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Beowulf - the Literary Conflict Between Christian and Pagan Religious Beliefs

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The Literary conflict between Christian and Pagan religious beliefs

Beowulf is one the premiere works of literature of the eighth century. In this literary work a conflict between Christian and pagan beliefs directly mirrors a social conflict during this time. The eighth century was a hot bed of change. This poem was written during the conversion from the Pagan belief system to the Christian belief system. This conflict is protruded through the hero of this story which is Beowulf. So as a result of this conflict this epic poem has elements of Christian beliefs and those of early folklore and heroic legends of German tribes.

The Pagan elements in this poem are most evident in this epic poem is Beowulf superhuman personifications. Beowulf is not shown as a powerful man that overcomes evil but a super hero that accomplish his extraordinary feet through super human traits. For explain is the conflict with Grendal. Beowulf takes it upon himself to save the Danes himself. He not only chooses to fight Grendal unaccompanied but also chooses not to use any weapons. By choosing not to fight Grendal without any weapons he relies on his superhuman strength. During the battle with Grendal, Beowulf super human strength surmounts Grendal which made it possible for him to tear the monsters arm from its socket. Another example of the Pagan element of a hero having super human strength is embodied also in the confrontation with Grendal's mother and Beowulf. The super human characteristic is shown during Beowulf quest to find Grendal's mother. He enters the water and swims underneath the water without the use of oxygen. Beowulf is underwater for days before he sees the bottom. During this conflict Beowulf decides to wield a sword. He decides to use Unerth's sword but Beowulf soon realizes that this sword is ineffective against the monster's skin. Due to the ineffectiveness of Unerth's sword Beowulf uses his super human strength to seize a sword made by giants, which is too heavy for any man to brandish, and slashes through the monster's body. Beowulf's strength comes to play in this poem once again during his battle with the dragon. By this time in the poem Beowulf is an old man. Beowulf decides that he must avenge and protect his people and fight the dragon. Even though Beowulf in the battle is mortally wounded himself his superhuman strength was enough to supersedes the dragon and destroy him. Beowulf is not the only character that embodies the heroic characteristics of the legends of Germanic tribes.

Grendal is also seen though out this poem as a superhuman monster. Due to Grendal's lack of knowledge and awareness of weapons he must rely on his superhuman strength to destroy his enemies. The dragon in this story is also seen as a super-powerful adversary. The Dragon was the opponent that spits fire that melted off Beowulf's and which finally sends Beowulf to his grave.

Another element of Pagan belief that was seen in Beowulf was the pagan philosophy that of heroic pride. This is evident through the fact that Beowulf always felt even in his later years that it was his duty and his alone to protect the Danes. His pride comes evident to the reader through out this poem because the reader learned that Beowulf is more concerned with being remembered that getting treasure. There are many Pagan behaviors in this poem such as Beowulf's drinking of alcohol and Beowulf's and his tendency of killing living things such as men and creatures, which are frowned upon in Christian's belief systems.

While there are many instances in this poem where Pagan influences are evident the poem still is dominated by Christian overtones. Throughout the poem of Beowulf, Beowulf constantly acknowledges God. Beowulf mostly acknowledges God as his protector. During his contemplation of the battle with Grendal's mother he states "It was hard-fought, a desperate affair. That could have gone badly; if god had not helped me, the outcome would have been quick and fatal" . He also recognized God's protection when he stated this before battle "I could never bring it to bear in battle. But the lord of men allowed me to behold- for he often helps the unbefriended" . It is also evident throughout this poem that God does not protect those who are not worthy of it. The must be a certain kind of man with certain characteristics to gain God's protection.

Another Christian belief is evident in the poem Beowulf, which is the belief that God is all powerful and that man does nothing without his assistance. This is apparent during the battle between Grendal's mother and Beowulf. Right before the battle as I previously stated Beowulf sees a great

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