But they were doomed, I knew, and I was glad. No denying it. Let them wander the fogroads of Hell.
After the men chase Grendel out of town, Grendel considers the possibility that the Shaper could change the men’s minds about him and there would be peace for everyone. However, he quickly dismisses the idea, seeing a deadly future for all of the men. Even though he wanted to befriend them at first, he now feels happy at the thought of their demise in retribution for rejecting him. Just as the men cannot control their fate, Grendel cannot control his own monstrous tendencies.
And even if, say I interfere—burn up somebody’s meadhall, for instance, whether because I just feel like it or because some supplicant asked me to—even then I do not change the future, I merely do what I saw from the beginning. That’s obvious, surely. Let’s say it’s settled then. So much for free will and intercession!
Here, the dragon explains to Grendel that while he is able to see everything in the past, present, and future, he cannot do anything to change the events that have happened or will happen because everything is already fated. Even though the dragon can have some control over events, he can only do what was meant to be in the first place. According to the dragon, there is no use in taking action to change the course of one’s life, or even in asking the dragon for a favor, because one’s fate is already set in stone.
Nothing was changed, everything was changed, by my having seen the dragon. It’s one thing to listen, full of scorn and doubt, to poets’ versions of time past and visions of time to come; it’s another to know, as coldly and simply as my mother knows her pile of bones, what is.
After Grendel talks with the dragon, he suddenly feels different. Although nothing has actually changed, and cannot change based on what the dragon said, Grendel notes that his whole world has been altered. Before talking with the dragon, Grendel seemed to know that he and the men had a certain fate, but he could not be sure. Now that he knows the full truth, as confirmed by the dragon, Grendel feels that life is as meaningless as ever and trying to change one’s fate seems futile.