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Beowulf and Christianity

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Unlike if the poem had been written for a Christian audience in the epic's inception, the influence of a changing culture could easily be identified throughout the poem as new and unfamiliar ideas were worked into a very old story. The easiest way to see this is in the abruptness that Christian references appear in the story. This shows that at one point someone had attempted to mix in their own belief system with one that was present before in the poem. This can be seen in the way that Grendel is first described (P. 4-5) and how that entire passage revolves around purely Christian ideas such as the story of Cain and Able. On top of this, these instances of God being mentioned are usually in a very shallow light that seems to denote a weak understanding of the religion. Instead of a prayerful or holy view of God it is a much more utilitarian image commonly seen in pagan religions. Even though very Christian ideas such as were present, the basis and ideals of the original pagan religion are still very much present. For example, all references to fate or wyrd have a large impact on the structure of the story and add to its depth while most mentions of God may as well be replaced with wyrd or not be present at all. The largest break between the Anglo-Saxon belief system and Christianity is by far the allegorical battle between Beowulf and the dragon. This rift between beliefs shows just how discordant Christianity is with the story and shows that it is probable that these elements were added to the story later than its creation date. This examination of the influence the changing culture had on the belief systems present in the story points to the fact that the addition of Christianity and the creation of the poem itself were possibly hundreds of years apart.



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