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Beowulf and Christianity

            The poem Beowulf marks a period of change in the history of England, namely, the introduction of Christianity amongst the Anglo-Saxons, which led to a newfound interest in literacy. In the seventh century, Irish monks from the north were active in propagating Christianity, aided by the mission of Augustine, which during the same time extended its headquarters in the south to the Anglian kingdoms in the north. These Irish missionaries did more than just spread religion. They created famous schools, where many of their converts were educated. The Roman church as well brought a love to the land for books and learning, educating people in the languages of Latin and Greek (Lawrence 7).
             Although many of the concepts in Beowulf reflect attitudes of pagan Anglo-Saxon times, still contains many newly introduced Christian themes; themes that occasionally clash with older values (Irving 21). Before Christianity reached its peak in the medieval period, traits such as heroism and arrogance were to be admired, just as long as they did not strive too close to the gods and the heavens. Early Christian writers such as St. Augustine were key in turning people away from pagan attitudes, including earthly arrogance and desire for wealth. Although some aspects of pagan attitudes still lurk within Beowulf, its Christian values are clear. Most scholars believe that Beowulf was written by a Christian author, who was most likely a monk, which explains the poem's attempts to instill Christian morality in the reader. Everything happens in Beowulf can be credited to the grace of God, whether it is victory in battle, or the taking of booty after a victory. For example, after Beowulf and his men finished their journey to Denmark they, "thanked God for that easy crossing on a calm sea" (227-28); and before his battle with Grendel, he says, "Whichever one death fells must deem it a just judgement by God" (440-41).

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