Beowulf: Religion

Although this story is set in pre-Christian times, the poet who recorded Beowulf is clearly Christian. In what places does this discrepancy create a contrast? Where do you see Christian versus Pagan values most clearly expressed? How does the writer’s Christian perspective affect the overall theme of the work? How might it sound different if it had been written by a contemporary of Beowulf’s?


97 Responses to “Beowulf: Religion”

  1. There are many interesting religious aspects to be appreciated in Beowulf. For instance, if the story had been written in Beowulf’s time, there obviously wouldn’t have been all of the “Praise the Almightly” throughout the book because Christianity hadn’t yet spread as far as Norway. The writer (or re-writer) having a Christian perspective has affected the story as mentioned above; they are constantly referring to God. However, the author left some Pagan attributes: rewarding with gold and possessions was very Pagan, because the Christians were against worldly things and focused on spirituality; also the idea of monsters and demons are Pagan, as Christians do not believe in such creatures. As for values, the Paganism comes out with the demons and the gold and treasures, while Christianity is also expressed with the praising of God. All in all, the religion of Beowulf is very contradictory.

  2. To Rachel Seeger:
    I completely agree! The whole story is one big contradiction. For instance, saying that Grendel is a descendant of Cain is completely against Christian views taken from the bible–demons come from Satan and are not in human/monster form.

  3. To:Rachel Seeger
    You make some good points about how the author placed christian attributes into the poem; however, I would have to disagree on one point: demons. Christians do believe in demons, maybe not as tangible beings such as Grendel but the kind that are in your heart eating away at your soul. Could not part of Beowulf be allegorical to what the author believes is happening in everyone’s heart?

  4. On page 7-8 the author creates contrast by telling how the Danes made sacrifices to idols on their altars in hopes that the devil would help them with the problem of Grendel. Also in other places throughout the poem the traditions are quite clearly pagan in nature, like the giving of treasures to he heroes, but they’re paired with praises to the Lord. Both religions’ values are expressed in the description of Grendel. The monster is quite clearly of the pagan religion, but the author states that he is the son of Cain, a Biblical reference. The writer has written the story with all of the pagan traditions and beliefs included, but when the nature of those beliefs contrast to what they believe they throw in something about the true Creator of the world.

  5. While Beowulf can certainly seem contradictory and inconsistent when first analyzing the religious aspects, the differences do not play a tremendously important part in the overall scheme of the play. The pagan origins of the storyline define the poem as a whole; a sort of deism centered around a king (in Beowulf’s case, Scyld, and eventually Hrothgar) and his lineage (4) as well as a glorified lifestyle focused on the accumulation of wealth are just a couple examples. Further impressing the pagan values, Poet describes the Danes, “making sacrifices to idols in heathen temples” (7). Immediately afterward, we see the first obvious sign of a later revision (other than scattered references to a Creator). A definite shift in tone, the above quote is followed with, “well shall it be for him who may go to the Lord after the day of death and ask for peace in the bosom of the Father!” (7). Note the exclamation point…this guy definitely takes a side with Christianity. By infusing the classic pagan tale with Christian motifs, the two religions are juxtaposed with little to no transition. This can be argued as either a positive change—increased audience appeal—or a negative change—as I said before, addition of inconsistent material. However, while the revision certainly introduces a Christian viewpoint, Editor stopped there. Said motifs are obviously mentioned, but Editor did little to argue their side over the other (paganism). Because there is little talk of whether one religion is better than the other, the two religions coincide freely in the epic poem, leaving the reader with a neutrally presented choice. Bravo, Poet and Editor.

  6. To Kylie Alexander:

    I agree with your thoughts on the comparisons between the two religions however, the poem is not the one containing the Christian references. It was purely the writer that added these references because of what HE believed. Like Rachel said, had the poem been written at the time of the story, none of those Biblical or Christian references would have been there.

  7. Religion is one of the key factors in this poem because Beowulf is a Christian, and yet he follows the code of the Germanic warriors, which contradicts the Christian faith. The Germanic belief states that all glory and honor are achieved in this life, while Christian faith believes that glory and honor are achieved in the afterlife. The Germanic code also believes that you should retaliate when wrong has been done to you, while christianity teaches that one should forgive rather than retaliate. The author of the poem tries to include both beliefs because Beowulf is a Christian, but can’t ignore the rudimentary pagan beliefs.

  8. To: Alli Grimes
    Interesting point about demons. The way the author used demons to accomplish Beowulf’s glory also suggests like you said about “eating away at your soul” that eventually the opposition will overtake Beowulf whether being mentally or physically.

  9. Religion plays a contradicting role in Beowulf because on one side the Germanic code states that honor is gained throughout life by doing deeds and on the other Christianity maintains that glory occurs in the afterlife. The Pagan warrior culture is set up to retaliate rather than mourn while the Christian faith suggests a forgiving attitude towards ones enemies. Although Beowulf is Christian, it seems likes he can’t (or won’t) give up his Pagan warrior values. Maybe that is why on page 20 when Beowulf refuses to fight Grendel with a sword, he weighs in both values by fighting Grendel like a Pagan but doing it with chivalry like a Christian.

  10. To Kylie Alexander:

    I really like how you used Grendel to contrast the two sets of values shown in Beowulf. Your point proves that although the oral tradition of Beowulf was Pagan, the written version was clearly done by a Christian.

  11. To Briana Sorge:

    I agree completely with you on the fact that Beowulf can’t/won’t give up his warrior code, so to speak. He is always the chivalrous warrior with the pagan mindset.

  12. To Jameson Thompson:

    Yes, religion does play a crucial role on the poem, and yes, Beowulf does seem to be a Christian with a Germanic warrior’s mindset, but Beowulf is not a Christian. The actual events in the poem took place long before it was written down by the monk, whoever that may be. The monk edited it to fit with his religion, so as to not promote the pagan religions.

  13. To Jameson Thompson

    Poet could not have struggled to include both religions because Christianity had not been founded yet (like Kylie said). Even his actions do not necessarily reflect the values that form the basis of Christianity; his motives to rescue others from demons and monsters are purely heroic, and if anything, indicate a slight Messiah complex…

  14. To Danielle Raynal:

    I think you may have a point about the change of faith in the characters; perhaps the author did this purposfully to sneakily show that, like the characters, the readers themselves could have a change of faith…with the re-writer being a monk and all.

  15. Religion does play a huge role in this poem but that doesnt mean that Beowulf himself is a Christian. This was written before this culture knew about Christianity. But it is true that Beowulf like most of the warriors then was chivalrous.

  16. Knowing that the epic poem Beowulf was set during the pre christian times changes the whole outlook of the poem. If the reader didn’t know that the poem took place during pre christian times than they wouldn’t think anyhting about it. The poem like many other pieces of writting has references to the Christian God (or Creator). The writter gives God many diffeerent names such as Creator (7), the Judge of deeds (7), Protector of the heavens (8), and the Ruler of glories (8). This was the writters way to subtly insert Christianity into the poem. Instead of the poem being authentic to the time period that it was created, the poem now has references to religion that had not been created. Even though these references don’t change the plot of the poem a lot they still shouldn’t be there because it seems like it is out of place. Beowilf follows the Germanic beliefs and not the christian beliefs.

  17. To Michelle LaBlance:

    I agree that religion plays a large role in the epic poem Beowulf. I also agree that Beowulf wasn’t a christian. If the story was created before christian times than how could Beowulf be a christian. It is impossible to be or do something that is in the future.

  18. To Michelle LaBlance:

    In reading through the rest of the comments i agree with yours. This poem was written before Christianity had spread through the rest of Europe. Granted Christianity was a major religion in Rome at the time (or what was left of Rome) it had yet to spread as far north as the Nordic countries.

  19. To Jameson Thompson:

    I like your idea that Beowulf was a christian following pagan beliefs. Although I don’t know how it is possible for him to be a christian. If the story was created in pre christian times than how would he be able to believe in a religion that had not yet been created?

  20. To Ethan Hughes’ comment To Michelle LaBlance:

    Christianity didn’t start in Rome. It is possible that it started in many places, and perhaps started somewhere closer to the Nordic countries. and with various trade routes, it could spread very quickly. Just trying to keep an open mind, and thinking of the various possibilities before we just go with whatever the teacher says. Although i do agree with you, i thought i should nit-pick on that little detail. 🙂

  21. There is a definate corelation between the heroism depicted in Beowulf, and the effect that a Christian narrator had on the work as a whole. Although the narrator takes a few obvious liberties in his descriptions of ¨the hope of heathans,¨ he does nothing to change either the theme or the viewpoint of the story itself. What makes Beowulf interesting as a work of literature is that although it takes from two vastly oposing structures of ideal, within this story they both come together to celebrate the heroism of one man. Dispite differences in belief in what awaits us beyond death, it can be agreed upon what makes a strong, heroic person in life.

  22. To Katie Hartson

    The Christian narration is imperceptable to the overall storyline of the poem, and additionally reinforces the theme: heroism. This heroism is respected as much by the pagans as by the christians, and the narration opened Beowulf to a far larger audience, allowing more people to appreciate the poem while also defining it as a piece of literature. The christian narration is absolutly fundamental to the tale of Beowulf.

  23. To Rachel Seeger,

    Although I agree that a Christian narrator affected voice of the poem with insertions of ¨praise to the almighty¨I believe the overall story remained unaffected. There is never a diminishing of Beowulfs deeds, simply a comment on the pratices of the period.

  24. To Michelle LaBlance and Katie Hartson

    Just to clear things up a bit, the confusion regarding Christian behavior before the founding of Christianity can be explained as follows: references to a Creator or use of allegory were later inserted by the person who eventually recorded the oral poem. The deduction that Beowulf was in fact a “Christian”–as in one who follows the Christian faith (at that point, nonexistent)–is in effect proven false, as simply being chivalrous and honor-bound does not automatically make Beowulf a Christian (i.e. a square is a rectangle, a rectangle does not have to be a square…).

  25. I may be out on a limb here but perhaps the author was trying to give Grendal human characteristics, such as fear “he became afraid in his heart” 718-760 and pain “the horrible monster felt mortal pain…” 800-836 to prove that Cain’s damnation for murder will doom his family line to be outcasts for eternity. Does this perhaps parallel the pagan religion?

  26. To Kylie Alexander:

    Is it possible that although Beowulf’s culture had not even been introduced to Christianity, but that when the Christian author revised the epic poem that he made Beowulf a Christian? If Beowulf was a historical person and not fictional than he would definitely not been Christian however, the character that he is portrayed as could possibly have incorporated pagan beleifs and not the other way around.

  27. To Ben Thorp

    I cant say i agree with your assessment of the narrator’s effect. A place to start is when the narrator tells us the reader that Grendel is a descendant of Cane. Because of the pagan nature of the people this story came from, it is highly improbable that the excerpt i referred back to was part of the original telling of the story. It’s reasonable to assume that there is a much larger back story to Grendel that is let on. The narrator was at the liberty to drop what may have been the original origins of Grendel and replace it with a religiously acceptable alliterative. That alone is a big enough change to say that the narrator did have a major effect on the view point of the story. The narrator brought it from a pagan view point to a Christian view point

  28. To Ben Thorp:

    Yes, I do agree with what you said about the religion of Beowulf.

  29. Being that the Narrator is christian, there are obvious signs of religion in the story. There are several references to the battle between paganism and a christian belief. Things such as the inability to pray and thus being unable to defeat Grendel, the reference to a “Creator”, and the fact that the poem uses Beowulf as a missionary, if you will.

  30. To Sarah Boor:

    This is a true statement. Grendel does have human-like characteristics. By going inside his head, it allows the reader to see that Grendel is not only human-like, but is also flawed as a normal human would be.

  31. To Danielle Raynal:

    I agree with your comment. You have many great examples and quotes!

  32. To Sarah Boor

    I see where your coming from. It makes sense that they would incorporate human traits into the character’s traits, perhaps to develop a concept. Maybe to show how even people who have done corrupt things(the poems definition of monster) are still just as vulnerable to society as you and I. And as far as the pagan thing goes, I think it juxtaposes.

  33. To Sam Seltzer-Johnston

    WHAT THE FAMILY SAM! i really don’t think Beowulf’s purpose in this novel was to ” spread the word”.

  34. To Alex McLane:

    I agree. I don’t think that Beowulf could be a missionary considering he wasn’t all Christian or all Pagan.

  35. Okay……..does someone want to explain to me what a Pagan is??? All I know is that there are things that Pagan’s believe that go against Christian beliefs. Atleast, that is what I have been told. So somebody…help…please.

  36. To Lisa Spiewak,

    Paganism can refer to any number of folk religions, usually polytheistic (meaning more than one god/goddess figure). It does, in fact, clash with Christianity, not only because of its interpretation of deities, but also because it is a religion centered around the building of wealth and worldly goods. Christianity centers more on spiritual wealth, which is eternal.

  37. Even with a Christian narrator the over-all structure of the story remains the same. The Pagan beliefs are still there as was originally intended while the narrator is inserting what he/she believes. Although, pesonally I was expecting more negativity towards Beowulf by the narrator. Even while Beowulf is accepting mounds of gold and treasure, the narrator just leaves the story be even though the Pagan and Christian beliefs are in direct contradiction.

  38. In Beowulf it shows clear values of Christian religion. Beowulf puts all his trust in God to help them win the battles, which in turn helps them in the end. Why this peom doesnt express alot of Pagan beliefs (other than violence) is that violence is the only Pagan characterist throught the entire peom. Beowulf’s author is clearly Christian in that he references alot about old Christian times in Beowulf.

  39. To Kylie Alexander,

    I agree that the author does give refernce to idols although he gives more details about Christian faith and beliefs. It also does refer to Grendel as being a desendent of Cain, all that is for is for biblical effect. I also agree that the author mentions pagan tradition and beliefs contrasting to God.

  40. To Ethan Hughes,

    I disagree that the author is making the reader beleive he/she is Christian because it gives great detials in quotes througout the entire book. Although Pagan beliefs may have been intended in the book there is still BOTH Pagan and Christian beliefs in the book. Personally I would have liked to see more negitivity to Beowulf as well but it wasnt all about recieving gold and treasures to Beowulf in my belief. To me it was about him serving a country to defeat an evil spirit, wwhich is what Grendel was for the Glory of beating a huge monster with no armor that no one else can seem to beat.

  41. To Danielle Raynal:

    So, pretty much, pagan is like the oposite of Christianity? I mean, Christians believe that there is only one God. If you worship more than The Almighty, then it is considered a sin. Atleast that was how it was when I went to my Christian School downstate. We believed that you were only allowed to worship one God and that you should only follow the Bible. So, by Beowulf being both Christian and pagen, isn’t he doing wrong? He should only be one or the other…right? Or is there more to it that I just don’t understand? By the way, thank you for helping me.

  42. To: Lisa Spiewak

    I agree with you. How could someone be Christian or Pagan When the Pagans worship more than God, but the Christians worship one God. You also right that Beowolf should choose between Christian or Pagan.

  43. Originally Beowulf practices the Pagan values, like many of that time period (before Norman conquest 700-1066). After the Norman conquest between 1066-1500, most Anglo-Saxon’s converted to Christianity. The Poem shows the change from Paganism to Christianity. The narrator tries to correspond his Christian values into the actions of the pagan characters. For example, on pg. 6 when the narrator talks about biblical Cain, but at the same time talks about pagan beliefs. Where defiant souls compensate God by being ogres, elves, monsters and giants for life. While some of Beowulf’s values ( loyalty to his people and eagerness to give) harmonize with Christian moral, at the end of the day he lives for glory after death, which is ultimately Pagan. For Example on pg. 20 when Beowulf refuses to fight Grendel with a sword, which implies Christian value, but he fights Grendel regardeless which is Pagan. Without this religious contradiction I’m sure Beowulf would be nothing more than dull considering religion also supports heroism in the poem. Even though these faiths clash, they find a way to synchronize at the end, by honoring the gallantry of one man.

  44. TO: Practically everyone who has written on this blog
    This is a little off topic, but i believe that most of you are using the wrong term when you refer to something as “pre-christian”. I agree that christianity may not have spread to norway, however they refer to God as the creator. So you technically couldn’t have a pre-christian era because if God created the world then christianity would have been there from the begining or the creation of the world. I just thought I’d throw that out there for consideration/debate.

  45. To Johnathon Klonowski:

    That is what I think he should do. He needs to choose one or the other. It is not really being a true Christian to believe Pagan beliefs, so he is setting a bad example for Christian’s everywhere. Beowulf shows that he is sacrilegious because he disregards God’s first Commandment by having more than one God. When you break one of God’s laws, you break them all. This is proof that you can not be both Christian and Pagan.

  46. To Alex McLane:

    Wow. You seem to know what you are talking about with this whole religious thing, so I am going to believe what you are saying. But one thing…? In summary are you saying that the characters were at first Pagan, but converted to Christianity and that Beowulf converted, but still porteys Pagan values? I am still a little confused on that part.

  47. To Alli Grimes:

    Great point Alli! If people believe that God created the world, but thought Christianity came afterwards, then there is seriously something wrong there. God is Christian…atleast the God I praise is. Thus, Christianity has existed as long as Earth has.

  48. To Alex McLane:

    Just because some of Beowulf actions are Christian like doesnt mean that he is a Christian. He doesnt know about that religion in the story but the narrator does. Therefore showing the difference between the two religions.

  49. To Rachel Klein:

    I agree with you with the author being a Christian. And also that Christianity is showed a lot more then Pagan. Which doesnt make a lot of sense in thinking that the time period of the story is set before Christian was spread that far north.

  50. It is kind of wierd thinking of Pagan and Chritstian together because when I think of them I find them different pagans have many god christians worship one god and find it a sin to worship more than one god(In the Ten Commandments)

  51. to Sarah Boor:

    good point about Grendel’s human characteristics. and i think you’re right on the money with that statement, not out on a limb at all. thank you for bringing that bit of information to light. very helpful.

  52. in answer to the last question stated at the top of this blog, i think if this book was written by someone during Beowulf’s time period, it obviously would’ve changed the whole christian/pagan struggle. the book would’ve lost the huge contrast that makes it so great, and thus would’ve been far less interesting and intellegent. it makes no sense to have pagan beliefs and christian beliefs embedded in one character, yet Beowulf’s author makes sense of it. and as many have pointed out, having christian and pagan views expressed at the same time through the same person is very contradicting, yet it is necessary to make Beowulf who he is.

  53. To Lisa Spiewak:

    I was talking about in real life, in that era. A lot of people were pagan, not everyone was pagan. After the Norman Conquest a majority of people converted to Christianity, perhaps due to its popularity and/or benefits. In the poem Beowulf doesn’t exactly convert to Christianity, he only applies some of their values, for example like said before in my previous post, Beowulf is loyal to his people and is eager/willing to give. Yes, he still reveals his pagan values, because he still fights Grendel and Grendel’s mother, where as a Christian wouldn’t. And no you aren’t confused, you just need to read harder. =) good luck.

  54. To Michelle LaBlanc

    you just repeated what i said in my post in different words.
    ALEX SAID: While some of Beowulf’s values ( loyalty to his people and eagerness to give) harmonize with Christian moral, at the end of the day he lives for glory after death, which is ultimately Pagan.

    MICHELLE SAID: Just because some of Beowulf actions are Christian like doesnt mean that he is a Christian.

    We are both right, Beowulf isn’t Christian and the narrator is.
    Just like you said “He doesnt know about that religion in the story but the narrator does” Just like I said in my previous post “The narrator tries to correspond his Christian values into the actions of the pagan characters”

    i’m unsure to whether you were summarizing my post or attempting to disagree with it.

  55. Beowulf would not be read in today’s high schools without the multiple authors of different religions. While Beowulf is interesting with just its action and displays of what people day dreamed about in the Middle Ages, it wouldn’t be important enough without the obvious Christian influences which often seem quite contradictory to the teachings of the story. Right after we hear about “making sacrifices to idols,” 7, the Christian author includes a few phrases about following the Christian God. Even when Beowulf is doing pagan things, like receiving treasure, which is thoroughly against the Christian belief of the lack of true value in worldly goods, the Christian author says that praise should be offered to the Creator. While it appears that this would ruin the story, it displays the historical influence and spread of Christianity, and creates an interest in a wider variety of people, showing the thought put into writing at a time that was always judged as stupid.

  56. To Jameson Thompson and Kylie Alexander, who replied to him

    For the most part, I agree with Kylie. Beowulf is most definitely not Christian. Many times, like when he decides to battle with other humans and accepts worldly goods, he shows very pagan views of the world. Even the Germanic Code thoroughly displays his pagan religion. It may support fairness, but it also allows fighting and proclaims the value of worldly goods and titles. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for a person to be both a thorough Christian and follow the values of the Germanic Code.
    It might seem that the author is creating an impossible hero when he gives the pagan warrior Beowulf the characteristics of a Christian, but Beowluf was not a realistc story in the first place, so the contradictory statements can have little effect.

  57. To: Alli Grimes

    While I agree with you that in Beowulf’s time it was impossible to be pre-Christian, as there were already many Christ followers by that time, I can’t completly agree that Christianity always existed. While the Christian God intended for everything to happen as it did, and for Christ to be born, in the years before Jesus’ birth a person could not really be a Christian. Christ brought many philosophies into the world that, while some had existed before, they hadn’t been brought together under one faith. Even Judaism, the starter of Christianity, is not even close to announcing the same beliefs of Christianity. So, while the Christian God has always been Christian, the world has not.

  58. To: Kathryn Irwin

    I agree; Beowulf is full of contradictions. However, without contradictions, Beowulf would not be nearly as important to the modern literary world. The story of Beowulf shows the ideals of the society at that time, which is interesting, but the Christian re-writer successfully attempts to create a character that displays the beliefs of both religions. Not only did this make the epic poem more acceptable to more people at the time, but it shows the advanced writing ability and thought put into writing at the time. This is not only because it attracts multiple religions, but also because he did not over do the Christian influences and thus ruin the integrity of the epic poem.

  59. To: Courtney Wilber

    Altho Christianity is a monotheistic religion and the pagan religion is a multitheistic they do share some similarities. They may not be the core concepts that are shared, but some of the practices and beliefs are shared. Now the other thing you must rember is that the book never tries to compare the two religions; what happend is it was originally told as a pagan story, and then as it was righten down Christianity became a a overlay on the story. So you could say that Christianity was an after thought in the story. That is why the Narrator is always trying to bring a christian explanation into the story.

  60. TO: lydia pugh
    You have a very good point with the fact that the narrator was just trying to make sense of it. I would imagine with he time and place that the narrator lived in, the concepts in the story would be very hard for him to grasp. There for i would assume that Way he felt it necessary for him to put the christian imagery into it. Good call Lydia realy got me thinking.

  61. To: Sarah Boor
    I would not say that your going out on a limb at all, in fact i fully agree with you. I actually see more human charistics tho in grendel’s mother. The only reason she fights Beowulf is to defend her child. It is definitely a human charastic. And as a matter of fact i would draw a parallel between Grendels mothers and The quine of the geets. They both are ultra protection of there children and both are very aggressive to protect them. So yeah what I’m saying is The quin has the temperament of a dragon.

  62. In Beowolf all it mostly talks about is Christianity and Paganism. It looks like Beowulf is a Pagan and a Christian. He says Praise to the Christian God. Then he talks about Praising the Pagan God. I think it’s crazy

  63. To Jonathon Klonowski:
    I totally agree that having the two religions, christian and pagan in one book is crazy, but i think that having both religions blended together is what makes this book somewhat interesting.

  64. The way that Beowulf is written, it obviously blends together Pagan and Christian beliefs. However, I have a theory that slightly differs from it merely being a blend of the two religions. The poem was obviously written by a Christian monk, that is a fact that I am willing to accept 100%. The theory that I have is that another person edited the poem after the original Christian monk wrote it. While there is probably no way of proving this theory it just seems to me that the Christian mentions of god, the almighty, and the eternal afterlife are put in almost randomly while in other parts there are direct mentions of Pagan beliefs.

  65. I thought the Christian narator did an excilent job of keeping the religion refrences un biased. The astrics that refrenced you back to the bible pages came in handy alot, and I enjoyed looking them up. Religion wise this was full of excilent refrences with good creativity.

  66. To Rachel S.

    Kudos on the first post! Your summary was full of outstaning facts about the book, but could I expect anything less from you?

  67. I wonder how the avatars are chosen?

  68. To Sarah Boor:
    I completely agree with your statement that the author was trying to make Grendel seem more human, and I also think that he did that to set him further apart from God, because according to Christianity everyone faces damnation unless they pronounce their beliefs in Jesus.

  69. To Sam Z.

    Nice un-biased paragraph. Religion doesn’t matter. Aslong a the belief that God is real is there, we are all “one”

  70. To Rachel Cook:
    I completely agree that Beowulf would not be read in schools if it didn’t have the multiple religions mixed into it, because without the mixed in religion it would not have any true literary value though it would still be a good poem.

  71. In Beowulf, after Beowulf takes Grendel’s hand off he receives many gifts from the king and the returns home, and most of the time that he is home the text says that pretty much all he does is talk about the treasures he received ” The lord of the Dane’s rewarded me with gold and many treasures …” (pg. 55) which blatantly goes against the Christian values. Which in the bible itself it says specifically not to value worldly things.

  72. To Linnea Ulrich:

    Actually, I’m pretty sure Beowulf talks about how he defeated Grendel and then his mother in the mere. Page 54 and 55? Also, Beowulf was never fully Christian anyway. Beowulf is mostly Pagan with incorporated Christian values.

  73. To Sam Zielinski:

    It’s not really a theory. Back in the AD 700 nobody thought it was necessary to know how to read or write, except the church. We already know that Beowulf was put into writing by an educated Christian and is originally a Pagan oral tradition. And like I said before, the only people who could write in the Medieval times were monks. So your “theory” is actually a known fact.

  74. To : Linnea Ulrich

    i disagree. i think that religion has nothing to do with the actual poem.
    if you took out everything that had to do with religion you would still have the same story, just not the whole thing about beowulf going to heaven and what not in the end. religion is inserted into the text, nothing that beowulf did depended on his religion.

  75. To: Cearra Bennett

    I agree with you Cearra. Religion doesnt make Beowulf in the poem. The stories that he has showed us in the poem are what makes the poem. Christianity shouldnt be the root of the story and frankly to me its not.

  76. To Alex McLane:

    No I really am confused on a lot of this. I have read and re-read a lot of the material, but my mind has trouble comprending it. I had a friend help me to understand it a little better, so now I think I know what you are trying to say.

  77. TO: Rachel Cook

    You make a good point. However, in the old testament (or before Christ), whereas they might not have been called “Christians” there was a belief in the Creator, and that He would send a savior. In the old testament people would sacrifice the best of their crop (whether animals or vegetables), this action was a representation of their sins being covered. So I believe that if they did this in sincerity then thye were able to enter heaven. In my mind this classifies them as Christians even if they weren’t called this technically. In the new testament (during/after Christ), Jesus Christ provided the ultimate sacrifice. He gave himself as a perfect sacrifice to cover all of our sins. He was the savior that the people in the old testament had believed in. People who believed that Jesus Christ is the savior would be called Christians. When I referred to no such thing as “pre-Christian” i meant in beleifs not title. I’m sorry for my lack of clarity.

  78. TO: whoever said that the recieving of gifts is pagan (or something similar)

    I feel like an antagonist, but i have to say that i don’t completely agree, I mean just look at christmas. it is considered a christian holiday, and yet the exchange of gifts is still there. However, the danger lies in putting too much value in worldly things. When you focus so much on worldly things that you lose sight of what is most important, then you get into “pagan beliefs” I think you guys were getting to that but i felt the need to clarify. 🙂

  79. TO: Alli
    I totally agree about what you said about the pre-christian era.I know hat statement mad me think.

  80. To Sam Zielinski:
    That is a very interesting thought. A theory that not many people would even think about, but something that could very well be possible. Though no one will probably ever know the answer to your theory, it’s really something to think about.

  81. Reply To Sam Z:
    This is a great theory. It could possibly be someone re edited the epic poem. They mention both pegan and christian beliefs in this poem quite a bit. About the “random” religion parts you are totally correct. Good observation.

  82. To Alli:
    Your comment well statement about the pre-christian era was pretty much amazing. Nice helping clarify things also. its always good to help people who dont quite understand. Your pretty good at this stuff 😀

  83. To Alli:

    You are completely right about the whole recieving gifts thing. A lot of people celebrate Christmas and some do not even realize that it is actually a CHRISTIAN holliday. People are starting to just see it as a day to get cool things from people and they are slowly forgetting about the true meaning of Christmas. Even though this is so, it is still a day to spend time with the ones you love and EXCHANGE gifts. I think it is a good thing that you pointed out that gift exchanging isn’t just a sign of Pagan beliefs, but of both Pagan and Christian beliefs. It was also good that you showed the similarities and differences of it.

  84. In this Epic poem both Christianity and Paganism are represented. Lets look at the Meanings of what a believer means, shall we? Christian Believer: (definitions made by myself): Its the people who believe in a monotheistic Higher power(there is one god). They believe that they should be glorified and rewarded in the after life. They also live according to the example of how Jesus lived on earth. Pagan Believer: This religion is neither Jewish, Muslim or Christian. They believed in Magic, Mysticism and a Pagan experience. Another word for Pagan is Heathen.
    What is confusing to me is it seems that Beowulf switches back and forth from Christianity to Pagan off and on through out the poem. He gave glory to god for his strength and victories, Likewise, he talked about the sword being magic sword believed to cut through anything. He accepted every gift he was given from defeating grendel and his mother, Unlike a christian waiting to get their glory in the after life.

    Mathew 6:19 ,20- “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourself treasures in heaven.”

  85. To Kati:

    That was smart of you to show a biblical reference. It shows people how different Pagans and Christians really are. I agree with you on how Beowulf portreys both beliefs. And you must also remember, the sword must not have been so magical because it failed him in battle. Though this was a major blow, it showed that the sword was not as magical as they made it seem to be.

  86. Beowulf, clearly being a Pagan story, was definitely influenced by a christian writer. During the time period in which Beowulf takes place, Christianity is unknown to them. In certain parts of this epic poem the Christian writer praises the Pagans, because the did not know of Christianity, at the time. Also, Grendel is referred to as a descendent of Cain, who is from the Bible. Beowulf focuses mainly on Pagan violence and the Christian fairness, forgiveness, and what they think of worldly goods. At the very end, at Beowulf’s funeral, the men burry the treasure the dragon was guarding, showing that gold is not everything.

  87. To Jameson Thompson:
    Yes the poem is a blend of Cristian and pagan beliefs but Beowulf is definitely NOT a Christian. There’s no way that Beowulf can be a Christian because he lived in a “pre-christian” era. Christianity had not yet reached Norway when this story took place.Any references to Christ in Beowulf were put in by the Christian poet. Basically the poet put words into Beowulf’s mouth in order to inject Christianity in the story. If you will read some of Beowulf’s speeches then you will find that Beowulf is definitely of pagan beliefs. Example: “Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning. For every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end. Let whoever can win glory before death. When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark.” It is completely against christian beliefs to avenge anybody and also contradicts the Christian belief of glory after death and not in life.

  88. To Lisa Spiewak:
    You’re right about the sword not being magical, but pagans DID put their belief in such things. A sword was often thought of as being the reason that the hero won the battle. If a hero failed in battle then it was said to be the sword’s fault. A good sword was praised for it’s work in battle, almost as much as the hero. Swords kept their legacy with them, even when their original owner died. Great swords were seen as a sign of wealth, power, and having favor with the king.

  89. To: Amanda Bowman

    This story does cause controversy on a belief system of the writer of the poem. I think he means to mix these two beliefs to make it more current and appeal to the readers themselves. It must have been hard to sell a poem back then that did not follow Christian beliefs to connect with the reader. He puts two religions in the story to perhaps make it appeal to the idea of the story and what kind of people liked the story. His goal in my mind was to keep the reader interested with a poem about their religion with the parts he puts in. He created a story that does not go against his religion but blends into it to keep it heroic in fashion and spiritual also.

  90. The collaboration of Christianity and Paganism is quite profound in this story. I find it interesting how the narrator combines a Christian’s morals with a Pagan’s fairy tales (monsters, gold treasure, etc.) as if the two completely opposite religions were one. Regardless of differences, the narrator only speaks of the similarities to have the kingdoms coexist with mutual influences.

  91. Kathryn Irwin’s reply to Rachel seeger is definitly correct. It is wierd that, not only is the author christian, but it seems he or she freely descusses the belief of demons. It is also wierd that, as a christian, he or she didn’t feel the least bit reluyctant to mention the deamons. I wonder why this happened, I mean, wouldn’t christians get in to trouble for writing things like this by the church or somthing like that?

  92. To: Amanda Bowman/
    All viewers please read bottom and ponder!!!

    You are right, In the poem there is alot of christianity portrayed, but within the poem it’s self, there really shouldn’t be since the Pagans didn’t believe in the same customs. I find it wierd that the author didn’t get him/herself into trouble writing this.

    I almost think that the author is a peasent that wasn’t being watched like the important church deciples. This then raises the Question of how this story ever made it’s way legally into the Library of Alexandria? Why was it not rejected? Why is it here today? You know what I mean?

  93. I believe the religion in the poem is almost to influenced by christanity. The tale is about a very prestiegious man who is almost obcessed with glory. it is a good thing though that the author didn’t take a pagan, and influence him so much christianity on him, that it turned him into one.

    There is actually alot of conspiracy here; CHRISTIANS ARE NOT SUPPOSE TO WANT GLORY SO MUCH, so the fact that Beowulf did just makes him more Pagan!

    (WHICH IS A GOOD THING TO DISCRIBE WHEN IT IS A CHRISTIAN AUTHOR TRYING TO DISCRIBE A PAGAN)! It shows that the author isn’t trying to give the pagans a new or better name, and that the author is showing respect for the Pagan customs even though it may have been against their owm!!!!!

  94. To:
    Garrit M. Emaus


    First off, saying “a pagan obsessed with glory” is stating the obvious. Obsessed is the wrong word however, its more like it ran his whole life, as a matter of fact all of their life’s.

    Second, this is basically mocking Pagans, it is NOT a neutral poem. The fact that Beowulf questioned his own ways and society in an old age (much like Pagan society at the time, which had grown quite old) is a good old fashion Christian slap in the face. I’d say that Beowulf was a non forceful attempt to nudge Pagans into converting. (think above the influence commercials without the TV about Pagans and Christians)

  95. All in all, this story is filled with classic 50’s style Saturday morning cartoon style Christian influencing cheese. Its basically taking a classic Pagan hero, mixing up the story, making him question his society, and made it “cool”, if you will, to not be Pagan but instead Christian.

    If this guy could have made T-shirts, fliers, and cheesy cartoon character inspired commercials all about how cool Christianity compared to pagans, he would have.

  96. To Danielle Raynal:
    In response to your argument, I see Beowulf as being an inconsistent mix of Pagan and Christian motifs. The transitions are unclear, as you said, regardless of the fact that the narrator is clearly Pagan writing of the transition from Pagan to Christian religions. This disorder may reflect the society during this period of the Middle Ages, as the people could have been this disorderly in attempting to translate and understand the beliefs and opinions of either religion, and a scramble to discover themselves as well as their position in the matter.

  97. To alli:
    you’re right if god created the world then there wouldn’t be a pre-christian era, but if christianity didn’t spread to norway then they wouldn’t have knowledge of god. There for a pre-christian era.

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