Essay about Christian and Pagan Elements in Beowulf

943 Words Mar 29th, 2012 4 Pages
María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards


The poem Beowulf is full of Pagan and Christian elements, this combination gave place to many discutions about the origin of the poem. On the one hand some scholars have said that this is the result of a transcription made by some monks where they added the christian elements, on the other hand it is believed that the poem was written in a period in which the Anglo-Saxons were being converted from their worship of Germanic Pagan gods to the Christian God.

“It was long held that the most substancial surviving Old English poem, Beowulf, was a pre-Christian composition which had somehow been tampered with by monastic scribes in order to give it an acceptably
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Both elements forms a contradiction that maybe were not meant by the original author.

The monsters are another Pagan ideals which is very dominant through the story. Most of the pagan myths have gods defeating horrible monsters and heroes gaining honour through many battles. These ideas


C. ROBINSON, Fred, Beowulf, The Cambridge companion to Old English Literature, ed. Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge, Cambridge University Press, New York, United States of America, 2008. pp. 149

were incorporated into Beowulf. The hero fights against demons and when he is finally defeated, he is honored by his people.

“The anonymous poet-narrator recognizes that his story is a pagan one and that his characters hold to pagan virtues and to a pre-Christian world-view, but he is also aware that older concepts of heroism and heroic action can be viewed as compatible with his own religious and moral values.”5

“Belief in a hero has always been an important article in the social and political faith of the Germanic peoples, whether they were Christian or not.”6

It is clear to me that the Christian elements of the poem were influenced by the earlier Pagan factors, it means that it was based on Germanic Paganism when it was written, and later as the society became Christianizes, the poem acquired Christian elements as well. Nevertheless the complete idea of the poem is based on the Christian sense of good versus evil. It seems that

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