The Heroic Significance of Christ in The Dream of the Rood

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The Heroic Significance of Christ in The Dream of the Rood Incorporating traditional Anglo Saxon beliefs of heroism with the image of Christ on the cross allows the poet of The Dream of the Rood to effectively communicate the benefits of Christianity to pagan warriors. By comparing characteristics, duties, and treatment of heroes in Beowulf and the Battle of Maldon to the depiction of Christ in The Dream of the Rood, it becomes evident that the image of Christ is altered to mirror that of heroic warriors. Through this melding of heroic beliefs and Christianity, the poet of Rood is able to show how Christ can become the ultimate ring giver or Lord. Dominant characteristics of heroes in Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon revolve around their willingness to do battle in order to protect their kinsman and treasure. At the beginning of The Battle of Maldon, Birhtnoth clearly demonstrates this characteristic with this statement to the Vikings: "it seems to me too shameful that you should go unfought to ship with our tribute" (Maldon 105). In his desire for honor, Birhtnoth would rather risk death in battle than pay off enemies with treasure. Turning away from a heroic challenge lessens Birhtnoth's image as a heroic man. His kinsmen could no longer favor him with respect and loyalty if he did not uphold his obligation to fight and protect the tribe. Another example of this is given in Beowulf when the king Beowulf is preparing for battle against the dragon. "This fight is not yours, nor is it up to any man except me to measure his strength or prove his worth" (Beowulf 86). This passage again illustrates that it is ultimately up to the hero to fight the enemy and protect the kinsman from pillaging and death. With these ... ... middle of paper ... ...s to this sense of loss by admitting to having few "powerful friends on earth" (Rood 28). However, he finds comfort knowing that one day his loneliness will be taken away in a "heavenly home" (Rood 28). In conclusion, the poet in The Dream of the Rood successfully creates a Christ that resembles the fearsome heroes of the Middle Ages. By doing this, the poet is able to proselytize the benefits and beliefs of Christianity to the pagan warriors of England. Accurately portraying Christ as a gentle, forgiving, and patient lord would only cause kinsmen to view him in a negative and shameful manner. How could they respect a man that did not fulfill their beliefs about honor and duty? With this belief system in mind, the poet develops an image of Christ that is both fierce and divine. This image is something that the poet's kinsmen can both relate to and worship.

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