Beowulf and Christian Themes

An interpretation of Chambers’ Beowulf and the Historic Age in England, as an allegorical of salvation.

The following paper critically analyzes ‘Beowulf’, a collection of heathen tales of the early Northland, put together and shaped by a Christian Anglo-Saxon poet in the era of Bede who was influenced by both Greek/Roman and Church sources. This paper examines the significant parallels apparent between Beowulf’s adventure and Christ’s death, decent into hell and resurrection. However heathen the original story was, the writer argues that it is reasonable to suppose that the account of Beowulf’s decent into the grim fen, his encounter with the demon-brood staining the water with blood and his triumphant emergence from it into joyous springtime is at least an allegory of baptism. The following paper gives “Beowulf” and the “Historic Age” a far fuller historical meaning and even greater artistic value than the writer would have if it were only interpreted on a story level. The writer contends that if one were to start from scratch and invent a story whose every detail was to allegorize the story of salvation (which C.S. Lewis did in his “Narnia” series, for example), one could not do much better than was done in Beowulf by using plot inherent in the ancient tales.
“A classic work of literature is one that endures past its own generation. One reason a work endures is because it can be read, enjoyed and promote thought not only for the author’s contemporaries, but for people who read it for years to come. In order to do that, it must contain universal themes that remain true across times and cultures.One thing that successive generations of readers do with a classic is relate its themes to their own lives and times. A classic may mean one thing to one person who reads it and another thing to another person. Quite often readers recognize a simple story as an allegory for something else. A recent example of this is how the Star Wars saga has come to be adopted by Christian readers because Christians realized that many of the main concepts could be metaphors for Christian ideals. The force can be God or the Holy Spirit who helps the Jedi (those chosen to lead and defend the common people, or in the Christian tradition, the clergy or ministers or even everyman Christians) to fight the dark side.”