beowulf,” the speaker uses more theological language and ambiguous images to describe Grendel. On the contrary, the poet uses less theological language, and clear and simple images to describe the monster’s mother. When the speaker discusses the struggle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, the most horrifying evil has been stamped out. It is because Grendel’s mother was easily thought of representing the foundation of evil than Grendel himself in the reader’s mind. For example, the poem describes that Grendel’s mother lives under the swampy wood where she keeps her lair. According to the poem, the speaker says, “At night there something uncanny happen: the water burns. And the mere bottom / has never been sounded by the sons of men” (1365-67). It shows the readers that the darkness of the mother’s lair symbolizes an evil. On the one hand, the dark lair also brings out a new mythic resonance after Beowulf defeats Grendel’s mother. In the poem, the speaker claims, “A light appeared and the place brightened / the way the sky does when heaven’s candle / is shining clearly” (1570-72). The lightness suddenly shows up the implication of Christian holiness that hell has been purged of its evil and the clan’s nation becomes pure.

  4. The fight between Grendel’s mother also known as “Dam” and Beowulf I feel is a lot more challenging than the fight between Grendel himself and Beowulf. Even though Grendel seemed to appear more powerful physically than his mother, he was a lot easier to take on. Grendel’s mother during the battle had a lot more advantages than Beowulf, the fact that she waited for Beowulf to get all the way down in the lake just shows that she isn’t as daring as she appears to be. I feel as the story goes on, the battles for Beowulf keep getting harder; but as the battles get harder he becomes even more daring and courageous.

  5. The first difference I notice from the two battles were how they started the reason behind them. Beowulf vs. Grendel was much more aggressive, Grendel enter to destroy what ever got in his way but he was not expecting Beowulf reaction and strength. Which made that battle much more detailed to us. The removal of the arm and after the victory they still hanged it as a throphy. Beowulf also did not feel or was sure of that he did not need any weapons or armor to fight Grendel. When Grendel mother comes it’s not so much to destroy everything but to destroy that person who killed her son. She does it out of revenge protecting her own which to make always makes a person much more powerful and stronger. This time Beowulf has fear because he puts his armor on and uses the weapons. “Holy God decided the victory.” (1553-54) I feel like this line has a lot to do with faith of the good always wins. Because he knew how difficult it was to kill Grendel mother she was very powerful and it took a certain sword to cut right through her neck. I find it so distrubing that he still goes back to cut Grendel’s head off even after he had already killed him. I agree with Anna about the darkness and light I feel as well that it symbolized Heaven and Hell , good and evil.

  6. The fight between Grendal’s Mother and Beowulf was I believe more pleasant, as in the author referred to Grendal’s mother as his mother and not as a beast and the story has done with Grendal. It featured a couple of biblical references, also in line 1553 it says “…not helped to save him: Holy God…” as if god was for sure watching him and that in fact is what kept him alive during this battle, the grace of god. As Trevica said in her post I believe also that compared to the fight with his mother compared to Grendals and Beowulf’s battle, it was more gruesome and more looked down upon as they referred to Beowulf as a “foul beast”. Also that Grendal’s mom’s battle was much shorter in detail compared to the broadness and the constant reference to Grendal being a beast and how Beowulf was slaying a beast, with all gruesome details attached.

  7. Beowulf vs. Grendel’s mother
    When Beowulf kills one of the creatures on the journey to meet Grendel’s mother, I feel like he’s just warming up. Also I think the journey described to get to her is significant. His excitement for the battle and the fact that he has to travel to the bottom of the ocean to get to her is pretty interesting as well. There didn’t seem to be as much of a leading up to the battle with Grendel than with his mother, but that’s probably because Grendel had come to terrorize while his mother had gone back to her underwater lair(?) so she had to be found. Grendel’s mother also seems to be a much more challenging opponent than Grendel. She seemed to give him more a run for his money. What I had trouble understanding though was the setting. Were they really fighting underwater? It’s mentioned that in the poem that “The earl then discovered he was down in some cavern Where no water whatever anywise harmed him,” and I had a hard time conceptualizing that scene. It’s also interesting how he cuts off Grendel’s head. A strange scene this battle is!

  8. The fight that occurred in Beowulf between Beowulf and Grendal was aggressive and had biblical elements involved in it.The fight that occurred between Beowulf and Grendal’s mother was in a way quite different then the fight that occurred between Beowulf and Grendal himself. The fight between Beowulf and Grendal’s mother was in a way less barbaric. I believe this to be true due to the fact that during Beowulf and Grendal’s mother’s fight Grendal’s mother did not suffer from any dislocated body parts like Grendal sadly did. The fight between Beowulf and the monster that is Grendal’s mother seemed to also contain biblical references. I could not help but feel as if the fight that occurred between Beowulf and Grenda’s mother was a bit less barbaric due to her sex. In other words, even though she a monster she still is a female. All ansd all I am so far really enjoying reading the epic poem that is Beowulf.

  9. The fight between Grendel and Beowulf was more open, more descriptive in the sense of describing the ‘monster’ who “out of the night came the shadow-stalker, stealthy and swift” (56). Even the way Beowulf is described as defeating Grendel is packed with excitement like a superhero defeating a villain. Beowulf the person for the people is hunting the God-cursed deformed creature whose arm later on he rips off and is heard with an “extraordinary wail…bewildering fear…over the Danes”(57). This fight between Beowulf and Grendel is one to man vs beast, man vs man; it’s tough and hardcore. Now when I read the fight between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother it was much simpler and for the most part straight to the point. The area in which the mother was defeated was much more descriptive then the way she was defeated. The blood shot water which surged underneath and the way gore kept swallowing up the war-horn was so amazing in detail. The mother had some detail to snatching Beowulf but it was not the hardcore and vicious detail compared to the defeat of her son. Her brutal grip is nothing compared to the way Beowulf gripped her beloved curse son. Beowulf puts his shield deep into her neck bone which tops the doomed house of flesh and falls to the floor. Instantly we read or can infer she dies within seconds, compared to her son who has this painful slow death in her presence. When she dies the placed is had said to be brighter and heavens shining. This fight between man vs woman is not brutal, it’s an easy going fast death, like a mother fighting a son. The mother is dead so the evil is appeared to be gone, the child who is created out of sin is gone as well due to the fact that God helped Beowulf defeat them both, he was patient and obedient and won, like Christians are said to be like.

  10. I strongly agree with what nchan101 wrote, the two fights had a completely different scenario, in terms of physicality and emotionalism. After reading the fight between Beowulf and Grendel you’re left with a sort of vicious outlook, from the language, to the metaphors and even the setting. In the fight between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother there’s a more formal manner; dignified perspective. One thing that came across me when I was reading is the fact that the narrator chose to make the fight between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother underwater. The entire time that the fight takes place in the water, all i could think of was crucifixion, it stuck out to me most, I believe the narrator chose this setting specifically to portray a Godly scenario, when as Beowulf could be used as a comparison to Jesus and his crucifixion. Jesus was a savior in many people’s eyes and to some, still is today. His actions saved his people from sin, Beowulf’s actions can be compared to this, his actions sort of “purify” and save Hrothgar’s people from this dangerous evil.

  11. After reading about the fight between Beowulf and Grendel, and then reading about the fight between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, I have noticed a lot of differences in the language. Reading about the fight between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, the language somewhat simmers down. During the fight between Beowulf and Grendel, the language was more hardcore, making the fight sound vicious and brutal. Their fight was described as singing, where the crashes made the whole building make noise. The language between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother is more solemn. When Beowulf defeated Grendel, he tore his arm off and left Grendel to bleed to death, but when he defeated Grendel’s mother, he didn’t leave her to bleed to death. She died instantly when he plunged the sword he was using into her neck bone. This brings us to another difference, where Beowulf used man-made object to defeat Grendel’s mother whereas he defeated Grendel with his own bare hands. As in class, we discussed that the only way to really defeat evil was to use something that God made not man-made. Which brings me to question, who was really the evil one that Beowulf defeated. This also shows that in every story, at the end, good will always win.

  12. I personally see that the author shows the fight between Grendel and Beowulf to have a lot of differences compared to the fight with Grendel and his mother. Beowulf had a tighter grip on Grendel so when he tries to run away during the fight his arm got ripped off. Now between the fight with Beowulf and Grendel’s mother Beowulf does not have the the tighter grip or any grip at all. This shows me how much Beowulf is not scared of Grendel but when it comes onto Grendel’s mother he seems intimidated or just rather not be bother by her. What helped Beowulf during this time was, the strong links and locks of his war-gear” it seemed as if God was on his side. Plus during Beowulf fight with the mother he used weapons unlike when he was fighting Grendel and used his bare hands. The weapon that Beowulf uses during the fight was a past generation heirloom. Grendel’s mother makes it looks like she is more evil then her son. Beowulf couldn’t even handle her because she was so evil and hard to put up a battle against. People do say don’t fight with the devil or someone evil because that’s a battle you may not win. That showed in this case. But God will always be there watching over and if he feels as if you can overcome a harsh time and you deserve it he shall lead the way. The fights have a lot of symbolic meanings behind them there was light and darkness, lightness that dimmed during the fight with Grendel’s mother and Beowulf. This could all mean evilness, hope, hate, peace, Christianity and freedom.

  13. In the heavily Judeo-christian context of Beowolf’s transition from a bardic poem to a written one, it seems the struggle between the hero and the feminine monster (Grendel’s mother and Cain’s mate) is rife with biblical references. The demon’s home, which itself is submerged in a sea of serpents, the traditional reference to sin, is a “hellish turn hole” (l. 1513) in which this “swamp thing from hell” ( l. 1518) resides.
    In contrast to Beowolf’s fight with Grendel using specifically his own G-d crafted hands, in this fight Beowolf reaches for an ancient blade “from the days of giants” (l. 1558). Already hearkening back to ancient, or biblical days, the description of Beowolf’s death blow is highly sacrificial, swing the blade in a single arched blow that “bit deep into her neck-bone and severed it completely” ((l 1566-67), immediately followed by a light as if “heavens candle” (l 1571) shone.

    In contrast to the language of extremes and totality of repentance demonstrated in Beowolf’s second fight, his clash with Grendel is more balanced, for they struggle and Beowolf does not manage to kill him outright so much as inflict the wound that will lead to Grendel’s drawn out death.
    Thus, I would hazard the opinion that Grendel’s mother (the bastion of forbidden female sexuality that she was) acts as the true vanquishing of evil in Beowolf’s storyline, offered up as a dirty sacrifice to thank and appease God and bring back the light into her (and by extension, the worlds) hellish den.

  14. After reading the lines that catalogue the confrontation between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, there is an obvious contrast present which seemed to resonate in my mind even after I finished reading the section. Although this is not the first time that I am reading the epic Beowulf poem in its entirety, I feel that I caught some drastic differences between the conflict involving Beowulf and Grendel as opposed to Beowulf and Grendel’s mother. In a sense, I felt that there was a shift in language as well as a shift in power from Beowulf, the epic hero, to Beowulf’s nemeses in the fight, Grendel’s mother. It seems that through both the language shift and the power shift that Beowulf seems to lose some sort of stamina in fighting Grendel’s mom. Under further review and analysis, it is clear that Beowulf may not necessarily be engaging in a fight with an enemy for a typical heroic reason. In a sense, it seems like Beowulf’s victory against Grendel’s mother was out of revenge; Grendel’s mother is simply reacting to Grendel’s death. In return, Beowulf has to defend himself for his own actions. Personally, I feel as if my interpretation from previously reading the poem has somewhat had an effect on how I looked at the piece this time around; hopefully, upon reading further into the poem, I will be able to separate the past reading of the poem from the present reading.

  15. Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother differs greatly from the fight with Grendel himself. In the battle with Grendel it seems everything is on Beowulf’s terms. The fight took place in his territory and he had the upper hand throughout he whole battle. In the battle with Grendel’s mother Beowulf seemed to have many disadvantages. For starters this battle did not take place on his territory it was under water in Grendel’s mothers lair. Beowulf also never had the upper hand at all during this fight, he actually almost lost. It is by a stroke of luck that he defeated her. Another difference between the fights is that in the fight with Grendel he had to use his brute strength to defeat him since no man made object could defeat him but in the fight with the mother he found a weapon that was strong enough to take her life.

    This battle is filled with symbolism. First the fact that the battle took place deep in the bottom of demon infested water reminds me of going deep into the pits of hell. Its seems Beowulf had to venture to hell and back to defeat this demon. During this battle there was a lot of reference to God. There was a lot of talk about lights and darkness which illustrates good versus evil. It seems whenever he saw light it was as if God himself was shining down on him. Him even winning the battle seems as if it was a miracle sent from God.

  16. The Speaker chose to showcase the fight between Grendel and Beowulf, very differently then the way he showcased the fight between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother. During the fight of Grendel and Beowulf, the speaker set it up to where Beowulf had the advantage. For example on page 55 Beowulf declares, “When it comes to fighting, I count myself /as dangerous any day as Grendel” (l.677-8). This shows that Beowulf is not afraid and feels that he can take on Grendel with no problem. Beowulf feels that he is almost superior to Grendel, and by comparing his fighting skills to a demon shows that he is the almighty. This confidence is accompanied with his depiction of being a “Saint”. Throughout the fight, Beowulf’s actions were always associated with God. In the text, the speaker says that Beowulf “was foremost and strongest in the days of this life” (l.789). In class, we spoke about this particular line showing the speaker relating Beowulf to Jesus and Samson. The constant inserts of God being with Beowulf, and being compared to him shows he is not just fighting for the people of the Danes, but that he is fighting for God. I believe the hidden message is if you fight for God and Gods people, you will always win against the serpents of the world.
    During the fight between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf, the speaker highlighted a more vulnerable side to Beowulf. In the beginning of the fight, we get to view Beowulf’s conversation with the son of Halfdane. He nervously states “If this combat kills me, take care/ of my young company, my comrades in arms” (l.1480-1). Beowulf fears that there is a chance that he will not survive the fight with Grendel’s mother. All of a sudden, his confidence went out the window and the audience is left with Beowulf’s solemn side. He even attempts to let his last wishes be known if he dies. This is a total departure from the first battle with Grendel. Beowulf is more apprehensive about fighting Grendel’s mother because she is a direct product of sin. Not only is she a direct product of Cain, but she procreated with him. You not only have the sin of murder, but now you have added the sin of incest. Grendel’s mother plays a vital role in the text, because the speaker set it up to appear like the fight between the devil and god. The speaker wanted Grendel’s mother to emulate the devil, the worst kind of monster. During the battle, Beowulf brought many weapons and wore a lot of armor, which he did not do in his first fight. He thought that this would aid him in his fight against the evil of Grendel’s mother but it did not. When his armor and weapons failed him, the speaker reinforces the power of God. He states, “holy God decided the victory. / It was easy for the Lord, / the Ruler of Heaven, to redress the balance” (l.1153-6). Knowing that his weapons had failed him but he still won the fight ensures the people of God’s presence. The speaker is also trying to address the idea of being a devoted follower to the Lord, as long as you follow and fight for good the Lord will help you. This also is common in the bible. Many times when saints are taunted for following God, he steps in and saves his devoted people. I believe that these two different battles were used to show the different ways God can and will be present in follower’s life. The first would be living through you and the second would be as a friend guiding and helping you when needed. These fights also represent God being almighty and that no evil no matter how gruesome or sinister will win against the Lord and his people.

  17. It is very clear that the fight between Beowulf and Grendel carries a different tone in comparison to Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother. In the fight with Grendel, Beowulf automatically had the upper-hand and grips Grendel so strongly that Grendel can’t run away and flee when he tries until his arm is ripped off. However, in the fight with Grendel’s mother, Beowulf never has the upper-hand. Instead, he almost seems fearful that he won’t be able to defeat Grendel’s mother. Neither his weapon nor his brute strength helped him. What saved his life was “the strong links and locks of his war-gear” (l. 1552) and “a sword in her armory, an ancient heirloom from the days of the giants, an ideal weapon” (l. 1558-9). Both of those were contributed to acts of God.

    I’m not certain exactly what the differences in these fights symbolize. However, I do know that Grendel’s mother seems to be described with less humanistic qualities than Grendel which could imply that Grendel’s mother is more evil than Grendel. Additionally, the fact that Beowulf had a more difficult time defeating Grendel’s mother could imply that the more evil something is the harder it will be to defeat it. So, tying those two things together and relating it to how Beowulf’s victory was determined to be because of two acts of God it can be implied that God will always help those succeed against the most evil of evils if they deserve to succeed.

  18. There are a few differences between the fight with Grendel, and the fight with his mother. The location has now changed. Beowulf is no longer in the comfort of the mead-hall, and he no longer has the “home field advantage.” He is in Grendel’s mother’s underwater lair and this is very unfamiliar for Beowulf. In this fight, Beowulf also uses armor and sword, whereas in his fight with Grendel, he swore he’d defeat him with his hands as to not have an unfair advantage. Lastly, I noticed a bigger struggle for Beowulf when he was fighting his mother than Grendel.

    The sword he uses to defeat Grendel is greatly symbolic. Going back to our discussion in class, Beowulf uses something from a past generation; an heirloom of a different culture, to defeat the Danes’ problem.

    Water is also becoming a symbol if the unknown, and even of death.

    There is a lot of mention of darkness and light during the fight, and when he defeat Grendel’s mother, there is light that descends. I think this is an allusion to Christianity; purity, peace, and the purge of evil.

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