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Christianity and Fate

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Christianity and Fate

There are many references in the poem to the Christian belief in one almighty God who takes a personal interest in human affairs. Beowulf and Hrothgar give praise to God for the defeat of Grendel. The outcome of battles is attributed to the judgment of God, and Beowulf puts his trust in God.

The scriptural references, however, are restricted to the Old Testament rather than the New. The story of Cain and Abel is mentioned, for example, in explaining the origins of Grendel. And the sword hilt of Grendel's mother is engraved with a depiction of the Flood described in the book of Genesis. But Beowulf makes no mention at all of Christ, or an afterlife in heaven for the believer. The burial rites described, in which warriors are buried with their treasure, does not suggest belief in a Christian heaven.

Scholars debate the question of how fundamental Christianity is to the poem. It does not strike anyone as a thoroughly Christian work.

The atmosphere of much of Beowulf is dark and pagan. There are many references to an impersonal fate that controls the destinies of men. "Fate goes ever as fate must," (line 455) says Beowulf, only a few lines after he has referred to the judgment of God. Not long after this, when Beowulf tells of his battles with sea-monsters, he says, "fate spares the man it has not already marked." He does not say God spares the man. And the poet's words, "fate, / the grim shape of things to come" (lines 1233-34) does not suggest Christian hope and joy.

The two perspectives, pagan and Christian, therefore co-exist in the poem. .

) In off the moors, down through the mist bands .God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping. The bane of the race of men roamed forth, hunting for prey in the high hall.(lines 710-13).

3) He has done his worst but the wound will end him. He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain, limping and looped in it. Like a man outlawed .for wickedness, he must await. the mighty judgement of God in majesty.(lines 974-78)

Beowulf speaks after he has killed Grendel.

4) Grendel's mother,monstrous hell-bride, brooded on her wrongs. She had been forced down into fearful waters, he cold depths, after Cain had killed .his father's son, felled his own brother with a sword. (lines

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