Paganism In Beowulf

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Beowulf, the oldest surviving epic poem, has been recognized as one of the most important works of Old English literature. It deals with battles, warrior culture, and redemption in a Germanic society. Many writers have analyzed the relationship between Christianity and
Paganism in Beowulf, and how these were a depiction of an early medieval Scandinavian society.
J. R. R. Tolkien, renowned author of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series, presented his view on the Pagan and Christian elements found in early medieval societies, as shown in the poem Beowulf. Tolkien explained that the poem shows “the nearness of a pagan time,” and with it “the shadow of its despair, as an intense emotion of regret” is conveyed throughout the poem (Tolkien).
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Tolkien commented that Beowulf depicts a balance of “ends and beginnings...of the...contrast between youth and age…[of] first achievement and final death” (Tolkien). Beowulf is essentially the vessel that shows the contrasting influence of paganism and Christianity on early medieval times.
Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize-recipient and poet, wrote about the pagan and Christian elements found in Beowulf and how this depicted culture in the early medieval ages. Broadly speaking, Beowulf took place in “a pagan Germanic society governed by a heroic code of honour,” all the while, “the newly established Christian religion” was changing all aspects of society (Heaney).
Beowulf took place in the sixth century, in times where “rank and ceremony, human solidarity and culture” were key components of social culture. Glory also played a huge role:
“veterans with their tales of warrior-kings and hero-saviours from the past [rubbed] shoulders with young braves,” influencing the latter to strive for greatness (Heaney). Heroism and sacrifice are part of what “gave drive and sanction to the Germanic warrior-culture enshrined in Beowulf”
(Heaney).
Christianity played a large part in both Germanic society and the poem Beowulf.
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Christopher Cain, professor and expert in Old English and Medieval Scandinavian literature and culture, published an essay analyzing the relationship between Beowulf and the Old
Testament, as well as the presence of paganism in this poem. In the essay, it is noted that “the general tone of the poem and its ethical viewpoint are decidedly Christian;” the poet relied heavily upon the Bible, as can be evidenced by “allusions to Cain, the Creation, and the Deluge,” which are all Old Testament allusions (Cain).
The characters themselves also serve to represent Christian ideologies, though references to Germanic culture appear frequently. For instance, this is embodied in the scene where
Beowulf is fighting to rid Heorot of Grendel, and “Beowulf recognizes it to be God's will that determines the outcome of the fight—” not his own strength (Cain). Further, it is later implied that though Beowulf is an instrument of God in doing this deed, “he is not entitled to enjoy
Christian salvation,” since he was motivated by revenge and not salvation, as the former was what drove many non-Christian Scandinavians (Cain).
Cain also remarked that the coming of Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons in the
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