In the epic poem Beowulf, the struggle between good and evil reveals its omnipresence in even the oldest of tales. The many allusions and symbols throughout the story relate to Christianity and other Pagan beliefs. By looking at them, it becomes apparent that the author of Beowulf believed that the constant war between good and evil is not only fought by the common man but also in the ranks of their highest esteemed rulers and warriors, and even in their dreaded nightmares where monsters lurk and wait for the death of man. Beowulf was written during the budding of Christianity in England, when it was newly forming. In the story there are obvious references to Christian rituals.
The very opening page is an allusion to the Creation, also present in Christianity. “…The Almighty making the earth, shaping these beautiful plains marked of by oceans, then proudly setting the sun and moon to glow across the land and light it;” (lines 7-10). Also, Grendel lusts for men not just for the meat, but he kills out of sheer pleasure. He enjoys killing much as Satan enjoys killing men spiritually. “No savage assault could quench his lust for evil” (lines 52-53). Also in the fight between Grendel and Hrothgar, there was no truce as is true in the spiritual battle between God and Satan, so one can gather that Hrothgar symbolizes God and Grendel is symbolic of Satan.
When Grendel takes the entire hall of Herot, he longs for the throne of Hrothgar which he cannot take because the hand of God himself protects it. “He never dared to touch king Hrothgar’s glorious throne, protected by God-God, whose love Grendel could not know” (82-85) In the Bible, Satan is the complete opposite of God and the only being in the Universe that God does not love. He is granted his power only by the will of God and the warriors in the story tend to believe that Grendel was granted to live in Herot so they
don’t question the will of God until too many of their people die, when they call upon Beowulf. This Christian reference symbolizes that when Satan disrupts the lives of God’s people, the people call upon Jesus to save them and stop the madness.
When Beowulf enters the kingdom of Hrothgar, the procession is similar to that of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem. There is a great feast where they celebrate Beowulf’s already many triumphs. Before he leaves for Denmark though, Beowulf needs a crew and he chooses “the mightiest men he could find, the bravest and best of the Geats…” (120-121) as is the same when Jesus carefully chose his disciples.
When Beowulf and Grendel finally fight in Herot, the battle is similar to that of Jesus and Satan’s exchange of words in the garden of Gethsemane. Satan has tempted many men, but has never come...