A history of English Literature 1. -The Anglo-Saxon Period ( also called The Old English Period) –c. 450-1066. Early Inhabitants of Britain:The Celts. The Beakerfolk.
-The Anglo-Saxon Period
( also called The Old English Period) –c. 450-1066
The earliest Britons were celtic tribes of which not much is known.They were also called“The Beakerfolk”, who probably came from the Low Countries and the middle Rhine .They arrived in Britain in the Bronze Age (after 2,300 BC). Their name comes from the fact that they buried their dead together with a particular kind of pottery
They are also responsible for continuing the construction of Stonehenge (an original megalithic monument in Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire completed about 1,500 BC).
Druids (left) and Halloween (above).
Until 450 A.D.
The Romans brought Christianity to England and many of their army bases are now important cities: Gloucester, Worcester, Doncaster, etc. All these names are formed from the Roman word castra, which means armed or fortified camp.
Most of the roads led to London, where they built a walled trading city. The Romans came to govern and to trade, not to settle, They were too few to change the language and the customs of the people. Most of today’s roads still run along the old Roman roads
One other still visible remnant of the Romans is Hadrian’s Wall running from Carlyle in the west to Wallsend on the east coast. It was built to protect England from the Scots and the Picts, old Celtic tribes.
This is how Blackadder saw the romans and their wall
In 410 the Roman legions were called back to defend The Roman Empire against the Goths. They left behind a leaderless and defenceless people who were no match for the Germanic tribes: The Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. These tribes were called in from the north of Germany, Friesland and Denmark, to help the Celtic leader Vortigern against the invading Celtic tribes, the Picts.They defeated these tribes and settled permanently. They drove the Britons back as far as the mountains in the north and the west
The country was now divided into small kingdoms. Christianity started to gain a stronger and stronger foothold on English ground and spread throughout the country, establishing monasteries as centres of power and learning.
You are going to do a short assignment about the Anglo Saxons. Visit the website below.
1. The language of the Anglo-Saxons is very different from the English language we speak today. Visit this Anglo-Saxon Online Dictionary and write 3-4 sentences in Anglo-Saxon about your day (don't worry about articles). Neatly write out your sentences in Anglo-Saxon and translated in Modern English.
In 793 the monastery of Lindisfarne was destroyed by Scandinavian pirates, which was the start of the Viking raids along most of the British and Irish coastline. Later some of the Vikings settled and started trading towns and took over a great part of England, which is known as the Danelaw.
The Vikings came in ships
Runic Writing:Write your own name in runes. Click here
One Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great, prevented England from becoming taken over completely by the Scandinavian hordes when defeating the Danish army in 871. In the period until 1044, however, several Danish kings ruled England again until Edward the Confessor became king of England.
King Alfred was also known for encouraging the writing of a history of England, The Anglo Saxon Chronicles, which were written by different monks in different monasteries. The writing continued until well into the 12th century and tells of many events in the history of the British people.
The Monk Eadwin Writing a Text
The Peterborough Chronicle
The Book of Kells is a beautifully illuminated (=illustrated) text, kept in Trinity College in Dublin. Every day a new page is turned for the general public to see.
Wulf & Eadwacer is an Anglo Saxon poem composed between 960 and 990 AD. Of famously difficult interpretation, it has been variously characterised,) as an elegy, (historically) as a riddle, and (in speculation on the poem's pre-history) as a song or ballad with refrain. The only extant copy is found in the Exeter Book.Old English text:
Leodum is minum swylce him mon lac gife; willað hy hine aþecgan, gif he on þreat cymeð. Ungelic is us. Wulf is on iege, ic on oþerre. Fæst is þæt eglond, fenne biworpen. Sindon wælreowe weras þær on ige; willað hy hine aþecgan, gif he on þreat cymeð. Ungelice is us. Wulfes ic mines widlastum wenum dogode; þonne hit wæs renig weder ond ic reotugu sæt, þonne mec se beaducafa bogum bilegde, wæs me wyn to þon, wæs me hwæþre eac lað. Wulf, min Wulf, wena me þine seoce gedydon, þine seldcymas, murnende mod, nales meteliste. Gehyrest þu, Eadwacer? Uncerne earne hwelp bireð Wulf to wuda. þæt mon eaþe tosliteð þætte næfre gesomnad wæs, uncer giedd gead
The most important poem from this era is the pagan epic Beowulf (around 700). It tells the story of the hero Beowulf the warrior who twice saves a people in great danger and ultimately loses his life fighting a dragon. The work is of Scandinavian origin. The scene is not set in England but in Sweden and Denmark.
Most poems were alliterative verse without rhyme. Take for instance the following line from Beowulf:
Gréndél gónga/ gódes ýrre baer
(came Grendel, he bore god’s anger)
Now listen to the prologue and watch
the trailer for the 2007 film
Your’re going to do a webquest about Beowulf. Click on this following link and follow the instructions.
Mind you, step number four is what is called a dead link and doesn’t work.
The story of Beowulf opens by telling us the career of Scyld Scefing, a king sent by God to the Danes. After Scyld's death the Danes do very well under his descendants. One of those descendants, Hrothgar, builds the Danes a great hall called Heorot. Heorot is soon invaded by Grendel, a half-human monster. The Danes are helpless against these attacks until the hero Beowulf arrives to aid them. He battles Grendel in hand to hand combat in Heorot and kills the monster by tearing off its arm. Grendel's mother then comes to avenge her son. Beowulf and Hrothgar follow her to her lair in a lake, where Beowulf fights Grendel's mother in her hall at the bottom of the lake. Beowulf almost loses, but with the aid of God is eventually victorious. He is lavishly rewarded and returns to his own land where he tells his adventures to his uncle, King Hygelac. The poem then jumps fifty years into the future when Beowulf is in old age and king of the Geats. He then fights his last battle against a dragon that is guardian of a cursed treasure. He tries to fight the dragon alone, but can only defeat it with the help of a younger relative, Wiglaf. The dragon is killed, but mortally wounds Beowulf in the battle, and the old king passes away while gazing on the cursed treasure. The death of Beowulf marks the decline of the Geats, who are now surrounded by enemies made in previous campaigns. Consequently, the poem ends in mourning for both Beowulf and his nation.
An epic is a long narrative poem which follows a hero’s struggle against universal issues.
Kennings(two-word phrase for a common word)ex: world-candle for sun or whale-road for ocean
Highly descriptive passages
There are many more superheroes today and they all have one or more characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon superhero Beowulf
Finally, a good site on Beowulf, for the interested, is this one.
In 1066 William the Conquerer invaded England from Normandy and defeated King Harold at Hastings. This was the end of the old English Period and the beginning of The Middle English Period.
Ron Visser 2010