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Beowulf: Pagan and Christian Influences

Examples of Pagan and Christian traditions are presented all throughout literature. Many of the influences deal with what it going on in the world, when the piece is written. When Beowulf was written, St. Augustine had just come over to try and convert the Anglo-Saxon people to Christianity; although the conversion succeeded it was a shallow conversion, and there were still people following the Pagan ways.

There was a Pagan concept known as fame, which was how the soldiers wanted to be remembered, they wanted a story about them, thus achieving immortality. “He bore it ill that any man other in all earth should ever achieve more fame under heaven then he himself” (386-388) Beowulf succeeded in achieving fame, his story is living all throughout the world, and it has lasted many years.

Fate is still a common concept; one can still hear people talking about fate, how our life revolves around it, and if things happen it is because they are meant to. “Fate often delivers an undoomed earl if his spirit be gallant!” (441-442) Throughout the story, there are many examples of fate, this quote could be interpreted as meaning, fate can change at anytime and change life completely. There were many times where fate changed Beowulf’s life.

As much as Paganism is presented in the story, there are still many references to Christianity. Such as Grendel was an ancestor Cain, which is a story in the Old Testament. There is also a quote in the story that combines Pagan and Christian views, “Since God has granted him glory and wealth he forgets the future, unmindful of Fate.” (1197-1198). The quote relates to the shallow conversion of the Anglo-Saxons that was happening around this time.

Today, one can still see the Pagan influences in common life. Each time Beowulf succeeded he related it to either Paganism or Christianity. Whether it is one God, or many Gods, the people all had their common belief system

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Category:   Literature

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