“Nevertheless, something will come of all this,” I said.
“Nothing,” he said. “A brief pulsation in the black hole of eternity. My advice to you—”
“Wait and see,” I said.
He shook his head. “My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it.”
These lines are the final exchange between Grendel and the dragon at the end of Chapter 5. Though this is the end of the direct encounter between Grendel and the dragon, the dragon continues loom over Grendel’s life throughout the rest of the novel. The dragon provides Grendel with a glimpse of the true nature of time, which the dragon is able to see stretching out toward both its beginning and its end. The dragon claims that time is like a black hole, eventually destroying everything in the universe. In the vast span of time, the entirety of mankind’s history registers little more than a brief flash. The dragon, with this immense, cosmic vision, can see little point in religion, poetry, or any of the other things that humankind invents in order to make its short stay in the universe more meaningful and significant. Grendel understands the dragon’s point on an intellectual level—it is, after all, a philosophy he has been more or less moving towards since his encounter with the bull—but he nonetheless continues to hope and push for a meaningful result once his questioning reaches a resolution. The dragon rebuff’s each of Grendel’s questions with a cold, empirical retort. The dragon refuses to let Grendel slip into what he feels are naïve emotions. That Gardner made the dragon a money-hoarding miser is more than a mere nod to a traditional staple of dragon lore: the dragon values money because its presence is tangible, knowable, and rational. While the Shaper lures Grendel’s mind away to more abstract thoughts of love, beauty, and art, the dragon incessantly pushes Grendel toward a clear-eyed, cold-blooded intellectualism.