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Paganism Vs. Christianity

Essay by 24  •  November 1, 2010  •  712 Words (3 Pages)  •  771 Views

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Paganism vs. Christianity

The epic poem Beowulf is a tale that has been changed over time to try and express a Christian moral. While this transformation over time has added a new variable to the plot, it is impossible to try and erase the original pagan plot completely. The original pagan elements are clearly visible, as are the added elements of Christianity, through the actions of the different characters. The fact that Christianity and paganism are so closely intertwined in the poem is the reason for so many Christian and Pagan influences. The Christian influences were combined with the early folklore and heroic legends of German tribes. Beowulf as a whole allows the reader to identify the aspects of both religions, whether they are different and the same. Beowulf effectively combines pagan and Christian elements to demonstrate the morals of the time period.

Beowulf himself has many pagan characteristics along with Christian morals. He wants to help people, demonstrating Christianity, evident by his coming to the aid of Hrothgar and his slaying of the dragon. Yet, he possesses the pagan characteristic of wanting material rewards and the glory and fame that go with it. After killing Grendel and his mother he reaps the rewards and the various treasures the Geats present him, such as such as "an embroidered banner, breast mail and a helmet; and a sword carried high, that was both precious object and token of honour" (1019-1024). Shild's funeral is another example of paganism. Since people placed him on the deck of his ship and, "decked his body no less bountifully with offerings than those first ones did ..." (43-6). Lastly, when trying to appease Grendel, the geats attempt to offer gold or land, "Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed offerings to idols, swore oaths that the killer of souls might come to their aid and save the people", but their attempts fail. Thus they go back to and sacrifice to the stone idols the pagan past.

The remnants of Christianity are also very visible in the epic. For example, Grendel has a deep hatred for the geats merely because the din of the hall always sings about creation, as "it harrowed him / to hear the din of he loud banquet/ every day in the hall, the harp being struck/ and the clear song of a skilled poet telling with the mastery of mans beginnings..." (86-92). Consequently, Grendel, showing an obvious disregard for god, as he is described as "... in misery amongst the banished monsters, Cain's Clan, whom the creator had outlawed

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