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A fascinating epic poem Beowulf - Book Report/Review Example

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In the paper “A fascinating epic poem Beowulf” the author examines the oldest surviving writing in English – Beowulf. It gives scholars a glimpse into the language spoken in Britain at the time; it is a perhaps unique example of the oral tradition of poetry that has been written down…
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A fascinating epic poem Beowulf
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Download file to see previous pages As Tolkien (2002) first suggested some sixty years ago, Beowulf can be considered on its literary merits as well as its more esoteric usefulness as a source for Anglo-Saxon scholars. One of the central questions of the work is the extent to which it is actually Christian and/or Pagan. Yaeger (2007) poses the questions which are central to this dilemma:

That the scribes of Cotton Vitellius A.XV were Christian is beyond doubt; and it is equally certain that Beowulf was composed in a Christianized England, since conversion took place in the sixth and seventh centuries. Yet the only Biblical references in Beowulf are to the Old Testament, and Christ is never mentioned. The poem is set in pagan times, and none of the characters are demonstrably Christian. In fact, when we are told what anyone in the poem believes, we learn that they are idol-worshipping pagans. Beowulf’s own beliefs are not expressed explicitly. He offers eloquent prayers to a higher power, addressing himself to the “Father Almighty” or the “Wielder of All.” Were those the prayers of a pagan who used phrases the Christians subsequently appropriated? Or, did the poem’s author intend to see Beowulf as a Christian Ur-hero, refulgent with Christian virtues?
A number of dilemmas arise. If Beowulf was written within a Christian context, why is there so little mention of Christianity or a Christian philosophy within the text? If not, what does its creation and survival say about the actual nature of Christianity within the educated for Britain at this time?
The first route to answering these questions is the undeniable fact that the time-period that the tale is set in, sometime in the distant past from the seventh century, would have been populated by Pagans. This is a pre-Christian time, and yet Grendel and Grendel’s mother are seen as the “kin of Cain” (Heaney, 2001). This may be explained by the fact that “Christianity”, by definition, only developed after the life and death of Christ, but the people described in the Old Testament still believed in a monotheistic God rather than the more conventional gods of the Pagan outlook.
There are, as Tolkien (2001) points out, specific elements of Beowulf that appear to have been added after the original had been given to the writer. So as the only people with access to writing materials, and virtually the only people who were literate at this time were monks, it seems sensible to assume that odd details (which add little to the story) such as the fact that Beowulf is regarded as lost in Grendel’s mere “at the sixth hour” (Heaney, 2001) were added by that same monk. Christ died at the sixth hour, and this detail appears to have been added in a rather artificial manner to give the story a Christian element. But such moments have been placed on the overall narrative and appear jarring to the overall flow.
Much of the philosophy and outlook within Beowulf is positively un-Christian in outlook. The world of Beowulf is dominated by a sense of doom, pre-destiny and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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