Shout-out to New Followers No. 2

As promised, today we salute the second cohort of followers who have joined us since January:

and of course the ever-prolific and immediately responsive

I wonder what the Anglo-Saxon for shout-out might be? I guess I’ll find out as I plough through Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer. I’m starting with the alphabet which is quite easy because most of it is like ours, although they have some different letters such as thorn and ‘eth’ (I think that’s what it’s called, though OH will correct me if not) both of which represent the voiced and unvoiced ‘th’ in English – ie ‘th’ in ‘thing’ and ‘th’ in ‘seethe’. Anglo-Saxon is a delight to listen to, such a mouthful of juicy consonants accompanied by goblets full of ringing vowels, you can practically taste the mead and feel the table under your hand. It’s interesting also to put this together with Sutton Hoo – though 500 years separate the dig from Beowulf – to create a picture in the imagination. Beowulf – I’ve read it now – is essentially a tale of shield-bashing men from the time when men were men, wrestling monsters from the deep (and their mothers) and fiery dragons. But what interests me is what it says about the society; the life of the barn where people sat in the mead-hall while wardens were placed outside; how status was dependent on prowess on the battle-field, and above all the importance of exchanging gifts. At the end of Beowulf the eponymous hero, having died destroying a dragon, is buried with much of the haul they recovered from the dragon’s den and placed inside a huge barrow on the cliff-top. Having finished the poem I have an enduring vision of ships crossing ‘whale-roads’, great halls, flowing mead and long speeches – one or two of which are given by women. Though undoubtedly second-class citizens and traded as freely as gold or silver, women are not as silent in Beowulf as I had expected and one, the wife of the lord, makes a lengthy speech of welcome to the Geats (people from southern Sweden) who have come to Denmark to free the people from the monster. It’s interesting to imagine the great mead-hall of Beowulf strewn with the found objects from Sutton Hoo; the shoulder-clasps of gold inlaid with garnet, the helmets laid aside while the heroes eat and the great cauldron hanging from the roof of the barn with perhaps a meaty stew inside. These were already sophisticated people with customs, trade, religion, seafaring routes and a social hierarchy. It’s just a pity that all they seemed to think about was war. Hey, ho – it’s tough studying Anglo-Saxon as a Quaker…

2 thoughts on “Shout-out to New Followers No. 2

  1. I’m afraid war was inevitable, once tribes realised that they could make themselves more comfortable [aka enrich themselves] by stealing resources of all descriptions from tribes unable or unwilling to defend themselves. What we now know as trade was a peaceful alternative to war, but possibly only instituted when tribes were pragmatic enough to realise that war would be a zero-sum game; however [and this is obviously an ‘enlightened’ view with the benefit of hindsight], if these early societies had been mature enough to realise that life could be so much sweeter by freely exchanging goods & services, instead of attaching a notional ‘value’ to everything, we could have had a truly peaceful world. Perhaps it was tried & abandoned for some reason: I confess I don’t know enough history to take a view on that. Just going back to the Anglo Saxon [I worked in Saxony some years ago, by the way: they speak German, albeit heavily accented], my now departed ex-mother-in-law [although she wasn’t ex at the time of her demise] used to enjoy launching into the vernacular of broad Yorkshire, which she claimed wasn’t so far removed from old English, and also that German people could generally understand her. Cheers, Jon.

    1. Wow. Brings a whole new vibe to the Yorkshire man’s sketch. We, you were lucky! I used to dream of sleeping in a barn… etc

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