NOTE: I wrote this my senior year in high school, and had much apathy toward the writing and development of this paper. I wrote this in about an hour. I personally could care less of the subject or the grade I got on it and wrote it for a class.
Beowulf has a lot of comparisons to Christianity, especially in the context of Christ. The story of Christ is weaved into Beowulf symbolically, with details and the storyline from Christ’s life going into the story of Beowulf. The story of Beowulf does have many ideals and morals from the bible, and Beowulf represents most of these ideals. That is why Beowulf was the perfect hero and role model for people of this time period.
As the story of Beowulf goes, he is a hero. Then he goes to Hrothgar to slay a beast. He slays Grendel, but that isn’t enough, he has to slay Grendel’s mother, who is even a greater evil, in her own realm. After that, he goes home, his name remembered forever, and then, when evil comes back, he defeats it. It being a dragon, which has great power and overpowers Beowulf; and Beowulf being mortal wounded, dies, but not before killing the dragon with the help of a friend.
Jesus Christ’s story goes as follows. He is born as a savior to mankind, then he goes around healing people and releasing demons from people. Then he was persecuted and then put to the cross, destroying sin through him the son of god. Then, three days later he is resurrected, showing death cannot conquer him and he goes throughout the land telling his story and doing miracles.
One similarity to Christ’s story and Beowulf is the coming of a savior who would rid evil from the land. Christ was born to die, and his death would be the ultimate penance of death, and it says in the bible that the wages of sin is death, so Christ died to pay the penance of sin, to save mankind from the greatest evil of all. Beowulf came, and the guard even told him that no one so far has defeated the monster who has terrorized the land, just as no one could defeat sin. Beowulf came to defeat this saying, “Do you know who I am”, in a sense, and Jesus did the same, knowing his power. Then Beowulf defeated the evil terrorizing the land, just as Jesus defeated sin.
Another similarity is matching “tools” with the evil. Jesus made himself into man, from God to man. Beowulf stripped down to nothing, just as Grendel was. Jesus didn’t come down as we see God, but He humbled himself making himself human. Stripping Himself down. Jesus had to come into a world that hated Him; a world that was an ugly, sinful and evil world. Where Beowulf stripped himself down to fight an ugly personification of man’s evil, who was big and powerful; but in the end, Beowulf prevailed, just as Christ did.Then, in a later battle, Beowulf had the giant’s magic sword, in the fight against Grendel’s mother, in which Jesus had divine powers, same as when he fought the Dragon. Jesus also had a divine sort of armor, it was God’s protection over him, like when the devil tried to tempt Jesus and he was too holy, this parallels Beowulf, with Grendel’s mother trying to get the armor off but it didn’t work. Also, how Beowulf went to the place of evil, in the fight with Grendel’s mother, Beowulf went down to the bottom of the lake and Jesus came to earth, to fight in a corrupt place.
Also, another small similarity of Beowulf to Jesus, was the unbelief of some people. They were soon shown the light and then repented of their crime of not believing in the first place. A man, in the story Beowulf, didn’t believe Beowulf and mocked him, when Beowulf succeeded in the end, he openly asked for forgiveness and was granted it. Jesus did that many times, and showed the people his power, and they were converted and they saw the light. Another similar example is that in Christianity, if you have complete faith in God, you will not perish but have everlasting life. In the end of Beowulf, though, when
in good times, people were happy to be around Beowulf, but when he fought the dragon, everyone fled, having no faith, except for one, and he was rewarded for his bravery. He had faith and succeeded.
Finally, Beowulf shares another similarity with Jesus’ story, that death cannot defeat him. His name lived on because of the glory he searched for, Beowulf’s own goal; just as Jesus’ own goal was to defeat the power of death over man. Which he did, and in both instances death could not defeat either of them. To the Pharisees and everyone against Jesus, they wanted to defeat Jesus, but could not. So they plotted to kill Him, thinking death will have the final word, because no one can overcome death. But Jesus, he rose from the grave to show that even death has no dominion over Him. That they could try to kill Him, but it even that won’t stop him, and yet again, the evil of man fails. Beowulf lived on symbolically, past death. Through the tales, through the story of Beowulf that we still hear today shows that death couldn’t stop Beowulf. With Beowulf, being remembered abolished any power of death over him, and that was only accomplished by fighting the greatest evil, the dragon, or it wouldn’t have worked for Beowulf, just as Jesus couldn’t have saved the world unless he died for our sins.
I think they did this to relate Beowulf’s life to someone very heroic and who was a very noble and good figure who had great power. Both parallel each other greatly, both being savior’s of their world, and they accomplished their jobs in all too similar ways. Jesus died for our sins as Beowulf died to kill evil, which symbolically represented sin, the greatest of all evils. Beowulf was the “Jesus” of his land who had the power to defeat evil. Both stories mirror each other and the themes are illustrated through symbolism or a physical representation in each of the stories. Beowulf’s poet did use influences of Christianity to shape and mold his story to a great degree, and the poet did it well.