Dr. Heather Hill-Vásquez, Department of English, University of Detroit Mercy


ENL 320

Study Questions - Beowulf and Grendel


1. Compare the portrayal of Grendel in the film with his portrayal in the original text. Compare the portrayal of Beowulf in the film with his portrayal in the original text. Given the title of the film, are we supposed to see them as some kind of counterparts? If yes, do you think that the original text lends itself to this interpretation? And, perhaps in connection with this, why is the film called Beowulf and Grendel instead of just Beowulf?


2. Consider the role of Hrothgar's "beer-hall" in the film. How does it and the drinking scenes compare to their portrayal in the original text? Is there any significance to the fact that the Danes have a beer-hall, while the Geats are shown drinking and storytelling outside?


3. How does the film portray Grendel's reasons for revenge upon the Danes? Compare this portrait to the original text. What seems to motivate Grendel's revenge?


4. Analyze the portrayal of Hrothgar in the film. Does the original text support this portrayal?


5. Analyze the portrayal of Christianity in the film especially in relation to how Christianity is presented in the original text. Do you think the film makers did an "accurate" job in portraying how the "pagan" and Christian elements interact in the text? What do you make of Beowulf's resistance to Christianity in the film? Do you think he is right that the Danes only agree to baptism out of fear? What do you make of Hrothgar's statement to Wealtheow in reaction to one of the men that Grendel has killed: "is that the look of a man going happy after the feast or down to the worms?"


6. The film essentially begins and ends with children figures. Why? How does this compare to the original text? How does it influence your interpretation of the story? How are children treated and/or portrayed in the original text? Would you assert that the addition of the children figures in the film are a chiefly "modern" addition? Explain.


7. Explore the "added" figure of Selma in the film. How does the addition affect your interpretation of the Beowulf story? Consider, too, her role as a type of "intermediary" between Grendel and Beowulf and/or between Grendel/ "the troll" and others. What do you make of Selma turning down Wealtheow's offer to "get [her] a place inside"?


8. How does Grendel function as "the other" to the Danes (and the Geats)?


9. How does the film change the Beowulf-hand-grip/Grendel-losing-his-arm episode? What do you think influenced and/or encouraged this change?


10. Consider how water and fire are used in the film. How are water and fire used in the original text?


11. Explore the role of women and female figures in the film. (Don't forget the sea-hag.) What roles do they play? How, for example, is Wealtheow portrayed--especially in comparison to her portrayal in the original text? You might also consider why the featured women in the film (Wealtheow, Selma) are not connected to Christianity. (Note too, perhaps, that while Grendel leaves the priest alone, the sea-hag attacks him.)


12. Analyze the brief conversation at the end of the movie regarding the identification of Grendel with Cain. ("Grendel's like Cain because he's a murderer." "But we all are.")


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