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A Comparison of Christian Influence on Beowulf and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

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Christian Influence on Beowulf and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki  


     In Beowulf the Christian influence is revealed through approximately 70 passages in which the form of expression or the thought suggests Christian usage or doctrine (Blackburn 3); The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is in its own way infused with Christian values even though it preserves remnants of the cult of Odin.

 

The Christian element seems to be too deeply interwoven in the text of Beowulf for us to suppose that it is due to additions made by scribes at a time when the poem had come to be written down. The Christian element had to be included by the original poet or by minstrels who recited it in later times. The extent to which the Christian element is present varies in different parts of the poem, from about ten percent in the first part to much less than that throughout the rest of the poem. The Christian element is about equally distributed between the speeches and the narrative.

 

Christian missionaries to Britain in the early centuries took many words belonging to heathen beliefs and practices and adopted them into the church (Blackburn 3). For example, Hel was at one time the goddess of the world of the dead; Catholic missionaries used Hell to indicate the place of the dead, later of the damned. Likewise with words such as Yule, Easter, God, haelend, nergend, drihten, metod, frea; the latter ones have fallen from usage. We see these words used in Beowulf as well as other Anglo-Saxon poetry.

 

The theology which appears in the Christian allusions in Beowulf is very vague and indefinete: there is no mention of Christ, the saints, miracles, Mary His Mother, specific doctrines of the church, martyrs of the church, the New Tes...


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...ticism, edited by Lewis E. Nicholson. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963.

 

Bloom, Harold. “Introduction.” In Modern Critical Interpretations: Beowulf, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

 

Chadwick, H. Munro. “The Heroic Age.” In An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, edited by Lewis E. Nicholson. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963.

 

Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

 

Frank, Roberta. “The Beowulf Poet’s Sense of History.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

 

Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–21; New York: Bartleby.com, 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

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