Beowulf is an interesting story in that it has a meaning that is firmly rooted in fantasy creatures based in mythical origins while providing insight into religious ideals and practices of the time. It also speaks of tradition and the struggle of man against things perceived as evil. In this tradition especially, Beowulf is an incredible allegory regarding the struggle of good and evil in the Christian tradition.
In order to consider this as such an allegory, we must define the scope of the struggle. That is to say, what is good and what is evil? In the Christian tradition, there is a fictional figure that creates all the evil in the world. Some people call this figure “Satan” however, that word derives from the Hebrew word meaning “adversary” and can refer to both physical and nonphysical entities. As such, there is no singular evil Satan figure. The name of “Lucifer” used in Isaiah is a reference to a fallen Babylonian King and it is only later, well after the writing of the Bible, that Lucifer is adapted to refer to an evil entity. The term “devil” is just as enigmatic in that it means “accuser” and can stand for any being either divine or mundane. As such, there is no singular evil entity in Christian mythology blamable for evil in the Christian tradition. It must therefore make sense that anything that is evil is that which is against or not of God.
The creation story in Genesis refers to a serpent classically interpreted as an evil entity. If we consider God’s warning that eating fruit from a certain tree would result in death the same day and that the record indicates that the only two humans on the planet did not, we must reconsider the role of the serpent and reevaluate the roles of good and evil and how they apply to both God and the serpent. In this particular instance, we see that because of the serpent, mankind gained a wisdom not granted by God and effectively grew beyond the original state of consciousness and awareness given to man. In terms of man’s thought faculties, man no longer needed God to dictate what was right and wrong. It is important to realize that, in the absolute strictest sense, God’s warning was a lie in that mankind did not die the same day and that the serpent did not lie when it indicated that Eve and Adam would not die. In all fairness, interpretation rather than literal acceptance of the passage can change the meaning of this story.
In Beowulf, the entirety of the story centers on either territorial or ownership disputes. The first half of the story deals with territorial issues and is the focus of this discussion. The story explicitly tells the reader that Grendel has control or domain over areas of land including the area where the mead-hall exists. As humans, we identify with the people scratching out a living in what is Grendel’s territory and see Grendel and his mother as evil for killing the villagers. Beowulf...