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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 more violence, which in turn makes glory less desired. If glory is no longer a highly held value in this society then the system no longer functions. Once the system is made illegitimate, there is a necessity for a new kind of system to be instituted. Throughout the entire poem we are told that the strongest bond is between kin, and that the bonds created through buying people off do not always hold up. The new system of governance is then based on the stability of kinship, and we can see this when Wiglaf inherits the throne in the end. The purpose of fate in the Christian revised version of Beowulf is meant to show the problems with the Warrior-King System of passing power and to establish a system based on the stability of kinship.

If the glory and fame that come with success in battle, and great accomplishments are attributed not to the person who realizes these feats but to God, then the idea of personal glory has been eliminated. This was the intent of the revisionist when they added many lines to the poem which attribute Beowulf's deeds to God's good graces. This can be seen many times in the poem in what Beowulf says when he has accomplished something great. An example of this occurs before Beowulf's battle with Grendel, when he proclaims, "Whichever one death fells must deem it a just judgement by God" and "Fate goes ever as fate must" (31). These lines tell us that Beowulf believes that the outcome of the battle will be ultimately determined by God. If God has the ultimate say and can completely control the outcome of the fight, then Beowulf gets no credit for his accomplishments. This isn't the only time that Beowulf denies himself of glory, and attributes his success to God's intervention. After surviving the battle with Grendel's Mother, and returning with her head on a post, Beowulf tells the king, "It was hard-fought, a desperate affair that could have gone badly; if God had not helped me, the outcome would have been quick and fatal" (115). In this statement not only does Beowulf give the credit to God, but he tells us that he would have died if God had not given him help. This attributing of accomplishment to God's plan eliminates the idea of glory, and makes Beowulf a selfless warrior. This causes a problem for the warrior-king system, and this becomes obvious when examining the way which the system functions.

We can see how the Warrior-King system works when we look at the story of Shield Sheafson. In the beginning of the story they tell us about Shield who as...

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