Christian and Pagan Ideals in Beowulf

1360 words 6 pages
Before the invention of the printing press or written history, oral history, especially in early Germanic culture, became the foremost means of transcribing values, and past events. Written down in approximately 1,000 A.D. by an unknown author, Beowulf, originally a pagan fable, became a Christian allegory upon its transcription by Christian monks. However, as scholars have debated over the religious context in Beowulf, the attempts by the monks to turn the epic poem into a Christian parable ended merged, including both original and Christian aspects. Throughout Beowulf, the epic combines pagan ideals of fate or wyrd and the will of God, the similar concepts of the afterlife, and the contrasting ideas of the individual. In Beowulf, a …show more content…

Grendel and his mother both represent a certain evil, and once this evil dissipates from earth, God’s light can shine down. In the beginning of Beowulf, Scyld Scefing, the founder of the royal blood line of the Danes, has a funeral, where “on his breast lay great many treasures that should voyage him out into the sea’s possession” (2). This reference to Scyld Scefing’s funeral parallels Beowulf’s funeral at the end of the fable. After the slaying of the Dragon, no person can open the hoard of treasure except under the will of God, but Beowulf’s last dying request includes having the dragon’s treasure buried with him:
“Be quick now, so that I may see the ancient wealth, the golden things, may clearly look on the bright curious gems, so that for that, because of the treasure’s richness, I may the more easily leave life and nation I long have had” (48). Standing in direct opposition to the King Hrothgar’s emphasis on eternal rather than earthly rewards, Beowulf’s materialistic attachment to the dragon’s treasure parallels the Egyptian (pagan) concept of needing one’s worldly possessions after reincarnation; whereas, according to the Christian view of the afterlife, all one needs already exists in Heaven. After the death of a close friend or relative, according to Beowulf, “it is better to avenge his friend than mourn” (25). This mantra serves as a basic understanding of why Grendel’s