Study Guide

King Horn

by Unknown

King Horn Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Horn

Horn, a protagonist. The son of Murri and Godhild, he is the fairest boy in the land and a paragon of competence, courage, and virtue. After the invaders of Murri’s land send Horn and his twelve companions out to sea on a ship designed to sink, Horn manages to bring his crew to safety in the kingdom of Westernesse. Throughout the poem, his actions exemplify fortitude in battle, obedience to authority, and perseverance in love. Horn is incapable of evil; he is the epitome of goodness.

Murri

Murri, Horn’s father and the king of Suddene, who is murdered by invaders as he rides by the sea.

Godhild

Godhild, Horn’s mother. After the death of her husband and the banishment of her sons, she withdraws from society and dwells alone under a rock, where she prays for the children’s safety.

Athulf

Athulf, Horn’s brother, who resembles him, although he is not as fair. The poet says that Athulf is the best of Horn’s twelve companions.

Fikenhild

Fikenhild, Horn’s antithesis, who is responsible for his exile from Westernesse. The embodiment of evil, Fikenhild is referred to as “the worst mother’s child.”

Aylmar

Aylmar, the king of Westernesse, who harbors Horn and his companions, eventually knighting them all. The poet suggests that Aylmar’s kingdom is somewhat more advanced than...

(The entire section is 506 words.)

King Horn Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Barnes, Geraldine. Counsel and Strategy in Middle English Romance. Cambridge, England: D. S. Brewer, 1993. Discusses the nature and functions of kingdoms and advisory bodies described in romances. Barnes also includes recent research on the audiences of the romance.

Knight, Stephen. “The Social Function of the Middle English Romances.” Medieval Literature: Criticism, Ideology, & History, edited by David Aers. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986. Divides the medieval romance into three subgenres and describes each in detail.

Ramsey, Lee C. Chivalric Romances: Popular Literature in Medieval England. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983. Provides background on the history and development of the medieval romance. Ramsey discusses elements common to all romances and includes information on the genre’s audience.

Spearing, A. C. Readings in Medieval Poetry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Begins by discussing the relationship between self-perception and modes of language, then applies this material to various works, including King Horn. Spearing compares the medieval romance to twentieth century film.

Zesmer, David M. Guide to English Literature from “Beowulf” Through Chaucer and Medieval Drama. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1961. Includes a brief analysis of the romance and identifies the geography in King Horn.