Discussion of Pagan and Christian Elements in the Passage

In this passage, dedicated to Beowulf's battle with Grendel's mother, a reader witnesses a collision between pagan and Christian elements in the Anglo-Saxon culture. For example, Beowulf's last request to Hrothgar, to replace him and to be the ring-giver for his retainers, is one of the examples of paganism in this culture. In Anglo-Saxon England it was very important to fulfill the last request of a warrior, who was willing to die for one.

Another pagan element is seen in the importance of one's sword in Anglo-Saxon culture. A sword is treated with respect and bears a name, such as Hrunting:

	[A] hilted weapon,
	a rare and ancient sword named Hrunting.
	The iron blade with its ill-boding patterns
	has been tempered in blood. It had never failed
	the hand of anyone who hefted it in battle,
	anyone who had fought and faced the worst
	in the gap of danger. This was not the first time
	it had been called to perform heroic feats (ll 1457-1469).

There is a reference to the Pagan society in lines 1534-1536, "...so must do a man who intends to enduring glory in a combat. Life doesn't cost him a thought." Indeed, the best way for a warrior to die is in a battle and the fight with Grendel's mother is in fact a noble battle.

In line 1577 there is also a pagan idea that in this society, when a ring-giver is killed, his death must be avenged, if no wergild was paid. Grendel's mother must kill Beowulf to avenge the death of her son, which she does following the pagan warrior code. In lines 1557-1584, there is another allusion to the fact that Beowulf must kill Grendel' mother to avenge the dead kinsman, Aeschere, as no wergild was paid and too many warriors have died. Beowulf has to "settle that sore", which he does.

Nevertheless, there are numerous instances, where Christianity collides with paganism in this poem. Description of the lake reflects seven levels of hell, which Dante beautifully described in his Devine Comedy. This is already a Christian element:

	[A] bewildering horde
	came at him from the depths, droves of sea-beasts
	who attacked with tusks and tore at his chain-mail
	in a ghastly onslaught (ll 1509-1512).

Furthermore, in lines 1553-1555, there is a Christian element - Beowulf is saved thanks to God, and one may notice that the warrior has total faith and trust in God Almighty. Moreover, Beowulf's emergence to the surface and his cleansing of the lake from horrible creatures, which infested it, represents Christ descending into hell and resurrecting all innocent souls.

Finally, Beowulf's taking of the monster's head is a pagan element, representing a release of the evil spirit and is also a proof of hero's strength and victory.

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