Serraillier's Havelok the Dane is a prose adaptation of an anonymous thirteenth-century romance poem. The work chronicles the struggles of a young Danish boy (Havelok) and a young English girl (Goldborough) to regain the thrones of the kingdoms that have been seized from them by a pair of malevolent noblemen. The narrative is filled with action and excitement. In addition to its appealing plot, Havelok the Dane reflects a major concern with social and political values. Written during a time when there was a great gulf between the two main classes of society—the nobles and the commoners—the narrative serves to narrow this gap by its frequent portrayal of the praiseworthy deeds of the lower classes and the ignoble actions of the aristocrats. Although the tale is not a plea for democracy—the concept of democracy was virtually unheard of during the Middle Ages—it stresses the fact that courage, perseverance, and innate goodness exist as often among members of the lower social classes as among members of the nobility. It also stresses the fact that good rulers treat their subjects with fairness and compassion.
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