Beowulf Pagan Or Christian Epic?

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Although the narrative of Beowulf is filled with mentions of 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 frequent allusions to the power of destiny, the motivation of blood retaliation, and congratulations of worldly glorification. All of these facts 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).

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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 of 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 of 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 ashes, dust to dust. Christian tradition provinces that God created adult male from the soil and so the organic structure will return to the Earth. The Bible provinces: “In the perspiration of thy face shalt thou eat stuff 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 a direct struggle with the Christian values of humbleness and generousness. Fame, glamor, and stuff wages’s 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 wages’s 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.

The 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 is the Christian mentions surface throughout the narrative, an expression in the heroic poem as a whole clearly shows its true heathen nature. No affair which terminal of the spectrum you are looking for, all the thoughts prove that heathen constructs and rules prevail over the values of Christianity. It is shown on countless occasions through the stuff wages, earthly celebrity, false graven images, and burial patterns. In the terminal, the detached visible radiations in the prismcome together and go one. This array of visible radiation in Beowulf is finally the strong presence of a heathen hero and a heathen civilization.

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Beowulf Pagan Or Christian Epic?. (2017, Jul 12). Retrieved from

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