Edward Pettit

Published On


Page Range

pp. 1-32

Print Length

31 pages

1. Introduction

Beowulf, an Early Anglo-Saxon Epic

  • Edward Pettit (author)
The introduction begins by providing the historical and cultural context for the creation of the Beowulf epic. Pettit accepts the early eighth century dating of the poem, and goes on to suggest that it likely existed in Mercia as early as the sixth century. Pettit then introduces his central argument: a prominent theme of Beowulf is the conversion from Germanic paganism to Christianity and that it was intended to provide comfort for and smooth the progress of such a monumental cultural change. Potential historical associations with the epic poem are suggested, such as the Mercian monastery of Repton, as are historical parallels, such as the life of Repton monk Saint Guthlac. Pettit outlines an Anglo-Saxon society where Germanic paganism still lingers on in remnant forms, such as when responding to disease epidemics. This continuing transition from still-lingering paganism to Christianity is, according to Pettit, referenced by the melting, or waning, of what he has dubbed ‘the giant sword’, the salvaged weapon with which Beowulf defeats his foes after his own sword fails at the task.


Edward Pettit