Beowulf

Faith and Literary Tradition in Beowulf

Beowulf is an important text in the history of British literature as it is the first notable work to be written in the English language. Yet, it is significant beyond its chronological status. Containing both Christian and pagan elements, Beowulf reflects the historical-relgious context in which it was written. The presence of two religious ideals makes the text's approach to faith difficult to determine. Beowulf, however, does not reflect a confused religious culture; instead, it is a hybrid of Christian and pagan values with traditional elements of heroic storytelling.

Throughout the plot of Beowulf, many Christian themes are present as the speaker frequently references heaven and hell, as well as the justice of god. The narrator plays a large role in the Christian tone of the text by commenting on action as it is taking place. One of the earliest examples occurs after a description of people worshipping in heathen temples in lines 184-188, where the poet states: "Woe be to the one, who through terrible sin, would shove his soul into the fire's embrace, foregoing all hope, with no chance of change! Happy the one, who after his death-day, may seek the Ruler for peace and protection in the Father's arms"...

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