Religion in Beowulf: Exploring Christianity and Paganism in the Anglo-Saxon Society

Topics: Religion, Beowulf, Christianity Pages: 4 (1509 words) Published: November 27, 2013
The foundation of religion is the utter conviction that one’s religion is the absolute truth. Having such utter confidence that one’s religion is such, one becomes morally bound with a duty to share this truth with as many people as they can. A bard in the eleventh century, in the ingenious combination of entertainment and preaching, delivers the story of Beowulf, where an honorable hero battles manifestations of evil itself. At the crossroads of paganism and Christianity, the characters in Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon people alike faced the essential blending of two religious lifestyles in several life-affecting scenarios into one semi-coherent religious viewpoint.

In the epic poem, Beowulf, the ideals of Christianity dominate over those of paganism through the shift of pagan values to praises of God, the biblical allusions, and the role Beowulf plays as a Christ-like figure, proving the author’s bias and demonstrating the nature of the Anglo-Saxon time period.

To embellish this theme, it is necessary to acknowledge the unique dichotomy that exists in the epic tale between vastly different religious viewpoints. The author exemplifies this relationship constantly throughout the poem mainly in the mention of pagan values. Among these is the heroic value of fame. Beowulf himself boldly proclaims, “he who can earn it should fight / For the glory of his name; fame after death / Is the noblest of goals” (1387-89). Essentially, Beowulf emboldens the other characters with a reminder of a traditional value: that legacy is the only reward that a good soldier may hope to achieve. This value is one example among many of the contrast that exists between pagan and Christian principles in the poem and in the Anglo-Saxon society. Namely, Christianity holds that eternal life waits for the deceased soul, not merely a legacy, a burden that bards in the coming ages must sing into remembrance. In spite of that, this contrast epitomizes the balance that the Anglo-Saxons may...
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