Note the description in the following lines about supernatural creatures in Beowulf that are "again and again defeated." "Of Abel's death. The Almighty drove Those demons out, and their exile was...

Note the description in the following lines about supernatural creatures in Beowulf that are "again and again defeated."

"Of Abel's death. The Almighty drove

Those demons out, and their exile was bitter,

Shut away from men; they split

Into a thousand forms of evil-spirits

And fiends, goblins, monsters, giants,

A brood forever opposing the Lord's

Will, and again and again defeated."

What universal theme might these lines suggest?

Asked on by reedcapps

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This passage from the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is indicative of two themes. The first is representative of the Anglo-Saxon audience for whom it was written. The story of Cain and Abel is the only major Bible story referenced in the poem, and that is not surprising since the Anglo-Saxon way is to pit great warrior against great warrior--or great foe.

Of Abel's death. The Almighty drove

Those demons out, and their exile was bitter,

Shut away from men; they split

Into a thousand forms of evil-spirits

And fiends, goblins, monsters, giants,

A brood forever opposing the Lord's

Will, and again and again defeated.

This description is connected to Grendel, and it is clear that the poet is including Grendel to his readers (audience) as part of this fiendish group: evil spirits, fiends, goblins, monsters, giants, and others who are opposed to God. 

The more universal theme is that evil is for all time. It began in the Garden of Eden with the first sons, and it has now grown and multiplied into all kinds of shapes and forms. Whatever their shape, they are evil--and the most current and pressing incarnation of evil in this story is Grendel. These evil beings will always set themselves in opposition to God (the forces of good); however, though they fight, the evil ones will "again and again be defeated." 

This universal theme of good triumphing over evil is consistent in this story as well as in the Bible. 

Sources:

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