In Grendel the author John Gardner incorporates astrological signs with each chapter. The author uses each zodiac sign to demonstrate Grendel’s feelings and mental instability. The zodiac signs also demonstrate the challenges Grendel faces and his resolutions. These experiences influence Grendel’s growth throughout the story. The first sign demonstrated, Aries, Is shown with his encounter with a ram and how Grendel aggressively approaches it show his arrogance. This aggressive manner and arrogant mentality is a common trait of an Aries and is expressed greatly through Chapter One.
In the second chapter of Grendel the astrological sign of taurus is used as Grendel screams to his mother for help during a time in need. This neediness is a common trait shared in taurus as they rely on a strong figure in their life. Another trait Grendel represents in this chapter is the taurus stubbornness as grendel can simply ignore the bull but decides to yell and scream at it. Grendel also represents the practical side of a taurus when he becomes more reasonable towards life as he concludes that he is alone in the world and no one is going to help him.
This aloneness can be also shown in his vocals as Grendel is the only one in his home who speaks and understands english. Chapter 3 of Grendel corresponds with the astrological sign of Gemini, the sign does not apply to Grendel but the Shaper. The Shaper represents gemini as he is creative with words as he tells stories, this playful word usage is common in gemini. A common strength of a gemini is their ability to exchange ideas this can be seen in the Shaper. The Shaper also has a trait which most gemini are known to have, The memorization and singing of music as the Shaper tells his stories through song.
The Shaper also represents a geminis skill of words as he is able to argue whatever and win. The sign of Cancer is marked by those who are creative, close to their family, and who are as sensitive to the feelings of others as they are to their own. This sense of “Moodiness” can be seen throughout Grendel in the novel. Another trait of the Cancer zodiac sign is nourishment, This nourishment is seen through the religion which the shaper brings to Hrothgar’s kingdom. The Shaper brings this religion by describing how the earth was built and how God created everything.
The Cancer’s Persuasive matter come into play as well when grendel starts to believe he was the darkness in the world and was the so called “Terrible race God cursed”. The Cancer zodiac is also figuratively mention when Grendel says “I backed away, crablike, further into darkness like a crab retreating in pain when you strike two stones at the mouth of his underwater den”. Leo the lion, a zodiac sign which represents leaders and the king of all other zodiacs is characterized in chapter 5. The Leo sign provides a basis for Grendel’s role in the “New order” that the Shaper has created.
During this chapter Grendel turns to the dragon to discover his part or role in this world, the dragon gives a somewhat nihilistic response. This response creates a uncertainty for Grendel which will easily irritate or frustrate a Leo. In chapter 6 the astrological sign of Virgo is introduced by Grendel’s acceptance of the harsh reality he has to live in. Virgos tend to be submissive in life decisions which Grendel isshown as he accepts his “role” in life as his mother’s “son”, the village’s “monster” and the Shaper’s” devil”.
He also believes at this point everyone is out to get him and this sense of weariness is a main contributor to the Virgo’s characterization. Grendel also doubts everything with passion and has decided that his new “role” is to be the destroyer of all hypocritical orders men have created. The playfulness of the Virgo is shown during the fight with Unferth. In chapter 7, a common trait of balance is found when Grendel attacks Wealhtheow. Balance is intertwined in many aspects of this chapter, mainly with the arrival of Wealhtheow.
Balance is found in a Libras and it is shown when Grendel is balanced between his two feelings of whether or not to kill Wealhtheow. However, he decides not to kill her, demonstrating a quality of Libras willingness to let live. Wealhtheow is a symbol of harmony in the chapter as she brings peace to the conflict between the neighboring kingdoms. This balances Grendel’s need to wreck havoc in the village by attacking the mead hall and stubborn unwillingness to sacrifice anything. Scorpios are known for their persistence and determination to achieve their goals.
This leads to a tendency to drift towards the “dark side” of life and sometimes a manipulation of power. One example is in chapter 8 as a scorpion is “seen” in the scene when Hrothulf arrives. Grendel uses the word scorpion to describe Hrothulf as he can sense he is becoming more hostile. The word choice symbolizes the zodiac sign as Scorpios are seen as hostile and distrusting naturally. The same idea is also viewed in chapter 8 as Red Horse introduces cunning and deceiving ideas of government on Hrothulf.
These cunning methods introduce Hrothulf into the Scorpio state of mind as they show his willingness to do anything and implies his determination and manipulation of power. Sagittarians are characterized by their spontaneous and noncommittal personalities. They are very open minded but devoutly religious. An archer is mentioned that is hunting for a hart and the murder is described as passionate which Sagittarius are known for being. The archer is referenced to in chapter 9, The archer is symbolic of the zodiac Sagittarius as he is zealous about his hunt for the hart and refuses to let his opponent live.
When Grendel is woken by a wandering blind priest, Grendel speaks to him as “The Destroyer”. Ork (The priest) demonstrates full faith in the higher power and his religion of which he preaches. This depicts a Sagittarius as he is zealous in his religious beliefs and open minded to the idea that “The King of Gods” has come to speak to him. The zodiac sign of Capricorn is shown in chapter 10 when Grendel is determined to kill a goat who annoyed him. This can be seen as pessimistic and this is a common trait of a Capricorn.
The process of Grendel trying to kill the goat this can be seen as determination which is another Capricorn trait. He also shows the pessimistic trait again after the Shaper dies, Grendel starts to view the world as empty. Grendel demonstrates Capricorn manners as he decides not to heave his mother’s warning and leaves the safety of the cave to attend the Shapers funeral. In chapter 11 of Grendel the astrological sign of Aquarius is shown through grendel’s emotions. Throughout the story Grendel tends to stay on his own and prefers no type of relationship with others and this can be seen as indepent.
A reference to water is at the start of the chapter and symbolically refers to Aquarius. The mood swings of an Aquarius is shown as Grendel first feels excitement for the arrival of the gates and Beowulf. Though Grendel does not know who Beowulf is he comes to a conclusion that he is insane due to his manners and the way he speaks. At this time Grendel starts to drift away from the dragon’s thinking and creates his own “reality” that everything is revolving around him. This self centeredness is a trait that Aquarians tend to have and show greaty.
In the final chapter of Grendel the astrological sign of Pisces is shown by the symbolic mentioning of fish throughout the chapter. The first mentioning is during Beowulf’s speech as he describes how the men can still grow and become prosperous without Grendel. The Pisces fearfulness is shown during the meadhall attack when Grendel starts to become frightful of Beowulf. The Pisces desire to escape reality is shown as well when Grendel imagines wings coming out of Beowulf only to remind himself that he is only human.
This is quickly contradicted when Beowulf rips off an arm of Grendel’s. The Pisces is the last astrological sign in the book as it is the last in the order of zodiacs which is symbolic to the end of Grendel’s life. In the end Grendel sees that the word does not revolve around him when he is falling and sees all the animals he has killed and accepts the truth that he does not control what happens. In Conclusion, The use of the astrological signs in grendel were placed according to zodiac order. This brings a whole new meaning to the book as it portrays Grendel in each zodiac.
The placement and the order of the zodiac also influences the story as time continues, slight hint of the next zodiac are shown in the chapters before. This shows us the progression of Grendel and his views on his cruel reality which he tries to deny. Grendel also is a symbol of all the zodiacs as he progressively molds all the traits of the zodiacs into one at the end which he is his most “monstrous”. The end of the book also comes with the end of the astrological order which can be interpreted as the world has a set order and not abiding by the order creates chaos as we seen in Grendel.