Dear John Gardner,
I am Ebyan Abshir and I have finished reading Grendel. I felt that Grendel was an overall interesting book and there was one thing that held onto me while reading the story. If Grendel did not have any humanistic traits or emotions, the story would have been bland and boring. I am glad you incorporated this aspect into the story because to be fair, the book would not have been a real book if Grendel did not have his own narration.
Also, I liked how Grendel followed three philosophies throughout the plot. He either felt there was nothing in this world to follow or believe in, that he was the only one to exist, and sadly, he existed alone. The three philosophies of nihilism, existentialism, and solipsism respectfully play a major role in the novel and Grendel’s life.
One thing that I was not too excited about was the astrological signs, or zodiac signs. I do not see the purpose of having them displayed in the novel other than that the chapters have a guide to follow. I understand that in Grendel’s life, the zodiac signs make perfect sense. I just feel like they could have been themes rather than structural aspects to the story, like they were based off the astrological symbols and not the themes of like balance or water. At one point in the novel, Mr. Gardner, you used the cancer sign for a chapter that mentioned a crab once. I think that some chapters incorporated the zodiac signs effectively and weaved it into the plot of the story, while others were just thrown in to complete the pattern of the structure of the story.
In addition, the plot was intriguing and interesting to hear the side of the monster’s story. It really adds emphasis to the saying of how there are two sides to every story. While reading Grendel, readers like me are left with this decision of whether or not Grendel can be considered as our protagonists of the novel, or hero. I believe he is not the hero but he does change our everyday perspective of where our heroes originate from. Heroes come from these Scandinavian values of honor and knights from earlier medieval times which shows how in the very first boast/roast of our time, people can be ignorant. Heroes can be full of themselves and do things not to protect the people, but to make it look like they want to protect the people when in reality they want to kill the beast in order to be seen as some kind of savior and be treated respectfully for the rest of their days. Like Beowulf and Unferth, honor and respect come first rather than truly saving the lives of the people. It is almost like showing off muscles at the gym to see who’s the biggest man or winning a game of dodgeball to show who’s the coolest kid on the block. I feel like these ideas and traits originate from Grendel and are shown very clearly in the novel.
Finally, there are plenty of questions I have pertaining to your novel. One of the biggest ones relating to just the structure of the story is why you did not include Beowulf’s name in the story. Obviously, it is clear that it is Beowulf who slays Grendel when you read the original Beowulf poems. However, if one did not know about Grendel and wanted to hear his story first, how do you expect them to comprehend the name and origin of the hero. Personally, I like to know the names of somewhat important characters in the novel, and not reading the name of Grendel’s biggest rival came as somewhat of a shock for me. Overall, the novel was an interesting novel and I enjoyed reading Grendel’s perspective of the story and my favorite part of any story is hearing that there is always two sides influencing the actions of the characters.