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Beowulf: Christian vs. Pagan

             The epic poem Beowulf tells the story of a warrior who throughout his life overcomes evils. It has many references to Anglo-Saxon ideals of bravery, strength, and courage. For example, Beowulf brashly lists his accomplishments before entering each battle: “But the truth is simple: no man swims in the sea as I can, no strength is a match for mine… other monsters crowded around me, continually attacking. I treated them politely, offering the edge of my razor-sharp sword,” (265-294). However, the poet suggests that his boasts are symbolic of Beowulf’s personal insecurity. Beowulf seems afraid of defeat and faliure. His boastful remarks are reminders to himself of his invincibility. In this poem, the poet is both critical and praising of the Anglo-Saxons’ beliefs and customs.
             The poet shows a strong belief in Divine or supernatural notions. The poem reflects this belief through references to “that Shepherd of Evil” (432) and “[sacrifices] to the old stone gods” (90). These are both conflicting allusions to the two prominent religions of the time. One pertains to Christian ideology; i.e. “The Almighty God” (493), and “the Almighty making the earth” (8), and the other relates to Anglo Saxon religious beliefs; i.e., “the omens were good” (118) and “fate will unwind as it must,” (189). The poem alludes to Christianity, a monotheistic religion that rejects ideas of fate. On the other hand, there are rudiments of Anglo Saxon philosophy, pagan on account of its elements of fate. The conflicts in the epic between the two opposite beliefs reflect human nature’s fickle notions and uncertainty in the belief in the divine. Additionally, the main character’s attributes and conflicts would classify him as a “messiah,” an archetypal pattern. Like Jesus and Moses, Beowulf, the epic hero, comes at a time of need and chaos in Herot, thereupon ending the chaos and destruction by killing Grendel and his mother.