This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Beowulf Pagan Or Christian Epic?

1085 words - 4 pages

Beowulf Pagan or Christian Epic

Beowulf: Pagan or Christian Epic?

Although the story of Beowulf is filled with references to religion and faith, many discrepancies occur throughout the story that suggest that Beowulf is not a Christian epic. The character of Beowulf frequently speaks to God and obviously believes in His existence. However, pagan practices are mentioned in several places. Beowulf often refers to another being rather than the Christian God. Pagan practices of cremation and blood-drinking are included in the epic. There are also frequent allusions to the power of fate, the motive of blood revenge, and praise of worldly glory. All of these aspects make Beowulf a pagan tale with a few Christian elements.

A key pagan reference in Beowulf is the entity Wyrd. “Now if Wyrd, Ruler of All, will permit, my stout sword will sing its greedy war-song....Wyrd always weaves as it must”. The Christian tradition clearly states the existence of only one supreme entity. It also states that anyone worshipping “false idols” is subject to punishment. If Beowulf was truly a Christian, he would not call to Wyrd for any type of assistance. One might argue that referring to Wyrd as “Ruler of All” suggests that this entity is the Christian God. But “God” is referred to throughout the epic. “For Grendel bore God’s anger...Mighty God rules mortals forever!”. These are two separate entities that serve different functions throughout the epic. A true Christian tale would not include any other “God” or all-powerful being rather than the one true God of the Christian teachings. The story also mentions that Hrothgar and his people make sacrifices to idols in an attempt to overcome the monster Grendel. “And so it came to pass that the Dane-folk gathered in the heathen temples. And there, they offered sacrifices to their idols” (p.388). Instead of praying to the Christian God for support, they
make sacrifices to pagan idols.

A second pagan reference concerns the monster Grendel. Grendel is a fierce and
loathsome creature who roams the moors and despises all people and their pleasures. He is the enemy of everything pure and true. The monster is known for his taste for human flesh and for drinking the blood of his victims. “That frightful fiend drank down his [Beowulf’s] war-comrade’s blood and then devoured him piece by blood-smeared piece” (p. 394). In the Christian belief system, the drinking of any type of blood of any kind is specifically forbidden. “Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood--I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people”. Beowulf is more troubled by Grendel’s larger actions of destruction rather than the breaking of this Christian belief. Although it is the evil force rather than the good and pure hero that participates in the drinking of blood, the inclusion of the practice adds to the pagan undertones of the story.

Thirdly, Christian...

Find Another Essay On Beowulf - Pagan or Christian Epic?

Pagan and Christian Elements in Beowulf

2182 words - 9 pages Pagan and Christian Elements in Beowulf                 The praised epic poem, Beowulf, is the first great heroic poem in English literature. The epic follows a courageous warrior named Beowulf throughout his young, adult life and into his old age. As a young man, Beowulf becomes a legendary hero when he saves the land of the Danes from the hellish creatures, Grendel and his mother. Later, after fifty years pass, Beowulf is an old man and

Christian and Pagan Influence in Paradise Lost and Beowulf

4174 words - 17 pages because they were attempting to reconcile their own beliefs. Although Beowulf most likely began as such a pagan epic, it eventually was expanded to include Christian elements, whereas Paradise Lost is definitely a Christian tale that uses classical allusions to remain connected to the epic tradition. In both tales, pagan or classical allusions, in contrast to Christian allusions, are used in reference to that which is fallen or damned. Yet I must

Pagan and Christian Concepts of Fate in Beowulf

1539 words - 6 pages The author of Beowulf incorporated the pagan and Christian concepts of fate to promote a system of monarchy where power is passed on through heirs as opposed to the system where the greatest, strongest warrior claims the throne. By attributing accomplishments to fate and declaring them to be acts of God, the author makes the pursuit of glory less attractive. This new interpretation of fate shows how the gathering of fame and glory can lead to

Epic of Beowulf - Contradictory Christian Elements in Beowulf

2046 words - 8 pages Contradictory Christian Elements in Beowulf        In Beowulf the Christian element, which coexists alongside the pagan or heathen, sometimes in a seemingly contradictory fashion, is many faceted.   Certainly the Christian element seems to be too deeply interwoven in the text for us to suppose that it is due to additions made by scribes at a time when the poem had come to be written down. The Christian element had to be included

The cultural tension of the pagan and the Christian lie at the very heart of the poem. Paganism and Christianity in the Epic Poem "Beowoulf"

1518 words - 7 pages , and retold even again. When it came time to be written—probably by a Christian monk (or monks) whose beliefs, it is fair to say, flavored the work—the bards and storytellers had crafted an epic with the Christian permutations already in it. However, that is not to say that the writer was ignorant when it came to what message he desired to relate to the reader. In the Beowulf poem, there are numerous instances of characters thanking the Christian

Is Beowulf an Heroic Elegy or an Epic Narrative?

4846 words - 19 pages Is Beowulf  an Heroic Elegy or an Epic Narrative?       There is considerable debate as to whether the poem Beowulf is an epic narrative poem or an heroic elegy. Which is it. This essay intends to present both sides of the story.   Some great literary scholars think that the poem is an heroic elegy, celebrating the fantastic achievements of its great hero, and also expressing sorrow or lamentation for the hero’s unfortunate death

Beowulf - Its roots in Christianity and Paganism

1196 words - 5 pages Christian influences were combined with early folklore and heroic legends of German tribes. We now try to look at whether or not Christian and biblical influences were added later to originally pagan poem or not. The fact that Christianity and Paganism are so closely intertwined in the poem is the reason Beowulf has both Christian and pagan influences.The pagan elements in the epic poem Beowulf are evident in the characters Epic-hero personifications

Pagan Versus Christian

1126 words - 5 pages Beowulf is the first great English literature. Beowulf was written around A.D. 700 by an anonymous Christian monk. One of the essential concerns of this epic poem is whether or not it is of pagan or Christian origin, or whether it has pagan or Christian influences. The unknown author was undoubtedly a Christian, but also knows just as much about paganism. Paganism and Christianity clash and merge in this poem. Furthermore Beowulf viewed as

Beowulf, Christianity, and Paganism

967 words - 4 pages Beowulf, Christianity, and Paganism The poem Beowulf is a renowned story that displays many different surroundings and religious beliefs. Some may believe the story of Beowulf portrays pagan beliefs or customs and others believe that the poem is more in agreement with Christian ethnicity. The author of Beowulf uses both Christian and pagan elements in the poem to define the heroic warrior, Beowulf, and the evil dragons. After reading

The Irony in the Ideal Hero

837 words - 4 pages The Irony in the Ideal Hero Beowulf is an epic poem about a great hero in pagan society written by a Christian poet. During the time that Beowulf was written, the Germanic tribes were in flux, transitioning from paganism to Christianity. The conflict between the ideal pagan warrior and Christian ethics is evident throughout the poem. Beowulf is portrayed as the ideal hero because of his bravery, strength, and skill as a warrior; his success over

Beowulf as a Pagan Oral Tradition

2372 words - 9 pages controlled by fate, but controlled by God. It is evident that there are Christian elements added to Pagan ideas in the epic. In the beginning of the poem counselors were thinking of ways to resist sudden attacks against Grendel. These counselors sometimes went to pagan shrines and "vowed offerings to idols, [and] swore oaths that the killer of souls might come to their aid and save the people" (Beowulf 36). Immediately after this mention of heathen

Similar Essays

Beowulf: Pagan Or Christian? Essay

1006 words - 5 pages ideals telling a story of an epic hero. Because the reader cannot decipher whether he is pagan or Christian, it is only logical to assume he represents both. The author develops Beowulf to speak as if the two religions work together to create one. Although it is hard for the reader to understand, Beowulf seems to understand exactly what he believes in. The author clearly knew what he was doing when he wrote Beowulf into life. Beowulf's beliefs made him into the great epic hero that he is.

Beowulf: Pagan Tale With Christian Additives

1283 words - 6 pages times. This is where the reader is presented with a difficult conflict within the literary flow of Beowulf.Being a poem that is rooted in pagan folk-lore, religious beliefs of the character's in Beowulf seem to clash when Christian beliefs, as well as references to Biblical scripture, are incorperated within the perdominently pagan tale. Christianity, a monotheist religion, is basically the extreme opposite of Paganism. The two religions differ

Pagan And Christian Influences In Beowulf

2303 words - 9 pages The author of the epic poem Beowulf is unknown, and similarly to the Illiad by Plato its origins remain a mystery. Throughout the poem there are many clues that Beowulf has become a tradition and was passed down orally for centuries, and finally have been translated from the “old English” that it possibly could have been originally recited as, to the English we know today. In the poem Beowulf a bard recites poetry orally, or in a song, usually

Christian And Pagan Virtues Displayed In Beowulf

1180 words - 5 pages Many times in literature authors blend two dissimilar traditions and virtues in order to make up a persons true identity. In the epic poem Beowulf, the Christian allegory is woven with a pagan fable in order to truly represent the characters. The Christian and pagan virtues are successfully synchronized and amalgamate the story as a whole which is displayed by the two main characters, Beowulf and Grendel, through their personal traits. Many