Thursday, June 07, 2007

Editorial: Was Grendel a Sasquatch?

In the classic English epic Beowulf the title hero has to overcome many challenges, including the challenge of a large, hairy, manlike creature called Grendel, which was vicious and known to kill soldiers of the army. According to Wikipedia, "Beowulf begins with the story of King Hroðgar, who built the great hall Heorot for his people. In it he, his wife Wealhþeow, and his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating, until Grendel, who is angered by the singing and an outcast from society, attacks the hall and kills and devours many of Hroðgar's warriors while they sleep. Hroðgar and his people, helpless against Grendel's attacks, abandon Heorot.
Beowulf, a young warrior, hears of Hroðgar's troubles and with his king's permission then leaves his homeland to help Hroðgar.
Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. After they fall asleep, Grendel enters the hall and attacks, devouring one of Beowulf's men. But Grendel dare not touch the throne of Hroðhgar, because he is protected by the almighty God. Beowulf, feigning sleep, leaps up and grabs Grendel's arm in a wrestling hold, and the two battle until it seems as though the hall might fall down due to their fighting. Beowulf's men draw their swords and rush to his help, but their swords break upon Grendel's arm due to the thorny spikes and iron-tough skin of the monster. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel's arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs to his home in the marshes to die." Then, Beowulf and the Danes have to deal with Grendel's mother, again from Wikipedia: "The next night, after celebrating Grendel's death, Hroðgar and his men sleep in Heorot. Grendel's Mother appears, however, and attacks the hall. She kills Hroðgar's most trusted warrior, Æschere, in revenge for Grendel's death.
Hroðgar, Beowulf, and their men track Grendel's Mother to her lair under an eerie lake. Beowulf prepares himself for battle; he is presented with a sword, Hrunting, by a warrior called Unferð. After stipulating a number of conditions (upon his death) to Hroðgar (including the taking in of his kinsmen, and the inheritance by Unferð of Beowulf's estate), Beowulf dives into the lake. There, he is swiftly detected and attacked by Grendel's mother. Unable to harm Beowulf through his armour, Grendel's mother drags him to the bottom of the lake. There, in a cavern containing her son's body and the remains of many men that the two have killed, Grendel's mother fights Beowulf.
Grendel's mother at first prevails, after Beowulf, finding that the sword (Hrunting) given him by Unferð cannot harm his foe, discards it in fury. Again, Beowulf is saved from the effects of his opponent's attack by his armour and, grasping a mighty sword from Grendel's mother's armoury (which, the poem tells us, no other man could have hefted in battle), Beowulf beheads her. Travelling further into the lair, Beowulf discovers Grendel's corpse; he severs the head, and with it he returns to Heorot, where he is given many gifts by an even more grateful Hroðgar." According to these legends, Grendel and his mother lived in an underwater lair. Now, these do sound very much like modern descriptions of Sasquatch; if indeed Beowulf is a true story and not just a fanciful poem, then it is an early description of Sasquatch in Europe. We all had to read this story in High School English class, but might not have realized we were reading about early descriptions of Sasquatch, if indeed that is what Grendel and his mother were. There is no evidence of these creatures today using underwater lairs, but the legend of Grendel had to come from somewhere. As Rene Dahinden said once, "It couldn't just pop out of a Kellogg's Corn Flakes Box." The name Grendel is used in several mediums today, including a novel and a Sci-Fi Movie. It has also been connected to Sasquatch as well, with John Johnsen from Florida naming his production company "Grendel Films," as well as a certain well-known controversial Sasquatch/UFO researcher from the Bay Area who used the name for a project in the past. We will never know if Grendel was a Sasquatch or not, but it is certainly interesting to think about.

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