Beowulf (Pre-Christian Values)
Beowulf represents values of pre-Christian values throughout the story by elements such as wealth/honor, biblical/paganistic, and man vs. wild themes. The time period in which Beowulf was written, itself, sets a pre-Christian value. The epic has many others such as archetypal, symbolic themes, and motifs, but the most important that serve to add depth to the characters are the wealth, honor, religious, man, and wildness themes. These themes do not only serve to define character, but they also factor in as a motive for their actions.
These Christian themes have become very important to the epic to add an element of depth that would not be possible in modern times due to the lost of the Anglo-Saxon culture and beliefs. An example of the biblical motif in Beowulf is Grendel. Grendel is biblically described as evil in this exert: “Grendel was spawned in that slime, conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain……. ” The biblical reference in the epic has become a modern day archetypal motif, and serves to give the listener an idea of extent of Grendel’s pure evil and gives a logical explanation for Grendel’s murderous behavior.
This example also shows the torture in his heart caused by his banishment from God. Beowulf also has a religious motif to his character. One example of this is in line three eighty-one in which Hrothgar states, “Our Holy Father had sent [Beowulf] as a sign of his grace, a mark of His favor, to help us defeat Grendel and end of that terror. ” This religious description shows Beowulf as a sort of messiah sent by god to save man from evil. Since Beowulf is not a messiah, this description shows the good in Beowulf’s heart and the purpose of his mission.
Another biblical reference in Beowulf is shown in the tower of Herot which is somewhat similar to the tower of Babel. The author was very effective in adding Christian values into and throughout the epic. The technique of using Christian elements made it very interesting to read. The poet of Beowulf was able to emphasize the morals of his time and to enhance his characters with Christian values. Also, kennings such as “Descendant of Cain” can be used for a Christian value. Beowulf will remain to be one of the great epics through each century.