To the Students of “Myths, Legends and Heroes”:

I assume you’re responsible for the sudden spate of AElfric-related search strings which have been bringing people to this blog, particularly the ‘aelfric cult of saints’ string and the ‘St Eadmund’ string.

For those wanting to know about English attitudes to the Vikings- there are some half-decent sources out there on that, but not much (that I know of) in the way of scholarly sources online. Sadly, almost everything which is of use to you in book form is currently either loaned out to me or to K (which is why I know about your assignment, as she is in MLH with you), and as your essay is due on Tuesday you’re not going to get hold of it by then.

When it comes to St Edmund, you might as well give up- K tells me there is one article out there on the depiction of the Vikings in the St Edmund homily, but I don’t know the citation for it since I didn’t look at Vikings when I worked on Edmund. Best to work from your lecture notes or come up with your own interpretation.

Instead of googling, I recommend you use the Old English Bibliography Database to find articles which you can use for your essay. You will need to register- put down your university as your affiliation, and then you’ll need to read their ‘how to search’ instructions as the search function is a bit complicated. But that will find you everything written on Old English lit or history up to 2004.

If you are going to research using google, can I please encourage you to consider some principles for using online sources before doing so? I know all of your teachers: your lecturer is my supervisor; one of the tutors is my mentor and the other two I like to consider friends. (“Some Principles” was vetted by said mentor, so you can trust it as a reliable guide to reliability). They are none of them silly people; they will notice if you’ve plagiarised or used unreliable sources. For the love of Bede, do not use anything from this blog- don’t plagiarise, they can all use google, and don’t cite me, they all know who I am. Finally, if you do use any online source, please consider the example citation which I gave in “Some Principles”. Your markers will feel less like strangling you if you have all the appropriate details in your citation.

Yours Sincerely,


P.S. If any of you are doing the ‘decay and destruction’ question, can I recommend the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos? I think it’s not a text about Viking invasion so much as about social decay. One day, I will write a paper or a thesis or a book about this, but for now, consider it a free idea and I’ll be glad to have influenced young minds.


8 Responses to “To the Students of “Myths, Legends and Heroes”:”

  1. goblinpaladin Says:

    Well, I’m not going to use the Sermo Lupi now, am I? You’ve given the game away!

  2. Eggs Maledict Says:

    Ha! That’s what you get…on the other hand, for the attitudes question, whether or not Viking invasions are the main topic doesn’t matter quite as much as what it says about how they’re seen…as you both know. Hurrah for sharing irrelevancies.

  3. kishnevi Says:

    But my dear, you’ve just delivered a paper at a conference and have a paper slated for publication in a journal-that’s-not-to-be-sneered-at. You are in the preliminary stages of becoming a recognized scholar. You may not be an Authority, but you are at least an Authorityette. Or however you diminutivize Authority.
    Why shouldn’t people cite you?

  4. highlyeccentric Says:

    Goblin- nonsense. I just suggested an approach, not an argument.

    Eggs- I think it *does* matter, because if you don’t read the SL as a bemoaning of the Vikings but a bemoaning of the English, your interpretation changes significantly. Consider: Vikings are hardly mentioned aside from in the title. Scathers and injurious ones ARE mentioned, but remember that AEthelred and his supporters are also conducting some judicious ravagings in England, as well as the Vikings.
    At any rate, I recommended the SL particularly for the decay question, given that *I* think its main focus is the breakdown of English community networks. And so does Malcolm Godden, although he is a moronhead about Cotton Nero A.i(B), if you ask me.

  5. highlyeccentric Says:

    Kishnevi- oh, anyone who isn’t having their essays marked by all my teachers is welcome to cite me, although as this blog is not peer reviewed they had better check my arguments carefully first.

    It would just be wiser for those who are having their essays marked by people who correct my stupidities on a regular basis not to trust my word on ANYTHING. 😛

  6. kayloulee Says:

    Aaaagh, don’t say that, now they all know who has the books out. Not that it matters because if they haven’t got sources themselves by now, they’re in really deep trouble.

    And I’ve just outed myself as K, haven’t I.

  7. Jonathan Jarrett Says:

    I think your fellow students should be able to find that kind of argument about the Sermo Lupi without too much effort. How about this?

    Wulfstan was a noted sermon writer, and his sermons have been preserved in some quantity. They have a style of a kind. It has been fairly described as ‘long-winded and repetitive’, and might also be called soporific and parsonical. The sermons were admired in their day and long afterwards. The most famous of them is the ‘Sermon of the Wolf to the English’ preached late in Aethelred’s reign and clearly directed to a lay audience. In it he attributes the sufferings of the English, about which he goes into interesting detail, to their neglect of religion, the ruin of some of the monasteries and the unpunished murder of Edward the Martyr. For Wulfstan, it is not their king but the English themselves whose inadequacies have brought misery upon them.

    (Eric John, “The Return of the Vikings” in James Campbell, Eric John & Patrick Wormald (eds), The Anglo-Saxon (London 1982, repr. 1991), pp. 192-213 at p. 202.)

    You may not get away with this as an original viewpoint… I mean, this is not even really a subtext, surely it’s the point of the sermon to tell the English to Mend Their Ways? But I presumably haven’t quite understood your angle. The thing that interests me with this, though, is how far Wulfstan feels himself implicated. The mention of Edward’s murder is the key, because to us at least that implies the king’s fault as well as the people’s. So is Wulfstan conscious that he’s trying to yoke the Devil, and is that why he goes so over the top, in self-justification? Is he blame-shifting? Or does he genuinely believe in Æthelred’s new morals and great mission? Or is he just performing to order?

    I’d say I’d love to ask him, but he would never ever tell us, would he?

  8. me Says:

    Everyone chillax. It’s only 2000 words, and it’s an English essay, so remember to make good use of the sources we got in class. Treat them as literature. They are.

    Search on JSTOR, but don’t freak out if you don’t find much directly related. Ilse Lehist’s “Names of Scandanavians in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle” gives you something to cite, even if it’s only verification of your intuition that by the time Maldon was written there were people with Scandanavian names.
    If you can’t infer much, think about how the vikings are presented in contrast with others – is Edmund Christlike? If so, what does this make the Vikings (i’ll give you a clue – the poet says it explicitly, as well as hinting at it)? If not, what does the difference suggest about attitudes to the Vikings?. Ælfric’s knew the Vikings would convert to Christianity. His audience knew that too. What effect does this have on understanding them? Aelfric was writing a saint’s life about someone who didn’t really fit the model of sanctity. He had to make him fit. How does he use the vikings to do this? Ælfric wrote during a wave of Viking incursions into English territory. does this affect anything? Look at the use of tense – is he making a comment on modern Vikings? Or are the vikings only bad because they’re heathens? What is the significance of the wolf imagery? Are the vikings animals or devils or ferocious humans? or all? are some of those options worse than others? How do edmund and Hinguar and Hengist’s styles of rule differ? Do the vikings have individual identities? If so, what? if not, what’s the effect of this? Who speaks? In direct speech? Indirect? What sort of verbs are associated with the Vikings? With Edmund and his followers? Who is the more heroic – Edmund or Hinguar? Why? Who’s in control? Are there different ways of viewing the power balance? Look back to your notes on Dream of the Rood. Search for thematic similarities. Do the same with the Fight at Finnsburgh and Maldon. It can’t hurt.

    I’ve done an essay on Edmund as saint before and some of these questions I’ve pulled out of my thoughts on that. They’re not answers, just points of departure. The lecturers know me too, and DA marked said essay. So I’m not giving much away. I did use the Sermo Lupi. and it was good. This has a good title, but I haven’t read it: Viking Atrocity and Skaldic Verse: The Rite of the Blood-Eagle
    Roberta Frank
    The English Historical Review, Vol. 99, No. 391 (Apr., 1984), pp. 332-343
    Published by: Oxford University Press

    If you’re looking up Aelfric, remember that you want Ælfric of Eynsham, not Ælfric Cild, Ælfric of Abingdon, Ælfric of Hampshire, Ælfric of Kent, Ælfric Puttoc, Ælfric of Crediton,
    Aelfric (the10th century bishop of Hereford) or Æelfrics I, II and II of Elmham.

    Our Ælfric is THE Ælfric, but if you plan on using internet tools like wikipedia (you’re all in uni, you know how to deal with the net) then make sure you get the right Ælfric. The Battle of Maldon should be pretty unambiguous, but be careful when searching for individual characters – some of them have the same name as better-known people. The best bet, if you must look at a specific character, is Byrhtnoð. He’s pretty much THE Byrhtnoð.

    That said, the essay was due today so unless you’ve got a pretty fancy extension may I suggest that if you really don’t know where to start now, choose something else!
    Sorry to rant – I didn’t even DO that question!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: