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

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 by the original poet or by minstrels who recited it in later times. The extent to which the Christian element is present varies in different parts of the poem. In the last portion (2200–3183) the number of lines affected by it amounts to less than four per cent., while in the section dealing with Beowulf’s return (1904–2199) it is negligible. In the earlier portions, on the other hand, the percentage rises to about ten percent (Ward v1,ch3,s3,n16).  The Christian element is about equally distributed between the speeches and the narrative.

 

While the poet’s reflections and characters’ statements are mostly Christian, the customs and ceremonies, on the other hand, are almost entirely heathen/pagan. This fact seems to point to a heathen work which has undergone revision by Christian minstrels. In the case of cremation mentioned in reference to Hildeburh’s family in The Finnsburh Episode and in relation to Beowulf at the end of the poem, which is the prevalent form of funeral rite found in the poem, this practice had probably passed out of use by the time the poem was starting to be Christianized, so such passages could not excite the repugnance among the Christian listeners in the audience.

 

The Christianity of Beowulf is of an indefinite and undoctrinal type. The minstrels who introduce the Christian element probably had but a vague knowledge of Christianity. While the poet’s reflections and characters’ statements are mostly Christian, the customs and ceremonies, on the other hand, are almost entirely heathen/pagan: At the beginning of the poem, there is the account of the pagan funeral rites of Scyld Scefing, and at the close of the poem we see the heathen rites of burial for Beowulf himself, including cremation, deposition of treasures and armor, etc. with the corpse in the burial mound overlooking the sea. Including such heathen rites enables the poet to “communicate his Christian vision of pagan heroic life.”(Bloom 2). Additonally, earlier in the poem, the Danes, when under extreme pressure from Grendel, reverted to Satan-worship:

 

At times they prepared              sacrifice in temples,

war-idol offerings,                                 said the old words aloud,

that the great soul-slayer                       might bring some comfort

in their country’s disaster.                      Such was their custom,

the hope of the heathen;                        they remembered Hell

in their deepest thoughts.                       They knew not the Lord,

the...

Find Another Essay On Epic of Beowulf - Contradictory Christian Elements in Beowulf

The Epic of Beowulf Essay

1619 words - 6 pages ). The contradictory factors of these battles were very evident in the epic. Considering that Beowulf's original Pagan form was converted to reflect Christian values, it is ironic how during the battle with Grendel's mother, Beowulf's main motive was revenge. According to followers of Christianity, it is better to just remain peaceful with your enemies and always practice the art of forgiveness. According to them, this would be the "good

Epic of Beowulf Essay

1153 words - 5 pages The 8th century epic poem Beowulf illustrates a loss of community, cultural values and tradition. On the other hand, an elegiac passing of an extraordinary hero and the relationship between the themes of mortality and heroism are well discussed in Beowulf. Beowulf’s character exemplifies the Germanic and the Anglo-Saxon ideals of the hero: strong, fearless, bold, loyal, and stoic in the acceptance of fate. Despite his lack of humility

Epic of Beowulf

1389 words - 6 pages Beowulf, the national epic of England, was passed down from generation to generation tells the legend of a mighty hero. This folk epic portrays the ideas of 16th century Anglo-Saxon culture until the early 8th century when a monk transcribed it into written form. Housed in the British Museum, the manuscript is considered to be a historical document as well as a great piece of literature. This tale narrates a story about a man who saves two

Epic of Beowulf

989 words - 4 pages Beowulf The epic poem Beowulf is a story of heroes and monsters, good and evil. The poem tells about the accomplishments and deeds of a legendary Geatish hero who first rids the Danish kingdom of Hrothgar of two demonic monsters: Grendel and Grendel's mother. Later in the story, Beowulf meets a dragon, kills it with the help of Wiglaf, but dies of wounds. No one knows who wrote Beowulf. It was not really written in the way that

Epic of Beowulf

927 words - 4 pages friendship. Beowulf and the Knight are most definitely heroes of epic proportions. These two characters, the Knight and Beowulf, are the hero of each story and clearly show their traits of being a hero throughout each. Each character varies in the traits that make each a hero. Traits and qualities are what make a hero what he or she is. A hero is honored by his or her followers. In the cases of Beowulf and the Knight, they were both honored and

Epic of Beowulf - 806 words

806 words - 3 pages “Beowulf” is definitely a prime example of outstanding literature. The work itself is an arcane accomplishment that welds the hardened steel of the Viking resilience to the more-contemporary Christian theology. The sheer magnitude of the document is the stuff of legend; inspiring countless stories and still sets off light bulbs the world over. For most purposes, “Beowulf” embodies the ideal for epic poetry; thus making it a staple in the

Epic of Beowulf - 874 words

874 words - 3 pages seemingly guided by fate and could not prevent his inevitable downfall. Beowulf was a perfectly shaped epic hero of fame and glory. He possesses uncommon human ability and a very loyal nature. He won the respect of all who came in contact with him through his champion-like etiquette and dignity. Although these two characters represented entirely different types of heroes, they shared one important similarity. Each had a tragic flaw that

Epic of Beowulf - 1271 words

1271 words - 5 pages Throughout life a man makes many descions which determine the way his life will be lived and the way it will end. All choices a man makes in his life have consequences and each man must account for them. In life, every man must reap what he has sown. The values a man holds to be important in his life govern the choices he makes. The epic Beowulf is a good example of this truth. In the story, Beowulf is a god-like human who possesses a strength

Epic of Beowulf

1225 words - 5 pages The Lead of Beowulf Huy Ngo      Beowulf displays the qualities of a good leader that were mentioned in the speech given by Hrothgar. The speech speaking of the vices and virtues of great political leaders contains many of the same qualities that Beowulf embodies. His boastfulness, generosity and kindness are evidence that he is a good leader and provides for his people. Although the qualities he posses may not be the

The Epic of Beowulf

1227 words - 5 pages actions. In the epic poem, Beowulf the authors portrays Grendel as a cold-hearted beast who thrives on the pain of others. Many have disagreed with such a simplistic and biased representation of Grendel and his role in the epic poem. John Gardner in his book, Grendel set out to change the reader’s perception of Grendel and his role in Beowulf by narrating the story through Grendel’s point of view. John Gardner transforms the perceived terrible evil

Epic of Beowulf

1821 words - 7 pages introduced into english. If all things are to be considered this short essay would turn into a book. I would like to compare and contrast Beowulf, Lanval, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with some of the modern day creations especially in looking at the values, and belief systems in all of the three “classic” stories. I will apologize in advance to those who will read this and are not familiar to the texts that are mentioned, due to restrictions

Similar Essays

Epic Of Beowulf Essay Alliteration In Beowulf

1355 words - 5 pages Alliteration in Beowulf                     The diction of the Old English poem Beowulf is distinguished primarily by its heavy use of  allliteration, or the repetition of the initial sounds of words.   In the original manuscript version of the poem, alliteration is employed in almost every line (or two half-lines); in modern translations of the poem this is not so. Beowulf uses alliteration [my italics] and accent to achieve the

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

Beowulf Pagan Or Christian Epic?

1085 words - 4 pages 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

Epic Of Beowulf Essay Shields In The Epic Poem, Beowulf

1038 words - 4 pages Shields in the poem Beowulf       Shields, a defensive weapon mentioned in the poem Beowulf, include a variety of compositions from wood to iron; and this is wholly in accord with archaeological finds. There are a considerable number of references to shields in the poem, making this topic a very relevant one to consider.   “Weapons could be heirlooms, and royal treasuries and armories still preserve arms and weapons from