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Array of Light

At first glance, Beowulf appears to be an epic exclusively about Christian values, and how it influenced the Anglo-Saxons of this time. Moreover, a tale about how Christian principles always defeat the forces of evil, and how all thanes and kings are saintly. However, as the book further develops, it becomes more apparent that this epic intertwines the ideals of both paganism and Christianity. Although the Beowulf poet makes many Christian references in the book through his extensive knowledge of the Bible, the main points he uses to explain the Anglo-Saxon society is through the principles of pagan religion. Such abundant references to material rewards, earthly fame, wyrd, and wergild prove that he is pagan. Fame, glamour, and material rewards entice men time after time in this epic, as their actions are based on their motives for personal gain. However, these concepts of personal gain and material rewards do not coincide with Christian principles. Christianity places an emphasis on benevolence and generosity, rather than greed, which we see in the tale of the man who stole the cup from the dragon. A man stumbled on the entrance, went in, discovered the ancient treasure, the pagan jewels and golda runaway slave stole a jeweled cup and bought his masters forgiveness(92,93). There are two details in this quote that demonstrate the philosophy of paganism. First, is the reference to pagan treasure, which implies that Anglo-Saxons are the owners of these treasures, hence they are pagan. Since the Beowulf poet lived during in this period, he in essence is also pagan. Second, the stealing of the jeweled cup from the hoard only highlights the insignificance and greed of a society that places such a high premium on material wealth. Not only are material rewards and earthly fame displayed through humble slaves, but also through our hero, Beowulf. Although it appears that Beowulf fights to protect the innocence of others, there is ...

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