Beowulf- Christian or Pagan?
Beowulf- Christian or Pagan?
Pointing out what makes up a Christian or pagan story will explain this most clearly. In a Christian story, it must have these elements: First of all, the story must have at least one of the characters believe in the one true God. Christ founded the Christians so the Christians must believe in what He says. Since, Christ taught the Trinity and that there is one true God, then it is a part of that religion – so a Christian story must have this belief. Secondly, a Christian story must have Christian virtues or values. Christ taught the New Law, which states to avoid violence and love your enemies, if necessary defend yourself.
Jesus also taught the Beatitudes which states to be virtuous and generous – so a Christian story must also have those elements. On the contrary, a pagan story must have these elements: For instance, pagans believe in anything non-Christian. The definition of a pagan is a non-Christian – so whatever Christians do they do the opposite. If the story is mostly non-Christian then it is a pagan story. Also, pagans believe in myths. Since, Christians believe in one God and truth, then the pagans believe in many gods and myths. So, when the story has many gods and mythology and the characters believe it – it must be pagan.
Having explained the differences between a Christian and pagan story – it can go on to finding these elements in the epic. Beowulf has both aspects of pagan and Christian. A few of the many of these Christian elements are these: First, “holy God decided the victory. It was easy for the Lord, the Ruler of Heaven, to redress the balance once Beowulf got back up on his feet. ” (lines 1553-1556). God helped Beowulf win this fight and he praises him for it. Beowulf believes in God so he knows that he could not have done it without Him. Second, “I was… given full measure…
to choose from Hrothgar’s treasures… King Hygelac, I am happy to present to you as gifts. ” (lines 2145-2149). Beowulf was generous to give his rewarded gifts to his beloved uncle – so Beowulf had Christian values. He was not selfish and kept it all to himself, but gave to others like Christ gave. However, some of the pagan elements in Beowulf are these: Such as, “his glee was demonic, picturing the mayhem: before morning he would rip life from limb and devour them, feed on their flesh;” (lines 730-731) and “he dived into the heaving depths of the lake.
It was the best part of the day before he could see the solid bottom. ” (lines 1494-1496). The first reference was about Grendel, who was a mythical creature and he does not exist, which is pagan. The second reference was about Beowulf swimming and holding his breath for hours, which is impossible, so he has super human strength, so it is pagan. Including, “The Geat people built a pyre for Beowulf… a wild litany of nightmare and lament: her nation invaded, enemies on the rampage, bodies in piles, slavery and abasement. Heaven swallowed the smoke. ” (lines 3137 and 3152-3155).
Christian stories never really end dark, saturnine, and foreboding. Also, his burial was a pagan one, so Beowulf does not know Christianity as well, to know that he asked for a pagan burial. Even though Beowulf can be both pagan or Christian, one must override the other. Beowulf is a Christian epic, Christianity overrides Paganism, for the storyline of Beowulf follows the storyline of Christ; making Beowulf as Christ. One example is when Beowulf was called, “protector of his people, pledged to uphold truth and justice and to respect tradition” (lines 1700-1701). Christ healed people individually from sin at first.
Then same with Beowulf, he helps the town of the Danes, first. Additionally, Beowulf “was sad at heart, unsettled yet ready, sensing his death. ” (line 2419-2420). Christ willingly fights Satan and dies to save his people. Anyhow, Beowulf also fights the dragon (devil) and readily dies to save his people (town). Moreover, “The lord of the Geats took eleven comrades,” (line 2401) and “the youth was to enter the line of battle with his lord. ” (lines 2625-2626). Christ asks twelve to go with him to death, then one betrays, and the others fled; so the youngest (John) stays with him until death.
A bit different in Beowulf, but it happens that he asks eleven to go help him fight the devil dragon, and they all fled except the youngest (Wiglaf), who stayed with him and fought with him until death. So it happens that, “The treasure had been won, bought and paid for by Beowulf’s death. ” (lines 2847-2848). Christ dies to defeat Satan and win the spiritual lives of his people. Then, Beowulf also dies which kills the dragon and the “treasure” or his town’s lives were won and saved. Therefore, because the storyline of Beowulf is closely related to that of Christ’s storyline; it concludes that Beowulf is a fundamentally Christian story.
The epic, Beowulf, is definitely a Christian epic, but it displays the transition from Paganism to Christianity; that is why there are some pagan aspects, for Beowulf and all his other relatives and fellow barbarians are still in the process of learning all the rules of the Christians. “Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed offerings to idols… the Lord God… was unknown to them. ” (lines 175-176 and 181-182); that stated that the barbarians were pagan, but converted. Therefore, Beowulf, has a few pagan aspects in it, but is primarily Christian.