Epic of Beowulf

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Beowulf, the national epic of England, was passed down from generation to generation tells the legend of a mighty hero. This folk epic portrays the ideas of 16th century Anglo-Saxon culture until the early 8th century when a monk transcribed it into written form. Housed in the British Museum, the manuscript is considered to be a historical document as well as a great piece of literature. This tale narrates a story about a man who saves two nations from terrible beings which embody evil. Beowulf contains many themes such as the fantasy of supernatural creatures and the role of woman. However, the main focus of this tale presents both Christian and Pagan ideals. While the epic shows evidence of patristic influences, it more clearly depicts ideals associated with pagan culture and society. Beowulf blends patristic references into a pagan narrative that previously focused only on Anglo-Saxon ideals. For 12 years, king Hrothgar has suffered at the hands of the terrible monster Grendel, who no man has been able to kill. However, when the mighty monster slayer Beowulf hears of Hrothgar’s plight, he at once goes forward to put an end to Grendel. Soon after they received fervent greetings on the Danish coast, the men prepare for the night, and Beowulf realizes that “God in His wisdom must allot the victory as He thinks fit” (43). Beowulf knows that he serves God, the resolver of all problems. The monks who altered the story taught that the pagan god Wyrd does not exist but merely acts as a capability of God. By getting rid of the main pagan god, the monks show God’s almighty power and his ability to control good and evil and decide right from wrong. All evil beings exist because they battled against God and lost; and for rebel... ... middle of paper ... ...imself to do so. The heroic code states that the more glory a person wins in life, the greater and better afterlife they will have. Beowulf and the dragon die together, and with his last words Beowulf requests a burial within a giant tumulus so his grave can guide sailors from the sea. Beowulf also crowns Wiglaf, who will bring years of prosperity to the Geats. Although having patriastic elements, Beowulf is predominately a pagan, as evidence with one of the closing lines that “twelve chieftains, all sons of princes, rode round the barrow lamenting their loss, speaking of their king, reciting an elegy, and acclaiming the hero” (101). The story of Beowulf teaches much about the ancient Anglo-Saxon times and pagan beliefs; not only is it a masterful piece of literature, but a manuscript that we can appreciate both in its historical and literary sense forever.

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