Books That Help Us Grow: Jessica Mesman Griffith on Grendel

Because I read it in high school, I didn't really understand it, but I never forgot Grendel–a dense, dark retelling of Beowulf from the villain's perspective. The symbols and allusions sailed over my head, but oh, how I indentified with the intelligent, isolated, rebuffed Grendel, who longed for the noble and beautiful poetry of men but was damned by fate to a life of violence. Grendel, who thought he could see through man's pretty illusions to the real chaos of existence. Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls! Grendel, Wrecker of Kings!

Not exactly the typical role model for a troubled 17-year-old girl from Slidell, Louisiana, but that was the appeal. Grendel pulled back the curtain on a world so alien and grand, so beautiful and full of magic even if it was dark and brutal. 

Click here to tead more of Griffith's essay, part of a series hosted by Ginny Kubitz Moyer called "A Book That Helped Me Grow." 


Jessica Mesman Griffith is the author of four books, including Strange Journey (2017) and Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters, winner of the 2014 Christopher Award for “literature that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Jessica runs a blog and an online community, Sick Pilgrim, and is a regular contributor to US Catholic, America, and other magazines.

Jessica is also founder of Trying to Say God: Re-enchanting the Catholic Imagination, a literary festival at the University of Notre Dame. She has appeared as a guest on NPR’s Interfaith Voice, CBC’s Tapestry, and on various shows for Relevant Radio and Sirius/XM The Catholic Channel.

Learn more about Jessica at