Anglo Saxon Period (449-1066)

1. Name Origin

Derived from the terms Angles and Saxons, used to distinguish Germanic groups on the British island. Also used as another term for Old English.

2. Class System

  • King
  • Earls
  • Freeman
  • Thanes
  • Churls (Serfs)
  • Thralls (Slaves)

To memorize the class system, just remember this acronym:

Kangaroos eat from tall cocoa trees

3. Anglo Saxon Values

  1. Courage
  2. Loyalty
  3. Personal Valor
  4. Courtesy
  5. Fame
  6. Wyrd - fate is important
  7. Christianity - brings oral traditions

4. Notable People

  • Venerable Bede recorded British history before 700 AD and is referred to "the father of English history" as the earliest English historian.
  • King Alfred the Great translated Bede's work to Anglo Saxon.
  • The Exter Book is a 10th century book of Anglo Saxon poetry, the largest known collection of its type.
  • Sutton Hoo is a large ship found with many Anglo Saxon artifacts

5. Literature

Key Terms

  • Kenning is a metaphor.
  • Litotes are dramatic understatements.
  • Every story is recited by a Scops (singers) or Gleemen (assistants.)
  • Comitatus means "die for your brother," demonstrated in Beowulf's third battle.

Types of Poems

  • Heroic – Germanic myths featuring a hero with a tragic flaw. (ex. Beowulf)
  • Epic – Long narrative poems on a serious subject. (ex. Beowulf)
  • Elegy – Christian writings mourning the dead through sorrow and loneliness (ex. Seafarer)

6. The Seafarer

A elegy poem written by an unknown author.

  • Man lost at sea experiences a near death experience.
  • Asks God for forgiveness.
  • Man experienced sorrow, fear, pain, and suffering.
  • Whale's Home is an example of a kenning.

Fate has 3 traits:

  1. Illness
  2. Age
  3. Enemies' Sword

7. Beowulf

Beowulf is an epic poem set in Scandinavia written by an unknown author. It was a spoken tale passed down orally and recorded in third person.

Characters and Objects

  • Herotmead hall at Horthgar's throne.
  • BeowulfGeat warrior from Finland.
    • Nagling – Sword used by Beowulf.
  • Wiglaf – Great warrior helping Beowulf in battle with dragon.
  • Horthgar – King of the Danes who had great success as a ruler before Grendel attacks.
  • Grendel – Monster terrorizing Herot.
  • Grendel's Mother – Protector of Grendel's claw.
  • Dragon – Terrorizes Beowulf's kingdom after he becomes king.

First Battle

  • Beowulf arrives in Herot to help Horthgar get rid of Grendel.
  • Lays down at night and waits for Grendel. Beowulf kills Grendel with hands (no weapons.)
  • Hangs Grendel's claw on the wall in Herot.

Second Battle

  • Grendel's mother, enraged, attacks Herot. Rips Grendel's claw from wall.
  • Leads to underwater battle (supernatural characteristics of a epic hero.)
  • Beowulf kills Grendel's mother in her underwater lair using weapons.

Third Battle

  • Beowulf is now a king and very old.
  • Dragon attacks, Beowulf goes to face dragon but becomes critically wounded.
  • Wiglaf comes to his rescue and kills dragon. Beowulf dies. Example of comitatus.