[Track Info] [The Lyrics] [Explanation]
1. Single version (17:16)
2. Fair Deal Studios version (19:08)
3. Live (London, England - "Hammersmith Odeon", April 18th '83) (18:00)
Notes: Live version follows
Lyrics by Derek William Dick (Fish)
Performed Live for the first Time: 14-Mar-81
Published by Marillion Music
I. Heorot's plea and Grendel's awakening.
Midnight suns bid
moors farewell, retreats from charging dusk,
Wooden figures, pagan
gods, stare blindly cross the sea
Earth rim walker seeks his meals
As Grendel leaves his
mossy home beneath the stagnant mere
As Grendel leaves his mossy home
beneath the stagnant mere
Earth rim walker seeks his meals
II. Grendel's Journey.
Silken membranes span
his path, fingerprints in dew
III. Lurker at the Threshold.
Hounds freeze in
silence bewitched by the
are his music, lightning his guide
Chants rise in
terror, free round the oaken beams
So you thought
that your bolts and your locks would keep me out
So you say
you believe in all of Mother Nature's laws
try to place the killer's blade in my hand
Copyright © 1997 Fraser Marshall, Matthew Anderson & Bert ter Steege.
Torch said: Actually a pretty heavy plagurism of a book called "Grendel" by John Gardner, a very good book that is listed as one of the top 100 horror novels of all time in the so-named guide. Gardner disliked such genre labels mind you.
The character of Grendel comes from the medieval epic poem "Beowulf"; sorry for stating the bleeding obvious to those who know this; he is a beastie who everyone hates and who marches of to kill Hrothgar the good guy and gets slaughtered for his pains. That section occurs quite early in the story. "Beowulf" is a wonderful bit of fun for anyone who hasn't read it, by the way! Anyway Gardner changes things around a bit quite ingeniously...he makes Grendel the hero of the novel, commenting that the story draws parallels with modern hypocrisy in society; the way we cast out the ugly and disturbed so righteously when we are in the wrong. The old idea of the humane monster and the inhuman human etc. The novel is filled with gorgeously colourful language which the song borrows heavily.
Fish said:"At the time of joining the band I was asked to provide lyrics for a long track the band had written with bits that had originally been in a song called "The Tower" etc. I was obsessed with a book called "Grendel" by John Gardner and the way that it points out that anything ugly is instantly scorned upon and seen as wrong." Hence a classic was born! The lovely thing about the piece is the way the music conjures up exactly the right mood; "ocean fogs" with its echoey vocals and yawning guitars, and forest quagmires with its bubbling keyboards(especially when it was done live). So the lyrics...(reprinted because someone said they didn't have them)!
sun bids... Signal ending tasks"
The midnight sun occurs on the longest day of course, especially in the part of Scotland I write from, when it can be seen on the Banffshire coast setting and then visibly rising again, so keeping the world lit all night...hence the belief that the midnight sun keeps away evil. However in the song the sun is setting, saying goodbye to the moors and dusk charges; it retreats as the oncoming night is so scary. People get frightened in the dark!" Mountains perhaps echo as Grendel awakes and bays, or just because weird noises occur at night. Curfews bell, ie the bell tolling to tell everyone to get indoors to safety. As the bell tolls, the days work ends immediately and people lock themselves up in their homes, placing faith in oaken doors.
their faith... As Grendel stalks the night."
At this point in the book, Grendel hasn't infiltrated anyone's homes tonight, so the line about bloodstained floors could refer to earlier deaths, or to the cowering hypocritical people with"bloodstained hands".Grendel is on the move.
walker... fear within their eyes"
He is a subterranean monster hence "earth rim walker",a concept the book develops more. As it is a foregone conclusion that there will be murder done, "prepare the funeral pyres",ie for the dead. A "shaper" was a medieval storyteller who would sing to the villagers at night to make them feel easier in their beds and not scared. The practice still exists in South America to keep people happy and not disruptive or frightened. But the shaper is lying as we find out, and the villagers really are in danger, as they are coming to realise, so he can no longer heal their fear.
figures, pagan... saviours born of dreams."
The old idols stare blindly...they are no help and can save no-one from Grendel. The saviours are wishful thinking...there is no hope. The ocean fogs like the charging dusk certainly will not help.
their lives... flinch in Grendel's name"
They are exposed of all their hypocrisy by Grendel and bow in shame. They are too ashamed to face their people who are begging for help. Things are not good for the humans...
leaves his mossy home... moonbeams haunt the sky."
He heads from his subterranean home to meet his foe, Hrothgar, the goody goody ruler. He is far stronger than him and out for vengeance. The night helps him as moonbeams haunt the sky and dusk charges; we always view night as hostile when we are scared. Then comes the creepy, sly section as Gendel crawls the forest.
membranes span his path Fingerprints in dew"
He must be crawling if his fingerprints are in the dew...silken membranes...cobwebs???
Nick Jackson: I'd offer an alternative explanation, more poetic than descriptive. Have you ever seen spiders webs on bushes on an early morning, when the dew is still there? To me, their spirals and circles look like fingerprints, when the dew clings to them, shining in the moonlight or early dawn. It really is a mystical "time between times" :-).
twilight lands Humbly beg him through"
The dwellers(denizens) are so scared they beg him through; alternatively "denizens of twilight lands" could be night creatures, other beasts, of which he is the greatest, so they beg him through...this makes more sense as he hasn't encountered any people yet.
Nature's bastard child... solace within dreams"
Ill treated and despised by all that is pleasant, a natural perversity, he has brooded alone for too long, the shapers stories deriding him.
Shaper's lies, his poison tongue Maligned with mocking harp"
The Shaper fools them all with his sweet music and a harp mocking by its silvery tongue spreading lies floating on its notes.
queen, her innocence Offends his icy heart"
He is a base beast who is offended by the assumed "purity" of the ideal epitomised by the queen, who is beguiling because it is a false tirade her tiara crowns(sorry!), just as our royals are not nearly as fairy tale and reverent as we pretend. It offends him to anger. The organ sounds his arrival at the entrance to the hall. Brilliant music over the next section-so powerful!!!Time for him to work some natural magic...
in silence...the grassy dell"
Smokes appears around him(his eye was on the potential this had live it seems!) and the dogs at the door freeze in fear. Sorry Fish but smoke can't pervade ROUND, only through something!
"Hero awaits him
like lamb... children's cries"
There is a guard ready to slay this intruder who is a lamb to the slaughter, as Grendel will kill him eaasily.
are his music, lightening his guide Raping the darkness, death by
Children scream and cry but the heavenms and pagan gods are helpless, as are the shapers words of comfort. He rapes the darkness(great image!) as he forces into it and defiles all with his progress. Death rides with him.
rise in terror...HEARTS MUST KNOW!"
Already the slaughter has begun and the fire illuminates the bloody bodies scattered everywhere. The guards move in bravely but their inevitable deaths are futile; their efforts to srtop him are mere sacrifices for no cause, and they must be aware of this.
delusions... cares not for the brave!"
The guards are deluded and are already dead men, hence feet in the grave. Grendel is the lurker at the doors of the Hall, and it is time to dispose of the brave...he kills the guards as the music flares up. A quiet interlude as he dwells over the bodies, and all in the Hall await with baited breath. Then thedoors burst open and there he stands, his furious speech ringing out.
"So you thought
that your bolts...putrid blue eyes!"
The slanders being the shapers songs. Things don't look too hopeful for Hrothgar and his cronies!
should I feel pity... gonna take no blame!"
So we find out that they are far more evil than he,killing and then washing the blood off there hands, even blaming him as we now learn...
you say you believe... sharpened knives"
An unnatural, greedy act!
your hoards... the feet of your pagan gods!"
The victors after a war.???Mmm, social comment!
you try to place...distort the truth"
So he is made the scapegoat and thus hated.
had enough... let the blood flow!!!"
The parallels with politicians and social attitudes to crime are there for all to see, my job is done. Live, Fish would often pluck a fan out and have him up dancing with him, or even for the orgasmic guitar solo at the end pull out an audience member and mime ripping him apart and tasting his blood while Fish wore a medieval battle helmet. See the video EP of the song live. Of course the big bastard looks so right to carry it off live.
By the way, the Helm that Fish wears in the video is a replica of the one found at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, which is the burial ground of one of the first Christian Kings of England.
Literally, the Hall of the Stag, named because of the Antlers that adorned the door. It forms the root of the English word for a male red deer hart, the traditional prey of Royalty whilst hunting.
The Shaper is a sort of tribal mystic/ bard who would sing to conjure his spells.
charm will testify & reptile spell
Grendel is given a spell by a dragon that will keep him hidden as he approaches the hall, and which makes him immune to normal weapons. (In fact Grendel is eventually slain by a special sword supposedly made by the father of a character who appears in a Brave-era song! (Cp. THE GREAT ESCAPE))
at the Threshold
Lurker at the Threshold is also the name of a novel by HP Lovecraft and August Derleth. Lovecraft commenced the book but died before its completion. Derleth completed (and many would say, ruined) the book. Lovecraftian Horror stories were concerned with a panoply of monsters and gods whose main purpose in life seemed to be to demonstrate the insignificance of mankind.
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2000