Beowulf: A Christian and Pagan Poem

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Beowulf – a Christian-Pagan Poem In Beowulf the pagan aspect is revealed through many passages and many heathen rites or customs in which the form of expression or the thought suggests pagan usage or beliefs. The Christian aspect is revealed through 68 passages in which the form of expression or the thought suggests Christian usage or doctrine (Blackburn 3). The Christian element seems to be too deeply imbedded in the text of Beowulf for us to conclude 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 from about ten percent in the first part to much less than that throughout the rest of the poem. In Christianizing the local culture which produced Beowulf, Catholic 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 the poem 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 Testament (there may be one possible brief exception), rites or ceremonies of the church... ... middle of paper ... ...l 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. Robinson, Fred C. “Apposed Word Meanings and Religious Perspectives.” 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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