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Activity 11 - Literature Masterclass : What Is A Monster?

Activity 11 - What Is A Monster?


Welcome to activity 11! Just like the last activity, the material in the tasks below is challenging and requires you to use your critical thinking skills to consider ... what makes a monster? Using the video and the corresponding tasks below, I want you to think about monsters you have came across before, in films, tv shows, books and magazines and what they have in common. Are they big and scary? Do they have super strength? Do they have more than two eyes and are they are strange colour? Do they have special abilities like flying or breathing underwater?


Monsters come in all shapes and sizes and the idea of a "monster" has existed for hundreds of years. In this activity, we are going to consider the historical tale of "Beowulf" and the fierce monsters he battled. We are going to think about what makes the characters in this story either a monster or a human, and consider whether they could actually be a little bit of both. Have a go and remember to take notes you can refer back to, so you are able to complete each of the tasks to the best of your ability. 

Literature Masterclass | What Is A Monster?

Follow along with the video and PAUSE when instructed to do so below. Complete the tasks to the best of your ability and make sure to take notes on any new words/phrases you come across.

Task 1: What is a monster?


* PAUSE the video at 1:45 


For your first activity, I want you to write down all of the monsters, or types of monsters you can think of. You might want to consider:


  • Monsters from story books
  • Monsters from films or tv series you have watched
  • Monsters from comic books or magazines 


When looking up the word "Monster" in the dictionary, they are often described as extraordinary and imaginary creatures that are "half human, half animal". 


Can there be "good" monsters and "bad" monsters?


What about Spiderman? 


What about Mike Wazowski from Monsters inc.? 


What about the little mermaid, Ariel? 

Task 2: Why do we need to think about what a monster is?


Most of the time, we think about monsters being very different from us


But ... what if "being a monster" was more to do with our way of looking at people? 


As an individual, we can decide :


  • What we think is scary and what we think is not scary


  • What we think is safe and what we think is not safe


  • What we think is dangerous and what we think is not dangerous 


So - can we also decide :


  • What is a monster and what is not?


*PAUSE the video at 7:00 


For the next section of the video, I want you to:


1. Make notes on the video


2. Create a glossary with any new words/phrases you hear


3. Feel free to pause the video and rewind if you think you need to go back over something 

Task 3: Men & Monsters in Beowulf 


The story of Beowulf takes place in the Middle Ages. The story is about a man named Beowulf, who is a brave hero who fights three monsters, Grendel (who lives in the marshes) and Grendel's mother. Grendel has been attacking people in the kingdom, Beowulf must act fast before more people are killed. Grendel's mother only begins to attack when Grendel has been killed by Beowulf - Beowulf succeeds and bravely kills both monsters. 


After defeating both monsters, Beowulf returns home and becomes King. He lives in peace for many years. Years later, a thief steals treasure from a dragon. The dragon attacks the people living in King Beowulf's kingdom, so Beowulf must act fast to kill the dragon, and doing so, fatally injures himself. 


*PAUSE the video at 9:00 


When do you think the middle ages was?  


Consider the timescale below ... where do you think the middle ages would fall?


  • 0BC
  • 43 - Roman Conquest
  • 793 - Vikings raid Lindisfarne 
  • 1066 - Battle of Hastings
  • 2020 - Us today!


Task 4: Human vs. Monster 


Consider the extracts below from the story of Beowulf - are the characters behaving like a "Human" or a "Monster"? Make sure to write down your ideas on a piece of paper. 

REMEMBER! Try not to think too much about the images of the monster - think about their actions only to make your decision. 


Grendel -


"Grendel has been attacking people inside of the beautiful hall that has been built, because he does not like the noise that is coming from the hall. Grendel was very upset by the noise of people feasting every day in the hall. He had lived alongside other monsters, in misery for many years. He killed 30 sleeping men after their feast."


Is Grendel acting like a human?


Grendel has human feelings. He has emotions such as sadness and loneliness. He hasn't been invited to join the other people feasting in the hall. 


Is Grendel acting like a monster?


He has killed 30 men! He also lives with other monsters. 


Grendel's Mother - 


"Grendel's Mother wants revenge because Beowulf has killed her son. Grendel's mother lives in a cave in the swamp. She has a lot of strength and attacks Beowulf with a knife."


Is Grendel's Mother acting like a human? 


She fights with a knife - a tool, like a human would. Grendel's mother looks like a woman. She behaves like a human because she wants revenge. She is only trying to kill to defend her family. 


Is Grendel's Mother acting like a monster?


A monster might also want to take revenge. She lives in a swamp, which humans probably would not. She has mighty strength, also. Could Grendel's mother be part human, part monster? 


Beowulf - 


"Beowulf is described as being as strong as thirty men. He fights with a sword and is the hero of the story for defeating Grendel. He rips off Grendel's shoulder with his bare hands and swims under water to reach Grendel's mother's lair."


Is Beowulf acting like a human?


He is the hero of the story! Usually, a hero is a human. He does kill Grendel and Grendel's mother, but he does this to protect other humans in the kingdom. He fights with a sword, which is a tool used by humans. 


Is Beowulf acting like a monster?


He is described as unusually strong and has hate for Grendel. He kills Grendel with his bare hands instead of using his sword. He can also hold his breath for a long time whilst swimming under water. 

Task 5: Does it take a monster to defeat a monster? 


How beyond human strength can a hero go before he is considered a monster? 


Hero's often have:


  • Extreme strength
  • Super human abilities/powers
  • They can do things other humans cannot 


Are hero's monsters with good intentions?


Are monsters outsiders?


Activity - To finish off this task, I want you to write a small paragraph considering the question, "Does it take a monster to defeat a monster"? Considering what we have learnt about the story of Beowulf, think critically about what makes a monster and what makes a hero, and whether we can make any comparisons between the two. 


Extension - Read your paragraph to someone in your household, either a parent/carer or sibling. Do they agree with your paragraph? 

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