Grendel is one of the three major antagonists in the poem "Beowulf". We are told he is a monster and a descendant of the biblical figure "Cain" early on in the text. "Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend/Grendel who haunted the moors, the wild /Marshes, and made his home in a hell./Not hell but hell on earth. He was spawned in that slime/Of Cain, murderous creatures banished/ By God, punished forever for the crime/ Of Abel's death." (Lines 101-108).
Although Grendel is likely the poem's most memorable character, we are never given a straightforward description of his physical characteristics. We can only imagine why the author wrote his character in this way, giving us only a few clues as to his nature. One explanation is that they wrote it this way to leave the image of Grendel to the imagination of the reader. This is a trick that writers use to make readers more involved in the story line and character development, and in this case, it works to their advantage.
Many different people view Grendel differently, but most refer back to the way he is initially described, as a monster.
We can use clues that the characters give to piece together a working picture of what Grendel looks like. The narrator provides us with much of the information we discover about Grendel's physical attributes, but the other characters such as Unferth, and Beowulf himself also provide us with a few details about the monster's looks.
The narrator describes Grendel as "ent", "ettin" and "scather". The terms "ent" and "ettin" are taken from the Old Norse language, and mean, "troll". The term "scather" means "one who scathes". Many believe that these words describe the monster as a troll like figure, although we can't be sure...