What Do I Read Next?
- The anonymous Old English poem The Battle of Maldon was composed close to the time the Beowulf manuscript was being transcribed. It recounts the death in 991 A.D of Byrhtnoth, ealdorman (governor) of Essex, and his men while fighting the Vikings. It is filled with the heroic commonplaces of Germanic literature: the courageous and still active old war leader who makes one miscalculation, but dies shoulder to shoulder with his men, the retainers who die one by one standing by their dead lord. Modern readers will see in it formulas of another kind, the voices and characters of the men in the ranks, the career soldier as well as the civilian volunteer. Maldon and its characters could easily be transposed to a Hollywood platoon or bomber crew movie.
- The anonymous Irish epic Tain Bo Cualgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), available in a translation by Thomas Kinsella (1969), is unusual in that it is composed in prose with inset short verses. Like Beowulf it is difficult to date, the language of the oldest version is probably eighth century although some passages of inset verse may be older. The focus of the story fluctuates between two characters, Queen Maeve of Connacht, who begins the war, and the Ulster hero Cuchulainn. During the period in which the Tain and Beowulf were written, England and Ireland enjoyed close cultural relations.
- Felix's Life of Guthlac , translated by Bertram Colgrave (1956), was written in Latin sometime after 714 and before 749 A.D. Guthlac (circa 674-714 A.D.) was an adventurous young Anglo-Saxon nobleman. After successfully leading a war band, he was moved in his early twenties by "the miserable deaths of kings of his race" to enter a monastery. There he read of the heroism of the "desert fathers," the monks who had gone into the wilderness to be alone with God, and decided that he would attempt to be such a spiritual warrior. He became a hermit in the East Anglian fens, living in an old burial mound, which he held against the onslaughts of demons. Although he was a hermit he was often visited by people seeking...
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