Beowulf’s Christian Elements
Beowulf is an old poem. It is believed that Beowulf was originally an oral poem that was recited at courts or gatherings. There is an existing manuscript of the poem that is believed to have been written around 1000AD. The story’s setting however is roughly around 500AD. At this time in history Scandinavia (major setting of the poem) is pagan. Literary scholars have been trying to answer the question of why the poem has Christian elements in it. There have been many answers to this question. I believe that the Christian elements found in Beowulf are the result of the writer having to make the characters in the poem and the generality of the poem acceptable to a pagan/Christian society in which he lived and the fact that oral poems can be modified.
The story of Beowulf is pagan. That argument has been settled. Brodeur confirms that the “original traditional material of the story was pagan” (183). There are many hints in the poem that point to the fact that it is an oral poem. The use of alliteration is one hint to the oral originality. “A sharp-witted warrior often must weigh/ words against works when judging their worth.” The use of alliteration would be used to help the poem flow and keep the attention of the audience. Kennings are also used in the poem, for example “his rule recognized over the whale-road.” Whale-road is another way of referring to the ocean or sea. This was another tool to keep the audience interested and attentive. The Beowulf story is really old; so old in fact that Robert Stevick implies “that the Beowulf poem must have originated as oral entertainment in a lord’s hall” (79). Beowulf is definitely pagan and definitely oral. Since there was no authority at the time of Beowulf that said the poem can’t be modified, the fact of it being oral opens the poem up for all kinds of modifications and additions such as Christian elements.
Another thing we know is that the writer was Christian as...