The Legendary History of the Anglo-Saxon People, from the Coming of the Sheaf-Child to the Settlement of England
compiled from divers sources by Gavin Chappell
Long ago, in the very dawn of time, a small boat was cast ashore on the coasts of the island known as Scania. The natives of that land found within the boat a young child who lay with his head upon a sheaf of corn, and was surrounded by weapons. Though they could not know who the child was or from where he had come, they took him in and accepted him as one of their own, named him Sceaf and nurtured him in his youth. Later they chose him to rule over them as king.
After a reign of many years, in which he was in all things a just and wise ruler, Sceaf died. His sorrowing subjects placed him in a ship and entrusted it to the open seas, returning him to the waters from which he had so mysteriously come. He left a son named Bedwig, who succeeded him.
Bedwig begat Hwala, the old genealogies tell us, and Hwala begat Hathra; Hathra had a son named Itermon, Itermon begat Heremod, Heremod begat Sceldwa, who begat Beow, whose son was named Tætwa. Tætwa's son was Geat, whose son was Godwulf. Godwulf begat Finn, Finn begat Frithuwulf, Frithuwulf begat Frealaf. Of all these generations little is recorded. But Frealaf's son was Woden, of which many things are written.
Woden is held to be one of the gods. He is famous for his wisdom and his accomplishments, and he is said to rule over Esageard in the land of the gods. During his life in this middle-earth he fathered many royal lines among the men of the north, including those of the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes.
Dwelling in Esageard with Woden are twelve other gods, who like him are known as the Ese, and men worship them throughout the Northlands. Woden is said to be a great warrior, who has conquered many kingdoms, gaining victory in every battle. When he sent his men into battle, or on any kind of expedition, he would lay his hand upon their brows, and call down a benediction upon them; this meant that their undertaking was always successful. Whenever his worshippers fall into danger by land or sea, they call his name, from which they always gain comfort and aid, for wherever Woden is, help is close. He often sets out on journeys that may last many seasons.
He has two brothers, Weoh and Willa, and they rule over Esageard when he is elsewhere. It is said by some that once, when Woden was away so long that the gods thought he would never return, these two divided his possession between them, although they took his wife, the goddess Frige, to themselves. But it was not long before Woden returned, and took his wife back. His first wife was Eorthe, daughter of Erce; when Woden saw how beautiful her daughter Frige was, he deserted Eorthe for her, but before this they had a son together, the god Thunær. Thunær was sent to be fostered by the giant Wingner in Thrythhame. But when he was ten winters old, Thunær took his father's weapons. When he was twelve, he came into his full strength. It was then that he lifted ten bearskins from the ground at once. Then he slew his foster father Winger, and his wife Hlore, and took Thrythhame as his own. After this, he journeyed through many lands, fighting and conquering all the giants single-handedly, and defeated a great serpent and many monsters. In the far north he found the goddess Sibbe, and he married her. No one knows the ancestry of Sibbe; she is the fairest of all women, her hair is like gold. Then Thunær came to Esageard, where his father welcomed him.
It was not long after this that the Ese went to war with the Wena, another race of gods from the land Wanahame, but they were well prepared, and defend their land. The war raged back and forth, and each tribe did much harm to the other. But when they grew tired with this, both sides met to establish peace, calling a truce, and exchanging hostages.
The Wena sent their best men, Neortha the Rich, and his son Frea. The Ese sent a god named Hona, who they thought was ideally suited to become a chieftain, since he was a stout and handsome god, and with him they sent the wise giant Mima. When Hona came to Wanahame they instantly made him a chief, and Mima counselled him well whenever he was close.
But if Mima was not near, when Hona was at council and the Wenas asked him for his thoughts, he would always say 'Let others give advice.' As a result, the Wena came to think that the Ese had not given them a fair exchange, and so they cut off Mima's head, and sent it to the Ese. But Woden too the head, preserving it with herbs so that it would not decay, and cast spells over it, giving it the power to speak. From Mima's head he learnt many secrets.
Meanwhile, Woden had placed Neortha and Frea among the Ese. Neortha's daughter was Freo, and she taught the Ese the arts of witchcraft, which the Wena were greatly accustomed to. When he was still with the Wena, Neortha had married his own sister, a thing that was not forbidden by their law. Their children were Frea and Freo. But it was not customary among the Ese to marry such close relatives. Some time after, Neortha married a giantess from Eotenhame, land of the giants, who was named Sceadu, but she would not live with him, and later she married Woden, and they had many sons.
Woden knew the art of prophecy, and with it he learnt that these sons would settle and rule over the Northlands. He put his brothers Weoh and Willa in charge of Esageard, and rode north with the gods. Wherever they journeyed, men would say great things about them. They did not pause in their travels before they came to the land that is now called Saxony. Here Woden remained for a long time, and he ruled the country far and wide.
He set seven of his sons to defend the land. One of them was Wadolgeat, and he ruled over the Angles. His son was Wihtlæg, who had two sons; one was Wehta, who begat Witta, who begat Wihtgils, who begat the brothers Hengest and Horsa. From Hengest descend the kings of Kent and Saxony. The other son was Wærmund, whose son was Offa from whom the kings of Mercia descend.
Another son was Casere, and his son was Tætman, from whom later descended the royal line of East Anglia. Woden's third son was Bældæg, who ruled over what is now Westphalia. His sons were Forseta, who ruled over the Frisians, and Brand, whose son was Gewis, from whom descended both the royal line of Wessex and the kings of Bernicia.
The fourth son was Wægdæg, who ruled eastern Saxony. His son was Sigegar, from whom descend the kings of Deira. Fifth was Garwendel, who ruled over the Jutes, until they came under the sway of the Angles. From all of these come many and great races.
Woden rode further northward, and came at last to the land named Hrethgothland, where he conquered all who resisted him. In Hrethgothland he set his sixth son, who was named Scyld. His son was Frealaf, whose descendants were the Scyldings, who were the Dane-kings, and the land that was then called Hrethgothland is now Denmark.
Woden took up his abode in Odense, in the island of Fyn. He sent one of his number, the goddess Gyfun, north across the sound to explore the countries beyond, and she discovered the land we now call Sweden. Here she met Gylfa, the giant who ruled these lands, and he gave her a ploughgate of land in return for a night's entertainment. Then she travelled further into the north, coming to Eotenhame, the land of the giants, where she bore four sons to a giant. With her magic, she transformed these sons into oxen, yoked them to a plough, and ploughed out the land into the sea opposite Odense. The name given to this land is Zealand, and afterwards this was where she settled. Woden's son Scyld married her, and they dwelt at Lejre. Where the land was ploughed out in Sweden there is now a lake called Laage, and it cane be seen that this was where Zealand came from, since the inlets of the lake correspond with the peninsulas of the island.
From Gyfun Woden had learnt that the land in the east was prosperous, and he went there, and Gylfa made peace with him, thinking that he could not resist the gods. But Woden and Gylfa often tricked each other and cast spells and enchantments against each other, but the gods won.
Woden dwelt beside Lake Mælare, in the town now called Old Sigtuna, where he erected a large temple where sacrifices were made by the laws of the Ese. He ruled over the whole of the surrounding district, and it was called Sigtuna. He also gave domains to all his fellow gods.
Finally, he rode northwards to the shores of the ocean, where he set his seventh son in the land now known as Norway. The son's name was Sæming, and the kings of Norway are descended from him.
When Woden and the gods came to the Northlands, they introduced and taught to others all the arts that people have practised ever since. Woden was the wisest and most cunning of all, and it was from him that other learnt all arts and accomplishments; and he knew them first, and knew far more than other people.
When he was with his friends, his face was so beautiful and dignified that all felt exhilarated in his presence; but when he went to war, he appeared dreadful to his enemies. This was because he could change his skin and his shape in any way he wished.
Woden was so eloquent and clever in his speech that everyone who heard his words believed them. He always spoke in verse, and he and the gods were called song-smiths, and they introduced the art of song into the north.
He had the power to make his battle enemies blind, or deaf, or to strike them with terror, and render their iron blade blunt so they could cut now more than a willow wand. But his warriors rushed into battle without wearing armour, and were as wild as dogs or wolves; they bit their shields, and had the strength of bears or wild bulls. They slew their enemies at a blow, but neither fire nor iron could harm them. Their name was the Berserkers.
Woden could change his shape. His body would lie as if dead, but he would take the form of a fish, or a snake, or a bird or a beast, and be off in an instant to far-off lands on his business, or that of others. With words alone he could quench fires, still the stormy ocean, and turn the wind to any quarter he wished.
He and his fellow gods owned a ship that could sail over wide seas, but could also be rolled up as if it were a cloak. At all times, he carried Mima's head with him, and it told him news of other lands.
At times he would call the dead out of the earth and question them, or sit upon burial mounds to gain knowledge from ghosts. He had two ravens that spoke to him, and they flew through all lands and brought him news. In all things he was superlatively wise. He taught all these arts in runes and spells, and another name for the gods is spell-smiths.
Woden was a master of magic, by which he could know the fate of men, and could bring on death, misfortune or poor health for his foes, or take the strength and intelligence of one and give it to another. But from this witchcraft came such weakness that it was thought shameful for men to practise it. Woden also knew where all missing possessions were concealed, and knew the spells to open up the earth, the hills, the stones, and burial mounds. He could bind those who dwelt within them by his word, and take all he pleased. From these accomplishments he became renowned.
His enemies feared him, his friends trusted him, and relied upon his power. He taught many of his arts to his priests, and they came closest to him in wisdom. But many others learnt witchcraft, and it spread far and wide.
Woden established the same law on earth that had existed in Esageard. This said that all dead men should be burned, their belongings laid with them upon the pyre, the ashes cast into the sea or buried. As a result of this, he told them, people would came to Walhall, the Hall of the Slain in Esageard, with all the riches cast on the pyre. Also they would enjoy all that they had buried in the ground.
For great men a mound should be raised to their memory, and all warriors who had distinguished themselves a standing stone should be raised. In autumn there should be a sacrifice for a good year, and another at Yule for a good crop; a third sacrifice should be in the spring, and this should be for victory.
As we related above, Woden's son Bældæg became king of the land we now call Westphalia, at that time the domain of the Heathobards. Before this it was ruled by King Heathobard, but Woden and the gods defeated him in battle and seized his kingdom, bestowing it upon Bældæg. He married a local woman, and had two sons by her, Forseta and Brand.
At this time, Heathobard's young son Hætha was being fostered by the neighbouring King Gewar. During a visit to King Gewar's lands, Bældæg saw Nanne, daughter of Gewar, and despite his existing wife, fell in love with her. He set out to the court to ask for her hand.
When Hætha, who was also in love with his foster-sister, learnt of Bældæg's intentions, he went to Gewar.
'I wish to marry Nanne,' he told him.
Gewar looked troubled.
'Willingly would I give you my daughter's hand,' said the king, 'but word has reached me that Bældæg has the same desire. And all know that, by spells, the gods have made Bældæg's body invulnerable to iron.'
'Is there no way we could slay him?' demanded Hætha.
'I do know of a sword that could kill the god,' replied Gewar, 'but it is in the keeping of Miming, a wood-elf who dwells in Halgoland, in the far north.'
Undeterred, Hætha set out to find the sword.
Meanwhile, Bældæg came to Gewar's court. On making his request, Gewar replied;
'Ask Nanne for her own opinion,' and Bældæg did so.
'I do not think it is fitting that a mortal like myself should marry a god.'
After this refusal, Hætha returned unexpectedly from the north, bearing the sword of Miming, and attacked Bældæg. The gods came to Bældæg's aid, Woden with his spear, Thunær with his mighty hammer, and many another. But Hætha fought back, and even took on Thunær, hacking off the thunder-god's hammer haft. With this weapon damaged, the gods fled to Odense, Bældæg with them.
Victorious, Hætha returned to Gewar, and in great pomp he married Nanne. He brought his queen back to his own land, but then Bældæg returned, and defeated him, forcing him to flee to Gewar. After the battle, Bældæg pierced the earth and created a fresh spring for his thirsty troops. But Nanne's absence plagued the god, and each night he dreamed of phantoms of her. He grew so ill that he could no longer walk.
At this time, Hætha had been accepted as king by the Danes. On learning this, Bældæg came after him with a fleet. They fought over the territories of the Danes, and Bældæg forced Hætha into retreat.
Now the gods decided to bring back Bældæg's strength with a magical meal. But before it could be prepared, Hætha returned, and attacked Bældæg's host. He met with Bældæg, and wounded him mortally with the Sword of Miming, and the god retreated from the field. Next day, he returned to the battle in a litter, rather than die in his tent. That night, however, he saw Hel, goddess of the underworld, who promised him that she would soon have him in her embrace.
After three days, Bældæg died from his wound, and his followers buried him in a barrow.
Woden began to ask seers and wise-women how to avenge his son's death. In the far north he met Horstheof of Eotenhame.
'You must father another son by Hrind, daughter of the giant-king, and this son will avenge his brother's death.'
So Woden muffled his face in his hood, and entered the service of the giant-king. He became captain of the giant-warriors, and won a splendid victory over their enemies. The king lauded him highly, and even more so after he succeeded in routing the foe single-handedly. Now he was so far in the king's favour, he told him of his love for Hrind. Although the giant-king favoured him, Hrind only hit him when he came looking for a kiss.
Undeterred, the next year he returned to the king in the guise of a foreigner, saying that his name was Horstheow, and that he was a smith. The king gave him a great deal of gold, and told him to make rich ornaments for the ladies of the court. Woden offered Hrind an exquisite bracelet and several rings. But again, when he tried to kiss her, she struck him. Her father was angry with her for refusing him, but she said "I will not wed an old man!"
A third time, Woden went to the king, in the guise of a warrior. Again she struck him when he tried to kiss her, but he touched her with a rune-carved stave, and she fell into a fit.
Woden took on the form of a maiden, and went to the giants again.
'I am Wicce, a physician,' he told them.
'Then you must tend Hrind, my daughter,' said the unsuspecting giant-king; and in this way, Woden managed to have his way with the girl.
But because Woden had brought shame to the gods by these actions, the gods banished him, putting in his place the god Wuldor, who ruled the gods for nine years. Wuldor was a cunning wizard who used a bone marked with runes to cross the sea, rather than a ship. But at last the gods pitied Woden in his exile, and he returned, driving Wuldor out to be slain by the Danes. Now Woden discovered that Wala, his son by Hrind, was a warrior, and he went to the lad, reminding him of his brother's death.
Wala met Hætha in battle, and slew him, but was so badly wounded that he died the next day.
Now Woden told the people of the North that he was returning to Esageard, and that there he would welcome all his friends, and said that all brave warriors should be dedicated to him; now he lives there eternally.
Then began the belief in Woden, and the calling upon him. It is believe that he appears to the people of the North before any great battle. He gives victory to some; other he invites to his hall; both of these are fortunate.
They burned Woden's body, and at his pyre there was much splendour. They say that the higher the smoke rises in the air, the higher in Walhall will he sit, whose pyre it is; and that the more property is consumed with him, the richer he shall be in the next life.
Garwendel son of Woden ruled over the Jutes, until his cousin Wadolgeat of the Angles defeated him in battle. Wadolgeat established his power over the Jutes, but appointed Garwendel's sons Earendel and Feng as under-kings. Earendel reigned for three years, then decided to win for himself a wife. He heard of the princess Garthryth, fairest woman in the world, who was imprisoned in a tower in Eotenhame, surrounded and guarded over by giants. Earendel set out north with his fleet, bound for the land of the giants, but for three years his progress was hindered by the ice, until finally a storm freed them. Then the fleet sailed on to a land governed by a giant named Bela, who Earendel defeated in a sea-battle.
But then his ship was wrecked, and Earendel came floating on a plank to an island where he was rescued by a man who introduced himself as Yse the fisherman. But Earendel soon saw that the man was no ordinary fisherman; he had a castle with seven towers, and a host of fishermen served under him. In truth, he was the god Thunær, who in the northern oceans had once had the world-serpent on his hook. Earendel emancipated himself from his slavery with gold.
After many other adventures, Earendel came to the Meadows of Neorxena, where Garthyrth was imprisoned. Thunær himself showed him the way. Earendel found Garthryth surrounded by giants and monsters, who spent their time fighting each other, but still waited upon the fair maiden as their princess. When Earendel approached, the giants tried to take his life, and he was hard pressed to defend himself.
But he came at last to Garthryth's bower, where she received him with a kiss and a greeting, knowing that he was to be her husband. Once Earendel had defeated all the giants, they celebrated a kind of wedding, but between them lay a two-edged sword, and they slept like brother and sister by each other's side before sailing back to Jutland.
Earendel had now passed three years in valiant deeds of war, and to win Wadolgeat's favour, he gave the king the pick of his plunder. He married Garthryth, and she bore him a son named Amluth. For many years they lived in peace.
But Feng, Earendel's brother, was jealous at his good luck, and after much brooding he decided to murder his brother. When the chance came to do this, he seized upon it, then married Garthryth, telling the people that Earendel had greatly ill-treated her.
'It was to save her that I slew my brother,' he told the people. 'I thought it was shameful that she should suffer her husband's abuse.' And he was widely believed.
Amluth was one who put no credence in his uncle's claims. But fearing Feng might suspect him, he feigned madness.
Every day he lay by the hearth of his mother's house, rolling in the dirt. Nothing that he said was anything other than madness. At other times he would sit over the fire, fashioning wooden crooks, hardening them in the fire and shaping barbs at their ends to make them hold more tightly.
Someone asked him what he was doing.
'I am preparing sharp javelins to avenge my father,' was his crazy reply. Everyone scoffed at this; but it helped him afterwards.
But these words made some of Feng's thanes suspect a cunning mind beneath the mad behaviour.
'His skill suggests he has the hidden talent of a craftsman,' said one of them to the king.
'His mind is quick enough,' said another, 'and he only acts the fool to hide some other intentions.'
'Can you prove his deceitfulness?' asked Feng thoughtfully.
'We would, my lord,' said a thane, 'if we put a beautiful woman in his way, in some secluded place, and tempt him to acts of love. All men are too blind in love to be cunning.'
So Feng sent his thanes to take the young man to a remote part of the forest, and do all that they thought necessary.
Among them was Amluth's foster-brother, who did not want to trap Amluth, but decided to warn him if he could. He could see that Amluth would suffer the most if he behaved sanely, and if he made love to the girl openly. But Amluth was aware of this also. When the men asked him to mount his horse, he sat upon it backwards, putting the reins on the tail. They rode on, and a wolf crossed Amluth's path through the thicket.
'A young colt has met you,' said one of the thanes, laughing at his own wit.
'In Feng's stud there are too few of that king fighting,' said Amluth. There were some frowns at this, which seemed to them a wittier answer than they had expected.
'Your answer is cunning,' said the first thane, ruefully.
'I speak nothing but truth,' replied Amluth. He had no wish to be seen to lie about anything, and he mingled truth with wit to reveal nothing about the matter or about himself.
They came to the beach, where the thanes found the steering-oar of a wrecked ship.
'Look, Amluth,' said one, 'we have found a huge knife!'
'Then it was the right thing to carve so big a ham,' Amluth replied. There was laughter at this, but in fact he meant the sea, which matched the steering-oar in vastness.
As they rode past the dunes, one said;
'Look at this meal!' referring the sand.
'The tempests of the ocean have ground it small,' Amluth replied.
'That's not the answer of a fool,' said the thane accusingly.
'I spoke it wittingly,' replied Amluth.
Then the thanes left him, so he could pluck up the courage for love-making. In a dark place he encountered his foster-sister, who was the woman Feng had sent to tempt him. He took her, and would have slept with her immediately, had her brother not given him some idea that this was a trap. For the man had attached a straw to the tail of a gadfly, which he had sent in Amluth's direction, and Amluth guessed from this that it was a secret warning to beware treachery. So he dragged the maid off to a distant fen, where they made love. Before they did so, Amluth secretly laid down three objects he had gathered during the journey. Once they had lain together, he asked her earnestly to tell no one. She agreed in view of their long friendship.
When he returned home, the thanes were waiting for him.
'Did you give way?' asked one slyly.
'Why, I ravished the maid,' he replied.
'Where did you do it?' asked another. 'And what was your pillow?'
'I rested on the hoof of a donkey, a cockscomb, and a ceiling,' replied Amluth, and all laughed at the mad reply, but in truth, it had been fragments of these three objects that Amluth had laid down on the ground before sleeping with his foster-sister.
'Is what this madman says true?' they asked the girl.
'He did no such thing!' she replied firmly. Also Amluth's escort agreed that it would have been impossible.
Then Amluth's foster-brother said;
'Latterly, I have been singly devoted to you, brother.'
In reply, Amluth said;
'I saw a certain thing bearing a straw flit by suddenly, wearing a stalk of chaff fixed to its hind parts.' Although the others laughed, his foster brother rejoiced.
So none of them had succeeded in tricking Amluth. But one of Feng's thanes, in council, said;
'No simple plot can prove Amluth's cunning. 'His obstinacy is great, and his wiliness is many-sided.'
'Then what do you suggest?' asked the king.
'I have thought of a better way, which will certainly help us learn what we wish. My lord, you must leave the palace, claiming that affairs of state take you elsewhere. Closet Amluth alone with his mother in her chamber, but first place a man in hiding in the room to listen to their speech. If Amluth has any wits he will not hesitate to trust his mother.'
Feng nodded approvingly.
Feng left the court claiming to be on a long journey. His thane went secretly to Garthryth's chamber, and hid himself in the straw. But Amluth was ready for any treachery. Afraid of eavesdroppers, he crowed like a noisy cock on entering the room, flapping his arms as if they were wings. Then he began to jump up and down on the straw to see if anything lurked there. Feeling a lump under his feet, he drove his sword in, and impaled the thane. Then he dragged the man from hiding and slew him. After that he hacked the body into pieces, seethed them in boiling water, and flung them into an open sewer for the pigs to eat.
Now he returned to his mother's chamber, where she lamented his madness. But he reproached her for her conduct, and tore her heart with his words.
When Feng returned, he could find his thane nowhere. Jokingly, he asked Amluth, among others, if he had seen him.
'Your thane went to the sewer, but he fell in and drowned in filth,' Amluth replied with a wild grin. 'Then the swine ate him.'
Feng shook his head in disgust at this apparent nonsense.
Now Feng was certain that his stepson was full of guile and treachery, and he wished to slay him, but did not dare do this openly for fear of his wife. Instead, he decided to ask his old friend the King of Britain to kill him, so that he could claim ignorance of the deed.
Before Amluth went, he went to his mother in secret.
'Hang the hall with woven knots,' he told her enigmatically. 'And if I do not return after a year, perform obsequies for me. Then will I return.'
Two of Feng's thanes went with him, taking with them a runic message to the King of Britain, asking him to execute their charge. On board ship, while his two companions were sleeping, Amluth searched them, found the message, and read the runes. Then he scratched clean the stave, and cut his own message to the effect that his companions should be put to death, not he. In a postscript he asked that the King of Britain give his daughter in marriage to "a youth of great judgement" who he was sending. He signed it with his uncle's signature.
When they reached Britain, the envoys went to the ruler, and gave him the rune-stave. The king read it, then gave them good entertainment. But when Amluth had the meat and drink of the feast placed before him, he rejected it.
'How incredible,' people were heard to murmur, 'that a foreign lad should turn his nose up at the dainties of the royal table as if it were some peasant's stew.'
When the feast was over, and the king was bidding goodnight to his friends, he sent a man to the quarters assigned to Amluth and his companions to listen to their speech.
'Why did you act as if the king's meat was poisoned?' asked one of the thanes.
'Blood flecked the bread,' replied Amluth. 'Did you not see it? And there was a tang of iron in the mead. As for the meat, it smelled like rotting flesh. Besides, the king has the eyes of a thrall, and in three ways the queen acted like a bondmaid.'
His companions jeered at him for his words.
Meanwhile, the king heard all this from his spy.
'He who could say such things,' the king remarked, 'must possess either more than mortal wisdom, or more than mortal folly.'
He summoned his reeve, and asked him where he the bread came from.
'It was made by your own baker, my lord,' replied the reeve.
'Where did the corn of which it was made grow?' asked the king. 'Are there any signs of carnage in the vicinity?'
The reeve replied.
'Nearby is a field where men fought in former days,' he said. 'I planted this field with grain in spring, thinking it more fruitful than the others.' He shrugged. 'Maybe this affected the bread's flavour.'
Hearing this, the king assumed that Amluth had spoken truly.
'And where did the meat come from?
'My pigs strayed from their keeper,' the reeve admitted. 'and they were found eating the corpse of a robber. Perhaps it was this that the youth could taste.'
'And of what liquor did you mix the mead?'
'It was brewed of water and meal,' replied the reeve. 'I could show you the spring from which the water came.'
He did so, and when the king had it dug deep down, he found there several rusted swords.
After this, the king went to speak with his mother.
'Who was my real father?' he asked.
'I submitted to no man but the king your father,' she replied.
He threatened to have the truth out of her with a trial, and she relented.
'Very well,' she replied. 'If you must know, your real father was a thrall.'
By this, the king understood Amluth's words. Although ashamed of his lowly origins, the king was so amazed by Amluth's cleverness that he asked him to his face why he had said the queen behaved like a bondmaid. But then he found that her mother had indeed been a thrall.
Amluth told the king that he had seen three faults in her behaviour.
'To begin with,' he said, 'she muffles her head in her mantle like a handmaid. Secondly, she picks up her gown when she walks. Thirdly, I saw her pick a piece of food from her teeth and then eat it.' He went on to say that the king's mother had been enslaved after captivity, in case she might seem servile only in her habits, rather than her birth.
The king praised Amluth's wisdom as if it was inspired, and in accordance with the message from Feng, gave him his daughter as wife. On the next day, to fulfil the rest of the message, he had Amluth's companions hanged. Amluth feigned anger at this, and the king gave him gold in wergild, which he melted in the fire, and poured into two hollowed-out sticks.
After spending a year with the king, he asked leave to make a journey, and sailed back to his own land, taking with him only the sticks containing the gold. When he reached Jutland, he dressed again in his old rags, and entered the banquet hall covered in filth. Here he found the people holding his wake, and he struck them aghast, since all believed him to be dead. But in the end, their terror turned to laughter. The guests jeered and taunted each other.
'That Amluth should turn up at his own funeral!'
'Where are the men who went with you?' someone asked.
Amluth pointed to the sticks he bore.
'Here they are,' he replied, to the laughter of all. Then he jollied the cupbearers, asking them to ply more drink. Next he girdled his sword on his side, then drew it several times, and cut himself with it. To protect him from himself, the king's thanes had sword and scabbard riveted with iron nails. Then Amluth plied the thanes with horn after horn of mead, until all were drunk. They fell asleep one by one in the hall itself.
Now Amluth took from his rags the wooden crooks he had fashioned so long ago, then cut down the hanging his mother had made, which covered both the inner and the outer walls of the hall. Flinging this over the sleeping thanes, the then applied the crooked stakes, knotting and binding them so none could rise. Then he set fire to the hall.
As the fire spread, he went to Feng's chamber, where he took his uncle's sword from where it hung over the bed, and replaced it with his own. Then he woke Feng
'Your men are dying in flames,' he said. 'And here am I, Amluth, armed with my crooks to help me, athirst for long overdue vengeance, for my father's murder.'
On hearing this, Feng leapt from his couch and tried to draw the sword that hung over his bed. But Amluth cut him down as he struggled to unsheathe the weapon.
Uncertain of how the Jutish nation would react to his deeds, Amluth lay in hiding until he could learn the people's thoughts. Everyone living nearby had watched the hall burn through the night, and in the morning they came to see what had occurred. Searching the ruins they found nothing but a few burnt corpses, and the body of Feng stabbed with his own sword. Some were angry, others saddened, others happy that the tyrant had been slain.
At this, Amluth abandoned his hiding place, and called an assembly. Here he told the Jutes of the circumstances that had brought this about, where upon the people proclaimed him king, seeing him as a man of wisdom and cunning.
With this done, Amluth equipped three ships, and sailed back to Britain to see his wife and his father-in-law. With him went the best of his thanes, well equipped and richly clad. He had had a shield made for him, upon which was painted the story of his exploits.
The King of Britain received them well, treating them as befits a king and his retinue. During the feast he asked;
'Is my old friend Feng alive and well?'
Amluth shook his head.
'He died by the sword,' he replied.
'Who slew him?' asked the king sharply.
'It was I,' replied Amluth.
At this the king said nothing, but secretly he was horrified, for in their youth he and Feng had sworn that each should avenge the other's death if one of them were to be slain. But the slayer was his son-in-law. Which should he chose, to honour his vow, or to respect the ties of blood and marriage? At last, he chose the former, but decided that he would achieve vengeance by the hands of another.
'I have sad tidings to relate, also,' he said. 'While you were among the Jutes, my wife died of illness.'
Amluth offered his condolences, and asked if he intended to marry again.
'Indeed,' the king replied, 'and since I am delight with you cunning and craft, I would like you to find me a fresh match.'
'Do you have any preferences?' asked Amluth.
The king replied that he did. 'In Pictland there reigns an unmarried queen named Eormenthryth. I wish to marry her.' But he neglected to tell Amluth that the reason the queen was unmarried was because she had the custom of killing all who wooed her.
Amluth set out for Pictland with his thanes and some of the king's attendants. When he was near the hall of the queen, he came to a meadow by the road where he rested his horses. Finding the spot pleasing, he resolved to rest himself there, too, and posted men to keep watch some way off.
Queen Eormenthryth learnt of this, and sent ten warriors to spy on the foreigners. One of them slipped past the guards and took Amluth's shield, which Amluth was using as a pillow, and the letter the King of Britain had entrusted him with. When he brought these things to Queen Eormenthryth, she examined the shield, and saw that this was the man who had with cunning and craft unsurpassed avenged on his uncle the murder of his father. She also read the letter with distaste. She had no desire to marry an old man. She rubbed out all the writing, and wrote in their place saying that the bearer was to ask her hand himself. Then she told the spies to replace both shield and letter.
Meanwhile, Amluth had found the shield had been stolen, kept his eyes shut and feigned sleep when the spy returned. As the man was replacing the shield and letter, Amluth sprang up, and seized him. Then he woke his thanes, and they rode on to the queen's palace.
He greeted her.
'I am here to represent my father-in-law, the King of Britain,' he told her, and he handed her the letter, sealed with the king's seal.
Eormenthryth too it, and read it.
'I have heard of you,' she said. 'You are said to be very cunning. Your uncle deserved all he received at your hands. You achieved deeds beyond mortal estimation. Not only did you avenge you father's death and your mother's faithlessness, but at the same time you gained a kingdom. You have made only one mistake.'
'And that is?' challenged Amluth.
'Why, your lowly marriage,' Eormenthryth replied, as if it was obvious. 'Your wife's parents were both of the stock of thralls, even if they became kings by accident. When looking for a wife, a man must regard firstly her birth over her beauty. I, whose origin is far from humble, am worthy of your bed and your embraces, since you surpass me in neither wealth nor ancestry. I am a queen, and whoever I deem worthy of my bed is king.' She embraced him.
Amluth, overjoyed by her words, kissed her back, and told her that her wishes were as his own. A banquet was held, the Picts gathered, and they were married.
When this was done, Amluth returned to Britain with his bride, and a strong band of Picts followed to guard against attack. As they came south, they met the King of Britain's daughter.
'It would be unworthy of me to hate you as an adulterer more than I love you as a husband,' she said, 'for I have now a son as a pledge of our marriage, and regard for him, if nothing else, means I must show the affection of a wife. He may hate his mother's supplanter, I will love her. But I must tell you that you must beware your father-in-law.'
As she was speaking, the King of Britain came up and embraced Amluth, and welcomed him to a banquet.
But Amluth, being forewarned, took a retinue of two hundred horsemen, and rode to the hall appointed. As he did so, the king attacked him under the porch of the hall, and thrust at him with a spear, but Amluth's mailshirt deflected the blow. Amluth was slightly wounded, and he went back to the Pictish warriors. Then he sent to the king Eormenthryth's spy, who he had taken prisoner. The man was to explain what had occurred, and absolve Amluth.
The king pursued Amluth, and slew many of his men. The next day, Amluth, wishing to fight, increased his apparent numbers by setting some of the corpses on horseback, and tying others to stones, and giving the impression that his forces were undiminished, and striking fear into the hearts of his opponents, who fled. Amluth's forces came down upon the king as he was retreating, and slew him.
Amluth amassed a great amount of plunder, and then went with his two wives back to his own land.
In the mean time, Wadolgeat had died, and Wihtlæg, his son, had become king of the Angles. He had immediately begun to harass Garthryth, Amluth's mother, and stripped her of her royal wealth, saying that Amluth had usurped the kingdom of the Jutes, and defrauded the King of the Angles, his overlord.
In a spirit of conciliation, Amluth presented Wihtlæg with the richest of his spoils, but soon after he seized the chance for revenge, by attacking and subduing him. After this, Wihtlæg recruited the forces of the Angles, and challenged the Jutes to war. Amluth saw that he was caught between disgrace and danger; if he accepted the challenge he would risk defeat or death, but to flee would be dishonourable. Finally, he decided to meet Wihtlæg on the field of combat.
But because he loved Eormenthryth so much, he was more concerned about her widowhood than his death. She said that she had a man's courage, and would not abandon him on the battlefield. But she did not keep this promise. Amluth rode against Wihtlæg in Jutland, and met his end in the fray. Now Eormenthryth accepted Wihtlæg's offer of marriage, thus betraying Amluth's memory. So fell the Jutish royal house.
After this defeat, many Jutes fled to Frisia, where they were welcomed by the king, Folcwalda, and their descendants were still at his court three generations later.
Wihtlæg ruled over the two kingdoms for many long and peaceful years, before dying of disease.
Wihtlæg had two sons. The elder, Wærmund, succeeded his father as king of the Angles, while the younger was Wehta, whose descendants later became kings of Kent. It was a quiet and prosperous time for the Angles, and Wærmund reigned long over a peaceful land.
In his prime, he had no children, but in old age he had a son named Offa, who surpassed everyone else in stature, but from his youth he never spoke or laughed, never played or made merry. His father pitied him, and got him for wife the daughter of Freawine, a descendant of Brand son of Bældæg, who was under-king of the Wærnas. Wærmund thought that this alliance would ensure that Offa would have help in ruling the kingdom. Freawine had two sons, Cedd and Wig, excellent youths who Wærmund hoped would assist his son in later years when he ascended the throne.
In those days, the King of the Myrgings, a people who lived south of Angeln, across the River Eider, was Eadgils. He had defeated many neighbouring nations, and was still a great warrior. One of his customs was to walk alone clad in full armour, partly to keep himself permanently in practice, partly for the glory this gave him. In search of further glory, he led his war-bands into the north, and challenged Freawine to battle at the border of his territories.
The battle was long and bloody. In the midst of the fighting, the two leader met to fight in person. Eadgils slew Freawine, and his armies put those of the Angles to flight. Now Eadgils returned to the land of the Myrgings, and bragged out of measure concerning his exploit.
Wærmund raised Freawine's sons to their father's rank, and when Eadgils heard of this, he set out for the Wærna-lands immediately to harry them once more, having in his host the greatest warriors of his realm.
Cedd, son of Freawine, sent his chief thane Folca to inform Wærmund of Eadgils' return. Folca found Wærmund feasting in his hall, and gave his message.
'Here is the long-hoped for chance of war at hand,' he told the king, 'for now you have the chance of honourable victory on the field. Eadgils comes with his full host, sure of victory. Doubtless he would prefer death to flight, so now you may avenge the death of Freawine.'
Wærmund nodded approvingly at the words.
'You have spoken this message boldly,' he said. 'Join us at the board,' he added, inviting him to sit at the feast. 'You must be weary after your journey.'
I have no time to eat,' replied Folca, 'but I would ask of you a drink to quench my thirst.' Wærmund gave him a drink in a golden cup.
'And you may keep the cup,' he told the messenger. 'Men weary from travel find it better to use a cup for drinking than the hand.'
'I would drink as much of my own blood,' Folca replied proudly, 'before you will see me turn and flee!'
Wærmund thought that he was well repaid with this vow.
When battle began, Folca met Eadgils in the fray, and they fought together for a long time, until the Myrgings began to retreat. Folca had wounded Eadgils, and the Myrging king joined the general rout. When Folca, dazed with his wounds, ceased pursuing the enemy, he caught his own blood in his helmet, and drank it, thus repaying the king's gift. Wærmund, who saw this, praised him for fulfilling his vow.
'A warrior should perform a noble vow to the end,' Folca replied, showing as much approval of his own deed as Wærmund had.
Eadgils fled back to the Myrgings, bragging of the killing of Freawine to salve the wound caused by his ignominious flight. When they heard of this, Cedd and Wig were greatly angered, and they swore a vow to unite in avenging their father. But since they thought it unlikely that they could do this in open war, they went to the land of the Myrgings with no companions.
They came to the wood where they had heard that Eadgils walked, hid their weapons, and found the king nearby. He asked them who they were.
'Deserters,' they replied. 'We come from the land of the Wærnas, and left our country for a killing.'
The king assumed that this meant they had been banished for former misdeeds, when they really referred to their intent to kill him.
'I would like to know who the Angles think slew Freawine,' Eadgils said.
'People are in doubt over this,' said Cedd. 'He died in battle, so the identity of his killer is uncertain.'
'It is vain to think so,' replied Eadgils, 'for it was I alone who slew him in single combat!' he went on to ask if Freawine was survived by any offspring.
'Two of his sons still live,' Cedd replied.
'I would like to know their age and stature,' said Eadgils.
'They are much of the same size, age and height as we two,' said Cedd.
'If they had the courage of their father, it would go badly for me,' replied Eadgils. 'Do they speak at all about avenging their father?'
'It is idle to talk and talk about something irremediable,' replied Cedd.
When Cedd saw that the king's solitary walks were a frequent custom, he took his weapons, with his brother beside him, followed the king through the wood. When Eadgils saw them, he stood his ground.
'We will take vengeance for your slaying of Freawine,' said Cedd, 'especially in view of your arrogant boasts.'
'Beware,' replied Eadgils, 'lest I slay you both! It would be greater glory if you accepted wergild for your father than that you fight me and I slay you.'
But Cedd scorned this offer.
'Come forward and fight me in single combat,' he said. 'We will not set upon you two to one.'
'Attack at once,' Eadgils told them. 'If I cannot persuade you to take the peaceful course, then let me grant you all the advantage you possess.'
'I would rather die,' replied Cedd. 'A battle on such terms would be no more than a reproach.'
He attacked Eadgils alone, and the king defended himself well, but made no attempt to kill the lad.
'Let your brother join the battle,' Eadgils urged. 'Make use of another hand, since your efforts alone are useless. But if you refuse this, I will not spare you.' Now he attacked with all his might.
But Cedd gave him so strong a stroke of his sword that he split the king's helmet. But Eadgils retaliated by driving Cedd to his knees. Now Wig, seeing his brother near defeat, put all thoughts of honour aside and attacked Eadgils and slew him.
The two brothers cut off the king's head, hung his body over a horse, and left the wood. Coming to the nearest village, they handed all this over to the villagers, telling them that the sons of Freawine had taken vengeance on Eadgils, King of the Myrgings, for his slaying of their father.
When they returned to the kingdom of the Angles, Wærmund received them with the highest honours, willing to discount the shameful killing in his joy at the death of an enemy. It became a saying among foreigners, however, that the death of the king had broken down the ancient principle of combat.
When Wærmund was beginning to go blind, the King of the Swæfe sent envoys to him, commanding that he give up his kingdom since he no longer had the strength to rule it.
'If you refuse this,' said the king's envoys, 'then send your son to fight with our atheling, and let the winner rule this land. If you do not accept either offer, then we shall come with all the men at our disposal and take your lands from you by force.'
Wærmund sighed deeply.
'It is insolent of your king to taunt me for my age,' he replied. 'In youth I was no coward. It is unfair to cast my blindness in my teeth; many men of my age are blind. If anyone is at fault it is your king, who should at least have waited for my death before laying claim to my lands. I would rather fight this duel with my own hand than give up my freedom to another.'
'Our king will not fight a blind man,' replied the envoys, 'since this would bring him more shame than honour. It would be better if your son was to fight.'
The king was at a loss for a reply, but then a voice came from the back of the hall.
'I ask my father's leave to speak.'
'Who spoke?' asked Wærmund.
The thanes exchanged glances. One leaned forward.
'Sire, it was your son,' he said.
Wærmund shook his head.
'If it is not enough that foreigners jeer at my misfortune,' he said, 'that my own retainers should tell such lies. All know my son is dumb.' 'My lord king,' said another thane, 'it is true. Your son spoke.' The other thanes agreed. Finally, Wærmund said;
'He is free, whoever he is, to speak his mind.'
'It is futile for the Swæfe king to covet a realm as strong as ours,' said Offa. 'What is more, our king does not lack an heir. I shall willingly fight not just the Swæfe atheling, but any man the atheling wishes to take as his comrade.'
The envoys laughed at this.
'We agree!' they replied, and set a time for the duel. But the Angles were astounded by the events, both by the fact of Offa's speech, or his words themselves.
Once the envoys had gone, Wærmund looked round blindly.
'Whoever spoke is a brave man,' he said, 'for challenging two men. I would sooner leave my kingdom to such a man than to my foe.'
'Sire,' said a thane. 'He who spoke is without a doubt your own son.'
Wærmund looked troubled.
'Come nearer,' he told Offa, 'so I may touch your face, and determine your identity.' He did so, and the king found that it was indeed his son. 'But why have you never spoken before?' the king asked, amazed.
'Before, I was satisfied with your protection,' said Offa. 'I had no need to speak, until I saw my land hard pressed by foreigners.'
'I see,' said Wærmund. 'But why, then, did you challenge two men rather than one?'
'I hope by this to redeem the shame of King Eadgils' death,' said Offa. 'The glory this will win us will make good the shame we have known.'
'You have judged matters well, my son,' said Wærmund. 'But now you must learn the use of weapons, since you have had little experience of them before.'
They offered Offa coats of mail, but each one was too tight for his wide chest, and he split the links. In the end Wærmund commanded that they cut his coat of mail away on the left side and patch it with a buckle.
Next they gave Offa swords to try, but Offa shattered each of them, one after the other.
'Where will we find a sword strong enough?' lamented the thanes.
Wærmund looked blindly at them.
'I had a sword of great strength in my youth,' he said. 'Screp was its name, and it would cut through any obstacle in a blow, and never was its blade notched.'
'Where is it, father?' asked Offa.
'I buried it deep in the ground to stop others from using it,' Wærmund replied. 'Since at that time I had no hope in you. If only I can find the spot...'
He asked them to lead him to a field, and questioned them again and again over the ground. Finally, he realised they were at the right point, and drew the sword Screp out of its hole, and handed it to his son.
Offa looked at the blade. It was frail and covered in rust from its long burial.
'Must I prove this one like the others?' he asked.
'If mere brandishing shatters the sword, there are none that could serve for your strength, my boy.'
With the sword untested, they went to the island in the Eider where the duel was to be fought. Offa crossed to the island alone, while a famous champion accompanied the Swæfe atheling. Dense crowds lined the banks on either side. Wærmund stood at one end of the bridge, ready to fling himself in the waters if his son was beaten.
Both warriors attacked Offa, but he parried their blows with his shield, trying to establish which of them was the better fighter, so he might slay him with one stroke of Screp. Hearing that his son hung back, Wærmund dragged himself to the edge of the bridge, sure that Offa was doomed.
'Attack me more briskly,' Offa told the atheling tauntingly. 'Do some deed worthy of your tribe, in case your thane seem braver than you.' Then he turned to the champion, and said; 'Repay your lord's trust by fighting, not skulking at his heels!'
The champion attacked, and Offa hacked at him with his sword.
Wærmund heard the sound.
'I hear the sword of my son!' he cried. 'Whereabouts did he deal the blow?'
'It went straight through the champion!' replied the thanes.
At this, Wærmund drew back from the edge of the bridge.
'Come, atheling!' Offa cried then. 'Your thane did well by you - now sacrifice yourself on my blade to his ghost!'
He turned the thick edge of his blade towards the front, thinking the cutting edge to frail for his strength. Then he thrust the blade through the atheling's body.
'I hear Screp again,' said Wærmund.
'Your son has killed both foes,' said one of the thanes, and Wærmund wept tears of joy.
While the Swæfe, their honour trampled in the dirt, bore off the bodies of their champion and the heir to their throne, the Angles welcomed Offa with shouts of triumph.
And no longer did the Angles hear taunts about the murder of Eadgils from Myrgings or Swæfe or any of the nations of the North Sea coast. The kingdom of the Swæfe came under the dominion of the Angles, and after his father's death, Offa ruled it alongside his own land, placing his cousin Witta as under-king. Now Offa, once thought incapable of ruling one realm, reigned over the broadest of kingdoms.
As related above, Offa's cousin Witta became under-king of the Swæfe. Witta's son was named Wihtgils, and he fathered two sons, Hengest and Horsa. In his youth, Hengest went out in search of adventures, and joined the war-band of Hnæf Hocing, king of the Half Danes. Many heroes were in that band, Oslaf and Guthlaf and Hunlaf, sons of the Dane-king; Sigeferth, king of the Secgan, and many others, but Hengest surpassed them all in prowess and strength. The Half Danes had long been at war with the Frisians, since the days of Hoc and Folcwalda, but the conflict had been brought to a close when Hnæf married his sister Hildeburh to Finn, the Frisian king.
As related above, many of the Jutes dispossessed by Wihtlæg after the death of Amluth had sought refuge at the Frisian court, and the feud burned between them and Hengest's people just as fiercely as it did between the Half Danes and the Frisians. When Hnæf came to visit his brother-in-law for Yule, with his retinue at his back, the scene was set for one of the bloodiest conflicts the North was ever to know.
The door-warden of their hall awoke Hnæf near midnight.
'I hear the noise of metal on metal, and see lights in the darkness, lord king, outside our hall. Is it dawn already? Or does some dragon fly above in the night sky? Or do the gables of our hall burn?'
'It is not the hall burning, nor does dawn break yet in the east, and no dragon flies towards us. It is the sound of swords being carried against us that you hear. Soon battle shall break, beneath the moon.
'Awake!' he cried to his slumbering men. 'Rise to your feet! Who will fight for me? Hold your shields well, be brave in mood, join me at the hall-doors!'
His thanes awoke, and did on their swords. Two warriors went to one door, Sigeferth and Eaha, swords drawn, and Oslaf and Guthlaf to the other, followed by Hengest himself.
One of the attackers outside, Garulf, King Finn's champion, cried;
'Who holds the door?'
'I am Sigeferth, king of the Secgan, known across the seas. I am accustomed to battle and can bear myself bravely. The death you intend for me will be your own instead.'
Sigeferth and Garulf and their followers fought at the doors, both mighty warriors who shattered each others shields and hacked armour from their bodies. But Garulf fell there, with many good men around him. And the battle raged on until morning when the sun broke on a ghastly scene; Hnæf and many of his men lay dead, including Hunlaf the Dane, but most of Finn's thanes had also been slain, as had his son by Hildeburh. After the dead were laid upon the funeral pyre, Hengest took command of the war-band and negotiated a settlement.
'Your war-band will remain in Frisia until the spring, as my thanes, and thus protected from further feuding. In the spring,' Finn told them, 'you may depart.'
Throughout that long winter, Hengest brooded; serving the slayer of his lord was one of the most dishonourable acts a warrior could commit. When spring broke the frozen waters, he sailed back to his lord's people. But it was not long before the son of Hunlaf, whose father had fallen in the fray, convinced him to return, and avenge the deaths of Hnæf and his thanes.
The warriors sailed back to Frisia with Hengest at their head. They attacked the hall at Finnsburh, killed Finn and his men, and brought Hildeburh back to a victorious people.
Hengest returned to his homeland, where he married, and had four children; Renwein - who later married the King of Britain; Octha and Eosa, who defeated the Picts; and Heathogeat, who was the first king of the Saxon race.
At that time, Vortigern was King of Britain. In his time, the Britons lived in fear not just of the raids of the Picts and the Scots, but also of the Roman Ambrosius Aurelianus, whose father Constantine had governed the land for the Emperor, and whom the Britons had deposed in favour of Vortigern.
In the meantime, the land of the Angles was growing over-populated. When he saw this, King Eomer met with his thanes and elders. In accordance with their ancient laws, they gathered together the youth of their nation. Then they cast lots and chose the strongest and most able of them to go into foreign lands and secure new lands for themselves. They chose Hengest and his brother Horsa, among many more, and made them rulers over the others because of their blood. Then they put to sea in three of the ships they called keels, and sailed to Britain. For long ago, a spæwife had foretold that their people would reign over that land for more than three hundred years, half of which time would be spent in plundering and despoiling.
At that time, Vortigern was at Canterbury, a city that he often visited. Messengers came to him speaking of the arrival of tall strangers in great ships, and he commanded his men to receive them peacefully, and bring them into his presence.
As soon as they had been brought before him, he eyed the two brothers who led the foreigners.
'Where are you from, O strangers?' he asked, by means of his interpreter, Ceretic. 'And why have you come to my realm?'
'My lord king,' Hengest replied, 'Angeln was our birth-place. We come to this land to offer our service to you or some other lord. For we were sent into exile for no other reason than because our nation has become too numerous for our existing lands. In accord with our ancient laws, we set sail, and under the good guidance of Woden we have arrived in your kingdom.'
The king looked earnestly at them.
'What religion do you profess?' he asked.
'We worship the gods of our people,' Hengest told him, 'Tiw and Thunær, and the other deities who rule this world, but most of all Woden, to whom our ancestors dedicated the fourth day of the week, which we still call after his name Wodnesday, or Wednesday. Next to him we worship the great goddess Frige, to whom the sixth day is dedicated, and we call it Friday.'
Vortigern said, 'By your belief, or better unbelief, I am much saddened. But your coming brings me great joy, since, whether it is by God's providence or some other agency, is very convenient for me. My enemies oppress me on every side. If you will fight for me in my wars, I will entertain you honourably in my country, and give you lands and other gifts.'
The Angles accepted his offer willingly, and once the agreement was confirmed, they stayed in the isle of Thanet. A short time after, the Picts issued forth from Pictland with a great host, and began to lay waste the north of Vortigern's domain. When the king learnt of this, he gathered his forces, and went to meet the Picts beyond the Humber. The battle was savage, although the Britons had little need to exert themselves, since the Angles fought so bravely that the Picts were soon put to flight.
Hengest and his men returned to Thanet where they remained, with the Britons supplying them with food and clothing on the condition that they defend the land against its enemies. But as more and more Angles swelled the ranks, the Britons became unable to fulfil their promise. One day the Angles came to claim a supply of food and clothing, the Britons replied;
'Your numbers have grown; we no longer require your aid. You may return home, now, for we can no longer keep you.'
At this, the Angles debated ways in which they could break the peace between them. Hengest, by now a man of experience and cunning, went to the king.
'My lord king, your enemies disturb your land, and your subjects show you little love. They threaten you and say they will bring over Ambrosius from Armorica, to depose you and make him king. If it please you, we will send messengers to our country to invite more warriors, so that with greater forces we will be better suited to oppose your foes. But one thing I would ask of your clemency, if I did not fear a refusal.'
'Send for more warriors from your land, and fear no refusal from me in anything you ask for.'
'I thank you, lord king,' replied Hengest. 'You have bestowed upon me great gifts, but you have not yet granted me the honours fitting to my birth. I should have some town or city under me, so I will have greater esteem among your nobles. I should be made a lord or chieftain, since my forefathers were such.'
'It is not within my power to do you this much honour,' replied Vortigern, 'because you are strangers and pagans. Nor am I yet sufficiently acquainted with your customs to set you on a level with my subjects and countrymen. And if I did rate you highly as my subjects, I would hesitate to do so, because my nobles would dissuade me.'
'Give to me,' said Hengest, 'only so much ground as I can encircle with a leather thong, to build a fortress upon, as a place of retreat if I have need. For I will always be faithful to you, as I have been hitherto, and will pursue no other course in the request I have made.'
The king granted his request, and told him to send messengers to Germany to invite more men over. Hengest did so, and then took a bull's hide, making one thong out of the whole, with which he encircled a rocky place that he had carefully chosen, and within it he began to build a castle. When it was finished, it took its name from the thong with which it had been measured, called, in the British tongue, Cærcarrei; in English Thancaster, or Thong Castle.
The messengers reached Angeln, where they selected many warriors, returning with sixteen ships, and bringing with them Renwein, Hengest's beautiful daughter. Now the Angle chieftain prepared a feast to which he invited the king, his officers, and Ceretic, his interpreter. Beforehand, he asked his daughter to serve them so profusely with wine and ale and mead that they might become drunk.
The king accepted the invitation, and having highly commended the magnificent structure, enlisted the new warriors into his service. When this was done, Renwein came out of her bower bearing a full horn of mead. Approaching the king, she made a low curtsy, and said to him;
'Lord king, wassail!' At the sight of the lady's face, the king was stricken by her beauty. He called his interpreter, and asked him what she had said, and what answer he should make.
'She called you "lord king",' replied the interpreter, 'and offered to drink your health. Your answer to her must be "Drink hail!"'
Vortigern answered accordingly.
'Drink hail!' and asked her to drink. After this he took the cup from her hand, kissed her, and drank it himself. From that time to this, it has been the custom in Britain that he who drinks to anyone says "Wassail!", and he that pledges him answers "Drink hail!"
Vortigern now being drunk, fell in love with the maiden, and asked Hengest for her hand in marriage.
Hengest consulted with his brother Horsa and the other thanes present. Unanimously they advised him to give him his daughter, and to demand the entire province of Kent as her dowry. So Renwein was given to Vortigern, and Kent to Hengest, without the knowledge of Guoyrangancgonus, who ruled it. The same night the king married the lady, and was extremely delighted with her, but this brought upon him the anger and hatred of his nobles, not to mention his sons by a previous marriage, Vortimer, Catigern, and Pascent.
Hengest said to the king;
'As I am your father-in-law, I claim the right to be your adviser: pay heed to me, since it is to my people that you owe the conquest of all your foes. Let us invite over my son Octha and his brother Eosa, brave warriors both, and bestow upon them the lands in the north of Britain, by the Wall, between Deira and Pictland. For they will hinder the inroads of the invaders, and so you may enjoy peace on the other side of the Humber.'
Vortigern complied with the request.
'Invite over anyone you know who can assist me,' he replied.
And so came Octha, Eosa, and Cerdic, with forty ships filled with warriors. Vortigern received them all with kind words and ample gifts. They sailed round Pictland, laid waste the Orkneys, and seized many regions, even as far as the Pictish borders. In the meanwhile, Hengest continued to invite over more and more ships, and his numbers grew every day.
These newcomers were from the Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes. From the Jutes descend the people of Kent and the Isle of Wight, and those in the land of the West Saxons who are called Jutes to this day. From the Saxons - that is, the area know as Old Saxony - came the East, South, and West Saxons. And from Angeln, which is said to remain unpopulated to this day, came the East and Middle Angles, the Mercians, all the Northumbrian stock (that is, those peoples living north of the river Humber), and the other English peoples.
When the Britons became aware of this, they feared betrayal, and petitioned the king to banish them. But Vortigern, who loved them above all other nations because of his wife, was deaf to their advice. And soon the Angles became firmly entrenched, and were assisted by foreign warriors. For Vortigern was their ally, because of his wife whom he loved so much, and none dared fight against them.
But the Britons soon deserted their king, and elected his son Vortimer to succeed him, and Vortimer attacked the Angles, and made dreadful incursions upon them. Four great battles were fought in Kent.
The first was fought in Thanet itself, where Vortimer drove them; he enclosed them within, and beset them on the western side. The second was at Crayford, at the meeting of the river Derwent and the river Cray, where Hengest and his forces slew four thousand of the enemy, and the Welsh forsook Kent, and fled in consternation to London. But soon they returned, and a battle was fought at Aylesford, where Horsa and Catigern son of Vortigern met, and after a long fight slew each other. Then the Angles fled to their ships, and a fourth battle was fought near Wippedfleet, where they slew twelve British leaders. On their side a thane named Wipped was slain, after whom the place got its name.
Vortimer besieged them there, harrying them daily with his fleet. When they were no longer able to bear the attacks, they sent Vortigern, who had been with them throughout the war, as an emissary to his sons to ask leave to depart safely for their homelands. While the matter was being discussed, they went aboard their keels, abandoning their women and children, and returned to Germany.
Vortimer began restoring to his subjects their possessions that had been taken from them, and to rebuild their churches. But this stirred up the enmity of his stepmother Renwein, who decided to bring about his death. She consulted poisoners, and finding one who was intimate with Vortimer, corrupted him with large and numerous presents, and bade him give the king a poisoned draught. As soon as he had taken it, Vortimer was seized by sudden illness. He ordered his men to come to him. Telling them he was near death, he divided among them his treasures. He comforted them by telling him that he was merely going the way of all flesh, but urged them to fight bravely against all invaders.
'Place a brazen pyramid in Thanet,' he told them, 'and place my body on top of it, so that the sight of my tomb might frighten the Angles back to their own lands. None of them who should look upon my tomb will dare approach our land.'
But despite this, when he was dead, his men disregarded his wishes and buried him in London.
Now they restored Vortigern to the throne. At the request of his wife, he sent messengers to Hengest, inviting the to return to Britain with a small retinue, so no more quarrels would break out between the Angles and his people. But Hengest, remembering Vortimer's harryings, and Horsa's death, raised an army of no less than three hundred thousand men. Fitting out a fleet, he returned to Britain.
When Vortigern and his nobles heard of this, they were greatly angered, and decided to attack them, and drive the Angles from their coasts.
Hengest, learning of their intentions from messengers sent by his daughter, spoke with his thanes. They considered several means of dealing with the situation, but decided finally to approach them peacefully. Hengest sent messengers to Vortigern, telling him that he had brought so many men not wishing to attack the Welsh, but because he thought Vortimer might still be alive.
'Now that we know him to be dead,' his message ran 'we will submit ourselves to your judgement, lord king. You may keep as many of us as you see fit, and let the rest return to their own lands. And if this pleases you, my lord, appoint a time and place for a meeting, where we might decide these matters more fully.'
The king was pleased with these words, since he was very unwilling to part with Hengest. He commanded his subjects and the Angles to meet upon the calends of May at the monastery of Amesbury, and here settle the matters between them. The meeting was agreed to on both sides, but Hengest privately ordered his warriors to carry a long dagger, or sax, under their clothes.
'When the conference is in full swing, I will give this word of command; "Draw your saxes!" At this, you must seize the closest Briton, and stab him to death,' he told them. 'In this way we can end the threat the British nobles pose us.'
The two parties met at the time and place appointed, and began discussing peace terms. But as soon as there was a suitable opportunity, Hengest shouted;
'Draw your saxes!' and seized Vortigern by the cloak.
The Angles drew their long knives, and fell upon the unsuspecting Britons, killing four hundred and sixty noblemen. They had come unarmed, thinking only of peace. But the Angles did not escape entirely unharmed, for the Britons defended themselves as well as they might with clubs and stones.
Eldol, lord of Gloucester, defended himself with a club, and fled back to his own city after fighting his way out of the press.
The Angles spared Vortigern, but threatened him with death and bound him, demanding his cities and hill-forts in return for his life. The king bought his freedom by giving them Essex, Sussex, and Middlesex, along with other places. They made him confirm this with an oath, then released him, and marched first on London, which they took; then to York, Lincoln, and Winchester, laying waste the lands between.
Soon after, Vortigern called together his wizards to consult them. They said to him;
'Retire to the remote boundaries of your kingdom; build and fortify there a city to defend yourself.'
The king, pleased with this advice, departed with his wizards, and journeyed through many territories, in search of a place to build a citadel. At length they came to a province named Gwynedd, and having surveyed the mountains of Snowdon, they found a place adapted to the building of a citadel on the summit of one hill. The wizards said to the king;
'Build here a city; for this place will be forever secure against invasion.'
Then the king sent for masons and carpenters, and gathered together all materials needed for building, but they all vanished in the night. A second and a third time they obtained the necessary materials, but again they vanished. Now Vortigern asked his wizards why this had happened.
'You must find a child born without a father,' said Maugantius, leader of the wizards, 'put him to death, and sprinkle the ground with his blood, or you will never build this citadel.'
The king sent messengers throughout Britain in search of a boy without a father. In their travels they came to the field of Ælecti, in the district of Glevesing, where they saw some young men playing ball. As they were watching, they heard a quarrel between two of the youths. One said to the other;
'Oaf! Do you think you can quarrel with me? You are nothing! I am of royal blood on my father and mother's side. As for you, who can say what you are, since you never had a father.'
Hearing this, the messengers asked the bystanders about the boy in question.
'No one knows his father,' they learnt, 'but his mother is the daughter of the king of Dyfed, and she lives at St Peter's, with the nuns of Carmarthen.'
The messengers hurried to the ruler of the city, and told him to send the boy and his mother to King Vortigern.
When the mother and the son were brought to Vortigern, he spoke to the mother with the respect her noble birth demanded.
'May I ask by what man you conceived this boy?'
'My lord king,' she replied, 'by your soul and mine, I know of none who fathered him. All I know is that once when I was with my handmaidens in our chambers, one appeared to me in the guise of a handsome young man, who would often embrace me, and fall to kissing me. But when he had stayed but a little time, he would vanish from my sight. Then he would speak with me when I was alone, though he was invisible. After much time, he lay with me many times in man's form, and got me with child. For I have known no man other than that one.'
Vortigern was struck with amazement. He sent for Maugantius, who listened to the matter, and said;
'In the books of our philosophers, and in a great many histories, I have read of several people who have known similar experiences. As Apuleius asserts in his De Deo Socrates, there dwell in the void between earth and moon spirits who we name incubi. They are partly of terrestrial nature, and partly that of angels; and it is their habit to take on human form and lie with women. It is likely that one appeared to this woman, and fathered the young man upon her.'
The next day, the boy without a father was brought before Vortigern.
'Why have your men brought me here?' the boy asked.
'So you may be put to death,' replied Vortigern, 'and so the ground upon which my citadel will stand may be sprinkled with your blood. Otherwise I shall not be able to build upon it.'
'Who told you to do this?' asked the lad.
'My wizards,' replied Vortigern.
'Bid them come hither,' replied the boy. When they entered the chamber, he questioned them closely.
'How did you learn that this citadel could not be built unless the ground were sprinkled with my blood? Tell me, then who told you of this.'
Afraid, the wizards said nothing. The boy turned to the king.
'I will make plain to you this matter in good time,' he said, 'but first I wish to speak with your wizards, and wish them to tell you what lies beneath this pavement.'
'We do not know,' said Maugantius resentfully.
'There is a pool,' said the boy. 'Come and dig.'
Vortigern's men did as the boy said, and they found a pool.
'Now,' said the boy to the wizards, 'tell me what is in it.'
They made no reply.
'I can tell you,' said the boy. 'You will find two vases in the pool.'
They examined the pool, and found two vases lying together.
'What is in the vases?' asked the boy.
They said nothing.
'You will find a tent within them,' said the boy. 'Separate them, and it will be as I say.'
'Do as he says,' said Vortigern. All was as the boy had said.
'What is in the tent?' the boy asked. The wizards could not answer.
'You will find two serpents, one white, one red; unfold the tent.'
They obeyed, and found two serpents, as he had described. The boy told them to pay attention to the creatures.
The serpents began to struggle with each other, and the white one threw down the other into the middle of the tent, and at times drove him to its edge. This happened three times. But at length, the red serpent recovered his strength and forced the white serpent from the tent, pursuing it through the pool.
'And what does this wonderful omen signify?' asked the boy.
'We do not know,' said Maugantius grimly.
'I will now explain the meaning of this mystery. The pool is the world, and the tent is your kingdom: the two serpents are two dragons. The red serpent is the Red Dragon of the Britons, but the other serpent is the White Dragon of the Saxon people who now occupy much of your land. But at length, however, our people will rise and drive the Saxons back into the sea.
'However, you must leave this place, where you may not build your citadel. Fate has allotted this mansion to me, and I shall remain here. You must seek other provinces to build your fortress.'
'What is your name?' asked Vortigern.
'I am Merlin,' replied the boy.
By make these and other prophecies, Merlin amazed all who were present. Vortigern, wishing to know more of his fate, questioned the boy closely.
'Flee the sons of Constantine, if you can,' he replied. 'Even now they are preparing their fleets to leave the Armorican shore, steering for Britain. They will fight and subdue the Saxons, but first they will slay you. It was to your own ruin that you betrayed their father, and invited the Saxons into the island. You are caught between two fates; one that the Saxons shall lay waste to your kingdom, and kill you if they find you, the other that Ambrosius Aurelianus will avenge his father's murder upon you. Seek out a refuge if you can. Hengest will be slain, and Ambrosius will reign over this land until he is poisoned. His brother will succeed him, but die the same death, and your own son will be associated with this matter, but he of Cornwall shall seek vengeance.'
The next day, Ambrosius Aurelianus and his brother arrived in Britain with ten thousand men.
The king gave Merlin that city, and fled to the region known as Ganarew, where he a built the city that is named after him, Caer Gwetheyrn.
Once they had heard of Ambrosius' coming, the Britons, who had been scattered to the winds by Hengest's attacks, gathered together, and made Ambrosius king. They begged him to attack the Angles, but he insisted they deal with Vortigern first, and they advanced on Caer Gwetheyrn to besiege it.
Setting their siege engines to work, they tried to beat down the walls, but this was fruitless. Finally, they fired the city, and it blazed until it burned down Vortigern's tower and killed him within.
Meanwhile, Hengest and his Angles had heard this news, and he was greatly afraid, since Ambrosius' reputation was so great that none in Gaul had dared encounter him, and he inspired great loyalty in his followers. The Angles retreated north of the Humber, and fortified towns and cities.
Hearing of this, Ambrosius led his army north, marching through the devastated lands between. When Hengest learnt of his approach, however, he took heart again, and spoke to the bravest of his thanes.
'Ambrosius has but a few Bretons with him,' he told them, 'no more than ten thousand, and the miserable Britons, who we have defeated on so many occasions, are their only reinforcements. We are two hundred thousand men - the victory is ours!'
He advanced towards Ambrosius, into a field called Maes Beli, through which Ambrosius was to pass, intending to attack them by surprise. Ambrosius became aware of the move, and yet he still marched on. coming within sight of Hengest's forces. Now he put three thousand Breton horse in the centre, drawing out the rest of his men and the natives on either side, the men of Dyfed on the hills, those of Gwynedd in the nearby woods to fall upon the Angles, should they flee in that direction.
On the other side, Hengest was walking through the ranks of Angles, telling them how they should act in battle.
'Place all your hope in the gods,' he told them.
Then battle commenced, with great loss of men on either side. But Hengest and his men were routed, and forced to retreat to the nearby town of Caercynan, or Conisbrough. Ambrosius pursued, killing or enslaving all he came across.
Seeing this, Hengest did not enter the town but assembled his men outside, and awaited Ambrosius. The British leader appeared, and another battle began, where the Angles held their ground, despite heavy losses. Just as victory seemed within their grasp, however, a detachment of Breton horse attacked, and the Angles gave ground.
Then Eldol faced Hengest, and they fought, and the Briton captured his foe. The Angles began to flee the field, the Britons pursuing them; some fled to the cities, other to the forests, others to their ships. But Octha, son of Hengest, retreated to York, while Eosa made his way to Alclud, or Dumbarton, where he had a large host.
Now Ambrosius took Conisbrough, where he remained for three days, deliberating with his men what should be done with the captive Hengest. Eldad, brother of Eldol and bishop of Gloucester, said;
'Although you would free him, I wish you would hack him to pieces. As the prophet Samuel did, when Agag the Amalekite was in his power, hewing him to pieces, saying "As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women". Do this to Hengest, who is another Agag.'
So Eldol took Hengest outside the walls of the town, and there beheaded him. But Ambrosius, who was a man noted for moderation, decreed that he be buried, and a barrow raised above his corpse, after the custom of the Angles. Following this, he led his army to besiege Octha in York.
When the Britons had invested his city, Octha was unsure whether he should try to fight such a vast army. After discussing the matter with his thanes, he led them out, carrying a chain in his hand and dust upon his head, and went to Ambrosius.
'My followers are defeated,' he said, 'and I do not doubt your power, since you have forced so many to come before you as suppliants. Accept us as such, and accept this chain. If you do not deem us fit for your mercy, enthral us where we stand.'
Ambrosius pitied them as they stood there, and spoke with his council.
'What should we do with them?' he asked.
Various proposals were made, before Eldad the bishop rose.
'The Gibeonites came willingly to the Israelites seeking mercy, and they found it. Shall we Christians be worse than Jews, refusing mercy to our foes? Let them return to their lands in the north on the understanding that they shall remain there, and be our vassals.'
'Very well,' replied Ambrosius. And so Octha and his thanes went to the north, and he ruled over it as king. Soon Eosa and his followers joined them.
Not long after, Pascent, son of Vortigern, who had fled the land on the coming of Ambrosius, returned with a large fleet, and attacked in the north. Ambrosius rode to meet him, and put him to flight. Pascent sailed over to Ireland where the king of that land received him, and promised him aid. Not long after his victory over Pascent, however, Ambrosius fell sick. When Octha and his followers heard of this, they rejoiced that their enemy was weakened. Octha despatched one of his men, Eoppa son of Esa, to Pascent, who had crossed over from Ireland and was now fighting Ambrosius's brother Uthir.
Eoppa came to Pascent's tent, and asked him;
'How will you reward the man who kills Ambrosius?'
'If I could find a man of such resolve I would give him a thousand pounds in silver, and friendship for life. Were I to gain the crown, I would make that man a noble.'
'I have learnt the British language, and I know the customs of the folk. Also, I am a skilled healer. My plan is to pose as a Welsh monk who knows physic, and gain admission to Ambrosius' presence, where I will poison him.'
'Very well,' replied Pascent, and sealed this with an oath.
So Eoppa shaved his bard and head and put on a monk's habit, and hastened to Winchester, where Ambrosius was. Here he offered his service to Ambrosius' attendants, who received him well, and brought him to tend to their leader.
'I will restore your health,' said Eoppa, 'if you will but take my potions.'
'Very well,' said Ambrosius weakly; 'prepare them.'
Eoppa did so, but secretly included in it poison, then gave it to Ambrosius, who drank it.
'Now you must cover yourself up,' Eoppa told him, 'and sleep a while.'
The king did so, but as he slept, the poison worked its way through his body, and he never woke again. Meanwhile, Eoppa had vanished from the court.
That night a great comet blazed in the sky.
Soon after, however, Ambrosius' brother Uthir rode against Pascent and his allies, and defeated them near Saint David's. He was elected his brother's successor.
Meanwhile, Octha and his fellows, seeing that their treaty with Ambrosius was annulled by his death, began sending over to Germany for reinforcements. Then they rode out and sacked cities and forts until Uthir came against him.
The Angles acted with great gallantry, and beat back their attackers, pursuing them with slaughter to Mount Damen as the light failed. The mountain was great, and thickly wooded with hazel at the top, with much broken and rocky ground below. The Britons took refuge among the rocks and bushes, while the Angles camped near the foot of the mountain.
Before daybreak, however, the Britons attempted to surprise the camp of the Angles, but the guards saw their approach, and woke their fellows with the blare of horns. Realising that they had been seen, the Britons charged straight at the camp, running towards the Angles with their swords drawn. Surprised, the Angles soon met with defeat. Octha and Eosa were imprisoned, and the survivors fled.
Uthir had his two prisoners placed under guard in London, where they remained until war broke out between Uthir and his men.
It came about that Uthir fell deeply in love with Gorlois' young wife Igerna. Insulted by the attentions Uthir showed his wife, Gorlois retired from the court without asking Uthir's leave, and retired at once to his own lands. Uthir sent word that he should return at once, but Gorlois refused, and Uthir attacked Cornwall, setting alight cities and towns. Gorlois retreated to Dimilioc with many of his men, but placed his wife Igerna in Tintagel, on the coast.
Uthir besieged Dimilioc, but soon he fell sick with love for Igerna. He spoke with one of his men, Ulpinus.
'My love for Igerna is so great that I can have no peace of mind or bodily health until I have her,' was his complaint. 'If you can find no way for me to accomplish my desire, I may soon die.'
'How can any man advise you?' asked Ulpinus. 'All know that Tintagel is nigh impregnable, being set on the coast, with the sea surrounding it. Only one entrance exists, across a narrow rock that three men could defend against a host. Only one man is likely to know how you could achieve this, and that is Merlin.' 'Bring Merlin to me,' Uthir ordered. Duly, Merlin was brought into his presence.
'Advise me,' said Uthir, 'how I may gain entrance to Tintagel, and to fair Igerna.'
'To do this,' said Merlin, 'we must use arts unknown in your time. I have the drugs that will give you the exact appearance of Gorlois, so you resemble none other than he. I advise you to accept this, and allow me to give you the appearance of Gorlois, and transform Ulpinus into Jordanes, Gorlois' friend, and I myself, in the form of his other friend Britaelis, will accompany you. In this guise you may gain entrance to Tintagel, and into Igerna's presence.'
Uthir agreed to this, and leaving the siege in the hands of his men, went with Merlin and Ulpinus, in their assumed forms to Tintagel. They gained admittance with ease, and Uthir went to the lady, who suspected nothing, and lay with her that night.
Meanwhile, Uthir's army attacked Dimilioc, and Gorlois sallied forth with his men, but he was slain in the first few moments of the fight, and his men routed. Dimilioc was taken and looted, while Gorlois' men rode to Tintagel with news of her husband's death. But when they entered the great hall, they found a man identical in all respects to their lord sitting with Igerna.
Uthir - for it was he - made light of the news, but said he must ride forth to fight his foes. As soon as he had left Tintagel, he joined his men, putting off the semblance of Gorlois. Here he learnt of all that had occurred. He was sorry for Gorlois' death, but glad now that Igerna could marry again. He then returned to Tintagel, took it, and with it Igerna. They lived together long, and had a son named Arthur, and a daughter, Anna.
But soon word came of Octha and Eosa's escape from the prison in London, and Uthir fell sick.
Octha and Eosa, in the confusion that arose when Uthir and Gorlois went to war, had fled their dungeon, and returned to Angeln, where they raised great numbers of men. Again they attacked the north, destroying cities and their inhabitants. Against them rode Lot of Lothian, a valiant warrior to whom Uthir had given command of the army as he lay sick. But his prowess against Octha was doubtful, and the Angles often repulsed him. Soon Britain was almost laid waste.
Uthir was angered by this, and he summoned his nobles, rebuking them for their cowardice. He swore that he would lead them against the Angles, and go into battle in a horse-litter. Octha and Eosa, who were in the lands around St Albans', heard that the Britons were coming against them again, but that Uthir led them in a horse-litter.
'What honour will we gain by fighting a half-dead king?' asked Octha scornfully. They retired into the city, leaving the gates open in contempt for their foes.
But Uthir ordered a siege, and forced the Angles to defend themselves. Battle continued until night. At dawn, the Angles sallied out, and the Britons attacked them. The battle lasted for much of the day, until the Angles fled the field.
They returned to the north without pursuit from Uthir, who remained at St Albans, in his malady. Octha sent spies to his court, who discovered that Uthir had been dissuaded from following them by his men, because he was too sick. The Angles hit upon the scheme of poisoning the spring from which the king would drink, and when next he drank of it, he died within the hour.
After Uthir's death, the nobles of Briton assembled at Silchester, and chose Arthur, Uthir's son, to lead them against the Angles. Arthur was then only fifteen years old, but of such courage and generosity, sweet temper and innate goodness, as to gain him the love and respect of all. He rewarded all who had supported him bountifully, and many men flocked to his banner. Now he resolved to attack the Angles, to enrich his men with booty.
Hearing that Octha was heading south, intending to take his father's old possession of Kent, Arthur assembled his men and marched north to meet him. Octha encountered him at the mouth of the Glein, where they battled, with greater losses on both sides. Then the Angles went to besiege Lincoln, which lies in Linnuis, between the rivers Dubglas and Bassas. Arthur rode against them, and they fought five battles, four on the Dubglas and one on the Bassas. In the struggle many Angles were slain, and many more drowned in the rivers.
The survivors lifted the siege and fled north again, but Arthur pursued them closely, until they came to the edges of the Caledonian Forest, where they made a stand. They fought the Britons, making a brave defence, while the trees secured them against the arrows of the attackers. Arthur ordered his men to cut down the trees and place the trunks around to hinder the Angles' escape, besieging Octha and his forces for three days.
But then the Angles sallied forth, and escaped, fleeing to the vicinity of Castle Guinnion. Arthur pursued them, and they fought again, and Arthur went into battle bearing the image of the Holy Virgin upon his shield, and put Octha and his forces to flight once more, pursuing them the entire day with great slaughter.
They retreated to Caerleon, and Arthur besieged them again. When he heard of this, Eosa was upon the coast, awaiting the arrival of reinforcements from Germany, led by his brother Heathogeat. He decided to march to the city at night, and surprise the Britons from the rear. But Arthur learnt of this, and sent six hundred horse and three thousand foot, under the command of Cador of Cornwall.
Eosa, then, was ambushed while heading for Caerleon, and his men were put to flight. Eosa was grieved by this, but decided to find some way of joining his brother nevertheless. He took on the guise of a harper, and entered Arthur's camp outside Caerleon. In this way he succeeded in coming close to the city walls, where the defenders recognised him, drew him up with cords, and took him to his brother. The two Angles embraced joyfully, and then began discussing ways to escape from this situation. But as they were beginning to think themselves doomed, news came that Heathogeat had landed with his fleet of six hundred ships. At this, Arthur raised the siege, and Octha and Eosa led their men to join Heathogeat.
But when Arthur had gathered more men including his companions Cai and Bedwyr, and they rode against Octha and his host on the banks of the river Tribruit. The battle went on for many hours, but finally Octha and his companions decided to retreat once more. They came to the mountain of Breguoin, otherwise known as Mount Agned, and again Arthur besieged them. The Angles had nothing to eat at all, and to escape death from famine, they asked permission to come out, leaving behind all their booty, and sail at once to their homeland.
'Also,' said Octha, 'we will send you tribute from our lands, and exchange hostages.'
Arthur agreed, keeping all their gold and silver, and taking hostages. Then the Angles set sail, and made their way round the coast. But soon they repented of their shameful ultimatum, and landed in the southwest, where they took control of the land, and laid siege to the city of Bath.
Hearing of this, Arthur immediately executed the hostages, and marched against them. He spoke to his followers.
'Since these heathen and infamous Saxons have seen fit to break faith with me, I shall avenge the blood of my people this day. To arms, men, and let us fall upon them. With the aid of Christ we shall obtain the victory!'
Now he led his men to attack the Angles, who rushed out to meet them, making a noble defence throughout the day, but towards sunset they retreated onto the peak of Mount Badon, where they camped. The next morning, Arthur and his army laid siege to the mountain, but lost many men in the ascent, since the Angles had the advantage of the higher ground.
But after a hard struggle, the Britons gained the summit, and came into close battle with the Angles, who received them warmly, making a vigorous defence. So they spent much of the day, until Arthur, angered by the little advantage he had gained, drew his sword Caliburn, and rushed with great fury into the thickest of the Angles' ranks, and it is said that he slew nine hundred and forty men by his own hand. Seeing this, his men made great slaughter on all sides, and many thousands fell before them. Finally, Octha and the few survivors fled the hill, and made their weary way back to Kent.
After this defeat, Octha reigned peacefully in his kingdom, and peace remained in Britain until the battle of Camlann many years later when Arthur was slain by his nephew Mordred. But many of Octha's Saxon followers left Britain in the meantime, under Heathogeat his brother, and sailed to Hadeln on the German coast, where Theodric, king of the Franks, was at war with the Thuringian leader Eoremenfrith.
The Thuringians were rulers of the land they had come to, and the Saxons had to fight them for a long time before they could gain possession of them. But the Saxons had a legal right, at least to their landing-place and the vicinity. While still in their ships in the harbour, out of which the Thuringians could not drive them, they decided to negotiate about the matter, and the Thuringians told the Saxons that if they would refrain from plunder and rapine, they could remain to buy what they needed and sell all they could. A Saxon youth, richly adorned with gold, went ashore.
Here a Thuringian met him, and asked;
'Why do you wear so much gold around your scrawny neck?'
'I am dying from hunger,' the Saxon replied, 'and wish to find one who will buy my gold.'
'How much do you ask?' asked the Thuringian.
'What will you bid?' the youth answered. The Thuringian regarded the nearby dunes.
'I will give you as much sand as you can carry in your clothes.'
The Saxon accepted the offer, and the Thuringian filled his tunic with sand, in return for which the Saxon gave him his gold and returned to the ships.
Hearing of this bargain, the Thuringians laughed with contempt, and the other Saxons found it foolish, but the youth said;
'Come with me, brave Saxons, and I will show you how my foolishness will be to your advantage.'
He took the sand he had bought so dearly, and scattered it as widely as he could across the ground, covering so large an area that it gave the Saxons sufficient room for a fort.
The Thuringians sent messengers complaining at this, but the Saxons replied that they had taken no more territory than they had purchased with their gold. So the Saxons gained a foothold.
Meanwhile, the war between the Thuringians and the Franks continued. Huga, king of the Franks, had died leaving no heir except his daughter Amalburh, who was wedded to Eormenfrith, king of the Thuringians. The Franks had made Huga's illegitimate son Theodric king, and he had promised peace and friendship. But Amalburh persuaded the king's thane Yring to advise war.
'Theodric is by birth my bondsman,' Eormenfrith had said unwillingly to the messenger. 'I will not yield my claim.'
'I would rather give you my head,' replied the messenger, 'than hear such words, since they will be washed out by the blood of so many Franks and Thuringians.'
Theodric and Eormenfrith met, and the battle went on for three days. Eormenfrith was defeated, but Theodric had to retreat, due to great losses. But then Thyle of the Rondings advised Theodric to offer the newly arrived Saxons lands in return for aid in the war. Heathogeat and his men joined Theodric, and together they routed the Thuringians. So the Saxons gained lands.
Eormenfrith sent Yring to Theodric to beg for mercy, but Theodric persuaded him to turn traitor, luring his master into the presence of the Frankish king, and murdering him as Eoremenfrith bowed. Then Yring asked for the reward Theodric had promised him.
'Begone, foul traitor,' said Theodric, 'and be content that I leave you with your life!'
Then Yring drew his sword again and slew Theodric, then cut his way out of the hall and departed. In memory of this feat, the Milky Way is named Yring's Way.
9. THE HEPTARCHY
But in Britain, now that Arthur was dead, the Angles began inviting over more and more of their people from Germany, and they continued this until the reign of Ida, son of Eoppa, who was the first king in Bernicia. By now there were seven kingdoms ruled by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, over whom reigned kings of the blood of Woden and other gods.
These kingdoms included Northumbria, which was divided between Deira (whose rulers were descended from Wægdæg son of Woden), and Bernicia - whose kings were of the blood of Bældæg, as were those of Wessex. East Anglia's kings are descended from Casere son of Woden; those of Kent and Mercia go back to Wihtlæg son of Woden; while the kings of Essex descend from Seaxneat, god of the Saxons. Also there are the kings of Sussex, whose origin is unrecorded.
Octha was the first king of Kent, of whom we have already spoken. His father was Hengest, whose father was Wihtgils, whose father was Witta, whose father was Wehta, whose father was Wihtlæg, whose father was Woden.
The first king of Sussex was Ælle, who came to Britain with his three sons, Cymen, and Wlencing, and Cissa, in three ships, landing at the place that is named Cymenes ora. There they killed many of the Britons, and drove some in flight into the wood that is named the Weald. Then they fought against the Britons at Mercred's Burnsted, and later Ælle and Cissa besieged the city of Pevensey, and slew all within, nor was one Briton left there afterwards.
Two leaders came into Britain, Cerdic and Cynric his son, in five ships, at Cerdices ora, fighting with the Britons on the same day. Cerdic slew the British king Natanleod at Charford, and took from him the land of Netley. Later they fought the Britons at Cerdicsley, and seized the Isle of Wight, slaying all who held Carisbrooke, which he gave to his nephews Stuf and Wihtgar. Then Cerdic died, and Cynric succeeded him. Cerdic was the son of Elesa, son of Gewis, son of Wig, whose sister married Offa of Angeln, son of Freawine whom Eadgils slew, son of Frithugar, son of Brand, son of Bældæg, son of Woden.
The first man to rule over Essex was Æscwine, son of Offa, whose father was Beadca, whose father was Sigefugel, whose father was Sweppa, whose father was Antsecg, whose father was Gesecg, whose father was Seaxneat.
At the same time men came from Germany to occupy East Anglia, and some of them invaded what was later called Mercia, and they waged war with the Britons. But because their leaders were many, their names have not come down to us. But the first king of East Anglia was Wehha, son of Wilhelm, son of Hryp, son of Hrothmund, son of Trygil, son of Tætman, son of Casere, son of Woden. Wehha begat Wuffa, who begat Tyttla, who begat Redwald, who received in his court Edwin son of Ælle, when he fled from Æthelfrith.
The first king of Deira was Ælle, whose father was Yffe, whose father was Uxfrea, whose father was Wilgisl, whose father was Sæfugel, whose father was Sæbald, whose father was Sigegeat, whose father was Swebdæg, whose father was Sigegar, whose father was Wægdæg son of Woden. Ælle's son was Edwin who was the first Christian king of Northumbria, but in his youth fled to Gwynedd after being sent into exile by Æthelfrith, first king to unite Deira and Bernicia.
The first king of Bernicia was Ida, son of Eoppa who poisoned Ambrosius, son of Esa, son of Ingwi, son of Angenwit, son of Aloc, son of Benoc, brother of Frithugar and like him son of Brand, son of Bældæg son of Woden. Ida had twelve sons, four of whom succeeded him in turn. One of his grandsons, Æthelric, had as a son that Æthelfrith who has already been mention, who united Deira and Bernicia. He had many sons, including Oswald who Penda of Mercia killed.
The first king of Mercia was Creoda, whose father was Cynewald, whose father was Cnebba, whose father was that Icel after whom the Mercian kings are called the Icelings. His father was Eomer, whose father was Angeltheow, whose father was that Offa who won the broadest of kingdoms in his youth with a duel against the atheling and the champion of the Swæfe nation. Wærmund was Offa's father, Wihtlæg begat Wærmund, Wadolgeat begat Wihtlæg, and Woden begat Wadolgeat. Creoda had a son named Pubba, who had twelve sons, of whom two are better known, Penda and Eowa. Penda fought against the Northumbrians, and slew Oswald, and fixed his head and limbs upon stakes, at Oswestry.
Ida, the son of Eoppa, ruled over lands in the north of Britain, and reigned twelve years. Then Outigern the Briton fought bravely against the nation of the Angles.
Adda, son of Ida, reigned eight years; Æthelric, son of Adda, reigned four years. Theodric, son of Ida, reigned seven years. Freothwulf reigned six years. Hussa reigned seven years. Four kings fought against him, Urien, and Ryderchen, and Guallauc, and Morcant. Theodric and his sons fought bravely against Urien. But sometimes the Angles and sometimes the Britons were victorious, and Urien besieged them for three days and three nights in the island of Lindisfarne; but while he was out on a raid he was murdered by an agent of Morcant, who envied him his prowess.
Æthelfrith reigned in Bernicia for twelve years, and twelve more over Deira as well, and he gave to his wife Bebba, the town of Dingwary, which from her is called Bebbanburh, or Bamburgh.
Edwin, son of Ælle, who reigned for seventeen years, conquered Elmet, and expelled Ceretic, its king. Eanfled, his daughter, received baptism, on the twelfth day after Pentecost, with all her followers, both men and women. The following Easter Edwin himself received baptism, and twelve thousand of his subjects with him.
Oswald son of Æthelfrith, reigned for nine years; he slew Cadwalla, king of Gwynedd, at the battle of Heavenfield, with many losses on his own side. Oswy, son of Æthelfrith, reigned for twenty-eight years and six months. During his reign many of his subjects were killed, when Cadwallader succeeded his father as king among the Britons, and Oswy died among the rest. He killed Penda at Winwed, and the kings of the Britons who accompanied Penda as far as Stirling, were all slain.
Penda, son of Pybba, reigned for ten years; he separated the kingdom of Mercia from the North, and slew by treachery Anna, king of the East Anglians, and Oswald, king of the Northumbrians. He fought the battle of Masefeld, in which fell Eawa, son of Pybba, his brother, king of the Mercians, and Oswald, king of the Northumbrians, and he gained the victory through the favour of Woden. He was the last heathen king among the Angles, and after his day, the Angles were Christian.
My intentions with this work have been to reconstruct, as far as possible, the lost legendary history of the Anglo-Saxon people. All the groundwork was done long ago, by scholars like HM Chadwick and RW Chambers, but to my knowledge no one has transformed their superlative scholarship into a generally accessible narrative.
I have used the genealogies of the Anglo-Saxon kings as a basic framework, fleshing this out with information from later sources that preserve identifiable fragments of the legendary history of the Anglo-Saxons. In the following notes I will explain this in further detail.
Main Sources: The Chronicle of Æthelweard (Ed. A. Campbell),
Malmesbury: the Kings before the Norman Conquest (Ed. J Stevenson)
N.B. First line of original text included phrase 'in the days that followed the Flood'.
In most of the surviving Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies, Sceaf appears at the point where they change from Biblical characters to heathen mythical heroes and gods. Said to have been "in the Ark with Noah", this is usually regarded as a later monastic reinterpretation of the original heathen myth. More information is provided by writers such as the tenth century chronicler Æthelweard, who speaks of the child Sceaf's arrival in a boat full of weapons, and how he became ancestor of Woden's dynasty, and thus the later Anglo-Saxon kings. The twelfth century writer William of Malmesbury adds that the boat lacked oars and that Sceaf's head was resting on a sheaf of corn, hence the name (OE sceaf = sheaf). His progeny are recorded by the genealogists.
Main Sources: Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway (University of Texas)
----------------: Edda (Everyman, 1996)
Little is known of the Anglo-Saxon myths concerning Woden. What remains corresponds roughly with the fuller accounts of Norse myth, although not absolutely. The god appears here as a magician in the Nine Herbs Charm, there as a maker of idols in Maxims I B. He can also be found in the word Wednesday (Wodnesdæg), and various placenames in England connected with his cult - Wednesbury, Wansdyke, Wenslow. But the best-documented myth concerning the god recorded after the Conversion identifies him as the ancestor of almost all the Anglo-Saxon royal houses.
The original form of the myth is unknown. By the time it was recorded in Anglo-Saxon England, Woden had clearly been euhemerised into an ancient king. It goes against the Eddic mythology, where Odin's father and grandfather, Borr and Buri, represent the full extent of the god's ancestry. Most serious historians use Woden's presence in the genealogies to cast doubt on their veracity, and often regard them as little more than propaganda. From a mythologist's point of view, however, they are invaluable.
I have filled in the gaps with Snorri Sturluson's later account in his Heimskringla and Edda, both of which show influence from Anglo-Saxon genealogy, although there is little to suggest that he knew anymore about Old English myth than we do. However, his versions are the oldest and fullest forms available. In them Woden / Odin is presented as an ancient king, in accordance with contemporary mores, but I have taken the liberty to 'restore' the tale to a more heathen form.
Main Sources: Saxo Grammaticus: History of the Danes (Ed. Oliver Elton)
Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway (University of Texas)
In the genealogies, one of Woden's many sons is known as Bældæg. Many writers, from Æthelweard onwards, have identified this son as the Norse god Baldr. I have followed this, despite some reservations, but adapted the version in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum rather than Snorri's Atys-like account, under the assumption that it preserves an earlier form. Also, with its Danish origin and locale, it is perhaps closer to the story the Anglo-Saxons knew. Saxo's account also fits better with the notion of the visit of Woden and his sons to the world of Men, and the founding of the Woden-descended royal houses. But since its anti-Baldr bias is not in keeping with my own approach to the tale, I have made certain changes.
The story of the wooing of Hrind and the avenging of Bældæg / Baldr follows directly on in Saxo, but the final episode in which Woden returns to the halls of the gods is adapted from Heimskringla.
Main Sources: Snorri Sturluson: Edda (Everyman, 1996),
Saxo Grammaticus: History of the Danes (Ed. Oliver Elton),
Earendel is a very good example of the elusive and fragmentary nature of the subject matter. A number of different accounts exist regarding characters with forms of this name - Aurvandill in Iceland, Horwendill in Denmark, Orendel in medieval Germany, Earendel in Anglo-Saxon England. Each account tallies in only the vaguest of ways, but most scholars posit a single lost original for all three.
In the Edda, Snorri preserves an account of how Thor rescued Aurvandill the Brave from captivity among the giants and flung his frost-bitten toe into the sky where became one of the brightest stars (identified by some with a Corona Borealis, by others with the Morning Star); Saxo's Horwendillus is the original of Old King Hamlet in Shakespeare's play, a heroic warrior-king noted for his expeditions into the east (traditional location of giantland); the peerless knight Orendel in German tradition sailed east on a crusade and passed through many supernatural perils to rescue the most beautiful woman in the world, who became his wife; and Earendel is mentioned by the poet Cynewulf in connection with the morning star. All these names are etymolgically one and the same. This mythical character, or medley of characters, inspired Tolkien to construct his entire Lord of the Rings mythology (where he appears as Earendill).
I have used the basic story of Orendel with elements inspired by Snorri, rounding off my version with Saxo's account of the homecoming of Horwendill and more than a little artistic license. It is by no means a definitive reconstruction of the ur-Earendel saga. But it does lead quite smoothly into the next tale.
Main Sources: Saxo Grammaticus: History of the Danes (Ed. Oliver Elton),
Frisian rune-inscription from Westeremden
Amluth - the form recorded on a Frisian rune-stave from Westeremden, c.800 - was known to Saxo as Amleth, and is more famous as Shakespeare's Hamlet. It may come as a surprise to readers that the Dane appears as an Anglo-Saxon ancestor. But bear with me.
The stories of Amleth and Uffo (see below) appear in Saxo's Danish History where they are rulers in Denmark. Uffo has been positively identified as Offa I of the Mercian genealogy, and it soon becomes apparent that a portion of Anglo-Saxon legendary history has become detached and placed out of context in the legends of Denmark. Amluth is said to be son of the præfectus of Jutland, from which it can be assumed that he was a Jute. There is evidence (see Appendix C of Tolkien's Finn and Hengest) that the Jutes had come under the rule of the Angles, apart from a group who had fled to Frisia. Much of this can be reinforced by archaeological evidence. Tolkien suggests that the Jutes were already tributary in Earendel's time. I have altered this a little, and moved the conquest forward to the death of Amluth. Other changes I have made include altering the nationality of Eormenthryth (Saxo's Hermithruda) from Scottish to Pictish, since this is more in keeping with the period of the story, which I presume to be some time in the fourth century AD. It is tempting to suggest that the Amluth saga indicates some recollection of the "barbarian conspiracy" of 367? Could the ruler of Britain who is so friendly with a Jutish king be one of the Germanic soldiers recorded as holding high posts in Britain at the time? Alan Bliss suggests Wihtlæg, Amluth's killer, was born around 300 AD. In this case, could Amluth be linked with the Saxons in Britain during the reign of Carausius? But this is no more than speculation.
Main Source: Saxo Grammaticus: History of the Danes (Ed. Oliver Elton),
The identification of Saxo's hero Uffo with Offa of the Mercian genealogies has been made by better scholars than I - H.M Chadwick (Origin of the English Nation), R.W. Chambers (Beowulf, Widsith), J.R.R. Tolkien (Finn and Hengest) et al. I have retold Saxo's story more or less verbatim, but in an Anglo-Saxon context.
Main Sources: Beowulf (Penguin, 1973, Ed. Alexander, M),
Arthurian Period Sources: Gildas (Phillimore & Co. Ltd, 2002, Ed. M. Winterbottom)
Nennius: The History of the Britons (Welsh Academic Press 2003, Ed. AW Wade-Evans et al)
Geoffrey of Monmouth: History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin 1988, Ed. Lewis Thorpe)
Two characters with the name Hengest or Hengist appear in early medieval accounts: the deep-minded, vengeful warrior featuring in the Finnsburh episode of Beowulf, and in The Finnsburh Fragment; and the treacherous mercenary who led the Saxon invasion of Britain. They are roughly contemporary, and it is customary to assume that they are identical, although there is no solid evidence for this. They certainly show similar characteristics, despite being depicted from wildly different viewpoints; the archetypal Anglo-Saxon warrior who waits out his time as a retainer of his lord's slayer before finally taking vengeance; the machiavellian schemer who patiently puts up with Vortigern's waverings before seizing control. One nation's hero is another nation's villain.
I have linked the two accounts - one of Hengest in his extreme youth, showing his potential, the other being Hengest in later years as a warlord in sub-Roman Britain. Here the mists of legend begin to dissipate and we come closer to true history. But we have yet to deal with the most mysterious figure of the Dark Ages.
NB. For the unusual identification of Hengest as an Angle rather than a Jute, see Appendix C of Tolkien's Finn and Hengest.
Main Sources: Nennius: The History of the Britons (Welsh Academic Press 2003, Ed. AW Wade-Evans et al),
Geoffrey of Monmouth: History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin 1988, Ed. Lewis Thorpe),
Widukind of Corvey: Res Gestæ Saxonicæ
One of the major troubles faced by the Arthurian industry when proving the reality of King Arthur is not so much the paucity of sources, but the manner in which they persistently contradict each other. The Old English depiction of Hengest and the contrary British / Welsh view can be explained. But when one side harps continually on a figure whose absence is conspicuous in the other's legends, we run into real difficulty. Arthur is never mentioned in English literature before the Norman Conquest.
This could be explained by partisan feelings; why mention someone who resoundingly defeated you? But it has to be borne in mind that the accounts in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle regarding the Arthurian period make no mention of Arthur. They are, in fact, extremely sparse until the ninth century. This is why I have relied greatly on the fuller account of the period furnished by Celtic tradition. I have received criticism for including Arthur in a work on Anglo-Saxon legend, but my argument is that for a full, coherent account, we must use the sources that provide themselves. This section concerns Octha, who appears to have been Arthur's principal opponent; Arthur's presence is inescapable.
I have made liberal use of Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth's works, with occasional references to the Mabinogion and Welsh tradition. The final element, about the retreat of certain Saxons into Germany, where they founded the later Duchy of Saxony, comes from the continental Saxon historian Widukind. Its basis in historical fact is confirmed by the contemporary account of Procopius, the Byzantine historian, who refers to frequent Saxon migrations from Britain into Germany, and close links between the two groups in his day.
9. THE HEPTARCHY
Main Sources: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Greenwich Editions, 2002, Ed. Savage, A).,
Nennius: The History of the Britons (Welsh Academic Press 2003, Ed. AW Wade-Evans et al),
Bede: Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Penguin, 1990, Ed. Leo Sherley-Price)
As a term for the kingdoms of England before the rise of Wessex, the "Heptarchy" is anathema to all Anglo-Saxon historians, who repeatedly point out that at no point did precisely seven kingdoms exist - there were always more or less than this. But although the term dates from the early modern period, the notion was based on accounts of chroniclers from the High Middle Ages. This may reflect a traditional concept of seven kingdoms - seven being a significant number in many traditions - and I have taken it as such. Since my work is primarily concerned with tradition and legend I deemed it suitable.
The text is adapted from various chroniclers and historians of the Early to High Middle Ages, especially the much-maligned and eminently readable Nennius.
Anonymous: Beowulf (Penguin, 1973) (Ed. Alexander, M).
Anonymous: The Mabinogion (Harper Collins 2002) (Ed. Lady Charlotte Guest)
Anonymous: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Greenwich Editions, 2002) (Ed. Savage, A).
Æthelweard: The Chronicle of Æthelweard (1962) (Ed. A. Campbell)
Bede: Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Penguin, 1990) (Ed. Leo Sherley-Price)
Gildas: Arthurian Period Sources: Gildas
(Phillimore & Co. Ltd, 2002) (Ed. M. Winterbottom)
Grammaticus, Saxo: History of the Danes (1894) (Ed. Oliver Elton)
Malmesbury, William of: Malmesbury: the Kings before the Norman Conquest (Llanerch, 1989) (Ed. J Stevenson)
Monmouth, Geoffrey of: History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin 1988) (Ed. Lewis Thorpe)
Nennius: The History of the Britons
(Welsh Academic Press 2003) (Ed. AW Wade-Evans et al)
Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway (University of Texas) ----------------: Edda (Everyman, 1996)
Tacitus: The Agricola and the Germania
Chadwick, H.M: The Origin of the English Nation (Cambridge 1907)
Chambers, R. W: Beowulf: an Introduction to the Study of the Poem (Cambridge 1921) ----------------: Widsith: a study in Old English Heroic Legend (Cambridge 1912)
Sisam, K: Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies (British Academy, 1986)
Tolkien, J.R.R: Finn and Hengest: The Fragment and the Episode (Harper Collins, 1998) (Ed. Alan Bliss).