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The Role Of Religion In Beowulf

718 words - 3 pages

Though the origins of the epic poem Beowulf lie in the Pagan Anglo-Saxon era, by the time it was recorded, most Saxons had converted to Christianity. The story seems to be told partly from a heathen point of view and also partly from a biblical. Beowulf seeks glory, crediting it to God, yet a lot of his works are said to have been fated, and he seems to be trying to earn immortality on the earth, and not in an afterlife or in heaven. To determine the role of religion in the poem, the difference between fate and God’s providence must be examined, and examples of Pagan beliefs and Christian beliefs in the story should be discussed.
Fate is the development of events beyond a person’s control that is determined by a supernatural power, whereas God’s providence is the plan, or guardianship, that God has for every creature. The difference in definition is subtle, yet it makes a large difference in application. Pagans have little or no religious beliefs and base everything off of their observations of the world around them. While surrounded by disasters caused by the forces of nature, it would be easy for the Anglo-Saxons to believe in gods of nature which controlled every aspect of their lives in some way; hence their belief in fate. However, as Christianity spread, people began to believe that the power that led their lives was actually the guidance of God, and that he has a master plan for all beings. Amidst this change in religion, Beowulf was probably modified to include the beliefs of the people who recorded it as it is today, which is why both Pagan and Christian aspects are present in the story.
Examples of Paganism can be found in what was most likely the original story. Three large influences of Paganism are fame, vengeance, and fate. It could be argued that Beowulf does good deeds out of the kindness of his heart, but in Anglo-Saxon culture, the warriors fought for fame and fortune that would survive beyond their lifetimes. The vengeance that they hold is hardly concealed. When warriors are...

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