Beowulf’s Christian elements
For a modern scholar, the importance of Beowulf lies not in its epic grandeur, nor in its technical superiority, rather these elements present in Beowulf often discarded by characterising it as a nursery tale. Yet above all such controversy, it stands out for one specific quality and perhaps this is the turning point as it portrays vividly the social picture of the primitive Teutonic life; truly speaking it stands out as an illuminating evidence of the mode of living of these people, with all their ideals, rituals and customs included. At this crucial juncture, it attains the stature of a social epic of the primitive Teutonic life but we must never lose sight of the fact that it was once abide by Latin clerks between seventh and tenth centuries. So, nothing has therefore survived which can be regarded as definitely anti-Christian elements.
Beowulf was re-written by a Christian monk so there are many Christian elements that are incorporated in Beowulf. One of the Christian elements incorporated in the story is that through Beowulf’s adventures, God looks over him and offers him protection. Beowulf knows that God is looking out for him as he ensures his survival. Throughout the story, Beowulf repeatedly thanks God for his numerous victories. When Beowulf relates his battle with Grendel’s mother, he states that “The fight would have ended straightaway if God had not guarded me” (1.4). Further exemplified by the powerfully stated “most often He has guided the man without friends” (1.5), there is a sense of mystical protection permeating all of Beowulf’s actions. Throughout Beowulf, whenever any great men manage to achieve heroic feats, the narrator will be careful to attribute it to God’s favour and divine plan.
However, there is also a strong sense that God’s protection must be earned; a warrior must first be true to his values, courage, honesty, pride, and humility and only then will he earn God’s protection.
In those days women held a high esteem. Their noble presence played a prominent part, gracing the feast with their king as they passed away the cups of wine to the victorious warriors to encourage them further. This was how the queen of Hrothgar, Wealtheow encouraged and rewarded Beowulf after his first victory over Grendel. She not only took to him a flagon of wine but presented him some fabulous gifts such as “twisted vessel…two bracelets…” etc. In the holy book of Christianity, Bible 1Timothy 3:11 “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything” is preached. Thus we find the influence of Christian believes.
A value that conflicts with a theme which comes up in the story multiple times is Beowulf’s pride. Beowulf is well aware how great he is as he boasts about himself and flaunts it around many times. This conflicts with the Christian concept to always be humble. In the end, his pride is what results in his ultimate downfall; this shows the Christian idea that you must remain humble and unselfish to remain under the mercy of God. In one point of the story, Hrothgar tells of a story about a selfish king who owed all of his success to God but did not realize it. Biblical allusions appear in this work’ Grendel is said to be a descendant of Cain. Hrothgar’s speech to Beowulf is referred to as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount and the hilt of the giant sword is compared to Noah and the flood.
Beowulf’s Christian elements