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The amounts of nature that surround us, the nature that created our beings has produced an incredible number of questions. Religion brought answers to these questions. Within the evolution of time to the present time Christianity became the most prominent and influential of all religions. In fact the faith was integrated into the storylines of Beowulf and The Hobbit. The two works are very interesting pieces as the former was originally an oral epic poem recited by the Anglo-Saxons and the latter is a fantasy novel that was based off of Anglo-Saxon literature. Beowulf evolved from an epic poem to a written work, most likely recorded by a medieval scholar. F.A. Blackburn stated that “the poem was composed by a Christian after hearing the stories or used old lays as his material, or that it was composed by a heathen and was recorded by a Christian which gave all of the allusions found within it” (1). Assuming Blackburn is credible and considering that in the time of this anonymous scribe only the clergy and upper class had the capacity to read and write, one could bet top dollar that the scholar was Catholic, or at least Christian. Due to this there is a high probability that the work was distorted to some extent. The poem however undoubtedly describes the heroic exploits of the famous Beowulf as he fought for others and put his life in jeopardy to protect others in short. The Hobbit, developed by British and devout Christian writer J.R.R. Tolkien, is much not open to so much ambiguity in origins. The novel gives details of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who found his hidden potential and broke the “fourth wall” to become a much stronger individual, while retaining his peaceful tendencies. During both works Christianity occurs both in symbolism and in reference and has a pivotal role within both pieces of literature.
Greed and corruption are among the greatest sins according to the Christian religion. It is interesting to note that both play a large role in Beowulf and The Hobbit. The first main villain in Beowulf, Grendel, is a descendent of Cain, and plays an important role in the poem. Adam and Eve in Jewish, Christian, Islamic texts were the first two humans. They bore two sons, Cain and Abel. Whenever the two made sacrifices to God Abel would be praised, not Cain. He grew jealous and killed his brother, thus banished and forced to walk alone until he died. Grendel bore the Mark of Cain making him as much of an outcast as his ancestor was. In Beowulf Grendel was described as, “conceived by a pair of mosters of Cain, murderous creatures banished by God, punished forever for the crime of Abel’s death” (6 to 7, 105 to 108). Grendel developed a hatred for humanity due to this and it is implied that he has existed within the context of the Beowulf story for many years and is isolated from society.
Gollum plays a similar role to Grendel in The Hobbit. During the novel Gollum is not considered a major character however he plays a large role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy but displays more of greed than Grendel does.
“Grendel and Gollum both have better than average physical strength, as author David Day notes. Day says, ‘just as some unknown power gave Grendel enormous physical strength and long life, so the evil power of the Ring lengthened Gollum’s miserable life for centuries and seemingly enhanced the power of his wraith-like hands’ (Day 142). Even though Frodo’s quest is to destroy the Ring and overthrow Sauron, it is Gollum that is his nemesis, just as Grendel is Beowulf’s” (“Tolkin and Beowulf”).
Grendel and Gollum seem to suffer and are very distant from society. Gollum is suspected to have once been like everyone else but the ring got the best of him and made him literally go insane or at least become a very bizarre and somewhat demented individual. Even though Grendel’s and Gollum’s thought processes are very much different they are the same character except in different context and works.
The dragon can be arguably be called a manifestation of greed within literature. The Book of Revelation in the Bible places emphasis on the dragon by saying, “And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads” (Revised Standard Version, Revelation 12:3). According to Joseph Mandala in an online article the dragon is believed to be with the rest of the “monsters” as “descendants of Cain and outcasts from the people of God.” In this context there are similarities in both The Hobbit and Beowulf between the two dragons within the storyline, as noted by Mandala in the same online article:
“A thief descending through secret passages disturbs the dragon from his rest by stealing a portion of the dragon’s gold (which is another common thread), much as Bilbo awakens Smaug by stealing the goblet. In both instances, a hero apart from the thief destroys the dragon, restoring peace and security to the land.”
For instance, the third foe in Beowulf, the dragon, was extremely meticulous at tracking his riches. “The beast went back to its treasure, planning a bloody revenge, and found what was missing, saw what thieving hands had stolen” (Beowulf and Related Readings 90).When one bit of treasure was stolen by a slave who was trying to please his master, the dragon grew angry and left a path of complete of utter destruction as an act of vendetta.
The dragon Smaug was the same as the dragon in Beowulf overall as when Bilbo stole a single bit of his riches, he grew angry and destroyed a nearby town. As Tolkien termed Smaug’s anger over losing one small item of treasure within The Hobbit, “His rage passes description-the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never used before or wanted” (215). The only difference is that Smaug post-mortum left an incredibly strong mark on the dwarves, making them greedy and willing to kill anyone to protect it and in the Christian sense, commit great sin.
Greed played a larger role when Bilbo and the dwarves where trying to pass through a sea of trees that was called a single forest. Beoron and Gandalf warned the crew not to deviate from the magic path that was set up, however they succumbed to temptation to do so and problems arose as the dwarves almost got eaten by spiders and then were imprisoned by the wood-eleves on the assumption that they were spying. This by itself does not mean a lot but the dwarves became obsessed with greed, as stated before when Smaug was killed, due to obsession with treasure towards the end of the novel and ending with the downfall of the dwarves’ leader, Thorin Oakenshield, only at death realizing the error of his ways. The monsters encountered throughout the novel, the goblins, spiders, Smaug and the Wargs, embody only the poorest of qualities with no good qualities whatsoever on the other hand. When the Battle of Five Armies occurred the goblins and the Wargs fought the elves, humans and the dwarves, essentially a battle between good and evil or relatively strong values versus what appeared to be pure evil. This within itself creates a sense of Christian values versus sin-filled values and completes the role of greed as well within The Hobbit.
Throughout the novel, Bilbo does not give up his ethics in any instance unlike Smaug, the goblins, the Wargs and the dwarves. He remains true to his ideals, among them, not being inclined to kill and trying to preserve peace before the elves and humans were about to fight the dwarves. Even when times looked bleak as at the aforementioned time, he did not sacrifice his ethics and thus displayed the Christian values of not killing and compassion. Beowulf is much more heroic than Bilbo but he nevertheless remains just as true to his beliefs. He does kill more, but he kills creatures of evil and never innocent people. As shown in Beowulf numerous times, he gives praise to God quite often. While dying he even states, “For this, this gold, these jewels, I thank our Father in Heaven, Ruler of Earth for all of this, that His grace has given me, allowed me to bring to my people while breath still came to my lips” (Beowulf and Related Readings 108). Both embody what the Christian religion believes to be good and shows the Beowulf and Bilbo Baggins can be called ideal Christian heroes.
Christianity plays a large role in both Beowulf and The Hobbit. This has been evidenced by the need order for paragraphs.
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