In Beowulf, many controversies arise. I will address one in particular. this controversy being over Beowulf being seen as a Christ-like figure. What is it about him that symbolizes a Christ-like representation? Given situation, is Beowulf seen as a Christ- like fgure, my answer is yes. By saying this, I mean that the audience of Beowulf saw him as a Christ-like figure. I believe the poet who wrote Beowulf was Christian or had Christian beliefs. I can clearly see that the poet connected the characters in the poem to people in God’s time.
Grendel for example, was seen as a descendent of Cain who as one of the, “banished monsters, Cain’s clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts”(34-35). The same was true with Satan and all of his followers in God’s time. Grendel was often referred to as “God-cursed”(35) and “a fiend out of Hell”(34) in the poem. When Jesus sat down at the “Last Supper” he gave gifts; wine and bread. In the poem, the lords would give gifts as well to those who did remarkable tasks. Beowulf killed to demonstrate his strength and courage to enhance his personal glory, which was Hrothgar’s magnificent gifts, the material emblems of that glory.
The poet also mentions that “Beowulf was mindful of his mighty strength, the wonderous gifts God showered on Beowulf seemed to believe that God played a huge part in his life, giving him his strength and deciding the outcome of his battles. Beowulf seemed to believe that all of his fghts were won only with the help of God. He believed that he was guided by God, and “Holy God decided the victory”(66). Beowulf “watched and guided his God-sent strength and his outstanding natural powers”(79). Beowulf did not believe his own self to be Christ-like, but knew that he was blessed with strength and great powers.
He felt he wouldn’t have been able to win the fights if God wasn’t there helping him. The poet was no doubt trying to stress the fact that God was a key factor in this poem. It is true that it would be strange and unlikely for a poet to be a Christian in Beowulf’s time. On the other hand, the poet may have picked the story up somewhere and changed it to fit Christian beliefs, or the poet could have simply wrote it in a much later time about Beowulf’s time and Just twisted the facts a bit to fit the poets beliefs.
Whatever the case, Beowulf, the Danes and the Geats all prayed to God. They thanked him for Beowulf’s safe returns and battles and prayed for help when problems would arise. Beowulf was a man that comes across a huge ocean to help these people (the Danes) he does not even live with. He arrived with the intention to help them conquer a monster of some sort but who also had some tie to humans, that no other man had ever been able to kill. I have to argue that Grendel was somewhat human because when he went out killing humans, they sought revenge for their people against him.
When Grendel was killed, his mother sought revenge for her son’s death. This was only a rule between humans. It was not true that an animal would seek revenge on a human and vice versa. Beowulf’s name was recognized when he arrived. The people had heard that he challenged another man to swim the huge waters with him. Although Beowulf was not first to finish the swim, he did endure the longest and at the same time had his fair share of fighting off huge whales and sea monsters. He fought and killed them with his sword, leaving many to only wash up on the shore.
As family of giants, and at night in the waves slain water monsters, suffered great pain, venged an affliction of the Weather-Geats on those who had asked for trouble- ground enemies to bits”(43). Only a man of great power and self-sacrifice would be able to complete such a heroic and unlikely task. The Geats believed any other man would have been swallowed if not by the waters itself, but then by the sea monsters he encountered. The sea was not his only great feat. Beowulf continued to hold the title of being Christ-like when he defeats Grendel.
Here is a giant humanoid monster, unable to be defeated by any man. Grendel had killed many men at one time scaping any injury. No one man or even an army had been able to bring the giant to rest. Not even a weapon had been able to faze the great Grendel until Beowulf came along. And a weapon it was not, but Beowulf’s very hand that sent Grendel to his final rest. As described in the poem, “the brave-hearted man on the bed, reached out towards him, the foe with his hand; at once in fierce response Beowulf seized it and sat up, leaning on his own arm” (48).
Again, only a man with Christ-like powers and self-sacrifice would be able and willing to conceal the strength and heroic heart that Beowulf beheld. The defeat of Grendel was unlike the challenge Beowulf faced when he went to face the Dragon. Beowulf then does not seem to have the same strength as he did before, and it was this sacrifice he chose that ended his life. The Dragon, unlike Grendel, we know is not a human at all. The Dragon was huge and spit fire. No man, especially in Beowulf’s time, stood close to having a chance against the Dragon. When Beowulf went to fght the Dragon it was his sacrifice to his people.
He knew if he died or not, he would be saving the Geats and a treasure would be left for them. The same was true when Christ sacrificed his life for his people. He knew his people would be saved and would have peace. His people were not necessarily saved, but it was his intentions to do so. The Geats had to come to a harsh realization that Beowulf is but Just a man. True he is now old and not young as he was before in his glorious conquests. With Beowulf being so much older, and still the people hold their high expectations of him, we are now brought to our second controversy.
Should Beowulf have fought the Dragon or not? Beowulf was old, this is true, and his trength was not as it had been when he was young. Many of the Geats believed he should have stayed home and played Lord to his people, sending other men out to fight the Dragon. The Dragon was already destroying treasures and homes, including Beowulf’s. “Then the terror was made known to Beowulf, quickly in its truth, that his own home, best of buildings, had melted in surging flames, the throne seat of the Geats” (75). I do not believe his sacrifice was sinful.
His intentions again were not selfish, but were very selfless. I believe if Beowulf would not have gone to fght the Dragon himself, every other man would have been too cowardly to stand up to the dragon. Just as Christ in his time was the only one willing to commit such a sacrifice as giving his own life for others. The Dragon could have very possibly destroyed human-kind. “Then the evil spirit began to vomit flames, burn bright dwellings; blaze of fire rose, to the horror of men; there the deadly thing would leave nothing alive” (75). Beowulf however did not choose to be such a Lord.