Beowulf As A Christ-Like Figure Essay, Research Paper
BEOWULF AS A CHRIST-LIKE FIGURE
The epic poem, Beowulf, recounts the tale of a man named Beowulf who sacrifices his
own safety to save the Danes from two evil dragons. Then, years later, Beowulf risks his life yet
again to save his own people from a dragon. Throughout the story, Beowulf is presented as a
Christ-like figure. This is manifested in the events that take place, the way that Beowulf speaks
about himself, and the way the people treat him.
The first way Beowulf’s likeness to Christ is revealed, is through the events that take
place. After Beowulf tells Hrothgar that he will fight Grendel, there is a celebration. During the celebration, Welthow, the queen “raised a flowing cup” (615) and poured “a portion from the jeweled cup/ For each” (621-622). When she got to Beowulf, she “thanked God for answering her prayers” (625). This event is strikingly similar to the Last Supper when Jesus passed around a cup of wine and gave thanks to God. Then, the crucifixion is portrayed when Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother. During the stuggle, other monsters come to watch and beat at “His mail shirt, stabbing with tusks and teeth/ As they followed along” (1510-1511). Similarly, when Jesus was crucified, crowds drew near laughing at him, hurling insults, and spitting on him. Finally, Beowulf is said to have “Gone to a glorious death” (3037) and his soul “Left his flesh, flew to glory” (2820). This is similar to the resurrection of Jesus. All of these events clearly parallel the events of Jesus’ day.
What Beowulf says also shows his similarity to Christ. Beowulf says “I already knew
that all/ My purpose was this: to win the good will/ Of your people” (633-635). Jesus also knew
that it was his mission to come down to earth to save his people from their sins. Later, Beowulf says:
. . . No one else could do
What I mean to, here, no man but me
Could hope to defeat this monster. No one
Could try . . .
Likewise, Jesus was the only man who could do his job. Thus, no man could defeat evil without
the help of God. Many of Beowulf’s statements are true to what Jesus said and felt.
One other way Beowulf is linked to Christ is through the way the people act towards him
and speak of him. When Hrothgar hears that Beowulf has come to help him, he says that God
“Has sent him as a sign of His grace, a mark/ Of His favor, to help us defeat Grendel/ And end
that terror” (382-384). Therefore, Beowulf was like a savior to Hrothgar. Years later, Beowulf was faced with a dragon living in his own kingdom. However, Wiglaf says “Too few of his warriors rememered/ To come, when our lord faced death, alone” (2882-2883). None of Beowulf’s followers defended him just as none of Jesus’ followers defended him when he faced death. Lastly, after Beowulf dies, “twelve of the bravest Geatts/ Rode their horses around the tower,” (3170), mourning Beowulf, “Crying that no better king had ever/ Lived, no prince so mild, no man/ So open to his people, so deserving of praise.” (3180-3182). Just as these twelve men did, the apostles preached about Jesus after his death. Therefore, the people’s actions and opinons of Beowulf are very similar to people’s actions and opinions of Jesus.
Throughout the poem, there are many similarities between Beowulf and Jesus. These similarities are revealed through the actions and comments of the people, and the events. However, the latter is the most clear in making a connection between the two characters.