Beowulf Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Afterwards a boy-child was sent to Shield, a cub in the yard, a comfort sent by God to that nation. He knew what they had tholed, the long times and troubles they'd come through without a leader; so the Lord of Life, the glorious Almighty, made this man renowned. (12-17)
Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him to hear the din of the loud banquet every day in the hall, the harp being struck and the clear song of a skilled poet telling with mastery of man's beginnings, how the Almighty had made the earth a gleaming plain girdled with waters; in His splendour He set the sun and the moon to be earth's lamplight, lanterns for men, and filled the broad lap of the world with branches and leaves; and quickened life in every other thing that moved. (86-98)
Grendel's demonic nature is rubbed the wrong way by a bard's recitation of the story of Creation. Notice that this description of the creation of the world is an unusual mishmash of pagan and Christian imagery, reminding us of the complex religious background of the poem – told by Christians, but about pagans.
Grendel was the name of this grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain's clan, whom the creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel the Eternal Lord had exacted a price: Cain got no good from committing that murder because the Almighty made him anathema and out of the curse of his exile there sprang ogres and elves and evil phantoms and the giants too who strove with God time and again until He gave them their reward. (102-114)
It's no accident that the only Biblical story specifically referred to in Beowulf is the tale of Cain and Abel, two brothers who took part in a murderous feud. In medieval Scandinavia, tribe against tribe and clan against clan often came down to fratricidal combat. Grendel represents the ultimate evil in this culture because he's the descendant of a man who killed his brother. Another villain of the poem, Unferth, is also condemned by the narrator because he killed his brothers.