Pagan Riturals vs. Christianity in Old English Literature

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Pagan Rituals vs. Christianity in Old English Literature

In early English literature, writers began to incorporate both pagan ideas along with Christian beliefs. In pagan culture people believed and found comfort in warriors as heroes, battles with blood and gore, and revenge for wrong doings. Christian qualities included loyalty, sympathy, and sacrifice for the good of others. In the following paragraphs I will describe how the two concepts merged to create some of history’s most admired literary works. Caedmon’s Hymn and Dream of the Rood is if full of Christian influences. In order for Anglo-Saxons to receive the ideas of Christianity, the authors described Christ as a Weard (Guardian), warrior, or a hero. Bede told a story of Caedmon who ran in shame because he couldn’t sing at feast and later in his sleep was visited by an angel who told him to sing about the Creation. Caedmon later devoted his life to the monastery writing songs about Christian life. In Dream of the Rood, rood meaning cross, the speaker dreams of the cross Jesus was sacrificed on. “Then the young Hero stripped himself-that was God Almighty-strong and stouthearted”, here again the writer describes Christ as a warrior preparing for battle as he is marching to his crucifixion. The epic poem Beowulf embodied both Pagan heroic ideas and Christianity’s self-sacrificing merits. Beowulf is described as a warrior who is going out to battle Grendel to avenge the wrongdoings caused upon the Danes. Beowulf believed he was called by God to protect the Danes. Characters from Beowulf take on certain Biblical roles, for example Grendel and his mother, decedents of Cain, are monsters of pure evil living at the bottom of a fiery lake or Hell. Also Beowulf and Grendel could be compared to David and Goliath in that a man sent from God to help a community being tormented by a giant with the conclusion of the warrior defeating the giant and becoming a hero. There are numerous...
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