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Beowulf: Pagan and Christian Elements Essay #2

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Examining the Pagan and Christian Elements in Beowulf

It is common belief that the Beowulf poet was a Christian monk who took an essentially pagan story and laced it with Christian doctrine. This assessment asks you to explore the religion of Beowulf through careful examination of the pagan and christian element in the story.  Determine what element of the poem were derived from a heroic- pre-Christian culture and those that reflect a Christian view of the world. 


  • research the differences between pagan and christian beliefs
  • identify both the pagan and Christian elements of the poem
  • explain how these elements are combine throughout the poem
  • refer to specific passages in the poem that support your ideas/opinions
Prewriting: A Three Step Process

Every writing assignment must include evidence of the writing process, an evaluated first draft, at least one revision and a final draft.  These items are non-negotiable and work submitted without the appropriate documents and evidence will be consider incomplete.

This essay asks you to examine and discuss how the Christian view of the world is combine with the pagan view of the world in Anglo-Saxon society (Beowulf's world).  As you write keep in mind that the original versions of Beowulf were oral and contained no references to Christianity.  Beowulf was originally compose in a pre-Christian era.  It was not until the poem was written down, by what appears to be a Christian monk (the Beowulf poet), that allusions to Christianity were added.  Your task is to bring to light the original pagan beliefs are still reflected in poem and what Christian beliefs have been added. 

  1. Find evidence of pagan elements.  The discussion of the poem in you text book and in the Raffel translation speak a number of pagan traditions, such as blood feud, loud and prideful boasting, family and tribal loyalty and ceremonial gift giving.  Find examples of these elements and record them in a list, outline, graphic organizer or any other prewriting tool you are most comfortable.
  2. Find evidence of Christian elements.  Search out instances of a Christian view of the world that offsets or contradicts the pagan view.  Christians, although they accept the existence of evil, are optimistic about the eventual triumph of good through God's love.  The believe that God, not fate, controls human destiny and that although physical death is inevitable, the soul lives eternally.  What evidence can you find of the Christian view the God will defeat evil?  What evidence can you find of the Christian view that God, not fate, controls human destiny?  What evidence can you find of the Christian belief that physical death is not the end of life?
  3. Consider and analyze the combination of these opposing viewpoints.  How does the Beowulf poet assimilate his pagan heritage and his Christian views?  Why do you think the poet added Christian elements to the poem?  How would the tone of the poem change if the Christian elements were removed?  What do you think is the effect of combining both Christian and pagan views?
Writing: Your essay will consist of three basic parts, an introduction, body and conclusion.  Using your prewriting notes as a guide, write your first draft.

  1. Your introduction needs to capture your readers attention, introduce the importance of the work and offer a clear and intelligent thesis statement.  An essay of literary analysis assumes that the audience has already read the work being critiqued.  Therefore, do not retell the story in your introduction or anywhere else in your essay.  Simply include a brief emphatic statement regarding the significance of the work being studied.  If done properly this will capture the readers interest and help to move your writing forward.  Be sure to reference the title and author of the the work at the forefront of your introduction.  Your introduction must also include a thesis statement which explains how Beowulf combines pagan and Christian elements.   
  2. In the body of your essay you will point out the pagan elements of the story, identify the Christian elements, and discussed how the two are combine.  Your fist paragraph should address the pagan influence on the story with support from the poem.  Your second paragraph should deal with the Christian ideals and influence.  And your third should discuss the combination of these two viewpoints in the story.  Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that names the specific quality or trait that will be discussed in the paragraph.  Each paragraph should include specific evidence that will prove/support the statement made in your topic sentence.  Give careful attention to your transitions.  The concluding sentence of each paragraph should lead smoothly into the next paragraph. 
  3. Your conclusion must reinforce the assertions made in your thesis statement and remind your audience of the most significant points of your essay.
Evaluating and Revising: Evaluation is not concerned with find errors in grammar and mechanics.  In the evaluation and revision process one make value judgments regarding content, organization and style. 
  • Did you reference the title and author of the work in your introduction?
  • Did you make a statement regarding the works literary significance in your introduction?
  • Did you include a thesis statement that explains how Beowulf combines pagan and Christian elements?
  • Did you include major points in support of your thesis in the body of your paper?
  • Did identify both pagan and Christian elements in the poem?
  • Did you explain how these elements were combine?
  • Did you cite ample specific examples from the poem to illustrate the pagan and Christian element of the poem and how and why they were combine?
  • Is the evidence relevant?
  • Is the organization of the essay clear and consistent?
  • Does the conclusion effectively reinforce the thesis of the essay?
Proofreading and Writing a Final Version:  At this point the writing process is over and you should be focused on submitting an error free clean copy of you essay for evaluation by your instructor. Have a peer review your essay for issues with grammar and mechanics.  Often we are unable to recognize errors in our own writing, it is of the utmost importance to have another person proofread and edit our work.