In Beowulf, both pagan and Christian elements are present which add religious contrast to the poem. The poem begins with the king, Hrothgar, taking the throne of the Danes. During his reign, one of Hrothgars’ accomplishments included the building of the great Mead hall which served as a place of relaxation for his troops. Years passed and an evil monster came and terrorized the Hall. Then the great warrior, Beowulf, a foreigner offered to help rid the town of the monster. In the end, good triumphed over evil as he defeated the monster and returned the city to it’s people.
Present in this poem are certain forms of evil. The greatest of these is the descendent of Cain’s evil against his brother Abel. After Cain killed Abel God punished him by exiling him from the kingdom of God. From Cain’s soul came evil monsters, one in particular, Grendel. He was a demon; a fiend who haunted the moors, the wild marshes and made his home in “hell” (actually earth). King Hrothgar finished a great mead hall for his warriors to relax and reside in when away from war. Grendel, amused by the sound of drunkenness coming from the hall, kills all who reside there.
This punishment and evil went on for twelve years. The people turned to the worship of pagan Gods, hoping they would take the demon back to the pits from whence it derived. After the failure of paganism Hrothgar searched for warriors that could defeat the beast. A decorated warrior, Beowulf, sailed from the land of the Geats to help. This shows how God works in mysterious ways. Grendel keeps on attacking the great mead hall but refuses to go after the king’s throne. God protected the throne.
This is saying that God will defeat any evil that stands in his path. An example that God controls life and death is the line “God must decide who will be given to death’s cold grip”. Death is not the last part of life. The mead hall’s gargantuan size symbolizes the people’s desire to be closer to God. It’s reason for construction, so the people could reach the heavens. Throughout the poem good clashes with evil. One example would be Grendel taking over the Mead hall. In this instance the mead hall would symbolize safeness and good harmony.
One major important clash was when the townspeople gave up on Christianity and went back to paganism to get rid of the monster. The villagers thought that if they scarified to the stone god he would take Grendel away from them. Then After Beowulf arrives to the Danish shores and greets the king; Unferth, the king’s right hand man, taunts him. He spoke harshly ” You’re Beowulf are you the same Boastful fool who fought a swimming Match with Brecca”. Instead of greeting Beowulf with gratefulness he greeted him with jealousy.
The effects of having both Christian elements and pagan elements in this epic poem were important to the structure of the poem. If the poem only contained pagan or evil elements then the tone would probably dark and grim with no sign of goodness or life. Without the effects of both the reader would only see one side instead of both aspects, both good and evil. The use of good and evil throughout the poem relates to what the people of the poem think and feels about the situation they were in. In the end good over came evil and triumphed.