The story of Beowulf deals with life, death, violence, kings, and monsters. Written around 800 CE, and then picked up hundreds of years later to be rewritten by a monk, it is written well after the coming of Christ. It could be simply read as an action adventure, filled with conquests and elaborate feasts, as were common of Old English tales. The story is not that simple though, and gives us a peek into a culture going through some drastic changes. Once built upon a Pagan belief system void of Christ and saturated with values such as revenge and violence, the Anglo-Saxons did not immediately adopt all of Christianity. There was a lengthy time in which both sets of beliefs were muddled and weaved together haphazardly, where no one religion was distinct. Beowulf is an example of these cultural influences crashing together. While Christianity in Beowulf, the Old English epic poem, looks different than the Christianity we recognize today, the story is built with Christian values.
In the story of Beowulf, there is a noticeable struggle between Christianity and Paganism, and the characters personal battle between the two. Throughout the story the characters display actions that lead towards Paganism and Christianity. Contrary to Pagan belief Beowulf is seen as the epitome of good and beneficent to all of mankind. In Beowulf, the people showed their faith and love in God, however due to horrific events, paranoia caused them to look for a quick fix and turns them to Paganism.
Although the story of Beowulf is filled with references to religion and faith, many discrepancies occur throughout the story that suggest that Beowulf is not a Christian epic. The character of Beowulf frequently speaks to God and obviously believes in His existence. However, pagan practices are mentioned in several places. Beowulf often refers to another being rather than the Christian God. Pagan practices of cremation and blood-drinking are included in the epic. There are also frequent allusions to the power of fate, the motive of blood revenge, and praise of worldly glory. All of these aspects make Beowulf a pagan tale with a few Christian elements.
Within the poem Beowulf, the poet utilizes the Christian religion to symbolize the elements of good and evil and Heaven and Hell. Beowulf is the oldest known English epic poem. The manuscripts date back to about 1000 A.D., when two scribes wrote it down for posterity. The poem was handed down from the Anglo-Saxon period, and through the retelling of the poem, it changed a little each time. The poem creates an oral depiction of an epic hero who strived to fight against the forces of evil. There really was a “historical” Beowulf who helped the Geats and Danes fight off pirates, but he was neither King of the Geats nor Danish hero at any time. In fact, he was not considered a man of any
In addition to Christian virtues Beowulf exemplifies many pagan virtues. The pagan elements of the character of Beowulf
Because it was passed down for many years, Beowulf contains a unique mixture of pagan culture and Christian beliefs. The protagonist, Beowulf, is a mighty warrior who often cries out in petition to the Christian God. In contrast Hrothgar, the King of Herot, is a pagan leader who makes sacrifices to “old stone gods” in times of strife (Beowulf 90). The author may have done this in order to provide the audience with a foundation for the story. Readers of the time were familiar with the Bible and all of its stories. Even today audiences have a firm grasp and knowledge on the events of the Bible. Through allusions to the story of Cain and Abel, and to God’s power and protection, the story applies a stronger and more effective skin to commonly known material.
The significance of Paganism and Christianity are both present in Beowulf. Beowulf was written between the 8th and 10th century’s, when the Anglo-Saxon society was beginning to change from Paganism to Christianity. Many believe that this is essentially a pagan work since the Christian faith hadn’t fully arrived in the Anglo-Saxon society. However, according to Douglas Wilson, “The poet could easily have known individual Christian Anglo-Saxons who had converted from paganism”(page.31); this showing how the author would have been able to retrieve information about the customs and morals of Christianity. Christianity is a religion based upon monotheistic beliefs, belief in one personal and transcendent God and based through Jesus’s teachings. This religion teaches that God has a path for everyone, that people may choose to follow and live by him. The epic poem through the years, has been based upon Christianity but still contains a good deal of Pagan elements. Paganism is a religion founded before Christianity, having no belief in a personal god and based more on the concept of fate, that people do not have control over their life. In Beowulf, God is praised for all of his works by Beowulf himself, and the other characters. While also believing that fate controlled the character’s lives.
Christian symbolism in Beowulf within the poem Beowulf, the poet utilizes the Christian religion to symbolize the elements of good and evil and Heaven and Hell. Beowulf is the oldest known English epic poem. The manuscripts date back to about 1000 A.D., when two scribes wrote it down for posterity. The poem was handed down from the Anglo-Saxon period, and through the retelling of the poem, it changed a little each time. The poem creates an oral depiction of an epic hero who strived to fight against the forces of evil. There really was a “historical” Beowulf who helped the Geats and Danes fight off pirates, but he was neither King of the Geats nor Danish hero at any time. In fact, he was not considered a man of any extraordinary qualities,
Christianity arrived in Northern Europe over one thousand years ago. This is evidenced by some of the earliest pieces of literature that we have. The epic poem, “Beowulf”, shows many references to the influence of Christianity on English culture. There are many parallels between characters in “Beowulf” and characters from the Bible. Many Christian themes and virtues are also portrayed in “Beowulf”. Throughout “Beowulf”, the theme of Christianity manifests itself through Christ-like images of Beowulf as well as his strength in God allowing him to ward off monsters of paganism.
Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon epic that was transmitted verbally for hundreds of years before it was written down. Around the time of its composition, Christianity was beginning to gain prominence in England and was quickly replacing the animistic religion of the Celts. As a result of the dueling religions of the time, the poem includes influences from both Christianity and paganism, leaving its readers to wonder which religion had the most sway over the poet. Beowulf is a fundamentally more Christian epic on account of Beowulf’s resemblances of Jesus Christ, its allusions to the Bible, and its intimation of a supreme, monotheistic religion.
In the epic poem Beowulf, the struggle between good and evil reveals its omnipresence in even the oldest of tales. The many allusions and symbols throughout the story relate to Christianity and other Pagan beliefs. By looking at them, it becomes apparent that the author of Beowulf believed that the constant war between good and evil is not only fought by the common man but also in the ranks of their highest esteemed rulers and warriors, and even in their dreaded nightmares where monsters lurk and wait for the death of man. Beowulf was written during the budding of Christianity in England, when it was newly forming. In the story there are obvious references to Christian rituals.
"How the Almighty had made the earth a gleaming plain girdled with waters; in His splendor He set the sun and the moon to be earth's lamplight, lanterns for men and filled the broad lap of the world with branches and leaves; and quickened life in every other thing that moved."(Line 92)
In the story Beowulf, there are a few different religions that are represented by the author. All the religions are portrayed in the story through the author’s eyes and his beliefs. The author makes clear what religion he believes in and his views. Some instances in the story also relate to the conflict between Christianity and the code of warriors. Throughout the story, the author is faced with the challenge of trying to portray his beliefs with a character whose actions are in conflict with his beliefs. Beowulf, in this story is based on the total opposite of the author’s beliefs and there are instances when his behavior is shown, and after there is symbolism of Christianity, to show its conflict with his behavior.
As European civilizations began to develop, humans created polytheistic belief systems. These belief systems allowed humanity to define, worship, and comprehend both the natural and supernatural worlds that surrounded them. However, as perceptions of religious beliefs changed, polytheistic belief systems transformed into a monotheistic belief system. Originally governed by the Celtic faith, Britain’s belief structure experienced a significant transformation with the conquest of the Anglo-Saxons and their Germanic paganism. Society was struggling to establish its identity within a new belief structure. To ease this integration Christian ideas were founded on the existing pagan ideology. This transition produced a gradual conversion to Christianity. The epic poem “Beowulf”, written circa 1000 AD, reflects the unification of Anglo-Saxon pagan concepts with Christian beliefs. ……. The poem, “Beowulf”, demonstrates the fusion between these two divergent religious systems in the characterization Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon by utilizing principles from both Christianity and Paganism.