Pagan And Christian Elements In Beowulf, By Seamus Heaney

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TITLE A compelling ending of a literary work does not simply end; it continues evolving in the minds of the readers well past its final pages. In the epic poem Beowulf written by an English monk and translated by Seamus Heaney, the hero Beowulf meets his death as he fights a dragon during the final pages. Previously, Beowulf displays many heroic traits defending King Hrothgar and the Danes against the evil, God-cursed monster, Grendel, and Grendel’s malignant mother. Beowulf returns to his home in Geatland where he rules as king for fifty years. The epic closes with Beowulf defeating the dragon and dying in the process. Beowulf hastily passes on the kingship to Wiglaf before his death since Beowulf has no son who would automatically receive…show more content…
However pagan and Christian elements are balanced in the poem’s final pages creating an adequate ending. Before Beowulf leaves to fight the dragon, he gives one last speech, announcing, “[he] shall win the gold / by my courage, or else mortal combat, / doom of battle, will bear your lord away” (2535-2537). Beowulf accepts that he might die battling the dragon, without any bitterness, which is a common pagan element. Pagan beliefs are mostly pessimistic because pagans believe that fame is the only guarantee to immortal life. Another example of this pagan theme is mentioned in the same passage with Christian themes during Beowulf’s last words: “To the everlasting Lord of All, / to the King of Glory, I give thanks / … Order my troop to construct a barrow / … / It will loom on the horizon at Hronesness / and be a reminder among my people" (2794-2805). Beowulf gives thanks to God and asks to be buried in a tomb, a common Christian tradition, rather than the typical pagan funeral which was described in the beginning of the poem during Shield Sheafson 's funeral. In addition to Christian beliefs, this passage also includes pagan ideals. Beowulf wanted his barrow, or burial mound, to be visible to all his people so that they could remember him, which is a pagan element, the belief that fame was the only guarantee to immortality. The balance between Christian and pagan principles at…show more content…
Beowulf displays vulnerability and regret during his dying moments, allowing the reader to form connections to him. The forces between pagan and Christian elements are balanced in the conclusion, which clarifies which aspects of Christian beliefs Beowulf has adapted throughout the poem and which pagan beliefs he still holds on to, leaving the reader more satisfied. Furthermore, the ending includes some uncertainty which enables the reader to create their own hypothesis after the poem’s final pages. By using these techniques to create a meaningful ending, the Beowulf poet has produced an epic that has survived thousands of years through oral retellings and printed texts which continue to be read, studied, and translated making Beowulf accessible to an even larger

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