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Beowulf poem | Free Essay example


It is often presented as the archetypal literary work and as a cornerstone of Middle Ages literature. The book was composed around 700 A.D. and mostly had been in circulation in oral narrative. The action period of Beowulf book poem dates back to the 500 A.D.. Many of the characters in the poem are Swedish and Danish royal family members, and correspond to actual historical figures. Originally, pagan warriors, the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian invaders experienced a large-scale conversion to Christianity at the end of the sixth century. Though still an old pagan story, Beowulf thus came to be told by a Christian poet. The Beowulf poet is often at pains to attribute Christian thoughts and motives to his characters, which frequently behave in un-Christian ways. The Beowulf poem that we read today is therefore probably quite unlike the Beowulf with which the first Anglo-Saxon audiences were familiar.

The events that the book shows and the heroic honor code that is the essence of the whole book date back to pre-Anglo-Saxon culture. I think it is more of secular allegory rather than Christian allegory depicting pagan culture, values and traditions. The poem line is developing in Scandinavia before the migration. The tribes that are scattered all around the territory of modern Europe rally around strong kings, who protect their people against other tribes. Kings demand bravery and trustworthiness from their people and repay them with war trophies. After the battle or just to celebrate something, people gathered in the mead-halls such as Heorot in Beowulf. In Heorot, warrior would celebrate the victory, boast, tell stories and receive gifts. Although these mead-halls offered sanctuary, they were not a safe place to stay in and often were attacked by somebody. The fear of the constant invasion of the monster creature runs through the whole plot of Beowulf.

Only one Beowulf manuscript has survived the Anglo-Saxon era. For many decades it was transferred from mouth to mouth and in 1700s it was almost destroyed in a fire. Until the 19th century the manuscript was not widely recognized among literary critics. The interest in the poem was mostly historical, scholars and translators of Old English viewed Beowulf as the source of information about that period of time.

Beowulf is now widely taught and is often presented as the first important work of English literature, creating the impression that Beowulf is in some way the source of the English canon. But because it was not widely read until the 1800s and not widely regarded as an important artwork until the 1900s, Beowulf has had little direct impact on the development of English poetry. It was not until the mid-to-late twentieth century that Beowulf began to influence writers, and, since then, it has had a marked impact on the work of many important novelists and poets.

The book is very interesting and worth reading from the historical perspective and just for the entertainment purposes. From the plot of the poem, we can conclude, that the author was somewhat pro-Christian, since added lots of Christian prayers and sayings in Beowulf. However, the author obviously did not posses a complete understanding of Christianity, nor did he interpret the teachings of Christ correctly. In 700 A.D., England was still a pagan country, and Christianity did not develop there until about five hundred years later. So we cannot really refer to Beowulf as to a pro-Christian work, promoting Christ as a savior. It is rather a secular allegory that was composed under some Christian influences; it gave the start to the Christian consciences.

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