Beowulf And Christian Elements

The praised epic poem, Beowulf, is the first great heroic poem in English
literature. The epic follows a courageous warrior named Beowulf throughout his
young, adult life and into his old age. As a young man, Beowulf becomes a
legendary hero when he saves the land of the Danes from the hellish creatures,

Grendel and his mother. Later, after fifty years pass, Beowulf is an old man and
a great king of the Geats. A monstrous dragon soon invades his peaceful kingdom
and he defends his people courageously, dying in the process. His body is burned
and his ashes are placed in a cave by the sea. By placing his ashes in the
seaside cave, people passing by will always remember the legendary hero and
king, Beowulf. In this recognized epic, Beowulf, is abound in supernatural
elements of pagan associations; however, the poem is the opposite of pagan
barbarism. The presentation of the story telling moves fluidly within Christian
surroundings as well as pagan ideals. Beowulf was a recited pagan folklore where
the people of that time period believed in gods, goddesses, and monsters. Itís
significance lies in an oral history where people memorized long, dense lines of
tedious verse. Later, when a written tradition was introduced they began to
write the story down on tablets. The old tale was not first told or invented by
the commonly known, Beowulf poet. This is clear from investigations of the folk
lore analogues. The manuscript was written by two scribes around AD 1000 in late

West Saxon, the literary dialect of that period. It is believed that the scribes
who put the old materials together into their present form were Christians and
that his poem reflects a Christian tradition. The first scribe copied three
prose pieces and the first 1,939 lines of Beowulf while the second scribe copied
the rest of Beowulf and Judith. In 1731, a fire swept through the Cottonian

Library, damaging many books and scorching the Beowulf codex. In 1786-87, after
the manuscript had been deposited in the British Museum the Icelander, Grinur

Jonsson Thorkelin, made two transcriptions of the poem for what was to be the
first edition, in 1815 (Clark, 112-15). Beowulf is a mixture of pagan and

Christian attitudes. Heathen practices are mentioned in several places, such as
vowing of sacrifices at idol fanes, the observing of omens, the burning of the
dead, which was frowned upon by the church. The frequent allusions to the power
of fate, the motive of blood revenge, and the praise of worldly glory bear
testimony to the ancient background of pagan conceptions and ideals. However,
the general tone of the epic and its ethical viewpoint are predominantly

Christian . There is no longer a genuine pagan atmosphere. The sentiment has
been softened and purified. The virtues of moderation, unselfishness,
consideration for others are practiced and appreciated. Beowulf is a Christian
reworking of a pagan poem with "a string of pagan lays edited by monks; it is
the work of a learned but inaccurate Christian antiquarian" (Clark, 112). The
author has fairly exhaulted the fights with Grendel, his mother, and the dragon
into a conflict between powers of good and evil. The figure of Grendel, while
originally an ordinary Scandinavian troll is conceived as an impersonation of
evil and darkness, even an incarnation of the Christian devil. Grendel is a
member of the race of Cain, from whom all "misshapen and unnatural things were
spawned" (Kermode, 42) such as ogres and elves. He is a creature dwelling in
the outer darkness, a giant and cannibal. When he crawls off to die, he is said
to join the route of devils in hell. The story of a race of demonic monsters and
giants descended from Cain. It came form a tradition established by the
apocryphal Book of Enoch and early Jewish and Christian interpretations of

Genesis 6:4, "There were giants in the earth in those days, and also
afterward, when the sons of God had relations with the daughters of men, who
bore children to them" (Holland Crossley, 15). Many of Grendelís
appellations are unquestionable epithets of Satan such as "enemy of
mankind," "Godís adversary," "the devil in hell," and "the hell
slave." His actions are represented in a manner suggesting the conduct of the
evil one, and he dwells with his mother in a mere which conjures visions of
hell. The depiction of the mere is the most remarkable because it is a
conceptual landscape made fearsomely realistic by the poetry. The closest
parallel with Grendel and his motherís mere is from the vision of hell in
sermon 17 of