The Battle of Maldon is the title given to a short (325 lines) alliterative poem commemorating a battle between the Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavian invaders on the english River Blackwater in 991. It describes the tragic fate of the ealdorman Byhrtnoð and his levy of Anglo-Saxon warriors after they agree to let the Vikings cross the river and fight with them on equal footing. The result is, predictably, a disaster, but the poem’s ambiguous language and positive depictions of Byhrtnoð and his retinue leave room for debate about the nature of the poem. Is it a criticism of foolhardiness and overconfidence? Is it a commemorative poem, a eulogy, or perhaps even a piece of wartime propaganda meant to rally the English to resist the Norse invaders? In this module, we will both read the poem in depth and discuss current scholarship on this poem.
An edition of the Old English text of The Battle of Maldon would be useful.
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