Christian Influences In Beowulf

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Christian Influences in the Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem of Beowulf By J.E. Pellemans V iewed by many as thoroughly pagan, the story of Beowulf, in actuality, shows a multitude of aspects typically associated with Christianity. Many present-day scholars are now in agreement that the poem may have been composed more than twelve hundred years ago, in the first half of the eighth century, although some would place it as late as the tenth century.1 Bearing that in mind, we can at least carefully assert that either the nameless author must have been a Christian or that some of the work’s interpolators were. But if Christian elements are present in the poem, were they a conscious effort of the author? First of all, let us discuss the elements in Beowulf that fairly explicitly seem to give an indication of a Christianoriented view. Immediately noticeable is “…cwæð þæt se Ælmihtiga eorðan worhte:”2, which translates into, “How the Almighty had made the earth.”3 It is this passage of the Beowulf text, from verse 86 and onwards, that relates how the vicious demon Grendel cannot bear the court poet of Hrothgar playing his harp and deeply despises the festivities taking place in Hrothgar’s meadhall. In this song, the poet sings about the inception of the world and how it was created by the Ælmihtiga. Undeniably it represents a reference to Genesis. Then, slightly further, the Beowulf poet makes very explicit mention of another wellknown passage from the bible, notably, “Caines cynne--- þone cwealm gewræc ece Drihten, þæs þe he Abel slog”4, where he makes remarks about Grendel and explicates how the creature’s existence is connected with the biblical figure of Cain. The monster apparently belongs to outcasts, very much like Cain, who was sent away by God for having slain his own brother. The fratricide of the two biblical figures came about after both Cain and Abel had brought
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