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The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic  Beowulf, tells his own side of the story in this frequently banned book. This  classic and much lauded retelling of Beowulf follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic. This is the book William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions."

Amazon.com Review

Grendel is a beautiful and heartbreaking modern retelling of the Beowulf epic from the point of view of the monster, Grendel, the villain of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon epic. This book benefits from both of Gardner''s careers: in addition to his work as a novelist, Gardner was a noted professor of medieval literature and a scholar of ancient languages.

From the Inside Flap

The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic BEOWULF, tells his side of the story.

From the Back Cover

The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic BEOWULF, tells his side of the story.

About the Author

John Gardner received wide acclaim for his novels, his collections of short stories and his critical works.  He was born in Batavia, New York in 1933 and taught English, Anglo-Saxon and creative writing in Oberlin, Chico State College, San Francisco State, Southern Illinois, Bennington and SUNY-Binghamton. His books include  The Art of Fiction, The Art of Living, Grendel, Jason, and Media, The Life and Times of Chaucer, Mickelsson''s Ghosts, Nickel Mountain, October Light, The resurrection, The Sunlight Dialogues, Stillness and Shadows, and various books for children.  He died in a motorcycle accident in 1982.

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4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5
1,061 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Mary Soon LeeTop Contributor: Fantasy Books
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brutal, powerful, often moving, sometimes horrible.
Reviewed in the United States on October 26, 2017
This brief book is a brutally powerful conjuring of the monster Grendel from "Beowulf." The story is narrated in first person by John Gardner''s reimagined Grendel, who is both horrifying and sympathetic: a savage, ruthless, lonely creature. The prose is often... See more
This brief book is a brutally powerful conjuring of the monster Grendel from "Beowulf." The story is narrated in first person by John Gardner''s reimagined Grendel, who is both horrifying and sympathetic: a savage, ruthless, lonely creature. The prose is often wonderful, earthy yet poetic, laced with wit. In addition to the inhuman Grendel, the book includes a shorter, very striking evocation of a dragon who sees both past and future. I also particularly liked the thread about the minstrel and the impact of his craft both on Grendel and on the humans.

I liked most of the book very well, including the opening chapters, and the later appearance of Beowulf. However at times, such as the opening pages of chapter 7, I found the tone of Grendel''s perspective jarring and discordant. At other times, such as the closing pages of chapter 7 (I had trouble with chapter 7!), I found Grendel''s perspective so repellent I wanted to stop reading. Although the nastiness seemed consistent with the story, it was thoroughly unpleasant.

As with many first person narratives, the book provided no explanation of how, when, and to whom the story was being told. This weakened the impact of the end for me. Yet the voice of the first person narration is part of the strength of the majority of the book, part of what put me under its spell.
32 people found this helpful
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Alex Tate
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A masterpiece of literature
Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2016
This is one of my favorite novels, and, in my opinion, a masterpiece that should be read by anyone who enjoys reading fiction. The way Gardner takes a character that you thought you knew and adds layers upon layers upon layers of depth to him is absolutely astounding. This... See more
This is one of my favorite novels, and, in my opinion, a masterpiece that should be read by anyone who enjoys reading fiction. The way Gardner takes a character that you thought you knew and adds layers upon layers upon layers of depth to him is absolutely astounding. This novel is probably the best character analysis I''ve ever read. It''s not light reading, and it''s not a typical action-heavy fantasy novel, but it is one of the most intellectual and thought provoking fantasy novels out there.

(I would recommend you read Beowulf before reading this novel if you really want to fully understand its greatness.)
24 people found this helpful
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James Womble
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Fascinating Read
Reviewed in the United States on April 28, 2021
It lives on my shelf of favorites. It is not without levity, but make no mistake, Grendel is a monster. My bias lends a sympathetic ear to the villain, but the novel paints the creature in a philosophically curious light. It encompasses his existence from... See more
It lives on my shelf of favorites.

It is not without levity, but make no mistake, Grendel is a monster.
My bias lends a sympathetic ear to the villain, but the novel paints the creature in a philosophically curious light. It encompasses his existence from point A to point B[eowulf] and never fails to enthrall along the way.

Gardner''s writing is sophisticated without being pedantically complex. Dialogue is smooth, metaphors solid, and descriptions unconventionally gorgeous. I believe banning books is a cowardly act, but some moments perhaps are unsuitable for young readers.

On a personal note, I cannot help but compare and contrast Grendel and the Grinch.
2 people found this helpful
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Megan Ward
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good Book! Should not be banned!
Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2014
Grendel, one of the monsters that Beowulf defeats in the epic Beowulf, tells his side of the story. Grendel is frequently challenged for violence and Grendel’s nihilistic view of the world seen throughout the novel. There is violence in Grendel and some of it is explicit... See more
Grendel, one of the monsters that Beowulf defeats in the epic Beowulf, tells his side of the story. Grendel is frequently challenged for violence and Grendel’s nihilistic view of the world seen throughout the novel. There is violence in Grendel and some of it is explicit however at a high school reading level this sort of violence is not inappropriate. Most high school students have seen more violence on TV then they will read in this book. As for Grendel’s nihilistic view of the world, the entire novel refutes it. One of the themes in this novel is that having a positive and more hopeful outlook on life is better than wallowing in nihilism your entire life. Grendel is not the hero of this novel, in fact he is the complete opposite, and he is not even an anti-hero. Grendel is given a choice in the novel whether to choose the Dragon’s negative nihilist view or chose the Shaper’s positive more hopeful view and Grendel chooses wrong. From that point onward Grendel’s nihilism is viewed in a negative light. Eventually at the end of the book, Beowulf, who could be viewed as a hero of the novel, defeats Grendel. Beowulf who stands for the Shaper’s views defeats Grendel who stands for the Dragon’s views. In fact Beowulf is even depicted as a dragon in the last scene. Beowulf is a dragon of hope whereas the Dragon is a dragon of egotistic nihilism. While the book is from Grendel’s view the novel depicts him and his views as wrong or evil. This novel actually promotes a hopeful out view on life and therefore has no reason to be banned.

Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Knopf, 1971. Print.
24 people found this helpful
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Michael G Kurilla
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The other side of the Beowulf tale
Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2020
John Gardner''s Grendel is the classic Beowulf story told fro, the perspective of the monster himself. While there is little background on his origin (other than having a mother), the ''monster''s'' thoughts and impressions are on full display. What unfolds is an emotionally... See more
John Gardner''s Grendel is the classic Beowulf story told fro, the perspective of the monster himself. While there is little background on his origin (other than having a mother), the ''monster''s'' thoughts and impressions are on full display. What unfolds is an emotionally troubled and detached individual who seems unable to connect with anyone or anything else. Anger and isolation drive the creature to horrible acts viewed as evil, while all along he struggles to understand his place in the world.
2 people found this helpful
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WinstonSmith314
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Cannot recommend too highly.
Reviewed in the United States on April 18, 2017
This book is incredible. Grendel is a sly, poetic, introspective "monster" who embodies the monster that is in all of us. If you are a fan of Poe, Vonnegut, Orwell, Wells, or you just enjoy mind-blowing fiction then read this. ABSOLUTELY... See more
This book is incredible. Grendel is a sly, poetic, introspective "monster" who embodies the monster that is in all of us.

If you are a fan of Poe, Vonnegut, Orwell, Wells, or you just enjoy mind-blowing fiction then read this.

ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL.
11 people found this helpful
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SteelerfaninPeru
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
One of Gardner''s best
Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2015
Grendel is not really a story about a monster, it''s the story of an isolated person trying to make sense of the world. In that sense, it''s a smashing success. Grendel''s internal conflicts drive the story, and his attempts to understand the universe and his place in it are... See more
Grendel is not really a story about a monster, it''s the story of an isolated person trying to make sense of the world. In that sense, it''s a smashing success. Grendel''s internal conflicts drive the story, and his attempts to understand the universe and his place in it are frustratingly complex and saddening.

The book also serves as a fantastic critique of humans and their behavior, as Grendel doesn''t seem so much like the monster when you''ve finished reading the book.

If you''re familiar with Beowulf, then you should really enjoy this. Even if you haven''t read the poem, Grendel is easy to understand on its own.

Be advised, it''s got some incredibly abstract and complex parts that will baffle you, but they exist for a reason.
6 people found this helpful
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MW80
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I had this book 24 hours after I ordered. Unbelievable ! Thank you for amazing service.
Reviewed in the United States on January 26, 2019
I plan on reading this book on the weekend. I fell so in love with Beowulf I had to read further. I read all the comments so I understand some parts are quite disturbing, that''s helpful to me because I''m squeamish but now fully prepared. I''m painting my living room... See more
I plan on reading this book on the weekend. I fell so in love with Beowulf I had to read further. I read all the comments so I understand some parts are quite disturbing, that''s helpful to me because I''m squeamish but now fully prepared. I''m painting my living room this weekend, otherwise, since Grendel arrived 24 hours after I ordered it, I would sit down in my cozy chair with my good lamp and read it all, gluttonously.
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Top reviews from other countries

Durham James
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very interesting, but an odd way of writing a semi-philosophical story.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 1, 2015
It is an odd book. I had heard it recommended on the Radio (in an In Our Time on Beowulf) and so knew it would be based on Grendel''s perspective on events and I enjoyed that. I was more surprised by the odd way in which the discussions with the dragon and with an old priest...See more
It is an odd book. I had heard it recommended on the Radio (in an In Our Time on Beowulf) and so knew it would be based on Grendel''s perspective on events and I enjoyed that. I was more surprised by the odd way in which the discussions with the dragon and with an old priest were used as a vehicle for religious philosophy - there was Boethius on predestination and eternity; there was discussion of universals and particulars; parts and wholes (essential and accidental) reminiscent of medieval writers like Abelard; animate and inanimate objects and intentionality; know thyself (temple of Apollo with oblique reference to Oedipus - not a surprise in a writer who has also redone Greek tragedy). There was also a Marxist critique of the state in a discussion between one prince and his advisor. I was not always sure that these discussions, which were primarily allusive and so did not genuinely explore the topics, added much, but I enjoyed those where I recognised the allusions. The writing on the Bard was very good and how stories create realities an interesting touch. The discussions around Unferth and heroism were also rather good and the view of Grendel as associated to a deity in a mutually necessary dialectical relationship between hostile force and powerless people was interesting as the fact that Grendel, who could destroy the hall in one go, chooses not to, indicates (he similarly does not always kill those he can and instead humiliates them or, in seeing their humanity, demystifies them for himself). I think I may dip into further writings by Gardner. Would the book make as much sense without having read Beowulf first? Does the strange structure, where strange phrases like "Cut B" (p.110) are not clearly either accidental typos or part of the text, help? I think not.
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Ben
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Incredible (and funnier than it''s source material)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 10, 2016
If you''re a fan of the Beowulf story, this is a great alternative angle. The character of Grendel is developed in an interesting and believable way; he evokes your sympathy and amusement.
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Mr B
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 9, 2017
Fantastic take on the original story, much better in my opinion!
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Skweek
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interested in folklore and fantasy? This is probably just up your street.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 1, 2015
Bought as birthday gift for my son, who was thrilled to bits - he is into folklore, fantasy etc and loves it.
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Redmond O'Regan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A masterpiece of fantasy lit.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 4, 2019
One of the best books in the canon, easily.
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Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale

Grendel discount online sale sale