Pagan Influences in Beowulf
Pagan Influences in Beowulf There are many Pagan and Christian influences in the epic poem, Beowulf. Many would think that the hero, Beowulf, would show the Christian half of the poem, but I believe that he shows more Pagan influences in order to succeed against Grendel. Throughout the story, Beowulf gives plenty of examples to show this Pagan or evil side of him like his invincibility, his confidence, and how he does not surrender to his own personal vengeance. The first example that shows Beowulf’s Pagan side is his invincibility.
He is shown as a hero who doesn’t need anyone’s help in order to defeat his enemy. He brings his fellow soldiers with him in the trek to Heorot, but knows that he will only be using his bare hands to kill Grendel. In the story Beowulf says, “… my hands alone shall fight for me…” This quote restates the fact that Beowulf does not need his fellow soldiers to kill Grendel. The fact that really makes this his Pagan side is that Beowulf does not even need God to help him defeat Grendel. Beowulf is cocky and confident about his invincibility as well.
He isn’t a humble hero whatsoever. He goes on and on about his multiple defeats in battle and how his country loves him for it. Beowulf should really be praising God for his survival and his people for their support. He takes his fame and rubs it in everyone’s face. To support this, Beowulf says “They have seen my strengths for themselves, have watched me rise from the earth. I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, killing them one by one… Grant me, then, lord and protector of this noble place, a single request! In other words, he gloats about his multiple killings and then orders to be called the lord and protector of the land. The bible states that you may enjoy the righteousness, but you may not gloat. He takes this confidence to the next level and uses it towards his advantage to kill Grendel. It takes a man to turn the other cheek, but Beowulf falls into the Pagan trap and his pride forces him to make the bad decision and kill Grendel. Christianity asks for a surrender to the right of personal revenge. Although this isn’t personal, Beowulf takes what Grendel has done in Heorot to heart.
Beowulf is just doing what Grendel has done in the past, kill, lowering himself to Grendel’s level of Paganism. Altogether, Beowulf’s invincibility, overconfidence, and desire for vengeance causes him to embody Paganism. His invincibility goes against the Christian beliefs of Holy Trinity. His overconfidence in himself sabotages his Christianity side leading him to a dark path of Paganism. Lastly, his desire for vengeance defaces the forgiving theory that Christianity withholds. In the end, Beowulf can be portrayed as whatever you desire, but I believe he is the real enemy in this poem.