The poem and Beowulf both show paganism and Christianity ideals and beliefs. In Beowulf there is fate, humility, fame, loyalty, and so much more that did not even get mentioned. Although the poem appears to be originally a pagan story, there are many clues in the text that point to Christian influence and traditions. In addition to Beowulf and his heroic deeds against Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon the author combines elements of Christian ideal and pagan ideal. The combination of Christian and pagan elements and references now shows Beowulf’s position in English history.
Throughout this paper the dictional similarities of the purposes of the authors of the Dream of the Rood and Beowulf will be compared and discussed. Both authors present their goals by using characteristics of the Norse Mythological Gods, to describe the heroes in both poems to lead their readers, the Anglo- Saxons, to convert to Christianity. There is a lot of historical context that is involved with this topic which describes the struggles in Britain in converting the people into Christianity. Anglo-Saxons that came into Britain were originally pagan which consisted of them worshipping gods of nature and trees and rocks. They would pray to these gods for materialistic things such as a good harvest or to win an upcoming battle.
Religion in Beowulf The famous poem Beowulf was written sometime in the eighth century by an unknown poet. It was based on legend passed down over time. Prior to the time the poem was written, Anglo Saxons had converted from Germanic Paganism to Christianity. Some people argue that it was a Pagan poem rewritten by a person or persons educated in Christianity. “ has come down from heathen times and acquired its Christian character gradually and piecemeal from a succession of minstrels.” ( Hector Monro Chadwick as quoted by Brodeur 182), while others believed that Christianity and Paganism both belonged in the poem.
Before the invention of the printing press or written history, oral history, especially in early Germanic culture, became the foremost means of transcribing values, and past events. Written down in approximately 1,000 A.D. by an unknown author, Beowulf, originally a pagan fable, became a Christian allegory upon its transcription by Christian monks. However, as scholars have debated over the religious context in Beowulf, the attempts by the monks to turn the epic poem into a Christian parable ended merged, including both original and Christian aspects. Throughout Beowulf, the epic combines pagan ideals of fate or wyrd and the will of God, the similar concepts of the afterlife, and the contrasting ideas of the individual. In Beowulf, a tension arises between the natural construction of the poem and the Christian ideals added.
At the time of its writing, the Germanic tribes were clearly pagan, as seen by such evidence in the text as Beowulf’s cremation at the end of the epic and the direct reference to swearing oaths at “pagan shrines” (line 175). As Christianity’s teachings and values began to take root in these pagan societies over the decades and eventual centuries, the stories of the Bible began to be worked into the tale as it was told, retold, and retold even again. When it came time to be written—probably by a Christian monk (or monks) whose beliefs, it is fair to say, flavored the work—the bards and storytellers had crafted an epic with the Christian permutations already in it. However, that is not to say that the writer was ignorant when it came to what message he desired to relate to the reader. In the Beowulf poem, there are numerous instances of characters thanking the Christian God in their lives or praising Jesus or where the poet marvels at how lucky the pagan characters were to have God in their lives even if they did not know of His existence.
As a result the poet resolved his new Christian beliefs with the un-Christian behavior of the characters. This epic poem tells of herioc deeds and events related to pre Anglo-Saxon culture. The story was set in Scandanavia and told orally as part of Germanic tradition. Beowulf was probably carried from generation
This fact seems to point to a heathen work which has undergone revision by Christian minstrels. The Christianity of Beowulf is of a vague type. The minstrels who introduce the Christian element probably had but a vague knowledge of the faith, and on top of that they were under pressure from the audience to give them the interesting old pagan stories. At the beginning of the poem, there is the account of the pagan funeral rites of Scyld Scefing, and at the close of the poem we see the heathen rites of burial for Beowulf himself, including cremation, deposition of treasures and armor, etc. with the corpse in the burial mound overlooking the sea.
Consequently, there have been debates over the ages whether the poem is a wholly Christian or Pagan poem. Hence, in an anonymously written Beowulf, the poet intermingled a range of Christian and Pagan elements and tradition to demonstrate the blending of theologies in eighth century Anglo-Saxon society. To understand why Beowulf contains shadings of Christian and Pagan elements, one must first understand late eighth century Anglo-Saxon society. In the late eighth century, Christianity was just becoming the standard religion for the people. However, pagan traditions were still being followed and respected however to a lesser degree.
The character Beowulf is shown as a similar hero from the biblical times named David. Beowulf can be seen as this Christian story of salvation. The author shows that there is evil within the story like the monsters, Grendel, his mother and the Dragon the who took Beowulf’s life. The author introduces Grendel at the beginning of the story, it is said that the monster Grendel is to bare the mark of Cain.
The presentation of the story telling moves fluidly within Christian surroundings as well as pagan ideals. Beowulf was a recited pagan folklore where the people of that time period believed in gods, goddesses, and monsters. It's significance lies in an oral history where people memorized long, dense lines of tedious verse. Later, when a written tradition was introduced they began to write the story down on tablets. The old tale was not first told or invented by the commonly known, Beowulf poet.