Beowulf Women and Christianity
The Essential Women Throughout the story of “Beowulf”, many of the women play important roles. Whether illegitimate monsters or peaceweaving queens, all are central and needed to the poem as a whole. Each of the women can be analyzed in a corresponding, anthropological fashion. Through this discussion of “Beowulf, “ the women will be presented centrally both to the story itself and within the society presented in the poem. There are a few women in ” Beowulf “, who have major roles: Wealhtheow, Hygd, Freawaru, Hildeburh, and Grendel’s mother, all of whom can be combined in corresponding pairs or groups.
Wealhtheow and Hygd are all queens and, as hostesses, they both exert influence in the hall, usually thought to men, but they don’t always coincide with the wishes of their husbands. Wealtheow is “mindful of customs,” (623), of “excellent heart” and “sure of speech” (624). The primary function of these women within the story is that of hostess: they carry the cup of mead around the hall and offer it to the warriors. Hygd, the other woman who plays the role of hostess in “Beowulf”, has a much smaller part. She is described as moving through the hall, carrying the cup, but no order is given for her rounds.
Hygd also held at least some political power, and this is shown most clearly when she attempts to deliver the kingdom of the Geats to Beowulf following Hygelac’s death on the battlefield, in effect passing over her own son, Heardred. Hildeburh and Freawaru can be described as peaceweavers. Hildeburh’s story illustrates the conflict between the peaceweaver’s marriage tribe and birth tribe. After the first battle, the scop says, “blameless she was deprived of her dear ones at the shield-play, of son and brother; wounded by spears they fell to their fate.
That was a mournful woman. ” (1072- 1075) She has no grief from the death of her husband, and doesn’t want them avenged. This indicates Hildeburh’s continuing close relationship to her birth people and she would naturally mourn for those folks who shared her blood. Also, at the end of the story, Hildeburh returns to her people, still considered a Danish queen, and the Danes still think of her as one of their own. Freawaru plays a smaller role than Hildeburh, but mainly serves as a way of introduction to the conflict in Beowulf’s story.
He tells how she went about the court, offering the cup to warriors. Though Freawaru’s part in all this is admittedly quite small, she is nevertheless a character central to the story. The final woman, Grendel’s Mother, acts in a more masculine manner than the other women. Rather than using words or marriage to exert influence, she uses her physical strength. She doesn’t welcome visitors into her home and is labeled as a hostile hostess, “ using the sword to rid their halls of intruders or unwanted “hall guests’’’.
She is a strife- weaver, who is content with using violence to settle her disputes and will attack anyone who would come into her hall, like Beowulf. She is described as a monster woman and associated with the descendants of Cain. Even though Grendel was scary and evil, Grendel’s mother is a harder opponent than her son was, and she is certainly physically capable of carrying out her desired vengeance. Throughout this poem, there is a huge centrality of female characters.
Those women who act as hostesses and peaceweavers, even while looking out for their own interests, are central to the poem, and an understanding of the functions of the women in “Beowulf” assists the comprehension of a complex poem. Those women presented as monsters, the hostile hostesses and strife-weavers, are interesting in themselves, and also serve as counter-examples to the other female characters. Beowulf And Christianity In the poem, “Beowulf”, the main character Beowulf contrasted opinions and actions with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
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 that 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 influence his audience. Beowulf isn’t a Christian allegory because Beowulf had very little in common with the Biblical figure of Jesus Christ.
Critics who read the poem often called Beowulf a Christ figure because he is a savior to his people. If the poem was truly meant to be read this way though, Beowulf would have been ultimately triumphant and would have survived his fight with the dragon. Even though Beowulf killed Grendel and his Mother, the stories from the Bible do not show where Jesus did any killing or boasting of any sort. If Jesus performed a miracle, people were blessed, thankful, and amazed, but in Beowulf’s case, a reward of treasure or the finest riches was not like Jesus.
The themes of wealth and fame in Beowulf are interesting ones, and 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. The reason Beowulf is more concerned with these things than a good Christian would lie 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 exceed their physical lives was to accumulate great wealth and fame so that they would be remembered long after their deaths. Unlike in Christian faith, Christians believe that loving and believing in their savior Jesus Christ, with bring them salvation and eternal life with Him. It is not the good works, gold accumulated, or status one has to go to Heaven and be with Christ, but by belief, works, and faith.
Fate is another theme of the poem that has religious ambiguities. Beowulf assures himself before his battles that fate will have its way. Christianity teaches that one makes decisions that are either good or evil and that this determines their ultimate fortune. The idea that people have no say and that everything that happens is out of our control is a more Pagan thought. The Fates were thought to be supernatural beings that choose what will happen to people.
This also suggests an element of polytheism, which would contradict the Christian ideas of the poem. In the poem of, “ Beowulf ”, the author succeeded in contrasting the story and characters with the teachings of Jesus. The conflicting ideas in, “Beowulf”, invite a reader to take a more active role in questioning ideas and themes presented, adding to a more interesting story. Even though the author didn’t in fact focus his attention on making it a religious poem, he accurately captured the complex moral structure of this poem.