The heroic characters described in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight represent in their heroic adventures, their attitudes, and their relationship to others in their society different moral codes, but each character does have a moral code by which he lives. In each book, as it exists today, that code is related to Christian teaching (the Christian allusions in Beowulf were either added to Beowulf by some later editor or were added to the pagan legends by the unknown poet), and the very structure of the society in each story is built on that code.
The story of Beowulf is an interesting case of a literary work that had no influence on subsequent works until modern times because the work was lost, and though a handful of learned antiquaries could study the text in Shakespeare's time, they could not comprehend Beowulf, the most important text preserved in Anglo-Saxon prose. The work did not begin to reach a wide audience until after World War I, and after World War II it would become an influence on modern literature.
There remains some question about the origin of this heroic poem, but it is believed to have been an Anglian poem composed in Northumbria (or possibly Mercia) during the first half of the eighth century. The version that exists today
presupposes an aristocratic Christian audience whose Germanic background and ancestry included the knowledge of Scandinavian and all of Germanic tradition and folk-lore of which the stories of Beowulf's three battles were a part, stories which were transmitted to England during the Anglo-Saxon invasions.
The poem fuses historical material such as the story of Hygelac with folk tales of monster fights, and the language has been given a Christian coloring that places the poem in the first half of the eighth century. Elements in Beowulf indicate that the work has been derived from an earlier oral tradition. Old English poetry is composed of a number of repeated phrase...