Grendel sheds a completely new light on the story of Unferth. He is the one human character that Grendel actually talks to for a significant amount of time besides Beowulf in the very end. I felt that this conversation had meaning and that Gardner was trying to show us that there was a different story to Unferth, besides the one that the poem Beowulf tried to portray.
Unferth, in Beowulf, is shown as someone who “killed [his] own kith and kin”. (Beowulf 41) and is talked down to very harshly by Beowulf. Unferth was drunk when he speaks and embarrassed immediately. The reader thinks nothing of Unferth upon meeting him except that he is a murderer and could never measure up to Beowulf. The reality is, no one can measure up to Beowulf, not even Grendel or a dragon.
In Grendel, Unferth is portrayed as a brave and boastful man. For two pages, Unferth talks about how he is a hero. He says it is “inner heroism” (Grendel 88) that he came to kill Grendel and tell him how he really felt. He is similar to Beowulf in this portion of the book in that he boasts and continues on and on about how great he is. This was not shown in Beowulf because he shuts down within minutes of meeting Beowulf and we never seem him boast. It was courageous of Unferth to go after Grendel and it showed the kind of man that he is. All that Unferth did in Beowulf was back down and not fight. However, in Grendel, he is willing to die fighting.
I feel as if in Beowulf, the reader gets a negative feeling on Unferth. Even in the end, when he gives his sword to Beowulf, we can not really trust him and Beowulf does not even use the sword which shows how much he does not need Unferth. However, in Grendel, Unferth is the biggest man for the entirety of the book until the last chapter where Beowulf comes. Unferth ends up coming to a sort of truce with Grendel after their conversation and Grendel never tries to hurt him again. Grendel leaves the reader feeling as if Unferth is brave and has some positivity about him. The reader actually gets to see an insight into the mind of Unferth and his actual feelings.