The epic poem of Beowulf portrays a hero who defeats monsters that come to hurt Heorot. Within this epic poem, it is divided into three sections that show the Danish and Anglo Saxon tradition, rituals and way of life. The epic poem contains a mixture of pagan and Christian references that are in the Bible.
The epic poem of Beowulf is divided into three parts that explain the battles with Beowulf against Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. When Beowulf hears the suffering that Grendel is imposing on Heorot’s kingdom, he sails to Heorot to defeat Grendel with his bare hands. He attacked him in the mead-hall which Grendal’s is ripped off (Heaney 25) which they used as a trophy.
Beowulf’s second battle comes when Grendel’s mother hears about Grendel’s death. So she attacks Heorot and steals Grendel’s arm. Which then Beowulf comes to fight her going to her home in which he kills her with a magical sword. As a sign of victory, he brings her head and the sword back to Heorot which he became king for the next fifty years.
Beowulf’s last battle was facing a dragon. Which was caused by Wiglaf accidentally stealing the dragon’s treasure? This battle was the first time “…fate denied him / Glory in battle” (Heaney 81). The blade that Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother wasn’t a sword to kill the dragon but he was wounded. Beowulf’s army left him but Wiglaf came in to help. His shield was destroyed by the dragon’s fiery breath but they eventually killed the dragon.
With reading Beowulf, the first thing that I noticed was the references of pagan and Christian ideas, beliefs and practices. For example, like the story of Cain and Abel in which Beowulf describes how because Cain murdered his brother, the Lord “…had outlawed / And condemned as an outcast” by making his offspring ogres, elves, evil phantoms, and giants (Heaney 4). As a result, it refers to Grendel as a “misbegotten spirit” that sprang from Cain (Heaney 42). This shows that the Danish and Anglo-Saxons had a fundamental understanding of the Bible. But during this epic poem, it also struggled with the blending of pagan beliefs and rituals. For example, before sailing out to Heorot, the elders inspected omens and encouraged him to go. Which are pagans ritual and language? Also, Beowulf mentions how the people of Heorot visit pagan shrines for offerings.
Another reference to Christianity is when the people of Heorot are excited that a deliverer, Beowulf, came “To ease their afflictions. He accepted the cup” (Heaney 20). Which is about Jesus taking the cup from his father which points out how the epic poem is to portray Beowulf as Jesus. Just like Beowulf, Jesus came to the earth as a deliverer and accepted the cup of death on the cross.
The story of the battles Beowulf fights and the connection of the Danish and Anglo Saxon’s traditions is a great way to describe their culture and rituals and way of life.