Oral History—Lessons and entertainment


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Oral History—Lessons and entertainment

  • Oral History—Lessons and entertainment

  • British folktale

  • Anglo Saxon time period



Between 800 and 600 B.C., two groups of Celts from southern Europe invaded the British Isles.

  • Between 800 and 600 B.C., two groups of Celts from southern Europe invaded the British Isles.

    • Brythons (now spelled “Britons”) settled on the largest Island, Britain.
    • Gaels, settled on the second largest island, known to us as Ireland.




farmers and hunters

    • farmers and hunters
    • organized themselves into clans
    • clans had fearsome loyalty to chieftains
    • looked to priests, known as Druids, to settle their disputes




Roman conquest of Britain AD 43

  • Roman conquest of Britain AD 43

    • Britain annexed as a province in the Roman Empire
    • Difficult to control such a large piece of land
  • Brought Christianity to Britain around AD 300

  • The last Romans left around 407 A.D.

    • Needed to defend against rebelling European countries; England left to its own devices






449AD 3 Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) invade.

  • 449AD 3 Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) invade.

  • Destruction of Roman influence, including Christianity

  • New land: “Angle-land”

  • - small tribal kingdoms

  • - no written language

  • - supported themselves through farming and hunting











Burial site discovered in 1939

  • Burial site discovered in 1939

  • Important links to Anglo-Saxon world and Beowulf

  • Remains of a boat were discovered and large burial chamber containing numerous artifacts

  • Artifacts suggest a distinctly Christian element intermingled with pagan ritual.





596AD: attempt to convert Anglo- Saxons to Christianity

  • 596AD: attempt to convert Anglo- Saxons to Christianity

  • 597AD: Saint Augustine

    • converted King Ethelbert of Kent to Christianity.
    • set up a monastery in Canterbury in Kent.
  • 650AD: most of England is Christian; some hold on to previous beliefs

    • The church provided counsel to quarreling rulers in efforts to unify the English people.
  • At this time, the British Isles were not unified and included separate kingdoms with separate rulers. They fought continuously over the fertile, green land



9th Century:

  • 9th Century:

    • Norway invaded Northumbria (Anglo-Saxon kingdom in northern and central England), Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
    • The Danes of Denmark targeted eastern and southern England


  • 866—resisted Danish intrusion and earned “the great” title

    • Saxons acknowledged Danish rule in East and North
    • Danes respected Saxon rule in South
  • End of 10th Century—Danes want to widen Danelaw

  • 1042—Kingship returned to Alfred the Great’s descendent Edward

  • Edward the Confessor died in 1066. His death led to the end of the Anglo-Saxon Period.



2 major influences

  • 2 major influences

  • 1) Germanic Traditions of the Anglo-Saxons

  • 2) Christian Traditions of the Roman Church





Germanic language

  • Germanic language

  • – Mixture of various Germanic dialects + Old English

  • – Old English (often looks like a foreign language)





Warrior culture

  • Warrior culture

  • – Poems and stories depict a society like the Anglo-Saxons

  • • Military and tribal loyalties

  • • Bravery of warriors

  • Generosity of rulers

  • Oral tradition

  • – Songs and stories often sung and told about the valiant struggles of heroic warriors

  • More than just entertainment – provided a model for living and a form of immortality they could aspire to

  • Note: all of these provided the foundation for early written literature in Old English



Anglo-Saxon poetry falls mainly into two categories:

  • Anglo-Saxon poetry falls mainly into two categories:

    • Heroic poetry – recounts the achievements of warriors
    • Elegiac poetry – laments the deaths of loved ones and the loss of the past
  • Beowulf is the most famous example of heroic poetry.



Christian; reflects established tradition

  • Christian; reflects established tradition

  • Allusions to the Old Testament

  • Beowulf is a Redeemer who is sent by God to save man from sin:

  • Christ archetype: Correspondences between Beowulf’s death and the death of Christ

  • The price of salvation is life itself



Beowulf: Unknown author

  • Beowulf: Unknown author

  • The national epic of England (first work to be composed in English)

  • A long heroic poem, about a great legendary warrior renowned for his courage, strength, and dignity.



Most epics are serious in tone and lofty in style, a technique meant to convey the importance of the events. Long speeches by the characters suggest an impressive formality.

  • Most epics are serious in tone and lofty in style, a technique meant to convey the importance of the events. Long speeches by the characters suggest an impressive formality.

  • Use of kennings





Relationship between king and his warriors

  • Relationship between king and his warriors

  • The king rewards his warriors with gifts

  • If a kinsman is slain, obligation to kill the slayer or obtain payment (wergeld) in compensation



This tension is at the heart of the poem

  • This tension is at the heart of the poem

  • Pagan history and myth are made to point to a Christian moral

  • Beowulf is poised between two value systems



Defeats his enemies using

    • Defeats his enemies using
      • Physical strength
      • Skill as a warrior
      • Nobility of character
      • Quick wits
    • Is not modest – boasting is a ritual
    • Embodies the ideals and values of his people
    • Is eager for fame
    • Because the Germanic tribes believed death was inevitable, warriors sought fame to preserve the memory of their deeds after death




Using the profile provided to your group and your own prior knowledge fill out the epic hero cycle chart for the super hero, then answer the question at the bottom of the page using the chart to back up your opinion.

  • Using the profile provided to your group and your own prior knowledge fill out the epic hero cycle chart for the super hero, then answer the question at the bottom of the page using the chart to back up your opinion.



Think of a time when you helped someone in need or someone helped you OR a time when you did NOT render help and wish you had. Give a brief summary of the incident then answer the following analysis questions:

  • Think of a time when you helped someone in need or someone helped you OR a time when you did NOT render help and wish you had. Give a brief summary of the incident then answer the following analysis questions:

    • What was your/their motivation (why was help rendered?)?
    • What was the result?
    • What would have happened if help was not rendered?
    • Did anyone else offer help? Why/why not?



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