The Anglo-Saxon Literature Essay, Research Paper
In the Anglo-Saxon literature, the scop has a privilege of retaining history, culture and social values of that society. In many cases the scop exercises the power to create stories which reflect the values of that society. The Rood in the .The Dream of the Rood x also tells a story of which affects its society and people. The existence of this witness that reports the suffering and the glorification of Christ proves necessary for the people to believe. The Rood becomes a hero that preserves an event that proves crucial to the society. As the Rood observes the suffering of Christ, it also shares with him the pains of crucifixion. In other words, the Rood takes part in Christ s crucifixion which pertains to the salvation of the souls. Although the Rood declares its god-like qualities along with Christ, there s a distinction between Christ and the Rood. Therefore, the Rood appears as a metonymic figure which represents the Christ s suffering but it does not represent Christ. In fact, the Rood assumes the role of Christ as it demands people to worship it.
In this poem, the Rood appears as an Anglo-Saxon hero. However, the Rood fails to share the Christian beliefs when it declares the entity of God along with Christ. Although Christ and the Rood shared the .innocent x suffering together, this does not provide an adequate explanation for the Rood to become a replacement of Christ. Indeed, the Rood appears as a hero in the Anglo-Saxon society for it reflects the values of many figures that suffer with their Lord.
The Rood shares the suffering endured by Christ. It does not regret its pains but sympathizes with Christ as it brings unto itself the hostilities directed at Christ. Thus, it states, .[how] they mocked at us both x( .The Rood x, 51). Suffering with the members of the community proves important to a hero in the Anglo-Saxon literature. In .The Battle of Maldon, x a band of warriors fight to save their community, more specifically, fight to .serve the Earl x(The Battle of Maldon, 11). Bryhtnoth is the Earl of these brave warriors who fight unto death in order to carry out their duty. This duty indicates that one does not desert a battleground and retreat in order to save one s life. Therefore, the heroes share the battlefield alongside their lord and fight until they win or die. Like these heroes of the Maldon, the Rood remains steadfast in sharing Christ s suffering. It neither decides to desert the Lord nor his suffering. In fact the Anglo-Saxon society views one s life worthless when one deserts one s duty to serve the lord.
The consequence of their loyalty leads the warriors of the Maldon to death. Likewise, the Rood also follows Christ in his suffering and to his death. It states, .standing in a sweat of blood/ I was all wounded with shafts x(The Rood, 57). Indeed, that .sweat of blood x belongs to the Rood and its .wounded x body identifies with that of the Christ s. In fact, while having the knowledge of the inevitable tragedy, the heroes of the Anglo-Saxon literature neglects to heed to their fear of death. What defines a hero in this period pertains to facing the .wierd. x Rather than a resignation in giving up their lives, they participate actively in order to live out their given role, to fulfill what they have promised to do. Indeed, the heroes of the Maldon are .fated [to] fall x(Maldon, 4). In the face of their inevitable doom, these heroes state .in right good time dost thou recall us to our allegiance x(Maldon,232). This .allegiance x to serve the lord cannot be forfeited even when the lord no longer lives. Regardless of the tragic consequences, these heroes choose to suffer. The Rood indicates, .wry wierds a many I underwent x in revealing its active role in its fate (The Rood, 56). The Rood states that .[it] underwent], x have chosen to suffer with Christ.
The Anglo-Saxon heroes actively choose to suffer and face their wierd. However, their keeping of the allegiance enables them to hope for the reward that is eternal. These heroes believe that their reputation lives on in their society after they die. Their example preserves their community in that it promotes some of the moral values they cherish. Thus, their desire to preserve these moral values gain precedence over their desire to live.
The Rood also desires to benefit its community. The .Lord s rood… shall fetch [the persons of the society] forth from this fleeting life and then shall bring [these persons] where there is great rejoicing x(The Rood, 140-141). The scop refers the heaven as an eternal place of .great rejoicing. x The Rood desires to direct the people of its society to reach that eternal place and its short-lived suffering becomes a significant accomplishment that provides the only salvation. Similarly, the heroes of the Maldon through their sacrifice desire to protect their community. Bryhtnoth states in the .Maldon x, .my prayer is this, that the hates of hell may not harm her x(180). The heroes of the Maldon intend to protect their community through their sacrifice. As a consequence, their fearless dedication to serve their community reflects their active acceptance of their death. Although the Anglo-Saxon heroes sacrifice themselves in order to benefit the their community, they do not forsake their personal gains. In other words their actions reflect what is considered important to themselves than an act of self denial. Unlike those who decide to abandon the allegiance and save their lives, the heroes realize that neglecting the pact made with their community brings guilt and shame. In the Anglo-Saxon society, .a man cannot linger when his lord lies unaligned among Vikings, cannot value breath x(The Maldon, 260). In this society, one s honor depends on whether or not one dedicates one s life to serve the lord. This honor pertains to not only retaining a favorable reputation in one s community, the heroes believe that their loyalty saves their soul. A hero in the .Maldon x indicates that his .soul may unscathed cross in [God s] keeping x when it benefits its society(177). The outcome of their sacrifice outweighs the preservation of their lives. Therefore, they are able to overcome the fear of death. Also, the compensation for their suffering is acquiring fame among the people in their society. As the heroes are reminded as the fearless upholders of their allegiance protecting the values of their community, Beowulf states, .In my youth I engaged in many wars. Old guardian of the people, I shall still seek battle, perform a deed of fame x(Beowulf, 59). In Anglo-Saxon literature, the heroes that seek to benefit their community allow themselves to be honored by the people. This .fame x indicates Beowulf s courageous deeds which will be widely known and that he will gain respect from the people. This desire for fame appears in .The Rood x also. In fact, the Rood proclaims its acquisition of the fame from the people. It declares, .Now, my dear man, you may understand that I have suffered to the end the pain of grievous sorrows at the hands of dwellers in misery. The time is now come that men on earth and all this marvellous creation shall honor me far and wide and address themselves in prayer to this sign x(The Rood, 78-82). The act of suffering that the heroes of the Anglo-Saxon literature experience have an expected reward, which is to acquire power over its people. Even in their death-beds, the Anglo-Saxon heroes are reminded to proclaim their faithfulness to their community which their society honors by forever preserving it in its writings. The Anglo-Saxon heroes are remembered for their deaths. The heroes deaths need to coincide with benefiting their community. Thus, Beowulf .as[the] keeper of the folk,… had performed the greatest deeds of glory, daring actions x even to his death (Beowulf,61). Therefore, the heroes of the Anglo-Saxon literature are expected to bring glory unto themselves through their deeds.
The Anglo-Saxon hero, the Rood, also brings glory unto itself. The Rood brings unto himself the Christ s suffering along with His glorification. Thus, the Rood expects people to honor it for its deeds and even consider it as a god. .The Rood x asks the people to .worship it fully x (The Rood, 90). The writer of .The Rood x considers it as a god-like figure and not just as a metonymical figure of Christ s suffering. The Anglo-Saxon heroes, through the writers preserve their fame. They actively seek out what they consider is important to remain immortal. As their deeds live to influence their community, they become a god of their society honored, imitated and even worshipped. Indeed, this self-glorification does not coincide with Christian beliefs. One can argue that as Christ is God s son, the Rood and the Anglo-Saxon heroes are mere creations by this God. As Christ never assumes equal status with God, these heroes take the place of God in their society. John 3:16 indicates .for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him… x and .Him x refers to Christ. When the Rood asks the people to worship it, it is not merely a representation of Christ s suffering, but a hero of its people. This form of self-glorification cannot be seen in Christ. When Christ declares to be the Son of God, he is stating his status. The Rood, however, was a tree that was .dragged off by strong enemies… x for the purpose of glorifying the Son of God(The Rood, 41). Indeed, Christ did not have in mind for the people to worship a tree. .The Rood x states its separate entity from Christ. .The Tree of Victory x becomes itself a figure that must be worshipped by its people. In fact, the Anglo-Saxon society views its heroes as gods through the scops of the society. In Anglo-Saxon literature, scops acquire the power to influence and preserve their tradition, history and culture. The scops glorify the heroes of their times according to their deeds which uphold the values of that society. In addition, the scops give the heroes of their society power to be immortal. They honor their heroes as gods and inevitably honor the values that these heroes uphold. The Rood is one of the Anglo-Saxon heroes that represents the importance of sacrifice of enduring crucial suffering in order to benefit its society. Regardless of its former status, the Rood s deeds reinforce the values of the Anglo-Saxon sense of loyalty that makes them fearless in the face of wierd. In the face of the approaching death, these heroes are portrayed as honoring their community more than their lives. Thus, by remembering and worshipping these heroes, the Anglo-Saxons tend to honor their society.