Although proper credit cannot be given to an unknown author, the extraordinary poem, Beowulf, does give proper credit to the typical binary hero system. Beowulf illustrates an impossibly perfect hero, Beowulf, with only the best of intentions who takes on not only the destructive Grendel, but Grendel’s vengeful mother as well only to end in his own impressive demise. Two thematic elements are discussed in Beowulf: that it is altogether improper to fall to the temptation of the devil and that one can survive solely under the protection of God who sends all earthly gifts and blessings. Along with the ever-present sense of salvation bestowed within Beowulf’s pride comes a direct conflict with Christian values that are represented through the demonic Grendel. Therefore, the reader is challenged to explore the dichotomies of salvation versus temptation in the underlying religious concepts of Beowulf.
The Christian religion is based on the foundation that believing wholeheartedly in God will provide one with protection and vice versa that falling to the temptation of the devil will alter one’s pure religious intentions. In Beowulf, Grendel represents the evil or temptation which Christian religion references. Grendel is an ancestor of Cain:
This grim spirit was called Grendel,
after the Creator had condemned him
among Cain’s race—when he killed Abel
the eternal Lord avenged that death. (Beowulf 103, 106-108)
From birth, Grendel is exiled as a repercussion for the sin Cain committed and therefore is brought up in a malicious atmosphere. Little opportunity for exposure to good provides Grendel, “a fiend from hell” (101), with the motive for evil. Not only is Grendel seen as evil f...
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...eir faith has been reestablished and strengthened through Beowulf, a disciple of the Lord, for not an eyelash is blinked in the direction of temptation while Beowulf diminishes yet another form of attack on the religious ways of the Danes, Grendel’s mother.
Beowulf incorporates underlying tones of religion through the expression of characters: Grendel as temptation and Beowulf as salvation. The epic battles between hero and monster place a face on the constant conflict of the conscience between good and evil. The controversial thematic elements of Beowulf, including that it is altogether improper to fall to the temptation of the devil and that one can survive solely under the protection of God who sends all earthly gifts and blessings, place an expectation on the reader to devour the thought of salvation versus temptation in such a religious work of literature.
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