It is common opinion that Beowulf was written by a Christian poet. This was probably true because at the time when it was written, most of the few people who knew how to read and write were in the clergy. There are various references within the poem to elements of the Christian religion. However, the story is about Pagan people and certain aspects of their culture are even glorified. The ambiguity of Beowulf’s religious content has caused confusion as to what significance religion had in inspiring the author and in what manner the author meant to inspire or influence his audience. I do not think that Beowulf is a Christian allegory because Beowulf had very little in common with the Biblical figure of Jesus Christ. I think that religion was not the primary thematic concern of the writer. Although there are discrepancies between the two styles of thinking, Beowulf seems to praise values which were considered moral and good among all humanity, both Christian and Pagan. The text of Beowulf clearly shows that at some point in time Biblical allusions were added to it, and suggests that someone learned in Christianity helped shape the story. The initial depiction of Grendel regarded the beast as “a fiend out of hell,” and claimed, “…he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain’s clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts.” References to hell, Cain, and “the Creator”, make it evident that Christian elements were present in the story. More importantly, the reference to “the Creator” shows that monotheistic theory was incorporated into the text. Grendel’s relationship to this “Creator” is further elaborated on, in which case the author refers to the latter as “Eternal Lord”, “Almighty”, and “God.” All four of which are common ways to refer to the individual Christian God, and were capitalized as would have been in the Bible. These allusions to Christian faith could lead a critic to assume that Beowulf is a Christian allegory. Critics who read the poem in this way often call Beowulf a Christ figure because he is a savior to his people. However, if the poem was really meant to be read in this way, I think that Beowulf would have been ultimately triumphant and would have survived his fight with the dragon. I do not claim to be a Biblical scholar but I can not remember any stories from the Bible where Christ did any killing or boasting. The themes of wealth and fame in Beowulf are interesting ones. I think that they are the main difference between the Pagan and Christian values in the story. Christianity teaches that people should do good deeds only for the sake of helping their fellow people. Christianity also teaches the importance of modesty. Beowulf does want to help his fellow man, and he is very selfless in doing so. However, Beowulf is also quite open about his desire for fame and treasure. I think that the reason Beowulf is more concerned with these things than a good Christian would be lies in his Pagan beliefs. Pagans did not believe in God, Satan, heaven or hell. Since the society of Beowulf did not believe in an afterlife, the only way they saw to transcend their physical lives was to accumulate great wealth and fame so that they would be remembered long after their deaths. I do not think that Pagan culture is completely celebrated in Beowulf though. The ideas of boasting, fame, and wealth are questioned in the poem. The text even stated that, “The high-born chiefs who had buried the treasure declared it until doomsday so accursed that whoever robbed it would be guilty of wrong and grimly punished for their transgression, hasped in hell-bonds in heathen shrines.” Unferth is another tool the author uses to question Beowulf’s integrity as a hero. Unferth points out Beowulf’s “sheer vanity” and accuses him of making idle boasts. I think it is important to note that Unferth does not question the idea of boasting in itself but only idle boasting. It is also important
Beowulf was written when the society was converting from Paganism to Christianity. In this epic poem, these two religions come through the actions of the different characters, so the author promotes the Christian and pagan religions by preaching and writing about both.
Christianity, and the reference to the Christian God influences the story of Beowulf in many ways. For instance, the author describes Grendel as a very inhuman and monstrous character because he is a biblical allusion of evil. This…
literature, a steady development of religion has played an important part in the function of a changing society. During the time that Beowulf was written, Britain’s belief structure underwent a significant change with Christianity and Paganism coexisting throughout Europe. Originally led by the Celtic faith, society was in the process of converting from Paganism to Christianity. The evolution of religion during this era is quite obvious, as religious philosophies interacted and influenced the interpretations…
Beowulf symbolizes Jesus Christ
Pagan ideals and Christian ideals collide throughout the entirety of Beowulf. Pagan beliefs in Beowulf are depicted through the belief of wyrd. Wyrd was considered an inescapable and destined path through life. It is later mentioned when Beowulf fights the dragon, which leads to his own demise due to his fate, or his wyrd. The Pagan idea of fate, revenge, and demons are not the only Christianity may have adopted several ideas from Paganism, so it is evident that there…
Elements of Christianity and Paganism in Beowulf
Beowulf is one of the oldest of the long epics written in English, and it is revered as one of the most important pieces of literature written in Old English. The poem is an epic tale of heroism that has many religious themes spread throughout. It is believed to be composed as an oral tradition during the first half of the eighth century, and transcribed in the eleventh century. Because it began as an oral…
Pagan vs. Christian Influences in Beowulf
At the time of its creation, Beowulf was influenced by Pagan rituals, deities and ideas, but by passing down the epic narrative word of mouth, an age of Christianity will have had a residual effect on the story. The mix of ideas is not a struggle for religious power in the story, but Paganism’s heroic ideals and Christianity’s self-sacrificing virtues blend to form a delicate mosaic that could have not been otherwise.…
September 2, 2014
The Anglo-Saxons historical and cultural background has a lot of influence on Beowulf. Beowulf poses as a great heroic warrior, because of his willingness to fight and kill off the blood-hungry Grendel during what is known as the Dark Ages. Through an all bloody battle between the two Beowulf is able to show off his heroism. Beowulf is willing to risk his life in order to save others and to kill the unstoppable blood-seeking Grendel.
Name: Imon/ 3-4-13/ English
THESIS: Beowulf is interesting because of what it shows us about Anglo-Saxon poetry and culture.
Your thesis #1: Beowulf gives an accurate description on Anglo-Saxon poetry and culture.
Your thesis #2: In Beowulf, essentials of Anglo-Saxon poetry and culture are incorporated throughout the story.
One aspect of Anglo-Saxon poetry that is evident in Beowulf is the use of kennings. These creative word-combinations appear throughout the story, naming objects in interesting…
Beowulf: The Swedish Warrior
The English poem “Beowulf” was one of England’s famous poems ever written.
The poem contains many values of the Anglo-Saxon culture itself. Beowulf displays the meaning of being a heroic warrior and the tasks accomplished throughout the journey. In the poem, Beowulf is boastful, brave, and loyal to his people which is an example of the Anglo-Saxons during this era. Pagan and Christianity definitely played a part in the poem as Beowulf and the other characters…
An unknown Anglo-Saxon poet composed Beowulf, a pagan epic of grand proportions in 700 A.D. The poem takes place in 500 A.D before many of the Anglo-Saxons had been converted to Christianity; therefore, the poem has distinct pagan context. “The difficulty in Beowulf is that the pagan elements seem to confound the aesthetic effect, to destroy the consistency of tone” (Benson 36). Because Beowulf was orally narrated for many years before the tale was written down, the poem has been overly impacted…