An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Origin and Evolution of Beowulf

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The Origin and Evolution of Beowulf

The origin of Beowulf remains a mystery, as both the poet and the year of composition has eluded scholars for centuries. Although "[it] is now widely believed that Beowulf is the work of a single poet who was Christian . . ." (preface, Heaney 29), I see Beowulf as a mosaic of many poets. In this paper, I will argue that with each new translation of this Old English epic, a new author of Beowulf is born. The twenty-first century poet Seamus Heaney, who translated the Beowulf on which this paper is based, injects aspects of his world into this ancient poem. Published in the year 2 000, the inconsistency of this most modern text reveals the messy masterpiece Beowulf is today. I believe that
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These men of the church, labouring to preserve Beowulf, used their editorial power to intertwine their religious beliefs with this classic verse praising Pagan life. I firmly believe the excerpt is a Christian addition. I find evidence within the entire poem to support this belief and in researching the time period in which Beowulf was first recorded, I discover a motive for the monks to make such an addition.

The strong Christian message drawn from this excerpt of Beowulf echoes like a sermon and feels out of place in this heroic epic. The poem glorifies a Pagan world characterized by violence, pride, worldly goods and a disregard for the after-life, qualities which contrast a Christian way of life. When the speaker states that the Danes, ". . . swore oaths/[to] the killer of souls . . ." (Heaney 36), he is interpreting the Pagans prayers to Heathen Gods as prayers to the devil to ". . . come to their aid/and save the people" (36). The speaker claims the ". . . High King of the World,/was unknown to them" (36). This opinion contradicts numerous lines of the poem in which the Pagans acknowledge the existence of a single God. For example, in describing his defeat of Grendel's mother, Beowulf says, ". . . if God had not helped me,/the outcome would have been quick and fatal" (68). The discrepancy results from the author worshipping a different God from the one recognized by the Pagans. The speaker preaches of a merciful New Testament

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