Christian Symbolism in Beowulf

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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, much different than the Beowulf in the poem.

Christianity influenced much of the literature during this period of time. Although the poem never mentions Christ, the poet did use various characters and references to the Old Testament. The poet uses them sparingly, but the references to biblical events and characters are clearly evident. Protected by God, King Hrothgar became a mighty ruler over the lands surrounding Herot. When Grendel, an epitome of sin, comes into the poem, Hrothgar was probably less worried about himself, and more worried about his people. He was not “an old pathetic king, incapable of protecting his people” (Bloom 47). He was described as being a famous hero because of his goodness and great wisdom. Made of earthen walls covered by gold and ivory, Herot’s beauty and reverence reigned throughout the land. “Herot, the great hall becomes an emblem for God’s word itself” (Chickering 271). Fire has and probably always will be a representation of evil. It is ironic that the single force that could bring down the glorious Herot was fire. Throughout Grendel’s barbarous attacks, he never challenges Hrothgar’s throne: “He never dared touch King Hrothgar’s throne, protected by God, God whose love Grendel...
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