Prompt: The poem works, not through ambiguity, but through irony. There is genius in the evocation of an “out-caste” pagan world sustained though the voice of a Christian poet... The engine of this poem is an unflinching, passionate theology. But in its psychological acuity, symbolic resonance and dramatic realism, Beowulf dazzles as a literary classic.
The Nordic poem Beowulf transcends ancient pagan civilisation to today’s society, where Beowulf remains a literary archetype through Christian adaptation. The original scop (poet) of Beowulf came from a Nordic pagan society dating back years before Christianity reached that region, however the translated text used today contains a strong Christian theology due to the interpretation of the Irish Catholic translator, Seamus Heaney. The rediscovery of Beowulf through a Christian lens magnifies the eternal human values portrayed in literature unaltered by religion or time. The pagan myth Beowulf withstands time due to Christian influences demonstrating the poems resonating plot, values and themes.
The archetype of the “Hero” repeats many times throughout the history of literature, in Viking literature and in the bible, the literary hero follows Beowulf’s same plot. The plot in Beowulf follows the archetypal structure of a Hero overcoming all enemies until he meets his match but still dies a Hero: Beowulf defeats his enemies Grendel, then Grendel’s Mother, then must kill the dragon and in doing so, sacrifices his own life for his people. In true hero fashion, Beowulf fights the dragon alone, knowing he will die, “ he had scant regard for the dragon as a threat, no dread at all of its courage or strength, for he had kept going often in the past, through perils and ordeals of every sort, he had purged Hrothgar’s hall, triumphed in Heorot and beaten Grendel. He outgrappled the monster and his evil kin”. The quote outlines the Hero’s past triumphs and characteristically gallant outlook on the...
References: to God throughout the poem only deter the reader from the historical reality of the poem, while the theme, plot and value are for the most part maintained. The combination of pagan and Christian tradition preserves Beowulf as a fascinating tale that lives on through the storytelling, from one interpretation to another.
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