THE B.L.OGGERS’ CHRONICLES By Group 1, PSEng 1 B.L. Publishing House
1313216 , 1313231, 1313238, , 1313261, 1313280, 1313291, 1313295
British Literature- Anglo Saxon to Early Victorian, EST131
Ms. Renu Elizabeth Abraham
7 September 2013
This book is an attempt to understand Anglo-Saxon Literature. It is a bird’s eye view of its historical setting, prominent characters, text, etc. Apart from the fact that this is a CIA, it is imperative to understand Anglo-Saxon Literature because it the beginning of English literature itself – a beginning of fiction, verse, fantasy and the realization of man’s adventurous spirit. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to characters living or dead is purely coincidental. The translation of any Anglo-Saxon words will be mentioned at the end of the book.
To Renu Ma’am and Felix Sir, and anyone else who is marking us on this CIA. Also, to 1PSEng, our comrades-in-arms.
Chapter 1 Kills for Thrills Born out of intense heated discussions early on stormy days, the students of PSEng while mulling over the irritation of creativity in general, were struck by an idea. A big one. Combining modernity and antiquity, they decided on a video blog dedicated entire to British Literature. And so emerged B.L.T.V. from its creators, the B.L.OGGERS. * “Hello! YOU are the beautiful people on the Internet who’re smart enough to view this intellectual production that we’ve decided to put up for you”, VJ Mits exclaims. “Welcome to the pilot episode. Today we visit the roots of the English language. Before England was England. We focus on Anglo Saxon literature.” “We start off with a dramatic rendition from the past. From Angleland, we have Beowlf and Grendel in the studio. They originated from the 3182 line eponymous epic poem, Beowulf.” 5
Backstage VJ Pratz hurriedly puts on her adaptation of Beowulf’s costume. She puts on a long blonde wig depicting Beowulf’s Swedish roots, a fur cape, chainmail and helmet. To increase her height, she wears stilts to match Beowulf’s great height. “Beowulf describes the adventures of the protagonist, Beowulf. A courageous man from Geatland, he sets out to help King Hrothgar of Denmark who was being terrorized by a monster Grendel for twelve years. We present to you our versions of excerpts from Beowulf’s and Grendel’s diaries. VJ Pratz walks into the frame with an old tattered scroll in her hand. She begins reading in a deep somber voice. “ Day 1 I received news from Spear-Danes across the waters, of the evil Grendel’s rampages and the helpless sufferings of King Hrothgar and his people. My father, the warlord Ecgtheow, owes King Hrothgar for settling a feud on his behalf, so I have decided to go and help him in his time of need. I have already arranged for a boat which will take me there in a day’s time. Day 2 On arriving at Danes I assure the people that us Geats have come not to fight them but to help them fight. Hrothgar’s herald was impressed by our discipline and appearance, dressed as we were in shining mail-shirts and armor. One of the Danes, Wulfgar, talked the King into letting me meet with him. I formally declared to the King that I would fight Grendel in single hand-to-hand combat so that I would have the privilege of purifying the Heorot Hall. King Hrothgar realizing that my father owed him a favor agreed to let me fight Grendel at my own risk. Following this, the King hosts a feast for us Geats. Unferth, one of Hrothgar’s followers attempted to spoil 6
the party cheer by insulting my strength but I retaliated by saying that if he was such a good warrior Grendel would not still be alive and wreaking havoc on Heorot Hall. The lovely Queen Wealhtheow makes an appearance at the feast as well, offering the warriors a goblet to drink from and she even thanked me for coming and was pleased when I declared that I would deliver the Spear-Danes from Grendel. After everyone retires for the night, my men and I were left in the hall to await Grendel’s inevitable attack which my men felt we would not survive. When Grendel attacked we were unprepared and I lost one of my men to him but I caught him by the arm with a strong grip (which he definitely was not expecting) and whilst wrestling I ripped his arm from the shoulder after which he fled. I was satisfied knowing that I had saved the Danes and even had the arm to prove his victory. Day 3 Everyone in Danes gathered to celebrate Grendel’s death. The other warriors tracked the trail of blood left behind by Grendel and discovered that he was in fact dead. Everyone praised me and the King’s minstrel sang a song about the Sigemund the dragon-slayer, applying some parts of the song to my own deeds. The King gave a speech and claimed me to be a part of their family, honored me with many valuable gifts and the Queen formally presented me with a golden torque asking me to guide and protect her sons and wishes me luck. Day 4 Hrothgar didn’t want me to sleep on the floor of the hall with the common soldiers so I was sleeping in one of the bed chambers. The next day I came to know that Grendel’s mother attacked the soldiers (Danes and Geats alike) in Heorot at night, killing many of them, and even stole my trophy of Grendel’s severed arm. Hrothgar told me about 7
an eerie lake a few miles away where Grendel’s mother is said to dwell, and puts his faith in me to face the creature offering me treasures in return. I travel to the lake in search of the demon and see many sea-monsters and reptiles in the waters which the other soldiers killed. Unferth gave me an ancient sword called Hrunting, tempered in blood and had never lost a battle. I announced that if I was killed, Hrunting would be returned to Unferth and after that I jumped into the churning lake. Day 5 After swimming for a long time Grendel’s mother finds me and drags me to her court where her sea-monsters tears his chain mail and I tried cutting her with Hrunting but it didn’t work. She took out a huge knife and stabs at my shoulder but the chain mail saved my life. I found an ancient sword from the days of the giants and swing it in a wide arc, cutting her neck and killing her. I look around and see Grendel’s corpse from which I sever the head and take it back up to the surface with me. Seeing the blood in the water, the Danes and Hrothgar assuming I was dead returned to their home, but the Great warriors at least waited for me. We return to Heorot Hall, taking Grendel’s severed head with us. I gave Hrothgar a jeweled sword hilt that I found for which he praised me and thanked me once again for saving them. Hrothgar even suggested that if his own sons were killed then I could come and defend the Danes again and become their ruler. He also confirms the “shared peace and a pact of friendship” that exist between the Geats and Danes, and on that note we started on our journey back to Geatland.”
VJ Kits meanwhile puts on makeup for her portrayal of Grendel storming in after Beowulf, she yells out her sad story in the voice of a guttural, anxious male. 8
“ Day 110 As usual, one evening I went out for my customary meal. I have the habit of attacking the mead hall of Hereot and killing and, eating everyone whom I find there. My greatest motivation is in listening to Hrothagar’s bard sing songs about God’s creation of the world. Every night I slaughter more Danes and feed on their corpses after tearing them from limb to limb. Perhaps that is why everyone seems extremely terrified of me. This habit is simply because of the noise made by the drunken dwellers. Being descendants of the Biblical Cain, we are part of a larger religious or supernatural scheme of evil and do not consider fratricide, or the killing of a brother, as evil or unacceptable. I kill for fun. And I don’t intend to pay the death-price, the treasure that the Danes sought to make compensation for the lives that I have taken. I have a pathological love for violence and enjoy feeding on the corpses of those whom I kill. However, I did not foresee that I would soon come across someone who actually dared to fight against me and attempted to take my life. The next time I attacked Heorot Hall, Beowulf was waiting for me. Beowulf, that filthy monster! He attempted to wrestle me into submission and eventually tore off my arm at the shoulder. Mortally wounded, I fled into the wilderness and continue to stay there. I have a feeling that my end is nearing. There’s just too much pain to not let go.”
Chapter 2 12
Old Fashion is the New Fashion
“I am exhausted…” VJ Mits says. “That was a good episode, I think. At least none of the costumes fell apart”, says VJ Prat with a sigh. “I don’t know. Hopefully we’ll get more than five views”, says VJ Mitts. VJ Kits interjects, “Relax man; at least we were factually correct! We Flikipedia-ed it, after all.” “Go B.L.OGGERS!” they say, giggling loudly. Sudden thunder breaks out over their heads, deafening them. Lightning flashes across the windows, blinding them. A keening sound peals through the studio, piercing their ears. Frightened, the three friends huddle, with their mouths open, as the air ripples around them. A large spiraling multi coloured light moves through the air. And suddenly, two oddly dressed men tumble out of the spiral. Brushing themselves off, they face the B.L.OGGERS. VJ Kits exclaims, “Did we just die? Are we in heaven?” VJ Mits counters, “What good have we ever done to end up there?!” Pratz shushes them and slowly advances to the men who were by now acquainting themselves with the studio equipment. “Hel-lo! Sorry, who on earth are you? And just how did you get here?” One of the men says to the other, “Is that a woman I see addressing us?” “She does seem to be dressing like a man”, he said casting a glance at her jeans. “Who do you think you are, appearing out of nowhere and being so patronizing?” “You ask who I am?” said one of the men. 13
“Who WE are?”, chipped in the other. “I am Caedmon, the earliest English poet known and he is Cynewulf of Northumbria. Sure you know who we are!” VJ Mits rudely says, ‘No! We don’t.” “Surely for people who so blasphemously depict the work of my time, you ought to know who I am. Caedmon and I have travelled from your history to tell you about the true nature of Anglo Saxon Literature.” “My eaxlgestealla * here “Your WHAT?” “Any Anglo-Saxon words we use will be addressed at the end of the discourse. My ‘friend’ here has composed what is known as the Caedmon's Hymn . It is a nine line alliterative vernacular poem made to honor God. He learned to sing in his dream after being inspired by divinity. This Hymn is one of the earliest examples of Old English poetry, and has been sustained in a Germanic language.” “Yes ... I was a herdsman at the monastery Streonæshalch that is now called Whitby Abbey. While the monks would feast and sing along with the sounds of the harp music, I would retire to bed early because I was embarrassed…” “Embarrassed?” “Embarrassed for he knew no songs. In his dream, someone asked him to sing principium creaturarum, the beginning of created things. Caedmon wrote a eulogistic poem. The poem praised God, the Creator of heaven and earth. As Caedmon received such a gift, he also received a test. He passes the test and took the monastic vows. And so, Caedmon lived a pious life as a saint.” “My my! After that glowing tribute, I must talk ābūtan * my contemporary here. Cynewulf is one of twelve Anglo-Saxon poets that literary historians of your time know. He has composed four pieces titled The Fates of the Apostles, Juliana, Elene, and Christ II, also referred to as The Ascension. The “Christ” is preserved in only one manuscript, The Exeter Book.” “Whoa whoa! Slow down! What is The Exeter Book?” 14
Caedmon shakes his head disappointed. “The Exeter Book is a collection of poems in Exeter Cathedral, England, circa 975. As I was saying, this poem is a glorification of three themes. The first part relates to the Advent of Christ or Incarnation, and deals with a period of devout expectancy and longing. The second part relates to the Ascension and is a sermon on Pope Gregory the Great. The last part is a powerful description of Christ’s Second Coming upon Doomsday or the Last Judgment and His impassioned address to sinners.” Cynewulf adds, “Though I titled it Christ, I wished to show my devotion to the Virgin Mary.” He continues, “My masterpiece, however, is the ‘Elene’. Its manuscript was uncovered in Vercelli, Italy in 1836 with the discovery of the Vercelli Book.” “Umm ..” “Well, it is a collection of Old English Manuscripts of both prose and poetry”, he added before anyone could further interrupt him. “I picked this theme for two reasons – its deep religious roots and its adventurous location in faraway countries.” “OH! I remember who you are! You seemed awfully familiar! I saw your pictures in my Literature textbook the other day.” “You’re the guy who wrote ‘Juliana’. My textbook describes it as ‘a tale of Christian martyrdom’.” “Yes. The poem was a testimony to the practice of confession. It is also preserved in The Exeter. It represents the life of St. Juliana based on its Latin source.” Caedmon says, “These so called B.L.OGGERS are ignorant about us. Calling themselves after their channel. Humph. And they want to educate the others? How can they call themselves the Flikipedia generation? Wasting away in front of those lapbottoms all day.” “It’s laptops!” exclaims Kits. “And we have done our research. We’ve just not got to you gus in our research yet.” “You say we’re unimportant in our time! Perhaps we should settle this in the ‘old fashioned’ way.” 15
Chapter 3 The Beadwum* of Wits “We’re ready. What’s the challenge?” “In The Riddle Age, we used to test each other’s intellect by asking riddles. In AngloSaxon.” “We don’t expect you t know the P-Language. C’mon, it should be a fair fight. Translate it and tell us.” “Fine. Let’s start then.” Caedmon says. “Hrægl is min hasofag, hyrste beorhte, reade ond scire on reafe minum. Ic dysge dwelle ond dole hwette unrædsiþas, oþrum styre nyttre fore.
Ic þæs nowiht wat
þæt heo swa gemædde, mode bestolene, dæde gedwolene,
won wisan gehwam.
Wa him þæs þeawes,
siþþan heah bringað
gif hi unrædes
ær ne geswicaþ.
Which means, My garment is stained dark, my ornaments bright, red and shining on my robe. 18
I delude the fool and urge the idiot on reckless tracks; others I steer from suitable ones. I do not know why they, thus mad, robbed of reason, deluded in deed, praise my shadowy way to everyone. Woe to them for that habit, when they bring the most beloved of hoards on high, if they do not first retreat from recklessness.” “okay, we can do this. Its stains garments, it deludes people……” “Red wine!” yells VJ Pratz. “my dad always calls it an idiot’s drink.” Caedmon says, “Perhaps this one then. But be warned, the riddle only seems ‘obscene’. Its true intent lies in the mind of the listener.” “Splendidly it hangs by a man’s thigh, under the master’s cloak. In front is a hole. It is stiff and hard; it has a goodly place. When the young man his own garment lifts over his knee, he wishes to visit with the head of what hangs the familiar hole he had often filled with its equal length.” “Well I’m sure it’s not what t seems to be. Maybe it is a belt.” Mits says. “But it mentions a garment. The garment must be a pocket….it’s a key!!!” Kits exclaims “That was good.” admits Cynewulf grudgingly. “I have one for you this time that I got from research on Beowulf.” Mits says I am a lonely thing, switten by sword, 19
wounded with iron, sated with battle-work,
weary of blades. fierce combat.
Often I see battle, I foresee no comfort,
no help will come for me until among men
from the heat of battle,
I perish utterly;
but the hammered swords hard-edged and sharp, in towns among men.
will beat me and bite me,
the handiwork of smiths, Abide I must always
the meeting of foes.
Never could I find
among the leeches,
where people foregather,
any who with herbs
would heal my wounds;
but the sores from the swords with mortal blows
are always greater
day and night.
What’s the answer?” “Hmmm…Beowulf was always dark; a lot of war and violence.” Caedmon says. Cynewulf replies, “ True. Perhaps the answer is a weapon.” “You’re right. The hammered swords beat me…it’s a shield!!”, shouted Caedmon. “This was indeed a beadwum of wits .. I mean battle of wits. You’ve proved us wrong. Maybe you do know something after all.” “You’ve actually taught us a lot. You’ve made us see that Anglo-Saxon Literature is not as boring as it seems.” “Then we’ve served our purpose here.”
Chapter 4 The Gods Give Us the Godwinsons “As great as our era was, iit came to an end with the rule of Harold Godwinson – a king who ruled for only nine months.” As he Caedmon was saying these words, the shimmering portal opened beside him once more. In that, they could see a scene unfolding. As Cynewulf continued the narration, events took place in the portal. “The story begins in England. Edward had just returned from his studies in France to assume the throne after Lord Canute. The Godwin family rose in power during the reign of Canute, and by the time Edward came to the throne, they possessed vast holdings themselves and also wielded great influence over the other Saxon nobles. Edward however, did not approve of the Godwins.” “To consolidate his power, Earl Harold Godwin arranged for the marriage between his daughter, Edith and Edward. Edward knowing of the Earl’s plan did not consummate the marriage and was hence called Edward the Confessor after his increasing involvement with the Church. As this marriage obviously did not produce any, Godwin began to groom his son, Harold Godwinson for the Saxon throne, although he had no hereditary right to it.” Therefore, Edward and his Norman advisors, favored the cause of William of Normandy, believing Edward's grand-nephew, the rightful heir, was not strong enough to resist influence of the Godwin family.” Caedmon looks at the portal, his voice hushed. “It was a sorry state indeed. When Edward died, Harold assumed the throne claiming Edward had chosen him as his heir on his deathbed. Under his reign, his brother Tostig proved to be a troublemaker. Tostig was made earl of Northumbria, but abused his power so much that Harold had no choice but to banish him from England.
Meanwhile two armies were being raised against Harold-one in Normandy under William the Bastard, a savage but powerful warrior, and the other in Scandinavia under Tostig and Harald III or Harold Hadrada of Norway. Both armies descended on England at about the same time. Tostig arrived first and conquered the city of York, but in a surprise attack, Harold defeated the army of Vikings at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. He had hardly returned to London before word of the Norman invasion at Senlac came. He recalled his army and bravely faced the new invaders at the Battle of Hastings, but died in battle. The country submitted to the rule of Normans, and William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in this watershed in English history.” As he said these words, the images of Ceadmon and Cynewulf began to flicker, and then fade. The three friends alarmed at first, suddenly realize that with the end of the AngloSaxon time, the age of Caedmon and Cynewulf had also concluded. Time had moved on, and with that, the Anglo-Saxon period had been replaced by the Norman French era. With sad smiles, Caedmon and Cynewulf mouthed ‘ábíede’* as they disappeared. Thunder and lightning rent the air again as the three friends sink to the floor. With a start, they come to and look around to see people gathered around them, wishing and greeting them on the success of their first episode. They had managed to garner more than five views after all! The three B.L.OGGERS look at each other quizzically, wondering if it was a dream and if they had all seen the same thing. “Maybe it was a figment of our imagination after all.” “Oh well, we’ve got Chaucer to do next. Who knows what adventure awaits us there?”
Eaxlgestealla – Friend
Ābūtan – About
ábíede’ - Farewell
Beadwum - Battle
Some other Anglo-Saxon words are 5.
bānhūs - the human body
beadolēoma (battle-light) – sword
bærnan – to burn
cearful – full of care
cēap – commerce
(ge)bædan – to impel
**Commonly used and accepted spellings and pronunciations
Works Cited There are no sources in the current document.