Jesus Christ as the Hero of Pagans as Depicted in the Dream of the Rood

Yıldız N.

8th International Nalans Conference, Trabzon, Turkey, 2 - 03 May 2019, pp.169-177

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Trabzon
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.169-177
  • Karadeniz Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The Dream of the Rood is known as the earliest dream-vision poem in the English language as well as one of the monumental documents of Old English Literature. Although it is not definite, for many scholars its composition date is most probably the 8th century. The poem, depicting the Crucifixion along with the continuing shift from paganism to Christianity, is included in the Vercelli Book, a manuscript of Old English prose and poetry dating back the second half of the tenth century. In fact, The Dream of the Rood incorporates two different cultures: Christianity and the pagan warrior culture of the Anglo-Saxon society. Since the heroic Anglo-Saxon society was pagan and illiterate, the monks of the period used heroic elements to introduce Christianity to them by taking the Bible as a source. Thus, they created texts with religious topics in pagan settings as The Dream of the Rood. In the poem, Jesus Christ, like a Germanic warrior, is depicted as a brave hero who sacrifices himself for his people and the rood is a loyal soldier to his lord, Christ. Using heroic language and metaphors, the Christian poet tries to appeal to pagan Anglo-Saxon audience accustomed to heroic verse. In spite of the common use of heroic verse and imagery in Old English poetry, to many scholars the heroic handling of the Crucifixion theme in the Dream of the Rood is distinctive. Accordingly, this paper aims to discuss Jesus Christ as the hero of pagans in The Dream of the Rood, a text blend of Christian and heroic Germanic elements.

Keywords: Anglo-Saxon Society, Christianity, heroism, paganism, The Dream of the Rood.