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Kalley Keyes

The Difference Between Evil and


Helpless

9/18/15

Is there a difference between being evil and being helpless? When watching a
wolf eat a rabbit does your mind instantly jump to conclusions and believe he is evil?
Perhaps you jump to the conclusion that he's in danger of starving and the rabbit is
potentially saving his life. There are many things that coincide with the idea of animals
or people being purely evil that many people don't take into account. The ethics of
survival must be taken into account and how each living being needs to grovel to get to
their current status in life. The purpose that Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon
have for attacking the civilians around them is not entirely for the sake of being evil but
the fact that they're helpless.
When the statements from above are taken into consideration the main question
to ask is why did Grendel attack Herot. Grendel, believe it or not, shows symptoms of
social isolation living the status of a monster when monsters are literally the stain of all
living beings during that era. Not having anyone there for him he relies solely on his
mother for comfort, protection, and resources. Grendel's main feature is his fragility
towards sound showing the possibility of a vulnerability towards sounds even miles
away. In each instance of Grendel attacking Herot it can be determined that he always
attacks "...as day after day the music rang loud in that hall (Beowulf lines 86-89).
However, when these scenes are depicted there is no sign of Grendel's mother being
present to help soothe him out of his agony bringing up the discussion of her influence
in his life. Grendel's mother may still be a monster but nonetheless she is still a mother
and seemingly unfit for that title.

Despite Grendel's mother being the only savior for him her efforts to properly
nurture her son are minimal at best. It is also made apparent that she houses many
other monsters that aren't connected to her by blood but by label and seem more
familiar in her presence than her own son. When assessing the aspect of motherhood in
a primitive mindset a conclusion can be made that mothers take the desires of their
children before their own. She never shows her face around the humans until she
avenges the death of her son by stealing Beowulf's battle token, ...Grendels claw (line
1303). In addition, she displays her rage towards the human race by using the metaphor
an eye for an eye by killing Esher "...Hrothgars closest friend, the man he most loved of
all men on earth (lines 1296-1297). This depiction of wreaking havoc on the human
race for taking away something of theirs can also be seen in the Dragons entrance into
the story.
The dragon was another form of a monster that was deemed evil by all living
creations and had no sense of a haven. The dragon stumbled upon a hoard of treasure
that had been untouched by man for ages. Old and decrepit the dragon exudes a sense
of solace from finding something as old and unscathed as they are. He makes it his
personal mission to stay and guard the loot for the rest of eternity despite ... a man
stumbled on the entrance, went in, discovered the ancient treasure, the pagan jewels
and gold the dragon had been guarding, and dazzled and greedy stole a gem-studded
cup, and fled (lines 2213-2217). This enrages the dragon and sends him out on an
unfruitful scavenger hunt as he tracks the human that committed an act of misdeed
towards him since ...now the dragon hid nothing, neither the theft nor itself; it swept
through the darkness, and all geatland knew its anger (lines 2218-2220). This surge of
emotions creates catastrophe for the Geats as well as the dragon creating an
insurmountable array of chaos and death only because the dragon had lost its
companion.

In many ways, there is a bit of evil in every living being that we encounter. There
are secrets and sins that we are unaware of, double lives that go unnoticed to the naked
eye but that doesnt mean they are non-existent. Grendel, his mother, and the dragon
are no different; each have needs and desires that need to be sated as much as any
other creature. Grendel in his deepest essence only wanted to live in peace and quiet.
Grendels mother only desired the companionship of her beloved son and a life apart
from the humans. The dragon just wished to guard and protect his beloved friend, the
treasure, as well as himself. Everything has flaws and everything has moments of
selfish whims and desires but its easier to blow those desires out of proportion when
society deems such thoughts and actions as unruly and evil.

Works Cited
Beowulf. Trans. Burton Raffel. New York: Signet Classics, 1963. Print.

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