I’ve been translating AElfric’s Life of St Eadmund this past week. Which is funny, because it contains very little of Eadmund’s life at all, but a whole lot of hilarity surrounding his death. Tonight, because sleep is for the weak, I present to you: St Eadmund Without the Boring Bits
King Eadmund ruled in East Anglia, and he was the most awesome king you could possibly imagine. He was gentle and generous and just, he was pious and princely, he was faithful and fair. He ruled over his people like a father and a shepherd.
Unfortunately for Eadmund, East Anglia had a sudden case of Vikings. A fellow named Hinguar stalked on the land, like a wolf, and then slew the people. Interestingly, this same Hinguar was Ivarr, son of Ragnar Loðborok (‘Hairy-Pants’, or more stodgily, ‘Shaggy-breeches’). Ragnar had been busy sacking Paris, and Ivarr later went on to cause havoc in Ireland. And while Hinguar was stalking around in East Anglia, his brother Hubba was controlling Northumbria. Quite a respectable lineage of Vikings, they were.
But you don’t want to know about Hinguar’s family tree. What you want to know is that he sent Eadmund a message saying:
You are powerless, and my army need somewhere to stay for the winter. Give me all your goldhoards, and I will let you live as my underking.
Eadmund was a little taken aback by this, and he called a nearby bishop. This bishop was a pragmatic sort of fellow, and he said to King Eadmund: ‘Look, your kingliness: you’re outnumbered, you have no army, and you’re going to die. Either agree to his terms or run away.’
Eadmund thought about this for a while, and then he said to the bishop: ‘Hang on, bishop! I’ve never run away from my enemies yet, and I’m not about to start now!’
So king Eadmund went back to the messenger and said:
You’re an arrogant bastard of a Viking, and I ought to kill you, but I won’t defile my hands with your blood. You tell your chief Hinguar to bugger off- I won’t serve him, unless he converts to Christianity first.
So the messenger trotted back the way he had come, and along the way, he met Hinguar, with his bloodthirsty band of Vikings, all ready to take Eadmund down.
‘No luck,’ says the messenger. ‘The snotty little English king is going to be all honourable about things.’
Whereupon Hinguar smirks, and gives orders that his henchmen go after the unprotected Eadmund and take him captive.
What will happen next? Tune in to the Naked Philologist for talking heads, miraculous uncorrupted bodies, bumbling theives, and a madman.