October 9, 2014
In the Introduction to his translation of Beowulf, R. M. Liuzza suggests that the poem establishes “a kind of spiritual solidarity between the pagan past and the Christian present” (30). While the poem certainly establishes a solidarity between the two beliefs, the way the two intertwine throughout the poem suggests that it is more of a melting pot of the two beliefs, rather than just a “spiritual connection.” The melting pot of the two religions is displayed during Beowulf’s fights against the three monsters: Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and the dragon. The poem Beowulf creates a melting pot of Pagan and Christian beliefs that reflect the period of transition between Paganism and Christianity.
Pagan and Christian elements are mixed as soon as Beowulf appears in the poem. Beowulf is given permission to fight Grendel because of his fame and because of his boastfulness, which is filled with so much pride that it convinces the king of his strength. Beowulf said that he has done “many glorious deeds” (Liuzza 408-9) in his youth, and that his own people suggest he seek out Grendel because they “knew the might of [Beowulf’s] strength” (418). Being boastful is a positive Pagan trait, at least when it can supported with evidence, but in Christianity, pride is one of the seven deadly sins. The Christian bible says that “when pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble” (New Revised Standard Version, Proverbs 11:2). These quotes might suggest that Beowulf is predominantly Pagan as he has a blatant disregard for the bible’s demand that people be humble, yet when he gives his speech about fighting Grendel, he suggest that Grendel “put his faith / in the Lord’s judge...
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...er sprinkled on him, Beowulf says that he offers
with theses words to the eternal Lord,
King of Glory, for what I gaze upon here,
that I was able to acquire such wealth
for my people before me death day (Liuzza 2794-9).
Immediately after Beowulf has the water sprinkled on him, he thanks God, instead of fate, for his blessings, and says that the wealth that he acquired is for his people, not for him. This is a quick change from relying on “fate” to grant him a son and fighting the dragon for his “gold.” Just as baptism gave Beowulf a renewal and a new sense of strength earlier in the poem when fighting Grendel’s mother, it also seems to have rekindled his relationship to God when he needed it the most, moments before his death.The Holy Bible : containing the Old and New Testaments : New revised standard version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989. Print.
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