Christian and Pagan Elements
The many references to God in the pages (28-31) of Beowulf reflect Christian beliefs as opposed to pagan ones. In pagan worship, nature takes the place of God along with the belief that inanimate objects contain spirits. The Geats would refer to Grendel and his mother as “God’s enemy” and “descendants of Cain.” “Cain” is a biblical reference to the story of Cain and Abel. In this story, Cain slays his brother Abel and consequently, is banished by God for all of eternity. Because of his role as the first murderer, Cain is thought to be the father of all monsters.
Another example of Christianity which is evident in Beowulf is the fact that the “eye for an eye” belief is practiced. During the second raid of Heorot by Grendel’s mother, a very close friend of King Hrothgar and great warrior named Aeschere is murdered. The monster, not abiding by the laws of the time, is subject to the “eye for an eye” belief and then has to be murdered herself. Avenging the death of the King’s dear friend would not have come to pass however, if a wergild was paid by the murderer. The option of a wergild is pagan in nature due to the fact that a person guilty of murder could buy his way out of retribution by paying a certain amount of money to the family of the slain.
Also upon the hilt of the sword Beowulf uses to kill Grendel’s Mother is a story written in runic characters. The story describes a great a flood that killed the race of giants which were said to be the enemies of God. This story written in runic symbols can be considered both pagan and Christian. It is pagan due to the fact that no race of giants were slain by God in the bible, and Christian because God was spoken of and a great flood does occur in the bible with the story of Noah’s Ark.
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