In the story Beowulf, the main character, Beowulf, is portrayed as a Christ-like figure. The reader knows that Beowulf is Christ-like through his actions, his personality, and some symbolism. Beowulf experiences some of the same or similar things that Christ experienced too. With a close interpretation and a deep analysis of the story, there is more than enough evidence to prove that Beowulf is Christ-like.
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To start off, the very first line in the story that deals with Beowulf is, Of living strong men he was the strongest (9) and it then goes on to tell of Beowulf s noble characteristics. Throughout the story the narrator and other characters tell of Beowulf s Christ-like characteristics. For example, Hrothgar, king of the Danes, said, God, in His mercy, has sent him (Beowulf) to save us from Grendel s assaults (13). God sent his son Jesus Christ, the savior, to save all of us from sin. This quote from Hrothgar is quite possibly the most convincing element in the entire story telling us that Beowulf is Christ-like. Another example is that the narrator refers to Beowulf as The shelter of kinsmen (33), and this tells us that Beowulf was there protector just as Christ was. These examples from the story help us understand Beowulf s characteristics through the eyes of other characters and the narrator.
Next, what Beowulf actually does in the story, how he acts, and some of his personality traits will further explain why he is Christ-like. Beowulf and Christ have similar personality traits. The last couple lines of this folk epic tell it best; the lines state that the Geats, Said he (Beowulf) was the kindest of worldly kings, mildest, most gentle (40) as they grieved over his death. Another trait that Christ and Beowulf share is their motivation and intentions. Beowulf does good deeds for the good of others, and because he does not like evil. He did these things because he cared about his people. In his dying words, which he spoke to Wiglaf, he wanted to make sure that his people get the treasure that he fought so hard for. Also, one of the things that Beowulf does throughout the story that Christ did all the time, is give thanks to god. Beowulf gave thanks to God for the safe ocean journey from southwestern Sweden. After defeating Grendel he said, By favor of God we won the fight, did the deed of valor, and boldly dared the might of the monster, (19) to the many warriors in the Heorot. In this line he give thanks to God just as Christ did. Beowulf also gave God the credit for supplying him with the giant s sword during his bout with Grendel s mother; he gave him thanks for the treasure he got from the dragon; and he gave him thanks for the grace to get the treasure for his people. These are a few of the many things that Beowulf did that reflect on Christ s personality traits.
Finally, Beowulf goes through a lot of things throughout the story that can be related to things that Christ experienced. However, the one that stands out the most is the betrayal. Beowulf is betrayed by his companions in his quest to kill the dragon. They are scared for their lives, just as the apostles were when asked if they knew the Son of God, and betrayed Beowulf. Another interesting thing that dealt with the betrayal is that Jesus said that they would betray him before it happened. Beowulf does not say that his men will betray him but he does say, Not yours the adventure, nor the mission of any, save mine alone (33) referring to the quest to kill the dragon. This does not tell the reader that his companions will betray him, but rather foreshadows the outcome of the betrayal just as Christ did. Lastly, each Beowulf and Christ had a tough job to do, or a cross to carry. Jesus s was to carry a cross while getting beat and spat on, and to die hanging on a cross for his people. Beowulf s duty was to die fighting evil to save his people. Both were successful.
There is no question if Beowulf was Christ-like or not. He most definitely was and there is plenty of evidence to support it. The two acted the same, did good deeds, and where above all other human beings. They even went through many similar situations and experienced some of the same things. They both were leaders, self-sacrificing men, and both praised highly. The Beowulf-poet made Beowulf a Christ-like figure.
1. Beowulf. Trans. Burton Raffel. New York: Penguin Group, 1963