Like her son, Grendel's mother is a descendent of Cain on the warpath for revenge. However, while Grendel primarily resented the Danes for their warm camaraderie, and the fact that, as humans, they have God's blessing, Grendel's mother hates the Danes because they hurt her son. Indeed, it is not until Grendel returns mortally wounded from his battle with Beowulf that Grendel's mother leaves the swamp and seeks her revenge.
Unlike her son, however, Grendel's mother receives comparatively little attention in the poem: she wreaks havoc in Herot, and then is swiftly dispatched by Beowulf. Even so, it's worth noting that, monstrous as she may be, she actually acts in very human-like way. Like a human mother, she is motivated primarily by the need to protect her offspring. As such, while Grendel's mother might be characterized as a villain in the poem, its impossible not to feel some semblance of pity for her, just as one would feel for any human mother who had recently lost her only son and companion.
Title:The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel's Mother
Author(s): Jane C. Nitzsche
Publication Details: Texas Studies in Literature and Language 22.3 (Fall 1980): p287-303.
Source:Poetry Criticism. Ed. Carol T. Gaffke and Anna J. Sheets. Vol. 22. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999. From Literature Resource Center.
Document Type:Critical essay
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Research, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning
Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420025025