Beowulf Christianity vs. Paganism
? Beowulf: Christianity Versus Paganism The poem of Beowulf stands as one of the earliest works in English in which it deals with feuding, religion and fate. The poem Beowulf relates to his heroic deeds against Grendel, His mother, and the dragon while combining elements of christian ideas as well as pagan ideas. Around 700 A. D researchers speculated that the poem Beowulf was written by an unknown author in the West Midlands of England. They also included that the unknown author was a christian monk, who had much knowledge into the bible.
Through the Anglo-Saxon Beliefs illustrated in the poem, Beowulf, characteristics of Christianity, paganism, and the clashing of the two ideas are representing through the epic hero Beowulf. In Beowulf christianity reveals itself, in which the reader emotions may feel sympathy from the ideas in relates to the bible. The characters in Beowulf take on different roles that are similar to the characters in the bible. The setting also includes christian elements for example, Herot Hall that Hrothgar built in honor of his fame, were celebrations were held with his men.
In Beowulf lines 14- 15 describes celebration and peace in Herot Hall: “As now warriors sang of their pleasure: So Hrothgar’s men lived happy in his hall. ” Even though Herot hall is the place were the celebration occurred; however, Grendel’s hatred for Herot’s celebration causes him swooped in while Hrothgar’s men were drunk and killed them all. Another Christianity Element discussed in the Beowulf is Beowulf heroism, how he uses God through all of his battles. Before the battle against Grendel, Beowulf says in lines 174-175: “God must decide/Who will be given to death’s cold grip. In this quote Beowulf is basically saying that God will decide who will win between him and Grendel in battle because he requested to fight with his hands alone. Upon Beowulf’s death from his last battle with the dragon, he thank God from the heavens above for allowing his victories and protecting his people. The king of Herot, Hrothgar also contributes to one of the Christian elements because of his characteristics. Hrothgar is known for his honestly and being very generous towards his people and his worriers .
With other christian stories from Christian cultures for, example Beowulf , the effect that christianity itself has on this poem is too evident to say completely that Beowulf characteristic is Pagan. Another one of Anglo-Saxon beliefs that is described in Beowulf , is the characteristic of Paganism. The paganism elements described in Beowulf, fist talks about Grendel’s description. Grendel is described in these lines: “Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend,/Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild/ Marshes, and made his home in a hell” (l. 16-18).
Throughout the poem the demonic monster Grendel, who has hatred towards Herot Hall and the gathering of his men celebrating. Due to this he awaits till after celebrations are over in Herot Hall when the men are drunk and comes in and killing Hrothgar’s men leaving him to live in sorrow morning the death of his men. The burial Beowulf requested before he died also relates to one of the elements of Paganism. Line 809-812 reflects Beowulf’s pagan burial requested during his last words: “Have/ The brave Geats build me a tomb,/When the funeral flames have burned me, and build it/ Here, at the water’s edge, high.
The last pagan element described at the end of the poem, is the description of the dragon who fought in battle with Beowulf. Whats makes the dragon a pagan symbol in Beowulf is his hatred toward the Geats by laying waste in the Geats land, because of a thief who stole his jewel cup. Before Beowulf prepares for battle with the dragon Beowulf prefers to fight with hands; however, because of the hot poisson that comes from the dragon, he has no shame in using anything to protecting him, in which is another reason why the dragon is consider pagan.
These elements are what classifies the characteristics of paganism in Beowulf that is illustrated by the Anglo-Saxon beliefs. The last characteristics of Beowulf containing the Anglo-Saxons beliefs is the clashing of both idealism between christianity and paganism. In the poem, Beowulf himself, is known as a Christian saviour; however, some of his actions proves that he has pagan side to. For example, Beowulf brags about his victories by stating “Fate saves/The living when they drive away death by themselves!
Lucky or not, nine was the number/Of sea-huge monsters I killed” in lines 305-308. Another feature that makes Beowulf seem like a pagon character is the fame that he thrives for in his victories battel. In battle between Grendel, not only does beowulf kills Grendel, but he show off his victory by hanging up Grendel’s arm. Beowulf burial also includes his way of showing off his fame by him requesting his remains to be placed “On this split of land, so sailors can see/This tower and remember my name and call it/Beowulf’s Tower” (l. 13-815). Even though Beowulf himself has been included in the poem that he was pagan in some moments, he still shared christianity elements. For example, when Beowulf killed the dragon instead of claiming the treasure that was rightfully his, he gives it to Wiglaf and leaves him to lead his people. Although these two ideas between paganism and christianity may both clash in Beowulf, however Beowulf characteristic still remains most known for his actions in christian ways.
In conclusion the Anglo-Saxon states its beliefs in the poem Beowulf, the following characteristics of Christianity, Paganism, and the clashing of both ideas represented through the epic hero Beowulf. In Anglo-Saxon period the people belief in materialism and also winning for example, Beowulf. They also believed protecting against enemies and protecting the church. Through Beowulf is viewed through Christianity or paganism, it contains elements that represents a fusion of both traditions and cultures of the Anglo-Saxon period.