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Grendel | Chapter Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • April; Childhood

    Grendel reflects on his childhood, and he questions why he and his mother live in such a dank place.

    Chapter 1
  • May; Childhood

    Grendel remembers the day Hrothgar throws an ax at him when he's stuck in a tree.

    Chapter 2
  • June; Youth

    Grendel watches Hrothgar make war, waste animals, kill people, and change the landscape.

    Chapter 3
  • June; Youth

    Grendel spies on Hrothgar's meadhall and hears the Shaper's songs, which fascinate him.

    Chapter 3
  • July; Youth

    Overcome by the Shaper's song, Grendel makes contact with Hrothgar's men and is attacked again.

    Chapter 4
  • August; Youth

    Grendel visits the dragon, who says life is meaningless and Grendel should enjoy attacking men.

    Chapter 5
  • September; Adulthood

    Grendel learns the dragon made him immune to weapons; he raids the meadhall and humiliates Unferth.

    Chapter 6
  • October; Adulthood

    Grendel's war continues; he sees Hrothgar marry Wealtheow, who occupies all of Grendel's thoughts.

    Chapter 7
  • October; Adulthood

    Grendel attacks Wealtheow; he doesn't kill her, but he breaks his obsession with her.

    Chapter 7
  • November; Adulthood

    Grendel spies on Hrothulf and overhears his ambitions to take his Uncle Hrothgar's throne.

    Chapter 8
  • December; Adulthood

    Grendel pretends to be a god to expose a priest's hypocrisy, but Ork's vision stuns Grendel.

    Chapter 9
  • January; Adulthood

    Grendel watches the Shaper die, surrounded by his friends, and Grendel is saddened by the loss.

    Chapter 10
  • February; Adulthood

    Grendel watches the Geats men arrive by ship, and he feels excited about facing new adversaries.

    Chapter 11
  • March; Adulthood

    Grendel raids the meadhall, fights the stranger, loses an arm, and dies near his cave.

    Chapter 12

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Prefatory Poem John Gardner places this verse from William Blake's poem "Mental Traveller" at the beginning of the novel, before the ch... Read More
Chapter 1 Grendel sees a ram on a hillside, recognizes that it is mating season, and considers the animal undignified and gross. H... Read More
Chapter 2 Grendel remembers his childhood games, played with imaginary friends. He explores the corners of his cave, vaguely aware... Read More
Chapter 3 Grendel doesn't hold Hrothgar's attack with the ax against him. Instead, he watches as Hrothgar builds his kingdom. Gren... Read More
Chapter 4 Grendel notices the Shaper's songs have become more melancholy since he arrived in Hrothgar's court. The Shaper could mo... Read More
Chapter 5 Grendel arrives at the dragon's lair, a cave stuffed with gold, silver, and jewels. He sees the dragon resting on top of... Read More
Chapter 6 Even though Grendel does not fully understand the dragon, he leaves the meeting with a sense of "futility" and "doom" th... Read More
Chapter 7 Grendel recognizes his ability to destroy all of Hrothgar's men in a single night, but he holds back. He reflects on the... Read More
Chapter 8 Hrothulf, Hrothgar's 14-year-old nephew, comes to live at the meadhall after his father dies. While the Shaper sings to ... Read More
Chapter 9 Grendel sees the onset of winter and the longest night of the year, and he feels uneasy for reasons he can't identify. H... Read More
Chapter 10 Grendel expresses the pain of his boredom and his apathy for the world around him before revealing the Shaper is sick. A... Read More
Chapter 11 Grendel is excited when he sees a ship arrive carrying 15 heroes; he learns they are called the Geats. Almost inhumanly ... Read More
Chapter 12 Grendel enters the hall, shattering the heavy door with a light touch. He thinks the Geats are asleep and ties a tablecl... Read More
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