Beowulf & Grettir: The Monstrous Heroes Beowulf and Grettir’s Saga have a similar theme of heroism. The heroes arrive to the distressed, kills the hazardous, saves the world and everybody is happy, as they are safe. Beowulf and Grettir also share similar situations, enemies, and long tiresome battles, and even similar characteristics and fates. However, their ‘hero’ qualities are drastically different.
Beowulf is a shiny golden hero, while Grettir becomes more and more tainted with shades of gray, limiting him to an in between position, neither a hero or a villain; regardless of all of his accomplishments worthy of respect, his passion gets the best of him. Grettir is outlawed while Beowulf becomes the leader of his people. Grettir appears to be the victim of constant bad luck, and we the readers are tempted to sympathize with him. His intentions most of the time mean well, and when they do not it is because his pride clouds his mind and vision which proceed him to act certain ways that provokes serious consequences.
Yet the reader cannot deny he is exquisitely brave on numerous accounts, and that his negative features are overcome by his soul. Beowulf also has his pride that helps him overcome battles and difficult decisions and situations as a ruler. With different personalities and status, Grettir being ruthless and outlawed and Beowulf being composed and revered, a demonstration of their similar heroic adventures is needed. Beowulf arrives to assist Hrothgar’s anguish about Grendel attacking Heorot night after night.
Grettir does a similar favor for Thorhall’s farm in getting rid of Glam who haunts it, also, regularly by night. Beowulf and Grettir evidently fit the hero prototype since they are both physically stronger than any regular man, are well known for their achievements in battles, they are both incredibly skilled fighters, and most importantly both have unequaled bravery. Our heroes were both persuaded and advised that their encounter with the “monsters,” would be excessively perilous from people who have encountered their terrors first hand, Thorhall and Hrothgar.
These men have felt the pains involved with being incapable of bringing order into their distressed household. Regardless of their warnings, they felt great assurance that the heroes would have a grand success and put an end to their misery and assure Beowulf and Grettir that they will be most compensated. Being the heroes that they are, never doubt themselves and both neglect the advice given to them, therefore decide to go for some fun and surprise attack their rivals, differently however.
Beowulf decides to confront Grendel in the nude, while Grettir (perhaps more wisely) is fully clothed. Grendel and Beowulf’s and Glam and Grettir’s struggles are long, brutal, and tiresome and in the end the villains fate is drawn by the fact that they are weaker than their opponent, that good will usually triumph over evil. Glam’s head is cut off while Grendel’s arm is cut off which leads him to a rather slower death. When comparing the each of the battles progression, Beowulf certainly demonstrated a more barbaric strategy of attacking his opponent; more monstrous.
After Beowulf and Grettir’s defeat against these plagues they received even more fame throughout the lands and kinsmen and gained notable respect from everyone, including their opponents. Their successes lead to strong bonds between them and their benefactors, yet for both receiving fame and a well name was more than they hoped for, and what I would say is their true drive, their true passion. However, for Grettir, the more fame he achieved the more resentment he earned as well.
Grettir was always searching for a challenge, always provoking people, which caused tensions because in conflicts he would always win, and usually by killing someone. By killing a person this would always mean that there would be someone else who will try to avenge the deceased person, ergo many hated Grettir since he killed so many people because of his unpredictable temperament! Unlike the less problematic Beowulf who demonstrated a more collected attitude when verbally challenged by Unferth, who questions his ability to defeat Grendel.
Beowulf defeats Unferth with the power of his wit and words by putting his opponents credibility into question. Grettir usually responds with impulsive physical force to a challenge faced. The composure of Beowulf is what makes him so respectable. His actions have always been by the book of what is expected of him. This is the main opposition with Grettir. Unlike Beowulf who clearly has no “voice,” Grettir has not only a voice, but also a personality, a fire that burns life into him. The more passion he demonstrates the more monstrous he becomes. Monstrous, indeed and literally.
Grettir became a social outcast; an outsider, much like all the monsters throughout the saga and in Beowulf. He had problematic tendencies that can be directly linked with the monster world. Grettir’s psychopathology was linked to his narcissism and his need for attention. He always had to prove himself and forever push on the limits to finally find something or someone that can stop his quest for perfection and somehow tame him. Grettir eventually found his limit: in the super natural. Glam, although defeated by Grettir, changes Grettir’s life forever.
Glam acquires power over the future of Grettir, stunts the growth of his physical powers and relatively provokes a regression in him. Glam’s predictions were painfully accurate in the acknowledgment that Grettir’s noble qualities and fame would then become rejected by society. What is most important is not to condemn Grettir’s ambiguous personality but to acknowledge that being a hero does not necessarily mean to be perfect. Therefore, both Beowulf and Grettir deserve the title of being a hero, each in their own unique way.