Cultural Diversity in The Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and Gilgamesh
Cultural diversity is something that mankind has experienced since the dawn of time. Different cultures and different people have different views on the same issues, and it all adds to the diversity that is life. It shows that there is something for everybody. For the most part, there is no one person
saying that everyone has to be this or follow that. A person's culture is determined on how they are brought up, what country they live in, how their parents were raised, and what the people around them do and believe in. The differences in culture is what caused people of later time to believe in more that one God, something that, for the most part, is unheard of today. It lead to Feudalism and the divine right to the throne. Different people are brought up to think different things, and the things people learn as a child stick with them forever. Culture is also based on choice, and every person has the choice to do whatever makes them happy. So much is know about culture now because it has been recorded in books such as Gilgamesh
, and The Nibelungenlied. Three different books displaying cultural views from three different time periods. And it is with works like these that modern scholars and historians can examine what the people and times were like back then.
Two books with a similar time period were those of The Nibelungenlied and Beowulf, both placed in 6th century Europe, one based in England and the other in Germany. Both cultures had a history of war, almost a passion for it. The English had no fear for what they might battle, and knew the consequences like every skilled knight should: "However great an army we take, the Queen has such dreadful ways that they would all have to die through her arrogance." (The Nigelungenlied, Ch. 6, pg. 54) But knights had to know the risk involved in being one of the best, and the sacrifices that needed to be made to put their country on top. And it has been shown that both cultures took pride in their work: "Then the king ordered eight gold-bridled horses to be led onto the floor, into the enclosure; on one of them was a saddle skillfully decorated, ornamented with jewels." (Beowulf, lines 1036-1038).
It can be seen in both Beowulf and The Niblungenlied that the quest for expansion of one's country is one of importance. During the Middle Ages,
kings dreamed of owning large amounts of land, and in both books this is clear. But, in Gilgamesh, the mode changes drastically from one of expansion
to one of finding inner peace, something that can not be found by fighting and rule. Gilgamesh had lost the only person that meant everything to him, and didn't know how to cope:
For being human holds a special grief
Of privacy within the universe
That yearns and waits to be retouched
By someone who can take away
The memory of death. (Gilgamesh, pg. 54)
His goal in life was one that no ordinary person could obtain. He was searching for life, almost immortality. The ability to breath life into something that has long since faded. But, later on, he realizes that it is his life, his inner peace, that he needs, not that of a friend.One thing that maintains a difference between cultures is the time in which the culture exists. Different time periods have different technologies, philosophies, thinkers, and leaders. People often think of new times as better times, a chance to start anew with information you have gathered from past mistakes. Another thing that differs is location. Location, even of a short distance, can show many differences in the culture. By viewing the cultures religion, one can see how these things differ, even within the same time period. In the 6th century, the English practiced Christianity, and worshipped in temples, man made structures to help one get closer with God.
They felt these were more important than just finding a place to worship. The Germanic tribes, however, practiced polytheism and worshipped in structures built by nature called groves, and used these for a very long time. They eventually converted to Christianity and started worshipping in temples, but it's an example on how distance and different people at the same time period can differ so much. One wonders what would happen if these two ever meet.
Diversity, though it may seem odd, is something that holds this world together. Cultural clashing is rare now a days, and freedom between cultures gives people the ability to believe what that want to believe and not be punished for it (for the most part). If the world was pasted together by the same culture, it is very unlikely that civilization would be what it is today, or if it would even exist. People today can learn about past cultures by reading The Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and Gilgamesh and still be open to their own views on society today, and be open to the other things that different cultures have to offer.