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Beowulf: Christian Vs Pagan Influence

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The European epic, Beowulf, was written sometime in the eighth century in England. This time period provides us with an idea for the mixture of Christian and pagan elements because of an English society that was in the process of converting from Paganism to Christianity. Examples of Pagan and Christian traditions are presented all throughout literature. Many of the influences deal with what it going on in the world, when the piece is written. When Beowulf was written, St. Augustine had just come over to try and convert the Anglo-Saxon people to Christianity; although the conversion succeeded it was a shallow conversion, and there were still people following the Pagan ways. The fact that Christianity and Paganism are so closely combined in the epic explains the reasons for Beowulf’s Christian and pagan influences. Blending in among Beowulf's triumphs against the three key creatures, we also see Christian virtues being instilled upon the listeners. The good qualities of loyalty, humility, sacrifice for the good of others, and sympathy for those less fortunate are seen woven into the text as well as the negative consequences from greed and pride. In a thorough analysis of Beowulf, the Christian and pagan elements, represented in the characters and their journeys through various countries, creates an epic adventure filled with superhuman qualities and Christian ideals that often parallel themselves to biblical characters and events.
The pagan elements of the epic are evident in a couple of the characters’ superhuman qualities during the first two parts of the poem. Beowulf is seen as a superhero and takes it upon himself to use his strength to defeat Grendel and save the Danes from the turmoil that has haunted them for the past...

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...and his mother, despite being non-human. The author of Beowulf was extremely effective in combining pagan and Christian ideas in the poem. The ability and technique of combining two different elements into his characters makes the epic interesting to read. In mixing Christian and pagan ideas, the eighth century author was able to dramatically enhance the characters with Christian values and pagan ideals. Although the pagan elements greatly influenced the story, the addition of Christian influences and parallels to the Bible make this European epic famous for the adventures, conflicts, and heroism that take place in a time of religious transition. Today, one can still see the Pagan influences in common life. Each time Beowulf succeeded he related it to either Paganism or Christianity. Whether it is one God, or many Gods, the people all had their common belief system.

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