Hwaet is the first word which starts Beowulf.
Beowulf is a vibrant poem dating back from – as a written source – the late 10th century. Hence before the Conquest.
Some take it to be Northumbrian initially, others East Anglian. Some, fewer believe it was sung at Edwin’s court in Eoforvic/York or Ad Gefrin (burnt down at least three times)… It is unique and deserves the just praise it has gathered over the centuries.
Tolkien believed the poem as to be still so full of the energetic memory of a pre-Christian world that he must have been composed no more than a few generations after Britain had been fully Christianized.
Now Britain benefited from three kinds of Christian proselytism.
A native one through the Romano-Britons which were to become known later as the Welsh. These people had no kindness toward their Saxon invaders. To this day, the Gaelic Sassenach/Saxon is not a friendly word.
A Pictish one through the Irish/Scoti (yes, Scotland). Columba, Colum Cille would visit Scotland and at one point reaching Iona would establish a firm base for his missionary work. Having visited Iona (where MacBeth is buried too) after crossing through the Isle of Mull coming from Oban (following Columba’s steps in reverse), I have gained a solid respect for him and the people who lived in 563 up to 685 (one of my character will depart from Iona for a brilliant destiny). Regardless of destiny, the sky was low, it was cold, the water freezing and the sea rough. It snowed when we got back to Oban. We were in luck!
Anyhow, going back to my not-yet-British not-yet-Christians : the Irish way was rough…
The last way as in the latest way to become a Christian was through Kent and a marriage between a pagan Jutish warlord’s son to a Christian Merovingian princess and much later to be canonized Augustine of Canterbury of very strict Roman as in Papal obedience.
I shall spare you the difficulty of getting the three versions of Christianity to agree. What is important today is that the monks would record in writing the poems. Why would they?
A warrior would be – true – of noble birth and fight battles. When he did not fight. he would be at the side of the King as a companion in the Royal Hall… where they would recite/listen to poems and tales of glory while playing the luth. Yes, a true warrior could sing, play the luth and use his sword/seax and shield…
Not all monks were Italians like Augustine or Paulinus who would later convert the son-in-law of our previously pagan and now converted warlord’s son. Most monks would be Saxons and some could have been warriors themselves like Benedict Biscop of Jarrow or sons of warriors like Wilfrid of Ripon. These tales, legends would have been part of their daily routines. Approved by their society. Honour, blood-feud, weregeld were part of their social DNA. Importantly in time of active Christiniazation, a warrior society would have had trouble relating to the mis-adventures of a poor Jewish carpenter.
The Pagan tales were spiced up with Christian morals. Beowulf is cremated. Unlike a Christian. Yet in his noble attitude, in his desire to help alleviate the plight Heoroth suffers, is almost on par with a Christian knight. Tales of humane glory recorded by humble monks.
We are here. Hwaet. Hear. Listen. Attend. Depending on the elegance of the translating pen.
A fantastic tale nobody has been able to copy.
The following links are from – in my personal opinion – the most poetic and true version of the poem. No Hollywood star in golden stilettos, no rewriting though G Butler version was honourable. An animated version sailing close to the wind of the poet.
Hwaet. Beowulf of the Geats/Goths. Hrothgar of the Danes.
Hrothgar gave Roger! Beowulf remains unique. As a hero should be.
Watch in six parts.
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We are talking of an era without proper heathcare, with an economy mainly dedicated to survival. Acquisition of food was a daily struggle. Slaves expected to be fed after work. A wife expected food, clothes (about as decent as yours which depended on your social status). A wife gave you children. Children to feed. Children could and did die. Your wife could also die. Contraception did not exist or was highly fantastical. Most relied on the man; and coitus interruptus/reservatus was widely practised. With the failure rates we know. Wives allowed less frustration with the handicap of more children.
Wives were costly, prone to cost more with too many children to feed… if you were lucky to keep your wife and your children alive. If you were a warrior, your risk of a brutal death was higher; your risk to become a young widower was the same as the general population.
Women could have a succession of husbands, men could have a succession of wives. And we have kept quiet about the emotional cost it must have been to engage in a relationship and lose in a tragic moment your companion and your child. The Dark Ages could be very dark.
And you ended up with children of different mothers who were all eager to inherit something from Dad, who might resent Dad’s philandering, who might be at each other’s throat including Dad’s throat. So many combinations…
And you could be the king.
Like Chlothar the not-so-Great who married : I quote Gregory
Guntheuc/Gondioque, his brother Chlodomir’s widow. Despite having helped destiny by dispatching himself his nephews from Chlodomir. Curiously the marriage is reputed childdess
Ingund/Ingonde. Aregund/Arnegonde, sisters. Ingonda gave at least 7 children to her husband. 7 children … and Aregunda. Worried about her sister, Ingund asked her husband to find Aregund a husband of noble birth… Chlothar declared he could not give to his sister in law a husband of more noble birth but himself. Aregund gave him a son. Chilperic. Dagobert’s grand-dad. Maybe they got along?
Radegund/Radegonde. Whave met her before. She is the Saint Patroness of the wives who finally dump their sorry husbands. No children.
Waldrada/Vuldetrade, his great-nephew Theudebald ‘s widow (in these days, the Church was highly accomodating. Henry VIII must have been groaning reading how Rome granted marriages and repudiations in these benighted days of the enlightened Barbariian Ages). Theuderic was Chlothar’s half-brother, born to Clovis from a previous and to this day anonymous first wife/concubine. Theuderic being Clovis’s eldest and Chlothar his youngest, it is likely that Chlothar was closer in age to his nephew than his brother…
Chunsina. Giving Chramme. And probably many more as he may have have another bastard beside this interesting young man.
Guntheuc probably ended up in a convent once her use in getting his hand on his late brother’s kingdom. Sad Ingund died broken hearted. Aregund discovered soon enough that her charms could not keep her husband by her side.
Radegund would be Chlothar’s love. Hostage from age 11, she would be treated as a precious object; would be educated and given the best education the Frankish realm could muster. In an era where illiteracy is rife, she will speak and write in Latin. And she will turn his head by her beauty. Chlothar will learn that ‘money can’t buy me love’. She will end up willingly in a monastery surrounded by devoted nuns, bishops, poets and her husband’s sons filial affection.
Caribert, Gunthramm, Sighebert on one side,
Chilperic on the other side
and against the four (legitimate because their mothers rose from being concubine to the full status of regina/queen) Chramm. 4 young men who know they will inherit a kingdom each from their father against one who wants a kingdom as high as his ambitions…
Chramm will die like two of his half-brothers also born from Ingund and dad honorably on a battlefield fighting for their father or dying from illness. Chramm will be condemned to be burnt alive with his wife and children for high treason by his own father.
Leaving Caribert, Gunthramm and Sighebert plotting against Chilperic and the opposite around… and we have not yet introduced the ‘wives’ element of those dashing princes. May be they did not get along at all. This will be for another chapter…
History teachers…Yes teachers. Then why these kidnappers. By the way, this is a rather impractical way to carry a reluctant captive. Today, you are being giving a treat. A few videos with energetic rythm and for once lyrics which make historical sense.
History teachers. Enjoy; watch and listen.
Real teachers. Devoting their free time at making History attracting, young, funny and smart.
Such luminaries video clips must be remembered. Go and visit their website, their motto says it all: History for music lovers. No cheat. And History rhymes with a decidely modern tempo.
As per this blog’s fascination toward the mis-understood period which followed the Fall of Rome:
The Vikings – They brought an end to the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. 793AD
Beowulf – a masterpiece in litterature written or rather firstly told about the days of Ad Gefrin. 633AD
Charlemagne – His father ended the Merovingian twilight. 751AD
Illuminated Manuscripts : Lindisfarne Gospel & book of Kells. Frankish script. 700AD
Empress Theodora. Died in 548AD
Attila the Hun. Defeated at the Cataulanian plains. 451AD
Constantine the Great. First converted & baptised Emperor on his deathbed. 337AD
Who said the Dark Ages could not hype you up?
Hoping the web links work…
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You never heard of her. You know her probably under another name. She may be a young he, an old she. Blond, brunette…it does not matter. Her real name is Clio; just Clio to be introduced to her is to love her. Forever.
History. I got hooked from an early age. And I carry on enjoying it, so … I shall share with you these magical moments when and where one can almost be part of it.
Clio otherwise known as the Muse of History disguised herself as a rather stern school teacher. In my salad days of pre co-ed, our teacher was female, a force of nature who had to drill in some 23 young girls ranging from 7 to 8 years of age the famous three Rs with a Gallic flavour. French reading, grammar, writing, poetry, mathematiques, natural science, calisthenics, geography and history. If you add to the complexity of her curriculum, she also had to teach us Art, Drawing, sewing and how to take care of bullies. Politically correct she may not have been; but efficient she was. Bullies knew that if and when they would come under her watch Retribution would come their wicked ways.
And she taught History. French History. Starting with cave men morphing in a few sentences into Gauls and Vercingetorix rebelling against Caesar. Caesar won; the land but not our hearts. No. Rome was the invader… and to this day Asterix still does not give his love to Rome. France was given civilization. Yes, this does not mean we did long after our striped breeches and our iron Age swords. We wore togas and ate in triclinia; but we were broody. Hostages of Rome. Prisoners in the most elegant golden cage one can imagine…and the Empire fell.
And the Barbarians came. And all made sense. Our long sleep had a purpose. We were to be the bridge between the sterile Romanitas and the ardour of our rough Rhinelander cousins. We were listening fascinated as Saint Remigius was converting Clovis on one side while good Clothilde was doing her best to suggest that it was the right thing to do. Remigius was Remi, proving that way before Disney ‘ratatouille’ was to be the right word to describe the very, very complicated lives of Clovis’s children.
Clio was homely. Who cared? She was spinning a web of tales each more fantastic than the other. Madame Biget is probably by now weaving her private Bayeux Tapestry of simplistic episodes of French History surrounded by angels.If angels exist. I am sure we all have a Mrs Biget, a Mr Smith or I wish we all had … whose description of History had more to do with an idealized past where heroes were ‘true blue’ and villains could not be but Arch-baddies.
Clio made me dream; I grew up and her solid good sense has helped me to want to learn more about History. Without the pizzazz with the real facts. Clio is adaptative to the age of her audience.
History is an endless river bringing golden nuggets of knowledge, building a bridge between the past and our future. I wish our children a teacher who can make them dream and think they are witnessing, living wonderful heroic deeds.
Thank you, Clio.
Otherwise known as:
Venerable Bede, Saxon Saint and Northumbrian monk. Bede did not move from Jarrow from the age of seven till his death. Though well-learnt and not at all travelled, Bede was a humble scientist still remarkable by nowadays standards. 672-735 .
Gregory of Tours . Frankish Courtier, Gallo-Roman aristocrat and Saint Bishop. Gregory served Charibert’s widow , attended the court of the Kingdoms of Paris and Orleans and other elated spheres and did not approve of queens from humble backgrounds. 538-594
Possibly more than one, possibly female (monks wrote, nuns wrote), certainly a group over one if not two centuries of very anonymous to the point some exegetes ponder if his/her chronicles may well have been written by the’ pseudo-Fredegar’. To provide a timeline to our anonymous thus more vcouragous in his/her opinions, is thus harder. His first books are simply a rehashing of previous chronicles… but the fifth book starting in 584 is original, spontaneous. So we can imagine a writer who had access to archives long disappeared for us starting from 584 getting more personal from 604 until 641 as it is a follower who holds the pen from 642. Hence my proposal of 584-641.
Yes. 538 to 735. Two centuries of memories, biographies,chronicles… and more than often bile, invectives and anathemas. The Dark Ages may have shone ver short-cut lives; these lives were lived to the full and with robust resentments.
As you know, my tumblr is dedicated to the so-called Dark Ages. These men are major characters because they are the ones to tell the tale. The ones who sold me the story. The enlightened ones for whom there was no dark; just the age of the day. Follows my one timeline:
Starting in Britain from the last ships leaving Dover or Richborough carrying back to the mainland the last Roman Legions. 410.
449: Adventus Saxonum. The Saxons are coming. Said Gildas, Nennius and Bede.
451, Attila, Scourge of God is coming to Gaul. This time, some legions are still there. Between the Romans, the Gallo-Romans as the Gaus are now known and their Allies the newcomers Franks, Attila decides that Italy is probably sunnier, plumper and easier to pluck. The Franks get rid of the Legions. Adventus Francorum? No. Why kill the golden goose? The Franks will become Christian, keep the bishop, the litteracy and the matching bureaucracy. Plus the taxes.
Within roughly a century, the Frankish kings establish as royal standard Merowech’s bloodline. Precisely Clovis’s bloodline. Slowly they will start the long process which will end up in France, French and about everything which blends Southern insouciance and Northern rigour, sometimes with curious results. From what our European neighbours tell us.
Regardless my point of view is that the so-called Dark Ages started from the day Rome left Britannia which conquest had caused Claudius Imperator to name his son Britaniccus. 410. Until roughly depending on my mood somewhere between 711-751. Yes, not a big discovery. Though I may chatter about the original Parisian basilica(350 AD) which housed Clovis much later.
711 : fall of the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain. The Reconquista will start soon but this is the matter for another post.
751 : the last of the Merovingian king is forever locked in a monastery.
757 : Offa of Mercia appears on the royal radar.
You have it: between our three guys we have two thirds of the Dark Ages being brought to light for us. From 410 to 550… all depends on miraculous archaelogical finds and arcane books hidden in libraries written by academics flying way above your humble snail-cum-frog.
Regardless, we have three writers with, naturally, three agendas.
Bede: Romano-Brittons and Mercia are bad; Bishops with the Church in general and Northumbria are the good guys.
Gregory: Chilperic and his whore Fredegund are bad (oops, she is Queen. Awful says he). Gunthramm, Orleans good. Plus all the prejudices of a high born, high flying courtier
Fredegar : I/We do not agree with Gregory. At all. Austrasia is great. And I/We will spare you NOT one detail however unbelievable of the hagiography when the chronicle reaches the Rise of the Pippinids… Carolingians good. Not Merovingians.
A monk, a bishop and some anonymous clerks. History seen through their eyes. History coming alive. Like Venantius Fortunatus reading his latest poem/homily/entry in his own chronicle to the well-educated ladies/nuns serving the nun-queen Radegund…
Let’s listen: our guys’s turn is coming.
History. Writing about history. Unless one has lived actually for real through the events, one must do research as to know/get an idea of what happened as to avoid flights in the realms of fancy. Though imagination is better than outrageous lies. But then laxiness is not to be praised, right?
In 2013, we are lucky. We have books, internet, museums and bless their little mechanical hearts : metal detectors. And ruins like Whitby Abbey. Or shoud I use the original Streoneshalh. 657AD.
Lately the Staffordshire hoard is now 99 pieces richer. One would go as far as suggesting investigating the totality of said field and surrounding farmlands as to understand why so much warrior/male bling was buried there. Mighty Penda, Mercia’s War-Lord, where art thou?
But mostly books. And the internet which copy-pastes said books.
The amateur for early medieval Britain and France will visit the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for Alfred’s jewel possibly. He/she will also visit Rutupiae and Reculver. Because contrary to what is commonly said : there are numerous Saxon artifacts around. Hidden, humble yet around. When one is lucky enough to see from one’s own eyes the door through which walked in and out your character (your real life character) bearing in mind said character breathed some 1500 years before your time, it gives such a unique joy in the sharing of actually really touching the stone they touched.
2012 has been a good year. A very good harvest. Laugh if you want. Yet, I feel my characters or rather their souls/spirits/manes approve of my book. God and Woden are on my side.
Books, discovery, archaelogical remains, buildings, artifacts of fabulous art recently discovered or hiding in museums: thank you for sharing your knowledge and your beauty.
And two books; one to close 2012, one to open 2013.
Northumbria: the lost kingdom Paul Gething anf Edoardo Albert.
Northanhymbre Saga :John Marsden
Yes, all you want to know about the land Ida’s sons claimed as their own. Their lives were short but intense.They lived. Not so sure about us whose lives ressemble more and more to ants’ peregrinations.
In 2013, we do not have in possession a lot of things. We still have things to see for those of us who are ready to see. Like the trace of this Saxon door at Jarrow, shadowed by the two later and much larger side walls.
For 2013, let us raise our glasses and horns to enjoy more Saxon and Frankish discoveries. Let’s enjoy what Life has to give us. Let our lives be intense.
Week-end en famille. Week-end for our royal friends. Chlodowig and Chlothildis. We suspect that the gentleman on the left with a Roman armour and the requisite long hair with Barbarian helmet is the father of our axe-wielding youngsters. Why? Have you looked at the quality of the chair. Plus the only other sitter is the Queen and her maids. Yet, only her wears some kind of crown.
So you are privy to a intimate moment of the private lives of the official first king of France and the just as officially registered as first queen. And their brood. The oldest young man who is trying to learn the fine art of throwing an hatchet is Theuderic. Born to Clovis (less letters and easier to type) and his first wife. Mother has either died in childbirth or was repudiated. Whatever she is nameless. And he is raised by his step-mother. Papa has shown his two eldest how to do the trick and now it is Theuderic’s turn. Yes, the axe is in the axe…
Next to follow and less than two years apart Chlodomir (remember the name) who hopes to outdo his eldest and outdo him as an adult much later. Near his mama: Childebert way too young to come close to a weapon. Though most probably he already has his own small dagger. And not yet born but already here Chlothar.
Near the king, some warriors. Not his kinsmen. Chlodowech has already got rid of them. The Frankish realm will be ruled by his own bloodline. Not a distant cousin. Near the Queen : a bishop and two priests. Chlothildis is a Christian of Roman obedience. She played a major role in her husband’s decision to become a Christian. Much later, both will become saints and are still qualified as such. I suspect the Church is still thankful
Finally, some courtiers, maids of honour and the hatchet.
This is it…is it? The king is educating his sons to become warriors. The queen provides cultural and evangelical curriculum. Yes, probably it did happen. Somehow like that. We are in Paris, in the old basilica. Still fit enough to accomodate the rough living of dapper Barbarians.
And time flies. Clovis dies. And his sons are grown men. The four of them and one large kingdom. To Theuderic, the Rheims realm. Not bad (champers for you).
Chlodomir gets also a nice slice. Orleans. Childebert gets Paris and Cholthar the youngest the smallest share. Chlothar may be the benjamin; he is as ruthless as his father. He will instigate ten years after his father’s death the murder of Chlodomir and importantly the murder of his nephews. Richard III has invented nothing.
Only one will survive. Chlodoald who will be known much later as Saint Cloud. He will enter the priesthood, cutting his hair hence saving his life (only kings and their heirs could have long hair; by shroving his Cloud saved his life)
Saint Cloud is today a quiet Parisian suburb with an hellish road tunnel; Cloud never became king. I suspect the daily traffic jams in the said tunnel are his revenge.
Just before killing their nephews, the three brothers asked their mother if she would countenance them entering a monastery. Chlothildis, Saint Clotilde replies: better dead than shorn. A servant disobeyed and allowed Cloud to survive.
Told you: they all die young. And quite often not peacefully at all.