While the classic battle between good and evil forces is a major theme of the medieval epic "Beowulf," one may question whether these good and evil forces are as black and white as they appear. Scholars such as Herbert G. Wright claim that "the dragon, like the giant Grendel, is an enemy of mankind, and the audience of Beowulf can have entertained no sympathy for either the one or the other." However, other scholars such as Andy Orchard disagree with this claim, and believe that there is "something deeply human about the 'monsters'". While Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon are indeed portrayed as evil and violent foes, there are parts within Beowulf that can also lead a reader to believe that the "monsters" may not be so monstrous after all. This ultimately evokes traces of sympathy in the reader for the plight of these "monster" figures, and blurs the fine line between good and evil within the poem.
The first opponent Beowulf must face in the land of the Danes is Grendel, textually described as "a fiend out of hell a grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens" (Beowulf, line 100 – 104). The author also provides us with a moral description, explaining how Grendel is "merciless malignant by nature, he never showed remorse" (line 135-137). As we can see here, the author's physical and moral portrayal of Grendel is rather unforgiving. We also resent Grendel further once we learn that he has wreaked havoc upon the Heorot hall for twelve years, "inflicting constant cruelties on the people atrocious hurt" (line 165). .
One may wonder what caused Grendel to commit such atrocities. The author claims "it harrowed Grendel to hear the din of the loud banquet every day in the hall, the harp being struck and the clear song of a skilled poet telling with mastery of man's beginnings, how the Almighty had made the earth" (line 87 – 93).