List of artistic depictions of Grendel

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The first page of Beowulf

This list of artistic depictions of Grendel refers to the figure of Grendel. He is one of three antagonists (along with Grendel's mother and the dragon) in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf (c. 700-1000 AD).

Grendel has been adapted in a number of different media including film, literature, and graphic/illustrated novels or comic books.


1999 Baker adaptation[edit]

Vincent Hammond portrayed Grendel in Graham Baker's film Beowulf (1999). Among the artistic liberties taken in this version set in a post apocalyptic future, Grendel is stated to be the son of Hrothgar and he is shown to be capable of rendering himself partially invisible in a Predator-like manner. His manner of death also differs from the original source. As with the poem, Beowulf tears off Grendel's arm during their first battle, though Grendel survives the wound in the film. Beowulf kills Grendel later on by stabbing his stump.[1]

2005 Gunnarsson adaptation[edit]

The film Beowulf & Grendel (2005) purports to be a more realistic depiction of the legend. Grendel, played by Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, is portrayed as a large, primitive-looking man, whom King Hrothgar and his men believe to be a "troll". His mother, referred in the credits as a "sea hag", is portrayed as more inhuman-looking.

2007 Zemeckis adaptation[edit]

Crispin Glover portrayed Grendel in the Robert Zemeckis film, Beowulf (2007). This version changes elements of the poem by introducing a relationship between Grendel's mother and Hrothgar which results in the birth of Grendel,[2][3] much like Graham Baker's adaptation eight years prior.

Grendel, as portrayed by Crispin Glover in the 2007 film Beowulf

In the film, Grendel is portrayed as a diseased and deformed creature. Described by the film crew as "The embodiment of pain", he was born with a large external eardrum which causes him pain whenever the singing in Heorot echoes in his lair. This weakness, an attempt to explain Grendel's ability to hear the singing in the original poem despite his cave being many miles from the hall, is exploited by Beowulf in his battle with the monster. When frightened or weakened, Grendel is shown to shrink in size. When not attacking the Danes, he is shown to be a timid, childlike creature who speaks in Old English in the presence of his mother.

Philosophy professor Stephen T. Asma argued in the December 7 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education that, "Zemeckis's more tender-minded film version suggests that the people who cast out Grendel are the real monsters. The monster, according to this charity paradigm, is just misunderstood rather than evil. The blame for Grendel's violence is shifted to the humans, who sinned against him earlier and brought the vengeance upon themselves. The only real monsters, in this tradition, are pride and prejudice. In the film, Grendel is even visually altered after his injury to look like an innocent, albeit scaly, little child. In the original Beowulf, the monsters are outcasts because they're bad (just as Cain, their progenitor, was outcast because he killed his brother), but in the newer adaptation of Beowulf the monsters are bad because they're outcasts [...] Contrary to the original Beowulf, the new film wants us to understand and humanize our monsters." [4]

Other film adaptations and portrayals[edit]

Grendel, as shown in Grendel Grendel Grendel

Comics and graphic novels[edit]


Grendel appears in the speech Harold E. Varmus gave for winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on oncogenes, at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1989. He stated a cancer cell is "like Grendel, a distorted vision of our normal selves".[10]


  • Grendels are one of the breeds featured in the artificial life program Creatures
  • Grendel is the name of the heavy assault rifle in Crysis 2.
  • Grendel is a monster in the Dragon Quest series.
  • Grendel is a boss mob in the PlayStation 2 game Everquest Online Adventures.
  • Final Fantasy VIII features a boss monster, which later becomes an incidental monster, called Grendel which depicts the beast as being four-legged.

Final Fantasy Tactics

  • Grendel's Cave: a MUD role playing fantasy game based on the original story.
  • Grendel is one of the bosses in the PSP game Lord of Arcana by Square Enix.
  • Skies of Arcadia features a monster named Grendel.
  • Grendel is a Boss character in Too Human, known as "GRNDL-1".
  • In The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games, Grendel is magically disguised as a normal-looking human yet possesses the attributes in the main story. Gren (short for Grendel) has the ability to transform into a white, giant-like creature at will, resembling the giant in Beowulf. After a drawn-out fight, the player character, Bigby Wolf (the Big Bad Wolf himself) has the option of ripping off his arm, as a nod to his original Beowulf appearance.
  • Grendel is a recurring demon in the Shin Megami Tensei series.


Grendel has appeared in multiple works of contemporary literature.

  • In Michael Crichton's novel Eaters of the Dead (1976), the Wendol are members of a fictional enemy race.
  • One of the best-known appearances of Grendel in contemporary literature[citation needed] is John Gardner's novel, Grendel (1971), in which the character is portrayed as a pensive, solitary creature who fears that his life has no objective meaning. The titular character tells his side of the epic poem Beowulf, and the novel goes deep into the philosophies of existentialism and nihilism, which philosophies Gardner challenges by juxtaposing them against the heroic values that take place in Hrothgar's kingdom, which give people of the kingdom meaning in life. Grendel is constantly torn between the philosophies he is forced to live by in his isolation (existentialism and nihilism) and the heroic values the people live by. Gardner proposes that these heroic values are innately human, and though Grendel is descended of man, they are unattainable for him due to his exile from society and perceived monstrosity. The novel was nominated for the 1972 Mythopoeic Award for best novel.[11]
  • Grendel appears in the short story "Far Flew The Boast of Him" by Brian Hodge, collected in the anthology Hellboy: Odd Jobs. Hellboy confronts Grendel near Lindisfarne, where Grendel has been inadvertently summoned by a group of medieval reenactors.
  • Grendel is the nickname of the character Chris Sellers in Chuck Klosterman's book, Downtown Owl (2008).
  • Grendel and "Grendel's ma" (aka "Grendel's mum") are also characters in Suniti Namjoshi's 1993 postmodern collection of feminist fairytales, St Suniti and the Dragon.[12][13] Consisting of non-sequential poetry and prose, St Suniti and the Dragon focuses on the adventures of St. Suniti, a female saint-in-training. During these adventures, St. Suniti has a number of encounters with Grendel and Grendel's ma.
  • In Larry Niven's short story "Grendel" (1968), the creature makes a notable appearance.
  • The Legacy of Heorot (1987), a novel by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes, includes alien predators called "grendels"
  • In The Gripping Hand (1993) by Niven and Jerry Pournelle, there is a brief mention of "sea grendels"
  • James Rollins makes numerous explicit references to Beowulf and Grendel in Ice Hunt (2003) (e.g., chapter 15, page 2), which novel also prominently features a subterranean research base on the Arctic's floating polar ice cap, called Grendel Ice Station after ancient creatures called grendels.


  • The 6.5 Grendel is a 6.5 mm rifle cartridge developed by the small arms company, Alexander Arms, to serve as an intermediate power round, falling somewhere between the 5.56×45mm NATO and 7.62×51mm NATO. They also have a correlative round that is much more powerful, the .50 Beowulf



  • In the first season of the Comedy Central program Battlebots, Grendel was the name of a green, super-heavyweight robot that used a spiked hammer arm as a weapon. It was subsequently used in the Battlebots remote-controlled toy line.
  • In Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Grendel is a man disfigured by the Red Queen.
  • In Star Trek Voyager: "Heroes and Demons" (1995), a holographic version of the Beowulf poem malfunctions when the ship encounters a group of non-corporeal life forms, and crew members are taken prisoner by the program's incarnation of Grendel. Ultimately, the Doctor must take the role of Beowulf to rescue them.
  • In The Simpsons season 20 episode: "Four Great Women and a Manicure" (May 10, 2009), when Moe sees Selma in the "Queen Elisabeth the First" segment, he says, "Grendel got in again."
  • Grendel appears in several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, as Grindl.[17]
  • Grendel, known as a mudborn beast, is a recurring character in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, with the character of Elvina revealing herself to be his mother in the final episode.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beowulf (1999)
  2. ^ Walter Quinn (2007-11-23). "Beowulf' movie takes poetic license -- and then some -- from the original text". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  3. ^ John V. Fleming (2007-11-29). "Good Grief, Grendel". The New Republic. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  4. ^ Asma, Stephen (December 7, 2007 Issue). Never Mind Grendel. Can Beowulf Conquer the 21st-Century Guilt Trip? "The Chronicle of Higher Education" Check |url= value (help). pp. B20.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Official site
  6. ^ Grendel, Beowulf (1987) Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Grendel, Beowulf: Dragon Slayer, Issue 2 Archived October 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ GRENDELL,
  9. ^ Kleyn, Ramana. "TalesOfLegend Comics". Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  10. ^ Varmus, Harold E. (December 10, 1989). "Nobel Banquet Speech". 
  11. ^ "1972 Mythopoeic Award". Retrieved 2014-09-20. 
  12. ^ Namjoshi, Suniti. St Suniti and the Dragon, North Melbourne: Spinifex, 1993.
  13. ^ St Suniti And The Dragon
  14. ^ NPR article:Grendel
  15. ^ Mangan, Timothy (June 9, 2006). "Opera: 'Grendel' is a monster of a show". The Orange County Register. 
  16. ^ Song
  17. ^ IMDB: Grendel

External links[edit]