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Christian Elements In Beowulf
Christian Elements in Beowulf
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. Its 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 Grendels appellations are unquestionable epithets of Satan such as
enemy of mankind, Gods 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 ... more
Find essay on Soul Dwelling
name = Monica McKirdy
email = firstname.lastname@example.org
publish = yes
title = Norse Mythology
papers = The book entitled "Norse
Mythology" by Karl
Mortensen, is the book I chose to read for my first
book report for this semester. The book was
translated from the Danish
by A. Clinton Crowell.
Karl Mortensen was a doctor of philosophy whom
attended the University of Copenhagen.
The first part of the book is
introduction. Here, you find the author's meaning
mythology" and where he got his
information. He says,
By "Norse mythology" we mean the
we have concerning the
religious conceptions and usages
heathen forefathers, their faith and
manner of worshipping the gods, and also
their legends and songs
about the gods
and heroes. The importation of
Christianity drove out the old heathen
remnants or memories of it
long endured in the superstitious
of the common people, and can even be
in our own day.
In the general introduction, the author tells
us why we teach Norse mythology. He tells us that
for us, Norse mythology
has in any case the
advantage of being the religion of our own
and through it we learn to know that
religion. This is necessary if we
understand the history and poetry of our antiquity
and to comprehend
what good characteristics and
what faults Christianity encountered when
proclaimed in the North. Finally, it is necessary
to know the
most important points of the heathen
faith of our fathers in order to appreciate
enjoy many of the words of our best poets.
is comprised of four main
sections. The first section contains the creation
myth, which is extremely confusing because it talks
aunt's cousin's children from
second marriages and what importance they
those golden times. It's quite hard to understand,
and I had
to read it over twice to make sure I
understood. The second part of the
discusses the creation of the gods and the stories
their lives. And the last part is entitled
Ragnorak, which stands for the
enemies of the gods.
All of this was quite interesting to read.
The second section of the book talks about
common popular belief. It says
forefathers, like other heathen people, found one
of the plainest
proofs of the soul's independence
of the body and its ability to take a
hand in the
affairs of living men in the nightmare and dream,
lacked all other means of explaining those
things. They therefore took
it for granted that
they were spirits, usually in the form of animals
or men. Through the smallest crack or crevice the
nightmare slips to the
sleeping one, and torments
and troubles him so sadly that he becomes ill
that it causes his death. It is felt as an
oppressing weight upon
the breast or throat; the
mare "treads" or "rides" the sleeping one from
legs up to his body and thrusts his tongue into the
to hinder him from crying out. The
Northern people have clung this very
day to their
belief in the "mare" as a supernatural female
many legends about it have arisen. A
"mare" can slip out only by the same
way that it
came in; if one stops up the opening, it is caught.
same thing happens if one names its name.
In the Ynglinga Saga
it is told of
King Vanlandi, who had betrayed his
Finnish bride, Drifa, that he in
for that had been killed by a'mare' with which the magic arts
Finns had tormented him. He became
suddenly sleepy and lay down to rest,
but when he had slept
a little he cried
that a 'mare' was treading him. The
king's men hastened to his assistance,
but when they
turned to his head, the'mare' trod upon his legs so that they
were nearly broken, and if they went to
she was directly occupied at
the head; and so the king was actually
tortured to death.
Also found in the second section
are chief gods
and myths of the gods. Here, there are stories told
of Thor, Odin, Frey and Njorth, Heimdall and
Baldur, and Loki. It comments
on the various
thresholds crossed by these great gods, and the
that they accomplished.
The third section is rather short, but it is
solely focused on the forms of worship and
religious life. It tells
of the Norse temples, or
Hofs, which means in general "a holy place." The
Hofs were large square, ... more
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