Beowulf Essay Research Paper BeowulfBeowulf was written

Beowulf Essay, Research Paper Beowulf Beowulf was written in a time when Christianity was a newly budding religion in England. Throughout the book there are obvious references to both

Beowulf Essay, Research Paper


Beowulf was written in a time when Christianity was a newly budding

religion in England. Throughout the book there are obvious references to both

Christian and Pagan rituals. The characters in the epic are newly found

Christians who are trying to remain true to their new faith but are weak and

hence, in times of great trouble, they resort back to their Pagan traditions and

gods out of fear. Pagan rituals in the book are usually present only as

reflections of the past or in times of the characters’s greatest turmoil.

Otherwise, in times of happiness and rejoicing, they worship their one, almighty,

Christian God.

When Grendel is attacking Herot, and it’s people think they are in their

greatest danger, the people of Herot “sacrificed to the old stone gods / Made

heathen vows / hoping for Hell’s Support, the Devil’s guidance in driving their

affliction off.” (175-178). With the use of the word “old” in this section, it

can be inferred that the stone gods are things of the past. The rest of the

passage shows that it was because of the doubt and fear, instilled in the people

by Grendel, that the people of Herot regressed back to their old gods. The use

of the word “heathen” shows that the soldiers were already Christian and

reverted back to their old ways.

Soon after this statement, the poem reads:

Beware, those who are thrust into danger,

Clutched at by trouble, yet can carry no solace

In their hearts, cannot hope to be better! Hail

To those who will rise to God, drop off

Their dead bodies and seek our Father’s peace!

This says that the people whose fear consumes them to the point that

they lose faith that, after death, their souls will not be granted eternal peace

by the Father, God. This illustrates that the soldiers who have fallen from

faith in their worship are doing so only because of great fear, but that they

are looked down upon by God and good Christians. It says that only those who

will sacrifice themselves and trust in God will be let into Heaven. These

soldiers know this but are too scared to keep faith.

During the telling of the origins of Grendel, there is mention that

Grendel is a product of Cain, a Christian character. This is a way that the

characters of the book justify their belief in monsters. If they can say that

the monster comes from a biblical character, then they can’t hold themselves as

blasphemers for believing in the Pagan idea of monsters. The characters are

both scared of the monster that is taking their lives and of what will happen if

they show a lack of faith, as is shown in the above quote.

This fearful rationalization is made again when Beowulf is bragging

about all his victories and stops to say that he is not boastful but that he is

truthful. Having too much pride had been the downfall of many Biblical

characters and is the first deadly sin in Christianity. Beowulf proceeds to

tell his story but only after he has put on a facade of humility, demonstrating

that, at heart, he certainly isn’t an orthodox Christian but only needs to

appear to be one.

In the reflections of Shild’s burial at sea which was reminiscent of a

Norse ceremony, in which they sent their great warriors across the River Stix to

Valhalla, we see the obvious Pagan tradition. At the end of the book, Beowulf

is cremated which is far from a proper Christian burial. It is also said that

the smoke from the fire is swallowed up by the Heavens which is very similar to

the Egyptian idea that the light which hits the top of a pyramid carries the

spirit into the afterlife. Both events were times of great sadness where one

might question one’s faith. In fact, throughout the story, all but Shild’s

death ceremonies are conducted by cremation, a non-Christian burial. Indeed in

times of question the people of Beowulf’s England were not the devout Christians

they would have liked to be. From the beginning of the novel to the end, there

is this ever present return to the old Pagan ways. There is little transition

because even after the monsters are defeated there is still the greatest fear

of all in death. It shows that it will take time for these people to fully

accept their new faith and they are fragile.

However, when making glorious speeches and trying to impress one another,

the Christian beliefs are expressed. When the story tells of the times before

Herot fell to Grendel, one of the images used to paint them as a beautiful time

in history is the poets of Herot singing the Creation Song. When more closely

examined, the song is very similar, if not the same as, the Christian myth of


Throughout the entire poem there are numerous examples of both Pagan and

Christian rituals. The people of the times were Christians. As is seen when

the threat of Grendel is looming, when Beowulf is bragging about his

accomplishments, and when Beowulf is dead, these people are weak and susceptible

to the ideals that other religions offer them. All the examples can be used to

focus on the conclusion that, in this text, the Christians are weak and often

revert back to their Pagan ways when they are most frightened.