What If We’ve Been Misunderstanding Monsters?

Fictional evil creatures might be more nuanced—and have more to teach us—than has long seemed.
An illustration from the cover of Grendel by John Gardner

The Question of Race in Beowulf

J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal scholarship on Beowulf centers a white male gaze. Toni Morrison focused on Grendel and his mother as raced and marginal figures.
Image from Livre des profits ruraux (late 15th century France)

The Landlord Asks for a Christmas Rose

Bizarre customs of landholding—from demands for flowers to ritualized flatulence—reflect the philosophy that developed under the feudal system.