Modern Irish Literature (7)
28 January 2013
Beowulf Takes on the Monster: Christianity
Beowulf a New Verse Translation, parallels heroism with sacrificial virtues, creating a medley between Pagan tradition and Christian morality. The hero of the story, Beowulf, displays mixed religious thoughts indicative of the time period, in which the epic was first written down. Beowulf maintains strong desires for and belief in the Pagan tenets: fame, vengeance, and fate, while demonstrating Christ-like qualities: loyalty, humility, and sacrifice. Similarly the devilish trinity of Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon create allusions to the Old Testament, while the stories themselves maintain the Pagan image of “monsters.” In a society that contained a large majority of Anglo-Saxon Pagans, the author(s) harmonizes Christian moral tradition with traditional Pagan qualities, promoting a transition from Pagan ideas of a hero to Christ-like sacrificial virtues. Utilizing the battle between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf, the author(s) infuses Christian virtues of faith and trust in God’s power through Beowulf’s symbolic resurrection, exploits the Christian symbol of a cross to demonstrate Christianity’s power, and parallels the battle with the story of David and Goliath, while maintaining Pagan heroism, in an attempt to promote Christianities’ ideals in place of Pagan beliefs.
Following Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s Mother, Beowulf, being left with the scalded hilt of the sword, ends the battle holding a cross, representing the eternal quality of the Christian message when faith is acted upon rather than pride. “Its blade had melted / and the scrollwork on it burned, so scalding was the blood / of the poisonous fiend who had perished there” (Beowulf 1615-1617). The poisonous blood of Grendel’s devilish mother, powerful enough to melt away one of the most relied upon elements of the time period, could not melt away the Cross of Christ that...