Beowulf: Pagan or Christian?

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Beowulf: Pagan or Christian?

The present paper will discuss the issue of religion in the epic poem Beowulf. Given the fact that at the moment Beowulf was written there was a clash between Pagan and Christian beliefs in present-day England, the poem contains elements of both mentioned religions. The purpose of this paper is to prove that the surviving text of Beowulf represents an entire Christian piece, whose Pagan elements were used as a tool to persuade non-Christianised Anglo-Saxons into converting to Christianity. Hence, such added elements are part of the symbolism founding an Anglo-Saxon Christian community.

To begin with, in Beowulf the reader is given a vision of a barbarian society at its finest. Courage, prowess in war, loyalty and generosity are the qualities most forcefully portrayed. It is a society of chiefs and kings, a society of a clan spirit, in which the source of the lord’s power lies in his capacity to inspire friends, relations and foreigners to gather around him, lead them successfully through war and feed and reward them with princely gifts. Warriors fighting against monstrous creatures, such as trolls and dragons, are also depicted. However, unlike the heroic-age figures in Beowulf, the poet is an Anglo-Saxon Christian. In order to fully understand this concept, some insight into history is necessary to gain.

From the late sixth century and throughout the seventh century several missions to Christianize the different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England were sent, until the process officially concluded around the year 681AC. Still, Paganism hadn’t ceased to be a constant threat during the Anglo-Saxon period, since it couldn’t be denied that the recently converted Christians were no more than Anglo-Saxons who took pride in their Pagan heritage and forebears.

Given the mingled audience that the poet had to face in the eighth century, he tries to keep a balance between both religious beliefs. On the one...
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