The Use of Magic in Medieval Literature

2855 Words12 Pages
The Use of Magic in Medieval Literature The concept of magic and magical creatures has been around for a long time, however, in the time period ranging from Beowulf to Malory's Arthur, there has been an evolution in attitudes and the consequent treatment of magic in medieval literature. The discussion of magic involves not only the disparity between Christian and pagan tradition but also of gender roles, most notably in the Arthurian mythos. Beowulf, Marie De France's Bisclavret and Lanval, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sit Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur involve the concept of magic and magical creatures and consequently, illustrate the treatment of magic of their time. In Beowulf, the idea of magic is one that is feared and unworldly. It is definitely not an aspect of normal, "courtly" life. Grendel and his mother are both magical beings, and it is quite obvious that they are clearly not the protagonists of the story. Magic was a symbol of power, whether of class or of strength, and Grendel and his mother fit into the latter category. Grendel also poses a challenge to the power of the ruling class. His only target is Hrothgar's great hall - "It was easy then to meet with a man shifting himself to a safer distance to bed in the bothies, for who could be blind to the evidence of his eyes, the obviousness of the hall-watcher's hate?" - apparently, the rest of the land is quite safe from "demons" such as Grendel(Beowulf 35). Grendel's immunity against weapons and armour emphasizes the challenge further. In pitting Beowulf against Grendel, the poem also suggests that the only way to destroy magic is with itself. It can be assumed that Beowulf possesses some sort of supernatural strength, although he not blatantly... ... middle of paper ... ...e of medieval society and its writings. In addition, an examination of magic in medieval times covers not only the treatment of religion, but also of gender issues and courtly ideals. Despite this, however, it cannot be denied that magic in medieval literature contributes to its unique and distinctive nature. Works Cited "Beowulf" The Norton Anthology of English Literature. ed. M.H Abrams. New York: W.W Norton, 2000. De France, Marie. "Lanval" The Norton Anthology of English Literature. ed. M.H Abrams. New York: W.W Norton, 2000. De France, Marie. "Bisclavret" . Hwang, Renny. "Merlin" McNary, Sarah F. "Beowulf and Arthur as English Ideals". Poet-Lore: A Quarterly of World Literature 6.2 (1894), 528-36. Rise, Brian Edward. "Morgan Le Fay" Pantheon.org. . Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Trans. Marie Boroff. New York : W.W. Norton, 2001.

More about The Use of Magic in Medieval Literature

Open Document