The hilarious death of St Eadmund: Part One

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

narnia,iconzicons,medievalKing 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.


8 Responses to “The hilarious death of St Eadmund: Part One”

  1. B. Hawk Says:

    Beautiful! Enticing! Suspenseful! Oh what a story, and I can’t wait for more!

  2. Jonathan Jarrett Says:

    Is this Ivarr the Boneless, or some other? I’ve always wondered about that byname. Did he get it by squeezing through impossible gaps? Or what? every other possibility I’ve ever thought of has seemed fairly Marvel Comics. But it’s to early in history to be bitten by radioactive insects! Oh, confusion.

  3. highlyeccentric Says:

    I *think* so, but I’ll ask GoblinPaladin to come over here and sort out the mysteries of Vikings for us…

  4. goblinpaladin Says:

    It is indeed the Boneless. I believe he is called “Boneless” because he was lame- “boneless” is also “legless,” and so forth. I can’t remember where I read that, so I can’t provide a source.

    He is apparetly widely attested, referenced in Icelandic sources,* The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Annals of Ulster, Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum** and Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. I’m sure some scholarship on one of these would help clarify the ‘Boneless’ issue.

    Does that help?

    *I just translated a passage of Íslendingabók where he is mentioned briefly.
    **Which also discusses the Norse discovery of Vinland in a very fascinating Latin passage, featuring whirlpools and chaos- it is vastly different from the saga evidence.

  5. Jonathan Jarrett Says:

    Quality learning, thankyou very much.

  6. The Hilarious (After)Life of St Eadmund, with still more apologies to AElfric. « The Naked Philologist Says:

    […] Eadmund lived a boring life full of piety, generosity and justice. Things hotted up when Vikings stalked in his land and ran off with his head. But wait, it doesn’t stop there! What Eadmund’s life lacked […]

  7. What fandom can teach you about medieval languages « The Naked Philologist Says:

    […] with history. In this particular case, I discovered by flipping to the end of the book, they save King Edmund from Ivarr the Boneless (who stalked on the land like a wolf, if you recall), and visit the tomb of […]

  8. Proffessorial Quote of the Day: « The Naked Philologist Says:

    […] St Edmund: Christian martyr, Germanic loooooser. […]

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