Religion In Beowulf

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Pages: 5

Throughout early English 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 of this epic poem.
The narrator moves forward and backward in time with a lingering sense of doom, recounting the story in the third person. Many have speculated about the author of Beowulf, however, we may never
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A mythical dragon named Grendel seeks revenge on mankind for the hand the creature has been dealt. Revenge motivates many feuds within the poem similar to the role vengeance played in pagan societies. Another motivating factor of paganism in Beowulf is reputation, as Beowulf is concerned about how the world sees him. Pride is a sin in Christianity, but pagans are very prideful and Beowulf takes great pride in his brave actions. The poet sets a heroic tone, yet, the character of Beowulf occasionally refers to an all-powerful God. Although loyalty appears to be a guiding feature in this epic, one could question which belief system was the narrator essentially loyal too. Perhaps just as Beowulf and the great evil collides, religion collided the past and present beliefs producing an uncertain religious …show more content…
Pagan heroes valued the ability to boast about their achievements in order to create a positive reputation. Beowulf is certainly willing to take any mythical monster to make a name for himself as he demonstrates when he battles the two demons, Grendel and Grendel’s mother. “Beowulf's descent into the deathly realm and subsequent battle against Grendel's mother represents the displacement of the renewing powers of sacrifice in the context of Germanic cosmology.” (Powrie) A mighty warrior, a good king, and god-fearing, Beowulf makes himself into a larger-than-life hero. Beowulf furthermore uses the word “wyrd” to describe his destined route, which is also a part of the pagan belief systems of the Germanic cultures. Another form of pagan actions is when Beowulf speaks to Hrothgar about revenge, declaring that "it is better for a man to avenge his friend than much mourn" after the murder of Aeschere. (Beowulf)
Beowulf is a complex character, his loyalty lies with his allies, especially Hrothgar, his bravery, rewards, and vengeance. He displays qualities of the pagan "heroic code,", however, his religious belief contradicts the typical heroic code of the pagan cultures. Likewise, Christian philosophies contradict the pagan heroic code, nonetheless, Christian elements are added to preserve the pagan