Beowulf @ Ellis

Stacy K.

A Dead Evil

        “He [Beowulf] was hunting another dead monster, and took his weapon with him for final revenge against Grendel’s vicious attacks, his nighttime raids,… But Beowulf repaid him for those visits, found him lying dead in his corner, armless, exactly as that fierce fighter had sent him to Herot…” (23. 1575-8; 1583-7). 
        The above quotation was the inspiration for my artistic piece of Grendel.  I wanted to create a drawing that revealed the dead Grendel for what he truly was: worn out and conquered.   He had raided and sinned for so many years.  He was corrupt and allowed evil to take over and terrorize himself as well as the Danes.  Beowulf descended to his cave to do battle with his mother and then approached Grendel ready for more battle if necessary.  But Grendel was sprawled on the far side of the cave, dead.  Beowulf did not express remorse or sorrow because even he could see what an ugly and pathetic creature Grendel was.  In my art piece, instead of the reckless and powerful aspect of him, I show the miserable, wretched, and dead reality of Grendel through a charcoal drawing.  
         Charcoal was used for this piece to express the darkness and murkiness of the evil that surrounded this creature.  Grendel’s constant attacks on Hrothgar increased his wickedness and made him look fiercer and more degraded than ever. With the dark browns and blacks of the charcoal, one can accurately see the monstrosity of his size and the roughness of his fur.  The sins he committed have created a dark shadow that hangs over his dead and armless body.  Evil has finally been defeated, and it slumps in a murky cave, collapsed, conquered and alone.
         The intention of this drawing was to engage the viewer in contemplation of evil at its worst.  His physical body takes up most of the drawing, giving a feeling of how big and destructive he used to be. When one looks at the size of his feet and the fullness of his body, one can not help but draw back for a moment because he is enormous and gruesome.  The scale of his body is large and overpowering, but the dullness of his fur and the washed-out look of his fate make Grendel look much drained and wasted. He was described as, “A powerful monster, living down in the darkness” during his invasion on Herot (1. 86-7). But he ended swallowed up in his own darkness, his powerful arm amputated, slowly dying a miserable death.
         Grendel was a belligerent, vile, and hostile creature.  He willfully separated himself from God and lived a dismal life as an outcast, far away from the human world.  To them, he was a gruesome and ugly beast, and indeed he was by his own choice.  Grendel already had the appearance and heritage to select the path of wickedness, a much easier alternative than the path of virtue.  He was the outcome of generations of sinners, starting with Cain.  All the wrongdoings of Grendel’s ancestors were “programmed” into him. Evil degraded and corrupted him both physically and spiritually.  This piece shows Grendel slumped, hopeless, and puny because that is what he was underneath all the impenetrable fur, beyond all the growling teeth, and sharp claws. 
         I express Grendel as having both human and animal traits.  He had the strength, foul appearance, and habits of an animal; but he was fully and entirely a human being.  These components of Grendel’s character are intertwined in this drawing to produce a degraded, beastly, and dead human being.  Sitting in the darkness, one can see a small light hitting his face, and his expression is quite human compared to his grotesque body.  His eyes are tightly closed, not calmly as in sleep, but as if he were still in pain, not resting in peace.  His mouth suggests that he is growling in menace, grimacing at his secluded life, and sulking at the same time.  I try to make him look this way to show how angry he was at himself, God, his ancestors, and the world.  The sulking softens his seeming hardness; he appears to be less of a threat because he feels self pity.  His grimace illustrates the agony of defeat as well as the misery of his lonely life.  The features of Grendel’s face suggest a creature that one feels pity and disgust for simultaneously. 
         From the neck down, I portray Grendel with animal-like qualities.  His power to break into Herot came from his physical strength.  Grendel is a massive creature.  He has claws and teeth that can rip through human flesh and bones.  He was a carnivorous beast who attacked other innocent creatures and people simply because he was able to do so.  He assumed the liberty to terrorize others.  In my charcoal drawing, Grendel has the physical traits of a bear, the same fur, feet, and claws.  Bears who grow accustomed to human beings in National Parks become over confident and lose all fear of them.  They will not think twice about charging one of us.  And thus came my idea of Grendel’s monstrous image.  He, too, got very comfortable with people, thanks to the charm making his skin impenetrable to weapons, which made his assaults much easier and more heartless. 
         Grendel is known for his raids on Herot which caused fear, pain, and suffering to the Danes.  He is the embodiment of how purely corrupt and destructive evil can be.  I did not want to show him during one of his times of enjoyment when he wreaked havoc on Herot.   I yearned to show him defeated.  My artistic piece is meant to show the true victory of good over evil.  Grendel is no longer a horror; he is no longer a walking nightmare for those who sleep in Denmark.  I illustrate the dead Grendel, the one that is slumped in a dark cave, armless, powerless, and hopeless.  I wanted all to see the darkness, loneliness, and puniness of evil when it is finally overcome.


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