The epic poem of Beowulf blends aspects of the pagan world – such as the belief in fate and the importance of being remembered – with aspect from the Christian world. The author writes about the values of the pagan world, while, at the same time, portraying Christian morality through his characters. The epic of Beowulf reflects both the Christian world and the pagan world. Much like the more familiar stories of King Arthur, Beowulf depicts a world in which Christianity and paganism merge. The mark of Cain should be familiar to anyone that has any knowledge of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.
This “Christian” symbol is an important one in the epic of Beowulf. Not only does the fact of Grendel having the mark of Cain symbolize that he is inherently evil because of his family line, but it also shows Beowulf’s devotion to the Christian God. Beowulf knows that he cannot kill Grendel*, because the Christian God said that if anyone kills a man with this mark “he shall be avenged sevenfold. ” In the epic of Beowulf, Beowulf makes many references to his fate. Fate, by definition, is a pagan belief.
There is no belief in fate in the Christian religion, yet fate seems to play n important role in the morality and values of Beowulf. For instance, Beowulf said that he could serve God because of his fate, because it was his belief that he was fated to be a servant of God. Beowulf made such references to fate as, “Fate must decide. ” It is obvious through the statement, “Fate has swept away the courageous princes who were my kinsmen, and I must follow them,” that the belief in fate also effected the action of the story. In the Christian faith, there is a strong belief in the power of God’s judgment.
The belief hat God is the final decision maker, is also evident throughout Beowulf, such as in the reference, “Whichever of us is killed must resign himself to the verdict of God. ” The Christian belief in the power that God’s decisions carry is also shown in the story by such statements as, “God has sent him… ” and, “God has entrusted to him… ” One of the most important values in the pagan world was the way that one was remembered after they were dead. This value was so important that most pagans believed that their purpose in life was to be remembered and regarded with honor once they died.
This “pagan” factor also carries into Beowulf, such as the one line in the story which states, “To any fighting-man, death is better than a life of dishonour. ” He wanted to be remembered with honor and dignity after he was dead. At the time of the writing of Beowulf, Christianity had already established itself as the main religion of the area, but there was still a strong influence from paganism. Beowulf is, therefore, not only the story of a hero, and his adventures, but it is a story of two converging worlds: The Christian world, and the world of the pagan.