Beowulf: Pagan Or Christian Epic Essay, Research Paper
Beowulf: Pagan or Christian Epic?
Although the narrative of Beowulf is filled with mentions to faith and religion, many
disagreements occur throughout the narrative that suggest that Beowulf is non a Christian heroic poem. The
character of Beowulf often speaks to God and evidently believes in His being.
However, heathen patterns are mentioned in several topographic points. Beowulf frequently refers to another
being instead than the Christian God. Pagan patterns of cremation and blood-drinking are
included in the heroic poem. There are besides frequent allusions to the power of destiny, the motivation of
blood retaliation, and congratulations of worldly glorification. All of these facets make Beowulf a heathen narrative
with a few Christian elements.
A cardinal heathen mention in Beowulf is the entity Wyrd. ? Now if Wyrd, Ruler of All, will
license, my stout blade will sing its greedy war-song … .Wyrd ever weaves as it must? ( P.
410 ) . The Christian tradition clearly states the being of merely one supreme entity. It besides
provinces that anyone worshipping? false graven images? is capable to penalty. If Beowulf was genuinely a
Christian, he would non name to Wyrd for any type of aid. One might reason that
mentioning to Wyrd as? Ruler of All? suggests that this entity is the Christian God. But? God?
is referred to throughout the heroic poem. ? For Grendel dullard God’s choler … Mighty God regulations persons
everlastingly! ? ( p. 393 ) . These are two separate entities that serve different maps throughout
the heroic poem. A true Christian narrative would non include any other? God? or almighty being instead
than the one true God of the Christian instructions. The narrative besides mentions that Hrothgar and
his people make forfeits to idols in an effort to get the better of the monster Grendel. ? And so it
came to go through that the Dane-folk gathered in the pagan temples. And at that place, they offered
forfeits to their graven images? ( p.388 ) . Alternatively of praying to the Christian God for support, they
do forfeits to pagan graven images.
A 2nd heathen mention concerns the monster Grendel. Grendel is a ferocious and
nauseating animal who roams the Moors and despises all people and their pleasances. He is
the enemy of everything pure and true. The monster is known for his gustatory sensation for human flesh
and for imbibing the blood of his victims. ? That atrocious monster drank down his [ Beowulf’s ]
war-comrade’s blood and so devoured him piece by blood-smeared piece? ( p. 394 ) . In the
Christian belief system, the imbibing of any type of blood of any sort is specifically out.
? Any Israelite or any foreign life among them who eats any blood – I will put my face against
that individual who eats blood and will cut him off from his people? ( Leviticus 16:10-11a ) .
Beowulf is more troubled by Grendel’s larger actions of devastation instead than the breakage
of this Christian belief. Although it is the evil force instead than the good and pure hero that
participates in the imbibing of blood, the inclusion of the pattern adds to the heathen
undertones of the narrative.
Third, Christian tradition holds that human organic structures are to be buried instead than
cremated. Although there is no direct prohibition against cremation, the Bible speaks clearly about
? ashes to ashe
s, dust to dust. ? Christian tradition provinces that God created adult male from soil and so
the organic structure will return to the Earth. The Bible provinces: ? In the perspiration of thy face shalt thou eat
staff of life, till thou return unto the land, for out of it wast thou taken: for dust 1000 art, and unto
dust shalt 1000 return? ( Genesis 3:19 ) . Beowulf asks to be burned at a funeral pyre. ? Let my
battle-famed war-comrades burn my organic structure upon exalted Whale? s-Cliff? ( p.413 ) . If Beowulf
were genuinely a Christian, he would non wish to take part in this heathen burial pattern. After his
cremation, Beowulf wants his ashes placed in a memorial tower as a reminder of his courage.
This desire of personal glorification and the demand for acknowledgment leads into the following heathen mention
that is discussed.
A 4th heathen tone in the heroic poem is the strong sense of heroic pride and desire for
personal addition that Beowulf shows. These feelings are in direct struggle with the Christian
values of humbleness and generousness. Fame, glamor, and stuff wagess entice work forces clip after
clip in the narrative. The War-Geats? actions are based on their motivations for personal addition.
Christianity places an accent on benevolence and generousness instead than plume and glorification.
Although it externally appears that Beowulf battles to protect the lives of others, there is a
more selfish ground that lies underneath. It is Beowulf’s avidity for stuff wagess and
desire for earthly celebrity that leads him to protect others. This can be seen when Hrothgar Tells
Beowulf that he will be rewarded extravagantly if he defeats Grendel’s female parent. ? Do this title for
me, and I will honor you with a trove of gracious gifts – antique hoarded wealths and distorted gold?
( p. 398 ) . Hrothgar gives inducement by luring Beowulf’s selfishness. Beowulf accepts the
offer, cognizing that he will claim a great luck if he wins. Greed is besides highlighted in the
narrative of the slave who steals the treasure-cup from the firedrake. ? And so it came to go through that the
slave offered his maestro the treasure-cup. The slave hoped the goblet would buy
forgiveness and peace? ( p.408 ) . The larceny of the treasure-cup to buy forgiveness
high spots the greed of a society that places such a high premium on material wealth. This
accent on material objects is associated with the heathen universe where objects are like graven images
that symbolize celebrity and wealth.
In decision, the heroic narrative of Beowulf is a heathen narrative with a heathen hero. Although
there are Christian images throughout the narrative, the narrative is clearly heathen in nature. The
Beowulf poet portrays the civilization and people by dividing the chief thoughts like a prism does
with light. Although there are the Christian mentions surface throughout the narrative, a expression at
the heroic poem as a whole clearly shows its true heathen nature. No affair which terminal of the spectrum
you are looking from, all the thoughts prove that heathen constructs and rules prevail over the
values of Christianity. It is shown on countless occasions through the stuff wagess,
earthly celebrity, false graven images, and burial patterns. In the terminal, the detached visible radiations in the prism
come together and go one. This array of visible radiation in Beowulf is finally the strong
presence of a heathen hero and a heathen civilization.