Jennifer Hrothgar’s bowmen hunting a hart, which makes

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Last updated: September 27, 2019

Jennifer Liang English III (A Block)Ms.

Pettet January 22, 2018Grendel Chapter 9 analysis  Sagittarius is always described as having open mind, intense curiosity, and distinct philosophical view (“SAGITTARIUS ZODIAC SIGN”). These characteristics always guide them in their adventure of searching the answers to their questions, mainly the meaning of life. In Chapter 9 of Grendel, the author John Gardner directly refer the zodiac sign Sagittarius by illustrating a story about Hrothgar’s bowman and endowed the characteristics of Sagittarius to priest Ork and Grendel. With the use of zodiac sign Sagittarius as a motif, Gardner develops the theme of this chapter: seeking the meaning of Scylding’s religion.  Starting off the chapter by describing, in December, Hrothgar’s kingdom is a deep and dead silence, Gardner established the mood of hopelessness.

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Then, Gardner depicts the scene of Hrothgar’s bowmen hunting a hart, which makes a direct reference to the zodiac sign Sagittarius since the symbol of Sagittarius is a longbow. In the depiction of the scene, Gardner draws the other motif that is important to the understanding of the chapter and the philosophy of religion Scylding forth – time.  Grendel holds several characteristics of Sagittarius, particularly his appearance and personalities. Sagittarius is identified as god Nergal from Babylonia, who is centaur-like with an animalistic body and a human head (“SAGITTARIUS HISTORY”). Thus, Sagittarius is sometimes referred to as the reconciliation of animal and human, which just like Grendel who can understand people’s language, but he is considered as a monster due to his appearance. What’s more, in this chapter, Gardner emphasizes the personalities that Grendel and Sagittarius share – curious about the meaning of life.  In the snowy night, Grendel sees the old priest Ork walks toward him and plans to “paint the images with the old man’s streaming blood” at first (Gardner, 130). However, when Ork starts to passionately explain the philosophy behind the Scylding’s religion, Grendel then becomes a quiet listener – he put his “fingers to my mouth, baffled” (Gardner, 132).

 After listening to Ork’s interpretation to the religion he firmly believes in, Grendel perishes the thoughts of killing him. Compares to Grendel’s former behaviors – breaking the statues of Scylding’s gods as “kindling and toppled the gods of stone” – toward the Scylding’s religion, his curiosity causes him to be respect and patiently learn about the religion, which is another aspect for him to treat his existence in this world (Gardner, 128). Giving Grendel the characteristics open mind and the curiosity of Sagittarius, Gardner depicts a different side of Grendel – curious and adventurous in his search for his meaning of existence.  The priest Ork can be described as the philosophical and zealous side of Sagittarius.In the conversation with the Destroyer, pretended by Grendel, Ork demonstrates his full faith and enthusiastic in the belief of Scydlings’ gods, though other three priests are laughing at his behaviors. When Grendel pretends that he is the Destroyer, one of the gods in Scylding’s religion, and asks Ork to talk about his understanding about King of Gods, Ork takes it seriously and thinks with “one knee on his beard”. Neglecting all physical feeling, like his palsy, Ork is clearly into his religious world, despite the snow heavily falls upon him. This scene demonstrates Ork’s passion toward his philosophical belief.

His zealous as well as piety toward his belief is also reflected by his conversation with the other four priests. After having the conversation with Grendel, there are few priests approach Ork. Ork then talk about the experience of his conversation with the Destroyer (Grendel). Except for the youngest priest, other three priests mock at his foolishness in believing the god has come to him. However, Ork still believes in the existence and the encounter with his god by claiming “Nevertheless, I saw him. My life of study and devotion has been rewarded” (Gardner, 134).

Utilizing the two characteristics of Sagittarius, which are passion and piety to philosophy, Gardner shapes a figure of a pious and zealous priest in a society in which hypocrisy of religion is widespread. 

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