There is a recurring tension between Christianity and native heathenry throughout the world of classic Germanic literature and legend. Though all Germanic nations ultimately adopted Christian belief, pre-Christian ideas, characters, and themes persisted in art and storytelling. For example, the Icelandic figure Snorri Sturluson stands as the source of much of what we know about the Norse religion and pantheon; his well-known Edda presents characters like Odin and Thor as historical figures who existed in a Christian world and were mistakenly identified as gods, thus preserving these ancient deities while maintaining a Christian framework.
Beowulf, a story dating to these pre-Christian times, was recorded by an unidentified author who likewise placed the characters and events into a Christian context. While we will never know the fully heathen version of the tale, the Christian elements are easily identified.
A very clear reference comes from Beowulf’s first opponent, the monster Grendel....
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