Beowulf: Christian Elements
Brittany Brown Professor Michael Pegausch English 2111-053 15 April 2013 Beowulf: Christian Elements Beowulf is a poem that has been told over time repeatedly. This poem dates back as far as the ninth century and “recalls a heroic age in which monsters stalked men by night, dragons guarded hoards of precious gems and heirloom swords, and heroes carried out great deeds of warfare that would be commemorated by song and feat. ” (Heaney 107) There is an undeniable presence of Christianity throughout the poem.
Although the poem does not have a clear “Christian perspective,” it does have some Christian references; “the monstrous Grendel is said to be one of ‘Cain’s Clan,’ and is thus identified as an outcast from humanity in specifically biblical terms. ” (Heaney 108) The Christian elements that are present throughout Beowulf are the effects of the acknowledgement of God, the examples of the loss of faith, and the unselfishness of Beowulf. In Beowulf, the acknowledgement of God is heavily noted throughout the poem.
When the people of Herrot experience the wrath of Grendel, it is due the fact that “the Almighty Judge of good deeds and bad, the Lord God, Head of the Heavens and High King of the World, was unknown to them. ” (Heaney 116) When Beowulf speaks at the celebration at Herrot, he says that “if God had not helped me, the outcome would have been quick and fatal. “(Heaney 150) In addition, as Beowulf returns to his homeland, Hygelac says, “so God be thanked I am granted this sight of you, safe and sound. (Heaney 157) The poem has many other references to acknowledgement of God; some are good and acknowledge him in praise and others offer the knowledge that without acknowledgment there is punishment. Beowulf offers several examples of the loss of faith within the poem. The people of Herrot are terrorized by Grendel because they choose to put their faith in pagan ways and choose to vow “offerings to idols” which is “heathenish hope. “(Heaney 116) Also, when Beowulf battles Grendel’s mother in the lake, the people of Herrot lose faith that Beowulf s successful in his quest and they “abandoned the cliff-top” while “the strangers held on. ” (Heaney 149) Last of all, the Geats lose faith that Beowulf will defeat the dragon that protects the treasure and they flee. In Beowulf, there are several examples of loss of faith, which occurs in Christianity, however what is also taught is the ability to gain the faith back is the true test. The unselfish and giving behavior of Beowulf is another example of Christianity. As Grendel plagues the people of Herrot, the terror is known throughout the lands.
When Beowulf hears of this he benevolently decides to help the people of Herrot rid themselves of the demonic beast. As Damon states, “not only was he extraordinarily courageous and loyal, but he possessed physical strength far beyond that of other men. “(Damon) Beowulf unselfishly battles Grendel and his mother to save the people Herrot from the havoc that the beasts have bestowed upon them; “celebration returned to Herrot Hall. “( Geiger) Lastly, Beowulf sacrifices his own life for the Geats.
Beowulf battles the dragon who threatens the well-being of the Geats; so Beowulf kills the dragon before being bitten by the dragon and dying. Beowulf’s faith and ability to be unselfish and giving is what Christianity is about. Beowulf is thankful and acknowledges the presence of God; he also thanks God for giving him the tools and knowledge to defeat the demons that reeked chaos all through this poem. In conclusion, the Christian elements that are present throughout Beowulf are exemplified through the effects of the acknowledgement of God, the examples of the loss of faith, and the unselfishness of Beowulf.
The acknowledgment of God can produce praise or punishment. When the people of Herrot did not acknowledge the presence of God they were plagued. Beowulf praises god and receives good fortune through his battles. In Beowulf, there are several examples of the loss of faith. The ability to gain faith back after losing it is an important part of Christianity. Finally, the unselfishness of Beowulf is the most important example of Christianity of all; Beowulf’s ability to sacrifice himself and still give thanks to God for his abilities, shows his strong faith.
Although Beowulf does not have a clear “Christian perspective,” it does have clear Christian elements and references that make this poem a classic throughout literature. Work Cited Damon, Duane. “Beowulf: Foe Against Foe. ” Calliope 1. 3 (1991): 30. MasterFILE Elite. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. Geiger, Barbara. “Beowulf And The Three Monsters. ” Calliope 17. 9 (2007): 24-29. MasterFILE Elite. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf. Norton Anthology of World Literature, Third Edition Volume B. Norton and 2013Company, Inc. , New York, London 2012. 107-182.