Christian vs. Pagan Approaches in Beowulf
Beowulf was written by a Christian poet around the eighth century. Having been changed a number of times, this manuscript has been observed in the older pagan period, and influence by pagan rituals. There are two different cultures reflected towards Beowulf which, are the Christianity culture and the pagan culture. Paganism and Christianity are both equally portrayed and expressed in Beowulf. It cconsists of heroes that are called Anglo-Saxons, who prided themselves on upholding their values of advancement, glory and revenge. Christian essentials are brought into Beowulf and could be taken to another perspective because the poet is Christian. Although Christianity has an effect on Beowulf, it is known still to be pagan as well. The purpose of this paper is to show the significance of Beowulf to understands both the Christian and pagan humanity. Beowulf’s action and characterizations in the pagan view has become a major role in the Christian view as well. Near the second partial of Beowulf, it does not discuss much about the Christianity of the hero (Moorman, 17). The pagans attempted to deny death as a part of life, but they believed it is getting revenge to cause more deaths, for example instead of Grendel’s mother mourning the loss of her son she pursues revenge. The author has placed Grendel in a Biblical lineage of evil reaching because of the first murder (Hamilton 309). The Christian poet decides not to reject the pagan customs.
“The Almighty Judge of good deeds and bad, the Lord God, Head of the Heavens
and High King of the World, was unknown to them. Oh, cursed is he who in time
of trouble had to thrust his soul into the fire’s embrace, forfeiting help; he has
nowhere to turn. But blessed is he who after death can approach the Lord and find friendship in the Father’s embrace” (Beowulf, 180-88). According to this quote, the poet felt that God was not a source of help for the pagan ancestors in any type of way. Christianity is the belief of the bible and the aspects of Christianity are exposing in Beowulf. The Old Testament is mentioned a little in the first part of Beowulf more than the second part. The Christianity view clinches death as a part of life unlike pagan. According to Marie Hamilton in The Christian Perspective in Beowulf, “The Christian doctrine of Providence, the conception of God as having governed all races of mankind since the creation, and as bestowing all favors, natural or supernatural, that men enjoy” (Hamilton 310-11). This statement explains the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence. There is a possibility that Grendel is the link to the Bible. The correlation between Grendel and Cain is persistent because they were both known to be alienated from God’s favor. Magic was the connection between Grendel and his mother, which relates to Cain’s magic invention (Hamilton 316). The version told to Hygelac does not have Christian references; however Hrothgar’s version refers to the action of God’s influence. The difference between Hrothgar’s Christianity and Hygelac’s paganism is not related to a source but they both are thankful for Beowulf’s success (Stevick 82). The inaccurate indication of Beowulf’s victory was related to God’s influence, but he allowed Beowulf to get back on his feet. There is still no clear point (83). Grendel’s mother and God’s relationship is a weak version of God and Grendel’s relationship. The relationship of Beowulf and Grendel to God is out of stability because Grendel is more like a foe of God (Stevick 85). Grendel’s mother thinks of Beowulf as a bad guy that murdered her son even though he is a hero to others. A victory for God is Grendel’s defeat, but Hrothgar rewards Beowulf. Grendel and God’s relationship is clear of animosity, but Beowulf and God’s relationship is submissive (86). Grendel’s death also expressed the Christian influence in Beowulf.
The poet of Beowulf has divided his...
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