In the course of a conversation with the Spawn, the subject of why Lady MacBeth is evil came up. This led to my saying that one of the nice things about Shakespeare is that sometimes (as it is in life) characters are evil simply because they’re evil — Edmund, for example.

And from there, we started talking about the Grinch. In the Jim Carrey movie, the Grinch is provided with a backstory to explain/justify his grinchiness. In the book and cartoon, of course, there is no such explanation (apart from the possibility that his heart is a couple of sizes too small.) He’s a monstrous outsider driven to attack the community/civilization around him.

And that’s when the idea hit me:

The Grinch is an image of Grendel.

Think about it. The Grinch complains about the racket in Whoville; Grendel is angered by the doings at the Heorot. But think of the specific noise. The Grinch particularly mentions the Christmas celebrations as bothersome — he doesn’t visit depredations on the Whos at Midsummer, for instance. Meanwhile, we’re told Grendel is especially annoyed by:

[…] the din of revel
high in the hall: there harps rang out,
clear song of the singer. He sang who knew
tales of the early time of man,
how the Almighty made the earth,
fairest fields enfolded by water,
set, triumphant, sun and moon
for a light to lighten the land-dwellers,
and braided bright the breast of earth
with limbs and leaves, made life for all
of mortal beings that breathe and move.

It’s religious festivity that aggravates the invader in each case. And in each case, the monster intrudes on sleepers and eats them (in the case of Grendel) or at least takes the homeowners’ food (even the last can of Who Hash.) So, a thesis:

The Grinch is the comic manifestation of Grendel, ultimately regenerated by his faith-based recognition of “what Christmas is.”


About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Family, Literature, Medievalia. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Idea

  1. Spl says:


  2. Careful how loudly you say this…Hollywood might decide to make a Grendel movie with Jim Carrey – or, lately, Will Ferrell…

  3. Withywindle says:

    I wonder if Seuss actually did read Beowulf?

  4. Chris says:

    Sounds legit

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