paganbeo Beowulf's Pagan Traditions

paganbeo Beowulf's Pagan Traditions

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Beowulf's Pagan Traditions


      Beowulf, an epic poem written in the late tenth-century, in the kingdom of the West Saxons, steeping with pagan tradition, this epic depicts nature as hostile and forces of death uncontrollable.  Blind fate chooses random victims and people never feel at peace with the world. Also Beowulf ends as a failure to help heal the wounds of his society.   Although there are parts of this statement which can be construed as true, for the most part, it doesn't give Beowulf the credit he deserves.  For someone whose life was cut short, Beowulf did many great deeds for his time in the world. 


The statement illustrates nature as hostile and forces of nature uncontrollable.  This fraction of the statement is contradicted in the beginning, as the setting is being described, "...these beautiful plains marked off by oceans/then proudly setting the sun and moon to glow across the land and the light it...(8-9).  This sets the scene as peaceful, soothing and calm.  "The corners of the earth were made lovely with trees/and leaves, made quick with life..."(11-12).  When you think of oceans and trees, it brings a sense of reassurance of nature's beauty, not its hostility.  Within Beowulf there are obvious places where nature isn't on the peoples side, and many problems arise during this complex tale, but this opening landscape paints a different picture of the period, which followed me throughout the rest of the poem. 


Despite the fact that many innocent people died within the poem, the phrase, "blind fate picks random victims" can be used for many instances.  This phrase is even true today; many innocent people are random victims of violence within our society.  Fate isn't something that can be argued lightly.  In Grendel's introduction he, "Snatched up thirty men/smashed them unknowingly in their beds..."(37-38). This can be taken to mean that these men were meant to die that night at the hand of the evil monster Grendel, that it was their fate.  But on the other hand, on line 36 it states, "He slipped through the door and there in silence..." Which indicates that Grendel didn't try to handpick his victims, but just went for anyone that he could grab.

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  He didn't set out with a particular list of men to murder because it was their fate. He chose who was the closest to the door, so that he wouldn't awaken anyone else.  I believe that fate is over-thought; people get wrapped up in the concept because they don't want to believe everything happens for a reason. Choices that people make can cause things in their life to change, for example the men might have chosen to sleep next to the door, which caused their death. 


As the poem comes to an end the shocking truth of Beowulf's death becomes a reality.  To say that Beowulf dies a failure just because he couldn't control the hostility of nature is unjust.  Beowulf stood up to the evil monster Dragon when all his men ran scared.  In the end, it cost him his life and he was hailed as a hero and a King. After he killed Grendel he became a hero, then defeating Grendel's mother he became King of the Geats.  He has made it through fifty years of a prosperous life, which was more than unusual for people in that time.  Some of Beowulf's decisions are said to be foolhardy and irresponsible, "Often when one man follows his own will/many are hurt.  This happened to us." (3077-3078) But he tries to stand up for what he believes is right and pushes for the ultimate goal: To defeat evil and make nature peaceful again.  He lives a complete life and dies with honor, good will, and the full-fledged respect of all his people.  Death isn't an absolute for him; it was a much-needed vacation after such a journey through his life.  Beowulf didn't die a failure but lives on as a hero and the greatest King the Geats ever know. 


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