Paganistic Beliefs In Beowolf Essay, Research Paper
The epic poem Beowolf is one of the founding pieces of literature known to man. The author of the poem is unknown. It is believed that he was a monk or someone of the Christian faith. Although during the time of Beowolf there would not have been Christian beliefs. Although in the poem there are more than twenty-five lines of references to the Christian belief. The poem is about good vs. evil, or the heavens vs. hell. Paganistic implications are also in the poem. Paganism would be the true religion in the time when this poem was written, or first told. An idolatrous person is a pagan. A pagan is someone who worships many gods. Pagans believe in fate. They think that your life is inevitably happening as though it has already been determined by a higher source or power. Which religion, paganism or Christianity, is more dominant and decides more in the poem Beowolf.
In Beowolf Grendel is described as a powerful, murderous, loathsome man-eating monster that lives at the bottom of a foul mountain lake. In the poem Grendel is portrayed as one of the devil’s creature or the devil himself. The following passage shows us how Grendel was born in evil;
Conceived by a pair of those monsters born
Of Cain, murderous creatures banished
By God, punished forever for the crime
Of Abel’s death….(20-23)
Grendel is a horrifying creature. If he feels love, it is only that of killing people and drinking their blood. There is never a passage describing him as any type of a good being. He is always referred to as a demon, monster, or evil savage. In today’s society when anyone thinks of the devil they
think of dark, gloomy, grotesque places or settings. In the poem Beowolf the only time that Grendel comes out is when there are these same type of settings. This is one description of where Grendel stalked;
That shadow of death hunted in darkness,
Stalked Hrothgar’s warriors, old
And young, lying in waiting, hidden
In mist, invisibly following them from the edge
Of the marsh, always there, unseen.(74-78)
Here is another more descriptive passage, “Out from the marsh, from the foot of misty/Hills and bogs, bearing God’s Hatred, Grendel came,…”(92-94). When referred to in the bible the devil is everyone’s enemy. In this line Grendel is referred to in the same perspective, “So mankind’s enemy continued his crimes, “(79). The devil is also thought of as the one and only who is against God and his people. The devil is known to tempt people to do sinful or wrongful things. It is almost like a battle between the devil and the people of the Christian belief. Here is a reference to that battle as if Grendel is the devil, “So Grendel ruled, fought with the righteous,/One against many, and won;…”(59-60). Good also wins a fight in the poem. When Beowolf is battling Grendel, it is as if God is battling the devil. This is seen in these passages,
Screams of the Almighty’s enemy sang
In the darkness, the horrible shrieks of pain
And defeat, the tears torn out of Grendel’s
Taut throat, hell’s captive caught in the arms
Of him who of all the men on earth
Was the strongest.(467-472)
In the battle between Grendel and Beowolf a paganistic belief comes into play. The death of Grendel is said to be controlled by fate. The poem reads, “…But fate, that night, intended/Grendel to gnaw the broken bones/Of his last human supper….”(416-418). Then a few lines later Christian thoughts are brought back when describing the death of Grendel. Like in these lines, “And yet his time had come, his days/Were over, his death near; down/To hell he would go,…”(486-488). The question arises, is Grendel’s death controlled by a paganistic destiny or the Christian belief of what life brings you. Since Grendel was a son Cain, which is a Christian belief, the reader should think that Grendels death was one without fate and only the sinful death he deserved.
The death of Beowolf is much like that of Grendel. They are both described in paganistic and Christian ways. The pagans believe that their life has already been made out. Pagans do believe in gods. As a matter fact many gods. They have gods for thunder, fertility, agriculture, and a god for death. The god of death, Odin, is also the god of magic. He is the most predominant god in the poem. When paganistic beliefs are mentioned in the poem, like fate, they are all aimed at death. Both Grendel and Beowolf’s death were both described as a dark unpleasant experience. Here is an example of that;
Famous son stared at death,
Unwilling to leave this world, to exchange it
For a dwelling in some distant place-a journey
Into darkness that all men must make, as death
Ends their few brief hours on earth.(736-741)
Christian views in the final battle are scarce. Beowolf gives reference to God in the following lines, “”For this, this gold, these jewels, I thank/Our Father in Heaven, Ruler of the Earth-/For all of this, that His grace has given me,”(802-804). That is the only time. Beowolf tells Wiglaf about his fate. How he is supposed to die and he is following what so many warriors have done. He says these warriors are his family and that fate is taken all of them away. Beowolf’s soul then flies away. This could be a reference to the Christian belief. Many Christians believe that when you die your soul goes away to Heaven. In Beowolf’s final battle the poem tells us that fate is what killed him. He was supposed to die that way. Chapters fourteen through seventeen are based on paganistic beliefs when the majority of the other thirteen chapters are more Christian based.
The epic poem Beowolf is a poem with a mixture of Christian and paganistic beliefs. As a whole Christianity is mentioned in more of the poem though. The Christian belief of the devil or the devil’s creatures is comparable with the hideous monster Grendel. His place of living is even described like that of hell throughout the poem. The battles in the poem describe the same type of battles that humans have today. The battles with the devil or the devils curtuptions, sin. Sometimes good wins and sometimes evil wins. The constant referrals to both religious beliefs reflect the confusion of the time. While Christianity was a new religion and people were beginning to lean towards it; some people still wanted to hang onto the old paganistic beliefs. They were mentioned occasionally in the poem. The deaths of both Grendel and Beowolf were shown to be on a more paganistic belief, especially Beowolf. The use of fate was used many times in his death. Christianity dominated the poem more but paganism was in the poem.