Beowulf 17 Essay, Research Paper
Beowulf dates back to around the eighth century, during which Christianity was not a prevalent religion. As Magill states, whether the Christian elements are intrinsic or are interpolations by a tenth century monastic scribe is controversial. However, it remains obvious that the poem along with the society is full of Christian sentiments.
The reader does not have to read far before he comes across the first reference made to God. It is in the prologue in which the story of Shild and the beginnings of Beo are presented. Now the Lord of all life, Ruler of Glory blessed them with a prince (23, ll. 16-17). As the narrative continues it relays information of Shild becoming old and When his time was come the old king died, still strong but called to the Lord s hands (24, ll. 26-27). In this particular passage, although the words such as Lord and blessing provide for a Christian element, the actions of the people do not. Shild s comrades do not bury him after his death; there is no funeral as present in Christian society. Instead they put his corpse on a harbored ship along with numerous treasures including jeweled helmets and armor, and set the ship sailing, sliding in the water with Shild s shinning banner high up over his head (24, ll.35-42). Magill s comment that the Christianity of Beowulf does not much resemble that of the modern world seems to apply here.
Virtuous men in Beowulf must not think themselves to be all-powerful, for it is with God s permission that any task may be accomplished. After any endeavor which fares well the men thank God. On such example is seen upon the arrival of the Geats on the Danish shore, when immediately after mooring their ship they thank God for their easy crossing (30, ll. 225-228). Soon afterwards the watchman too leaves them with a prayer, may the Lord our God protect your coming and going (33, ll. 316-317)! These lines portray to the reader that people in the society kept the thought of God constantly in mind, especially when embarking upon a dangerous feat and after triumph over an antagonist.
The belief that it is God who grants permission for an action to take place is evident in Beowulf. Fate too is controlled by God, but also can be affected by a person s actions. In the case of Grendel it is God s will along with the hero s courage which turns fate aside, because otherwise the monster would have continued to murder. The thought extends to include that Men must lie in their Maker s holy hands, moved only as he wills (56, ll. 1055-1059). Beowulf s victory over Grendel s mother is also primarily associated with Holy God along with the protective metal (71, ll. 1554-1555).
Although religion is by no means an overriding theme in Beowulf its aspects are recurrent and difficult to ignore. The epic depicts the accomplished men as having good, religious morals and practicing them in their daily lives. The controversy of whether the religious aspect was indeed interpolated into the text is a valid argument. However, in either case the fact remains that Christian sentiment is present in the poem.