Christianity and the Beowulf Poet In my initial study of Beowulf it seemed to me that the Christian references in it were overlaid onto the essentially pagan tale that makes up the bulk of the poem. So I innocently decided to investigate this incongruity as the topic of this paper. And so I found myself smack-dab in the middle of an argument that has evidently raged for the last one hundred years or so. I found sources that ran the gamut from the position that Beowulf was a quintessentially Germanic pagan work that had been corrupted by some revisionist monastic scribe (Mooreman 1967), to the assertion that the author intentionally created a Christian allegory along the lines of Book 1 of The Faerie Queen (McNamee 1960). I have chosen the middle ground in formulating my thesis, which after further study of the text and a wide range of criticism seems to make the most sense.
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.
Since the story happens in Daneland, Anglo-Saxon characteristics could be blended with the Scandinavian ones. Regardless of this, most of the practices depicted in Beowulf could be supported by archaeological evidence and literary sources. The customs and pagan traditions portrayed in Beowulf frequently relate with the sparse proof that we have from this time. Despite the pagan characteristics are not dependably precise, they are adapted by the author, therefore the poem portray the Anglo-Saxon religious and custom practice.
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28 Februrary 2005, www.britainexpress.com/history/bio/donne.htm Steig, Michael. "Donne's Divine Rapist: Unconscious Fantasy in Holy Sonnet XIV." University of Hartford Studies in Literature: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Criticism. 1972: 52-58. Sullivan, Ernest W. The Influence of John Donne.
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.
Contradictory Christian Elements in Beowulf In Beowulf the Christian element, which coexists alongside the pagan or heathen, sometimes in a seemingly contradictory fashion, is many faceted. Certainly the Christian element seems to be too deeply interwoven in the text for us to suppose 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 in different parts of the poem. In the last portion (2200–3183) the number of lines affected by it amounts to less than four per cent., while in the section dealing with Beowulf’s return (1904–2199) it is negligible.