The Hilarious Death of St Eadmund, part two

Firstly, allow me to gloat about three things:

1. I finally finished the dratted chapter. It was supposed to be half a chapter but blew itself out to around 4000 words. I sat down to write 800 or so concluding words last night and ended up writing 2500 words. But I think they’re bloody good words, so that’s happy.

2. I have been relieved of the deadline (which, to be fair, I nominated in the first place) for my Anglo-Saxon essay. Apparently since there’s only me in the class, I can write whatever I want and hand it in whenever I want.

3. The University appear to have put five hundred dollars in my bank account without warning or explanation. This is exciting (pays for flights to the Australian Early Medieval Association conference in October…), but also somewhat disconcerting (what if I wasn’t meant to get five hundred dollars?). I am supposing that it is the same prize I won last year, and that information to that effect will turn up eventually.

And now, on to

The Hilarious Death of St Eadmund, with apologies to AElfric:

Last week, Stalking Hinguar and his ravening Vikings were on their way to take King Eadmund of East Anglia captive. Scary stuff.

King Eadmund stood in his royal hall, resolute and noble, and completely without backup. Into the hall came Hinguar and his Vikings, and Eadmund raised up his weapons and….

Hurled them. Not at the Vikings; just away. This, AElfric opines, is because he was imitating Christ, who wouldn’t let Peter defend him with weapons, when Christ was under attack. Christ’s example or no, this is not a good way to deal with Vikings.

Hinguar and his Vikings marched straight up to the dais, grabbed King Eadmund and trussed him up like a christmas ham. They poked fun at him and battered him with cudgels, and then stuck him under their arms, dragged him out of the hall, and shackled him to a tree. Then, moderation not being a traditional virtue of pillaging Vikings, they proceeded to whip him with scourges. AElfric tells us that King Eadmund ‘cried out to the Savior Christ’ the whole time. I’m not sure why this is surprising, really. If someone was thrashing me with a scourge, I would certainly be shouting ‘JESUS CHRIST!’, and every other swear word I knew.

Eadmund’s caterwauling eventually pissed off the Vikings. Taking a few steps back, they shot him repeatedly with spears, until he was stuck all over with them, just like hedgehog’s bristles, not unlike St Sebastian.

Hinguar then got really fed up with Eadmund, who was still kicking up a stink and shouting about Jesus. He waved a commanding Viking hand, and someone lopped off Eadmund’s head. Eadmund died crying out to Christ, and we know this because, conveniently, there was a watching Anglo-Saxon nearby, miraculously hidden from the Vikings.

Soon enough, what remains of Eadmund’s people come along, and, shock and alarm, they find the body of King Eadmund, but Hinguar and co have nicked off with the head. (Leave a body with its head, after all, and it’s only a matter of time before you have a zombie on your hands…) The Mysterious Watcher chooses this moment to unveil himself, and to conveniently announce that he saw the Vikings peg the head off into the forest somewhere.

So off they go into the forest, the remnant of the East Angles, poking around in the bushes for a decorpsed head. What will happen next? Tune in next week to find out!


5 Responses to “The Hilarious Death of St Eadmund, part two”

  1. B. Hawk Says:

    I’ve never read the original version of this story, only paraphrases–but this might be my favorite rendition.

    It’s interesting that Eadmund threw down his weapons in deference to the Christian tradition, which seemingly goes against the Germanic heroic ethos of courage and death in battle. Whereas so many Christians have found no problem with “just war” against invaders and such, this brings up an interesting view of Eadmund in his saint-hood.

    Also, I wonder how the Anglo-Saxons felt about the little man hiding in the bushes? In comparison to others who have hid and/or run from battle–like those in *The Battle of Maldon* who are chastised and Beowulf’s retainers who run into the woods to hide and are called out by Wiglaf for their lack of courage–what does this say about the man? Is there any sort of textual mention or opinions about his hiding and watching while his lord is roped up, thrashed, and decapitated?

  2. highlyeccentric Says:

    Eadmund does seem to walk the fine line between hero and matryr… There’s perhaps a sort of sacrificial kingship going on? The East Angles were completely wiped out- the royal cult makes matyrs of the whole kingdom, in a way.

    The little man in the bushes is part of AElfric’s system of *verification*. AElfric provides a list of oral and written sources right from this man down to himself, so that we know it’s all true. Very, very concerned with validating the story, is AElfric.

  3. zcat_abroad Says:

    This is a great synopsis of the text. I can’t wait until the next installment.

    And I dearly want to share it with my students, who have to translate it in the exam. This is a far more interesting presentation.

  4. highlyeccentric Says:

    😀 glad you like it…

    I suppose you can’t actually give it to your students lest it give the examination game away?

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

    […] 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 in action and adventure, […]

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