A pagan conflict in a Christian key

Tolkien on the effect that Christianity had on the heroic-pagan outlook of the North (and as apt a description as any of the theology within Tolkien’s own fiction):

The monsters had been the foes of the gods, the captains of men and within Time the monsters would win. In the heroic siege and last defeat men and gods alike had been imagined in teh same host. Now the heroic figures, the men of old, hæleð under heofenum, remained and still fought on until defeat. For the monsters do not depart, whether the gods go or come. A Christian was (and is) still like his forefathers a mortal hemmed in a hostile world. The monsters remained the enemies of mankind, the infantry of the old war, and become inevitably the enemies of the one God, ece Dryhten, the eternal Captain of the new. Even so the vision of the war changes. For it begins to dissolve, even as the contest on the fields of Time thus takes on its largest aspect. The tragedy of the great temporal defeat remains for a while poignant, but ceases to be finally important. It is no defeat, for the end of the world is part of the design of Metod, the Arbiter who is above the mortal world. Beyond there appears a possibility of eternal victory (or eternal defeat), and the real battle is between the soul and its adversaries. So the old monsters became images of the evil spirit or spirits, or rather the evil spirits entered into the monsters and took visible shape in the hideous bodies of the þyrsas and sigelhearwan of heathen imagination. (“Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”)

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