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What are the Christian elements in "Beowulf"?

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jewel506 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 8, 2008 at 3:37 AM via web

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What are the Christian elements in "Beowulf"?

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athom73 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 10, 2011 at 11:36 AM (Answer #1)

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In addition to many examples of Beowulf giving thanks to God for his victories, there are also some specific biblical references.  Grendel is said to be a descendent of Cain, Adam and Eve's son who murdered his brother, Abel.  Some say the story written on the hilt of the giant's sword is a reference to Noah and the flood. Hrothgar's fatherly words of advice to Beowulf after his defeat of Grendel's mother is often compared to Christ's Sermon on the Mount. Also, the 13th warrior and the betrayal of Beowulf's thanes during his fight with the dragon is often seen to be similar to the last supper and betrayal by Judas before Christ's death. Beowulf's dive into the haunted mere is often compared to Christ's harrowing of hell.

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 8, 2008 at 4:11 AM (Answer #2)

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Although Beowulf is a pagan myth, most believe it was originally written down by a Christian monk who incorporated several Christian elements into the dialogue and plot. Most importantly, at the end of the story, Beowulf, like Christ, gives up his own life to save others. However, there are several other references to God and Christianity. In many ways the three monsters Beowulf faces resemble the devil. When Beowulf is getting ready to battle Grendel, he says, "May the Divine Lord in His wisdom grant the glory of victory to whichever side he sees fit." After he has cut off Grendel's arm and shoulder he remarks,""If God had not helped me, the outcome would have been quick and fatal." "He adds that the 'Lord of Men' was the one who 'allowed him to behold' the sword on the wall which he seized as the instrument of his salvation."Fifty years later, when faced with another dragon, Beowulf knows that he will probably be killed when he faces the dragon. But he says,"Because of my right ways, the Ruler of mankind need never blame me when the breath leaves my body." Although Beowulf's funeral is pagan in origin, it does celebrate life of "a gracious and fair minded
King", which mirrors the Christian view of Jesus.

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