Post-classical history


Note on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Citations from and references to the manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle have made use of the editions published under the general supervision of David Dumville and Simon Keynes (see individual volumes below), with reference to the translated editions produced by Dorothy Whitelock and Michael Swanton: D. Whitelock (ed. and trans.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Revised Translation (1961, Eyre & Spottiswoode); M. Swanton (ed. and trans.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (2001, 2nd edition, Phoenix Press). Where a reference to the Chronicle is given in the notes simply as ASC, the material cited is common to all manuscripts (the ‘core’ text); otherwise, references specify the manuscript by letter when information is restricted to one or more versions.

Note on Irish Chronicles

Thomas Charles-Edwards has reconstructed and translated the joint stock of a putative ‘Chronicle of Ireland’ (CI) to the year 911 from annals surviving in a variety of manuscripts, principally the Annals of Ulster and the Clonmacnoise group (Annals of TigernachAnnals of ClonmacnoiseChronicum Scotorum), with some additions from the Annals of InnisfallenAnnals of the Four Masters and the Fragmentary Annals: T. Charles-Edwards (ed. and trans.), The Chronicles of Ireland (2006, Liverpool University Press). I have relied on this edition for translations from these texts until 911. Beyond this date, I have relied on the translations published online by University College Cork: Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT) []

AC – Annales Cambriae; J. Morris (ed.), Nennius, British History and the Welsh Annals (1980, Phillimore)

AClon – Annals of Clonmacnoise (see ‘Note on Irish Chronicles’ above)

AFM – Annals of the Four Masters (see ‘Note on Irish Chronicles’ above)

AI – Annals of Innisfallen (see ‘Note on Irish Chronicles’ above)

Alfred-Guthrum – ‘The Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum’; S. Keynes and M. Lapidge (eds and trans.), Alfred the Great: Asser’s ‘Life of King Alfred’ and Other Contemporary Sources (1983, Penguin)

APV – Armes Prydein Vawr; J. K. Bollard (ed. and trans.), in M. Livingston (ed.), The Battle of Brunanburh: A Casebook (2011, University of Exeter Press), pp. 155–70, with notes pp. 155–69 and commentary pp. 245–6

ASC – Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (see ‘Note on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ above):

A – J. M. Bately (ed.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 3. MS. A (1986, Brewer)

B – S. Taylor (ed.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 4. MS. B (1983, Brewer)

C – K. O’Brien O’Keeffe (ed.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 5. MS. C (2001, Brewer)

D – G. P. Cubbin (ed.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 6. MS. D (1996, Brewer)

E – S. Irvine (ed.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 7. MS. E (2004, Brewer)

F – P. S. Baker (ed.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 8: MS. F (2000, Brewer)

ASN – Annals of St Neots; D. N. Dumville and M. Lapidge (eds), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 17. The annals of St Neots with Vita prima Sancti Neoti (1985, Cambridge: Brewer)

ASPR – Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records; G. P. Krapp and E. V. Dobbie (eds), The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records: A Collective Edition, 6 vols (1931–53, New York: Columbia University Press) []

AU – Annals of Ulster (see ‘Note on Irish Chronicles’ above)

Beowulf – ASPR, volume 4

BM – British Museum registration number

Boethius – Boethius, Consolatio Philosophiae; J. J. O’Donnell (ed.), Boethius: Consolatio Philosophiae (1984, Bryn Mawr College)

Brunanburh – The Battle of Brunanburh (ASPR, volume 6)

BVSC – Bede, Vita Sancti Cuthberti; B. Colgrave (ed. and trans.), Two Lives of Cuthbert (1940, Cambridge University Press)

c. – circa (‘around’)

CA – Æthelweard, ‘Chronicon’ of Æthelweard; A. Campbell (ed. and trans.), The Chronicle of Æthelweard (1962, Thomas Nelson & Sons)

Canmore ID – Reference number to the Scottish database of archaeological sites, monuments and buildings []

CASSS – Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture []

CC – John of Worcester, Chronicon ex Chronicis; R. R. Darlington (ed.), P. McGurk (ed. and trans.) and J. Bray (trans.), The Chronicle of John of Worcester (1995, Clarendon Press)

CKA – Chronicle of the Kings of Alba; B. T. Hudson (ed. and trans.), ‘Chronicle of the Kings of Alba’, Scottish Historical Review 77 (1998), pp. 129–61

CS – Chronicon Scottorum (see ‘Note on Irish Chronicles’ above)

Deor – ASPR, volume 3

DR – Denmark (geographical reference; runestones)

EE – Geffrei Gaimar, Estoire des Engleis; I. Short (ed. and trans.), Gaimar: Estoire des Engleis/History of the English (2009, Oxford University Press)

Egil’s Saga – B. Scudder (ed. and trans.), ‘Egil’s Saga’, in J. Smiley (ed.), The Sagas of Icelanders (2000, Penguin), pp. 3–185

EHD – English Historical Documents; D. Whitelock, English Historical Documents 500–1041, Vol. 1 (1979, 2nd edition, Routledge)

Elene – ASPR, volume 2

Enc. – Encomium Emmae Reginae; A. Campbell (ed. and trans.) with S. Keynes (ed.), Encomium Emmae Reginae (1998, Cambridge University Press)

Ex. – Gildas, De Excidio Britanniae; M. Winterbottom (ed. and trans.), Gildas: The Ruin of Britain and Other Works (1978, Phillimore)

FA – Fragmentary Annals (see ‘Note on Irish chronicles’ above)

FH – Roger of Wendover, Flores Historiarum; H. O. Coxe (ed.), Rogeri de Wendover Chronicasive, Flores Historiarum (1841–2, Sumptibus Societatis); translated passages in EHD

Finnsburg – The Fight at Finnsburg (ASPR, volume 6)

GD – Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum; P. Fisher (trans.) and K. Fries-Jensen (ed.), Saxo Grammaticus: The History of the Danes, Book I–IX. Volume I (1979, Brewer)

Genesis – ASPR, volume 1

GH – Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum; F. J. Tschan (ed. and trans.), History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen (2002, Columbia University Press)

GRA – William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum; R. A. B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom (eds and trans.), William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum (1998, Oxford University Press)

Grímnismál – A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin), pp. 38–41

Gylfaginning – Snorri Sturluson, ‘Gylfaginning’; J. L. Byock (ed. and trans.), The Prose Edda (2006, Penguin), pp. 9–79

HA – Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum; D. Greenway, Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon: Historia Anglorum/The History of the English People (1996, Oxford Medieval Texts)

Hávamál – A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin), pp. 15–39

HB – Historia Brittonum; J. Morris (ed. and trans.), Nennius, British History and the Welsh Annals (1980, Phillimore)

HE – Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum; D. H. Farmer (ed. and trans.) and L. Sherley-Price (trans.), Ecclesiastical History of the English People (1991, Penguin)

Heimskringla I – Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla; A. Finlay and A. Faulkes (eds and trans.), Heimskringla Volume I: The Beginnings to Óláfr Tryggvason (2011, Viking Society for Northern Research)

Heimskringla II – Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla; A. Finlay and A. Faulkes (eds and trans.), Heimskringla Volume II: Óláfr Haraldsson (The Saint) (2014, Viking Society for Northern Research)

Helgakviða Hundingsbana fyrri – A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin), pp. 117–25

HR – Symeon of Durham, Historia Regum; T. Arnold (ed.), Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia (2012 [1885], Cambridge University Press); translated passages in EHD

HSC – Historia Sancti CuthbertiEHD (6)

Krákumál – B. Waggoner (ed. and trans.), The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok (2009, The Troth)

Lokasenna – A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin), pp. 83–96

Maldon – The Battle of Maldon (ASPR, volume 6)

Maxims II – ASPR, volume 6

N – Norway (geographical reference; runestones)

NMR – National Monument Record number (Historic England) []

NMS – National Museum of Scotland registration number

OE Boethius – The Old English Boethius. S. Irvine and M. Godden (eds), The Old English Boethius with Verse Prologues and Epilogues Associated with King Alfred (2012, Harvard University Press)

Orkneyinga saga – H. Palsson and P. Edwards, Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney (1981, Penguin)

PSE – Abbo of Fleury, Passio S. Eadmundi; F. Hervey (ed. and trans.), Corolla Sancti Eadmundi: The Garland of Saint Eadmun d King and Martyr (1907, E. P. Dutton)

r. – regnal dates

Ragnarssona þáttr – B. Waggoner (ed. and trans.), The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok (2009, The Troth)

Ragnars saga Loðbrókar – B. Waggoner (ed. and trans.), The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok (2009, The Troth)

RFA – Royal Frankish Annals; B. W. Scholz (ed. and trans.), Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories (1970, Ann Arbor)

Rígsthula – A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin), pp. 243–9

Rundata – Scandinavian Runic-text Database []

S – Charter number in P. H. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography (1968, Royal Historical Society) []

s. a. – sub. anno (‘under the year’)

Sö – Södermanland, Sweden (geographical reference; runestones)

Thrymskvida – A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin), pp. 96–101

U – Uppland, Sweden (geographical reference; runestones)

VA – Asser, Vita Ælfredi Regis Angul Saxonum; S. Keynes and M. Lapidge (eds and trans.), Alfred the Great: Asser’s ‘Life of King Alfred’ and Other Contemporary Sources (1983, Penguin)

Vg – Västergötland, Sweden (geographical reference; runestones)

VKM – Einhard, Vita Karoli Magni; S. E. Turner (ed. and trans.), Einhard: The Life of Charlemagne (1880, Harper & Brothers)

Völuspá – A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin), pp. 5–15

VSG – Felix, Vita Sancti Guthlaci; B. Colgrave (ed. and trans.), Felix’s Life of Saint Guthlac (1956, Cambridge University Press)

Wanderer – ASPR, volume 3


1. Wanderer, lines 101–5


1. J. Jones, ‘Vikings at the British Museum: Great Ship but Where’s the Story?’, Guardian (4 March 2014) []

2. In recent years, spectacular Viking hoards have been discovered in Galloway (2014), at Lenborough, Buckinghamshire (2014) and at Watlington, Oxfordshire (2015)

3. The recently launched ‘Viking Phenomenon’ project, for example, directed by Professor Neil Price at the University of Uppsala, is a ten-year programme with a budget of approximately six million US dollars. []

Chapter 1: Outsiders from Across the Water

1. Beowulf; trans. S. Heaney, Beowulf: A New Translation (1999, Faber), pp. 9–10

2. ASC D, sub anno 787

3. ASN

4. CA, p. 27

5. ASC D s.a. 787

6. CC s.a. 787

7. EHD, line 20

8. Although the poem’s story is set in a vaguely defined legendary epoch (seemingly the fifth century), it was written in Old English (and presumably in England) at some point between the seventh and the eleventh centuries. The manuscript in which the received form of the poem survives – the Nowell Codex – dates to around the year 1000, and attempts to refine the dating of an earlier archetype remain highly controversial. A recent survey of the issues can be found in L. Neidorf (ed.), The Dating of Beowulf: A Reassessment (2014, Boydell & Brewer)

9. Beowulf, lines 237–57; trans. Heaney (1999)

10. Gildas, De Excidio Britanniae (Ex.)

11. It should be noted that some recent research has proposed dates earlier than Offa’s reign for some sections of the dyke. It also remains unclear what should and should not be considered part of the continuous structure. The most detailed review of the evidence can be found in K. Ray and I. Bapty, Offa’s Dyke: Landscape & Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain (2016, Oxbow)

12. ASC s.a. 796

13. R. Bruce-Mitford, The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, Volumes 1–3 (1975–1983, British Museum Press); M. Carver, Sutton Hoo: A Seventh-Century Princely Burial Ground and Its Context, report of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London 69 (2005, British Museum Press)

14. The principal source, aside from the ASC, is the Annales Cambriae (‘the Welsh Annals’) abbreviated henceforth as AC

15. The Ordovices (Gwynedd), Demetae (Dyfed), Silures (Gwent), and Cornovii (Powys); see T. Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons: 350–1064 (2013, Oxford University Press), pp. 14–21

16. R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950–1350 (1993, Penguin)

17. M. Carver, Portmahomack: Monastery of the Picts (2008, Edinburgh University Press)

18. Beowulf, lines 255–7

19. Mercian diplomas S134, 160, 168, 177, 186, 1264 (792–822)

20. C. Downham, ‘“Hiberno-Norwegians” and “Anglo-Danes”: Anachronistic Ethnicities and Viking-Age England’, Mediaeval Scandinavia 19 (2009), pp. 139–69

Chapter 2: Heart of Darkness

1. The Holy Bible, King James Version (1769, Cambridge Edition); [King James Bible Online, 2017.]

2. Gylfaginning, ch. 49 (own translation)

3. This, and the subsequent extracts, are taken from the Old English boundary clause of a charter dated to 808 describing a grant of land at North Stoke, Somerset from the West Saxon king, Cynewulf, to the monks of St Peter’s Minster (S265)

4. All these creatures, and many others, are mentioned in Old English charter-bounds. A survey of some of the beastly entities that occur in Old English place-names more generally can be found in papers by John Baker (‘Entomological Etymologies: Creepy-Crawlies in English Place-Names’) and Della Hooke (‘Beasts, Birds and Other Creatures in Pre-Conquest Charters and Place-Names in England’), both of which appear in M. D. J. Bintley and T. J. T. Williams (eds), Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia (2015, Boydell & Brewer)

5. There are many examples of parishes in England where this tradition is maintained or has been revived – a notable, and high-profile, beating of the bounds takes place at the Tower of London (; it is not possible, however, to determine if any of these traditions have been consistently performed from the early medieval period

6. D. Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979, Pan Books)

7. Recent books have increasingly addressed the cultural aspects of map-making, including Alastair Bonnett’s Off the Map (2015, Aurum Press) and Jerry Brotton’s A History of the World in Twelve Maps (2013, Penguin)

8. P. D. A. Harvey, Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map (2010, Hereford Cathedral)

9. Genesis, lines 103–15

10. Beowulf, lines 102–4

11. Ibid., line 710

12. On wolfish imagery in Britain and Scandinavia see A. Pluskowski, Wolves and the Wilderness in the Middle Ages (2006, Boydell & Brewer)

13. Beowulf, lines 1358–9

14. VSG, pp. 104–5

15. Irmeli Valtonen discusses the cartographical material and the classical tradition of a monstrous north in her The North in the Old English Orosius: A Geographical Narrative in Context, Mémoires de la Société Néophilologique de Helsinki LXXIII (2008, Société Néophilologique): ‘Thule’ was first mentioned by Pytheas (330–320 BC), Hyperborea by Hecateus in the sixth century BC, with some references even earlier

16. VSG, pp. 104–5

17. Visio S. Pauli in Blickling Homily XVI, translated by Andy Orchard in Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf Manuscript (1995, 2nd edition, University of Toronto), p. 39

18. Jude S. Mackley, The Legend of St. Brendan: A Comparative Study of the Latin and Anglo-Norman Versions (2008, Brill), p. 85

19. By the thirteenth century at any rate; Gylfaginning, ch. 49

20. E. Christiansen, The Northern Crusades (1997, Penguin), p. 76

21. ASC DE s.a. 793

22. One of a number of islands around a dozen miles to the south-east of Lindisfarne

23. BVSC, ch. 17

24. VSG, ch. XXX

25. Alcuin’s letter to Ethelred, EHD (193)

26. See, in general, J. Palmer, The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages (2014, Cambridge University Press)

27. Alcuin’s letter to Higbald, EHD (194) (Accusing the survivors of an atrocity of having brought it all on themselves through their lifestyle choices, before berating them for defending themselves inadequately, is a form of sanctimony not new to the modern age.)

28. Alcuin’s letter to Ethelred, EHD (193)

29. See, for example, D. Bates and R. Liddiard (eds), East Anglia and Its North Sea World in the Middle Ages (2015, Boydell & Brewer); S. P. Ashby, A. Coutu and S. Sindbæk, ‘Urban Networks and Arctic Outlands: Craft Specialists and Reindeer Antler in Viking Towns’, European Journal of Archaeology 18.4 (2015), pp. 679–704

30. Alex Woolf, ‘Sutton Hoo and Sweden Revisited’, in A. Gnasso, E. E. Intagliata, T. J. MacMaster and B. N. Morris (eds), The Long Seventh Century: Continuity and Discontinuity in an Age of Transition (2015, Peter Lang), pp. 5–18; M. Carver, ‘Pre-Viking Traffic in the North Sea’, in S. McGrail (ed.), Maritime Celts, Frisians and Saxons (1990, CBA Research Report 71), pp. 117–25

31. HE I.15 (Sherley-Price; Farmer)

32. Valtonen, The North in the Old English Orosius, Chapter 3

33. For foundational work on the genealogies, see K. Sisam, ‘Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies’, Proceedings of the British Academy 39 (1953), pp. 287–348 and D. Dumville, ‘Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists’, in P. W. Sawyer and I. N. Wood (eds), Early Medieval Kingship (1977, Leeds University), pp. 72–104

34. Alcuin’s letter to Higbald, EHD (194)

35. J. T. Koch, ‘Yr Hen Ogledd’ in J. T. Koch (ed.), Celtic Culture: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. III (2006, ABC-CLIO); J. E. Fraser, ‘From Ancient Scythia to the Problem of the Picts: Thoughts on the Quest for Pictish Origins’ in S. T. Driscoll, J. Geddes and M. A. Hall (eds), Pictish Progress: New Studies on Northern Britain in the Early Middle Ages (2011, Brill)

Chapter 3: Mother North

1. R. E. Howard, ‘The Dark Man’, Weird Tales (December 1931)

2. The Gjermundbu helmet is now in the Norwegian Historical Museum in Oslo (

3. ‘Sermon of the Wolf to the English’, EHD (240)

4. The best work on this subject has been published by Judith Jesch: for a clear overview of the meaning of the word ‘Viking’, see The Viking Diaspora (2015, Routledge); detailed analysis can be found in Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse (2001, Boydell & Brewer)

5. J. J. North, English Hammered Coinage, Vol. 1 (1994, Spink), p. 175

6. There are quite a few names of moneyers (individuals responsible for the production of coinage and whose names are frequently recorded on their coins) that fall into this category. Brandr can mean both ‘fire’ and ‘sword’ in Old Norse, for instance. (A particularly intriguing example – though not a Norse name – is that of Matathan Balluc. His first name is Gaelic, and he may have been part of the Norse–Irish community that linked York and Dublin in the tenth and eleventh centuries. His second name, however, is the Old English word ‘Bollock’. We will never know whether he possessed impressive testicular attributes in the figurative or the literal sense or, indeed, whether the use of the singular was deliberately significant.) However, many of the most famous ‘Viking’ epithets – ‘Skull-splitter’, ‘Bloodaxe’, ‘Hard-ruler’ and so on – were first recorded in Icelandic literature written down long after the end of the Viking Age

7. Preserved in Egil’s Saga, and attributed to Egil Skallagrimsson (c. 950); translation by J. Jesch in Viking Poetry of Love and War (2013, British Museum Press), p. 53

8. Rundata (Vg 61)

9. There is some evidence to suggest that Old Norse speakers also recognized this commonality among themselves – several medieval sources refer to the Dansk tongu in terms that indicate that this was a language spoken by Icelanders, Norwegians and Swedes as well as by Danes (Jesch, Diaspora)

10. These connections – particularly the link between Jacob Grimm’s linguistic revelations and the ethno-archaeological approaches of the early twentieth century are delineated in I. Wood, The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages (2013, Oxford University Press)

11. The German archaeologist, Gustaf Kossina, is perhaps the central figure of culture-historical theory. His influence on Nazi archaeology and racial theory tainted his legacy in post-war Europe, and more nuanced – and less obviously racist – approaches were pioneered by a new generation of British post-war archaeologists following the lead of pioneers such as Vere Gordon Childe. In many parts of the world, however, these habits of thought have been dying hard and in some cases have sprung back into life, generally where they are underpinned by resurgent nationalist sentiment and/or supported by the state. The former communist republics of Eurasia are notable examples. For an example of the chilling influence of the Russian state in Viking studies, see Leo S. Klejn’s paper, ‘Normanisn and Anti-Normanism in Russia: An Eyewitness Account’, in P. Bauduin and A. Musin (eds), Vers l’Orient et Vers l’Occident: Regards croisés sur les dynamiques et les transferts culturels des Vikings à la Rous ancienne (2014, Presses Universitaires de Caen), pp. 407–17

12. P. Geary, The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (2001, Princeton University Press) is a classic debunking of this sort of thing

13. R. M. Ballantyne, Erling the Bold: A Tale of the Norse Sea-Kings (1869)

14. J. Parker, England’s Darling: The Victorian Cult of Alfred the Great (2007, Manchester University Press)

15. C. G. Allen, The Song of Frithiof, Retold in Modern Verse (1912, Hodder & Stoughton), with illustrations by T. H. Robinson; R. Wagner [trans. M. Armour], The Rhinegold & The Valkyrie (1910, William Heinemann) and Siegfried & The Twilight of the Gods (1911, William Heinemann) with illustrations by A. Rackham

16. Adapted from the text of the 2 June 1941 meeting of Nasjonal Samling at Borre, as given by Lise Nordenborg Myhre in ‘Fortida som propaganda Arkeologi og nazisme – en faglig okkupasjon’, Frá haug ok heiðni 1 (1995)

17. Ibid.; see also B. Myhre, The Significance of Borre in J. M. Fladmark (ed.), Heritage and Identity: Shaping the Nations of the North (2002, Routledge)

18. J. Graham-Campbell, Viking Art (2013, Thames & Hudson), pp. 48–81

19. B. Myhre, ‘The Significance of Borre’ in J. M. Fladmark (ed.), Heritage and Identity: Shaping the Nations of the North (2002, Routledge)

20. On the novelty of nationalism see Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (2006, 2nd revised edition, Wiley-Blackwell)

21. In Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters (1938, Herbert Jenkins), Bertie Wooster famously unleashes the following put-down: ‘The trouble with you, Spode, is that because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of halfwits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone […] You hear them shouting “Heil Spode!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Spode, swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher!”’

22. J. R. R. Tolkien, letter to his son Michael (45). H. Carpenter (ed.), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (2006, 8th edition, HarperCollins), No. 45, pp. 55–6

23. R. Paulas, ‘How a Thor-Worshipping Religion Turned Racist’, Vice (1 May 2015) []

24. P. Sawyer, The Age of the Vikings (1975, 2nd revised edition, Hodder & Stoughton)

25. Neil Price points the way to this darker, weirder Viking in his introduction (‘From Ginnungagap to the Ragnarök: Archaeologies of the Viking Worlds’) to M. H. Eriksen, U. Pedersen, B. Rundtberger, I. Axelsen and H. L. Berg (eds), Viking Worlds: Things, Spaces and Movement, as well as more generally in his wider oeuvre

26. J. Trigg, Hitler’s Vikings: The History of the Scandinavian Waffen-SS: The Legions, the SS-Wiking and the SS-Nordland (2012, 2nd edition, The History Press)

Chapter 4: Shores in Flames

1. This Old Irish poem was written into the margins of a manuscript copy of a grammatical treatise (Institutiones Grammaticae) by the sixth-century author Priscian of Caesarea ( The manuscript, and the marginalia, date to the middle of the ninth century. Translation from R. Thurneysen, Old Irish Reader (1949, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies), translated from the original German by D. A. Binchy and O. Bergin

2. AI; s.a. 795; ASC DE s.a. 794; AU s.a. 802, 806; FH s.a. 800; HR s.a. 794

3. AU s.a. 795, 798, 807; AI s.a. 798

4. BM 1870,0609.1

5. M. Redknapp, Vikings in Wales: An Archaeological Quest (2000, National Museum of Wales Books); M. Redknapp, ‘Defining Identities in Viking Age North Wales: New Data from Llanbedrgoch’ in V. E. Turner, O. A. Owen and D. J. Waugh (eds), Shetland in the Viking World (2016, Papers from the Proceedings of the Seventeenth Viking Congress Lerwick), pp. 159–66

6. M. Carver, Portmahomack: Monastery of the Picts (2008, Edinburgh University Press), p. 3

7. Ibid.

8. NMS X.IB 189 ( Where exactly the stone originally stood is unknown but, by the 1660s, it lay somewhere in the immediate vicinity of its replica. See Sian Jones’ paper ‘“That Stone Was Born Here and That’s Where It Belongs”: Hilton of Cadboll and the Negotiation of Identity, Ownership and Belonging’, in S. M. Foster and M. Cross (eds), Able Minds and Practised Hands: Scotland’s Early Medieval Sculpture in the 21st Century (2005, Society for Medieval Archaeology), pp. 37–54. Martin Carver’s paper in the same volume (‘Sculpture in Action: Contexts for Stone Carving on the Tarbat Peninsula, Easter Ross’, pp.13–36) draws out the wider context

9. The earliest symbol stones may date to the late fourth century. Iain Fraser (ed.), The Pictish Symbol Stones of Scotland (2008, RCAHMS) provides a good introduction. Adrian Maldonado’s review of the aforementioned volume in the Scottish Archaeological Journal, 30.1–2, pp. 215–17 is a handy guide to the main literature on the subject. The papers in Foster and Cross (eds), Able Minds and Practised Hands, provide multiple perspectives

10. A surviving example is the slab that still stands in the churchyard at Eassie near Glamis (Canmore ID 32092). Cf. the fate of the Woodwray cross-slab (Iain Fraser, ‘“Just an Ald Steen”: Reverence, Reuse, Revulsion and Rediscovery’ in Foster and Cross (eds), Able Minds and Practised Hands, pp. 55–68)

11. Fraser, ‘“Just an Ald Steen”’, p. 62; Carver (Portmahomack) gives alternative possibilities, and the true motivations of whoever broke the stones are irrecoverable

12. Carver, Portmahomack; the individuals were respectively carbon-dated to 680–900 and 810–1020

13. In fact, there is good evidence that activity at Portmahomack continued for centuries after this incident, a traumatic moment in the life of a settlement, but not its death-knell. What does seem to have changed is the focus of activity on the site (Carver, Portmahomack, pp. 136–48)

14. Lord Smith was appointed by the then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014 to oversee the devolution commitments made by the government during and after the Scottish Referendum of the same year

15. What seems to have been a gaming board was found among the slates (Carver, Portmahomack, p. 47)

16. The slate is now housed at Bute Museum ( Technically it is two objects: the image is split between two fragments of what was originally one slate

17. C. Lowe, ‘Image and Imagination: The Inchmarnock “Hostage Stone”’, in B. B. Smith, S. Taylor and G. Williams (eds), West over Sea: Studies in Scandinavian Sea-Borne Expansion and Settlement Before 1300 (2007, Brill), pp. 53–6

18. M. Blindheim, ‘The Ranuaik Reliquary in Copenhagen: A Short Study’ in J. B. Knirk (ed.), Proceedings of the Tenth Viking Congress, Larkollen (1985, Universitetets Oldsaksamlings Skrifter), pp. 203–18. Egon Wamers gives a sense of the quantity of Irish and British metalwork that made its way to Scandinavia in this period: E. Wamers, ‘Insular Finds in Viking Age Scandinavia and the State Formation of Norway’ in H. B. Clarke, M. Ní Mhaonaigh and R. Ó Floinn (eds), Ireland and Scandinavia in the Early Viking Age (1998, Four Courts Press); also A. M. Heen-Pettersen, ‘Insular Artefacts from Viking-Age Burials from Mid-Norway. A Review of Contact between Trøndelag and Britain and Ireland’, Internet Archaeology 38 (2014) []

19. As Snorri tells it, at the end of the world ‘the ship Naglfar loosens from its moorings. It is made from the nails of dead men, and for this reason it is worth considering the warning that if a person dies with untrimmed nails he contributes crucial material to Naglfar, a ship that both gods and men would prefer not to see built’: Gylfaginning, 51

20. The word most often used to describe Vikings in Irish chronicles is gennti (‘gentiles’). Charles-Thomas gives the original word in his translation – I have substituted ‘heathen’ here and throughout; AU s.a. 824

21. J. Jesch, Women in the Viking Age (1991, Boydell & Brewer), pp. 45–6

22. Other possibilities include the translation of relics guarded by a warrior retinue, although the composition doesn’t seem to support this (one would expect the relics and their bearer to have been the absolute focal point of any such scene); another possibility is that the stone depicts a scene from the life of St Patrick – his abduction by Scottish raiders in the sixth century given an anachronistic treatment c. 800. If this is the case, it is probably inspired by or modelled after contemporary events and still therefore reflective of the dangers facing monastic communities at that time. There is no certainty that the warriors depicted are necessarily Vikings, but the broadly known circumstances of its creation and certain details of the ship (the combination of sail and oars) imply that this is the case (see Lowe, ‘Image and Imagination’)

23. Ibn Rusta, c. 913, translated in P. Lunde and C. Stone, Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North (2012, Penguin), p. 126

24. Ibn Fadlan, describing events of 921–2; Lunde and Stone, Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness, p. 53

25. Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (2015, Bloomsbury)

26. AU s.a. 821; 831; 836

27. Research is under way, and will form part of the research outputs of the Viking Phenomenon project at Uppsala University ( See also A. Lawler, ‘Vikings May Have First Taken to Seas to Find Women, Slaves’, Science (15 April 2016)

28. S. Brink, ‘Slavery in the Viking Age’; S. Brink with N. Price (eds), The Viking World (2008, Routledge), pp. 49–56

29. Rígsthula, verses 12–13

30. D. A. E. Pelteret, Slavery in Early Mediaeval England: From the Reign of Alfred Until the Twelfth Century (2001, Boydell & Brewer)

31. AU s.a. 836

Chapter 5: Beyond the North Waves

1. R. Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906, Macmillan)

2. See Chapter 21

3. Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae (‘Ordinances concerning Saxony’). See D. C. Munro, Selections from the Laws of Charles the Great (2004 [original printing 1900], Kessinger Publishing)

4. Similar fears had been shared by at least some English-speaking peoples, although by the end of the eighth century these had been eroded, forgotten, replaced and transformed by two centuries of Christian mission. See papers in M. Carver (ed.), The Cross Goes North: Processes of Conversion in Northern Europe,AD 300–1300 (2003, Boydell Press)

5. One of the Saxon tribal leaders – Widukind – had sought sanctuary among the Danes after Charlemagne’s early victories, returning in 782 to foment rebellion. The Royal Frankish Annals claim that the Danevirke was built new in 808; archaeological investigation has shown, however, that its first stages date to the sixth century and that it was reinforced from the mid-eighth century onward: A. Pedersen, ‘Monumental Expression and Fortification in Denmark in the Time of King Harald Bluetooth’, in N. Christie and H. Herold (eds), Fortified Settlements in Early Medieval Europe: Defended Communities of the 8th–10th Centuries (2016, Oxbow), Chapter 6

6. RFA s.a. 804

7. RFA s.a. 808

8. C. B. McClendon, The Origins of Medieval Architecture: Building in Europe, A.D. 600–900 (2005, Yale University Press), pp. 105–28

9. Codex Carolinus 81 (Ibid., p. 112); VKM, 26

10. RFA s.a. 810

11. For an overview of the Carolingian context see R. Hodges, Towns and Trade in the Age of Charlemagne (2000, Bloomsbury Publishing)

12. G. S. Munch, O. S. Johansen and E. Roesdahl (eds), Borg in Lofoten. A Chieftain’s Farm in North Norway (2003, Tapir Academic Press)

13. S. Ratke and R. Simek, ‘Guldgubber: Relics of Pre-Christian Law Rituals?’ in A. Andrén, K. Jennbert and C. Raudvere (eds), Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives: Origins, Changes, and Interactions (2006, Nordic Academic Press), pp. 259–64

14. N. Price, ‘Belief and Ritual’ in G. Williams, P. Pentz and M. Wemhoff (eds), Vikings: Life and Legend (2014, British Museum Press), pp.162–95

15. J. Story, Carolingian Connections: Anglo-Saxon England and Carolingian Franciac. 750–870 (2003, Ashgate)

16. B. Myhre, ‘The Beginning of the Viking Age – Some Current Archaeological Problems’, in A. Faulkes and R. Perkins, Viking Revaluations (1993, Viking Society for Northern Research), pp. 192–203; Myrhe’s arguments are rather more subtle and plausible than they are often presented in the work of others

17. With the exception of the kingdom of Bhutan (which, to the country’s inexplicably unique credit, uses a measure of ‘gross national happiness’ (GNH) to judge the success of its domestic policies)

18. Gododdin

19. Maxims II, lines 21–8, p. 514

20. ‘Kennings’ are poetic allusions, used in both ON and OE verse, that provided poets with an endless number of ways to describe things and concepts, often using mythological references or deeply symbolic language. These examples, and their provenances, can be found amongst the eighteen kennings for ‘generous ruler’ listed in the database of The Skaldic Project (

21. J. Jesch, ‘Eagles, Ravens and Wolves: Beasts of Battle, Symbols of Victory and Death’, in J. Jesch (ed.), The Scandinavians from the Vendel Period to the Tenth Century (2002, Boydell & Brewer), pp. 251–71

22. T. Earle, How Chiefs Come to Power: The Political Economy in Prehistory (1997, Stanford University Press); in some tribal societies – including, possibly, the small kingdoms of early medieval Britain – the potentially apocalyptic outcomes of spiralling violence and rapacity were forestalled by the evolution of ritualized warfare, confined to certain seasons and locations and hedged around with mutually understood norms and rules of engagement. This, of course, only really works if everyone is playing the same game. One of the reasons why Viking attacks in Britain and elsewhere were reported with such horror and alarm was perhaps in part because they didn’t know the rules (or, if they did, chose not to play by them); G. R. W. Halsall, ‘Playing by Whose Rules? A Further Look at Viking Atrocity in the Ninth Century’, Medieval History, 2.2 (1992), pp. 3–12; T. J. T. Williams, Landscape and Warfare in Early Medieval Britain (2016, unpublished PhD thesis)

23. This, essentially, was the thrust of the 2014 British Museum exhibition and its accompanying publication, G. Williams et al. (eds), Vikings: Life and Legend

Chapter 6: The Gathering Storm

1. Finnsburg, lines 5–12

2. We should, however, bear in mind that the record we have of these years is far from being complete – there are, for example, no surviving chronicles produced in Mercia or East Anglia that provide an independent insight into what was going on in these regions, and the West Saxon chronicle only records what its compilers in the late ninth century wanted their readers to remember. There are, in fact, hints that unrecorded coastal raids did occur in Kent (at least), and possibly before the killings in Portland took place. A synod attended by Offa of Mercia in 782 includes provision for an expedition against pagans arriving in ships in Kent and Essex. Susan Kelly (ed.), The Charters of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, and Minster-in-Thanet, Anglo-Saxon Charters 4 (1995, Oxford University Press), no. 15

3. It is worth considering that twenty-nine years prior to the publication of this book the Soviet Union was still an apparently permanent feature of the geopolitical scene

4. ASC F s.a. 798

5. ASC s.a. 813 (F s.a. 815)

6. ASC s.a. 823

7. HA, iv.29

8. ASC s.a. 832; Ships dated to the ninth century and excavated in Norway can be reliably estimated to have had crews of between 40 (the Oseberg ship) and 66 (the Gokstad ship); see T. Sjøvold, The Viking Ships in Oslo (1985, Universitetets Oldsaksamling); G. Williams, The Viking Ship(2014, British Museum Press). For an introduction to debates regarding the size of ninth-century armies see G. Halsall, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450–900 (2003, Routledge)

9. Elene, lines 99–123; prose translation of Old English verse by S. A. J. Bradley, Anglo-Saxon Poetry (1982, Everyman), p. 168

10. See Halsall, Warfare and Society, for the messy reality of early medieval combat; sixty-four shields were excavated with the Gokstad ship, and may have been made specifically for display during the burial rites; they were hung outwards along the gunnels of the ship, thirty-two per side: Sjøvold, The Viking Ships in Oslo, p. 58

11. There is a degree of mystery surrounding this object – despite its obvious quality, it seems to have been discarded or hidden, deposited in a pit on a domestic workshop plot in Viking York. The circumstances under which it was disposed of remain obscure; D. Tweddle, The Anglian Helmet from 16–22 Coppergate (1992, Council for British Archaeology)

12. J. W. Binns, E. C. Norton, D. M. Palliser, ‘The Latin Inscription on the Coppergate Helmet’, Antiquity 64.242 (1990), pp. 134–9

13. G. Williams, ‘Warfare & Military Expansion’ in G. Williams et al. (eds), Vikings: Life and Legend, pp. 76–115; S. Norr, ‘Old Gold – The Helmet in Hákonarmál as a Sign of Its Time’, in S. Norr (ed.), Valsgärde Studies: The Place and Its People, Past and Present (2008, Uppsala), pp. 83–114

14. ASC s.a. 833. The literature concerning the nature of military obligation in Anglo-Saxon England is vast. For an introduction to the key themes and literature see R. Lavelle, Alfred’s Wars: Sources and Interpretations of Anglo-Saxon Warfare in the Viking Age (2010, Boydell & Brewer), and for an influential overview R. P. Abels, Lordship and Military Obligation in Anglo-Saxon England (1988, University of California Press)

15. T. J. T. Williams, Landscape and Warfare in Early Medieval Britain

16. ASC s.a. 835

17. P. C. Herring, The Archaeology of Kit Hill: Kit Hill Archaeological Survey Project Final Report (1990, 2nd edition, Cornwall Archaeological Unit)

18. Herring, The Archaeology of Kit Hill, p. 141; D. L. Prior, ‘Call, Sir John, first baronet (1732–1801)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004, Oxford University Press)

19. M. Peake, Titus Groan (1946, Eyre & Spottiswood), p. 1

20. Herring, The Archaeology of Kit Hill. It is easy to imagine the voice of David Jason: ‘Deep inside this picturesque hill, somewhere in the sleepy countryside of Cornwall, Baron Silas Greenback, the world’s most villainous toad, is plotting to detonate a massive nuclear warhead …’

21. This sort of tautology is a remarkably common occurrence in British place-names. Multiple linguistic layers – Celtic, Latin, Old English, Old Norse, Norman French – have resulted in older word elements (having lost their original sense) being combined with newer words with similar meanings: for example, Eas Fors waterfall on the Isle of Mull (‘waterfall’ [eas, Gaelic] + ‘waterfall’ [forsfoss, ON] + waterfall [ModE]) or Breedon on the Hill, Leicestershire (‘hill’ [bre, Brittonic] + ‘hill’ [dun, OE] + ‘on the hill’ [ModE]).

22. T. J. T. Williams, ‘“For the Sake of Bravado in the Wilderness”: Confronting the Bestial in Anglo-Saxon Warfare’, in Bintley and Williams (eds), Representing Beasts, pp. 176–204

23. T. J. T. Williams, ‘The Place of Slaughter: The West Saxon Battlescape’ in R. Lavelle and S. Roffey (eds), The Danes in Wessex (2016, Oxbow), pp. 35–55; T. J. T. Williams, Landscape and Warfare in Early Medieval Britain

Chapter 7: Dragon-Slayers

1. A. Lang, The Red Fairy Book (1906, Longmans, Green and Co.)

2. ASC BCDE s.a. 851; CA adds ‘on Thanet’, VA and CC suggest Sheppey

3. FH s.a. 844

4. ASC s.a. 839; 851 (C s.a. 853)

5. All s.a. 837; 838; 839; ADEF s.a. 840 (C s.a. 841); s.a. 851 (C s.a. 853)

6. ASC s.a. 848

7. ASC s.a. 850 (C s.a. 853); Either the burial mound of a man called Wicga, or a mound infested with ‘wiggling things’ (Baker, ‘Entomological Etymologies’)

8. ASC s.a. 851 (C s.a. 853). The location of Aclea is unknown, although Ockley in Surrey is a plausible candidate

9. For a sceptical and comprehensive analysis of feuding in Anglo-Saxon England, see J. D. Niles, ‘The Myth of the Feud in Anglo-Saxon England’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 114 (2015), pp. 163–200

10. G. Williams, ‘Viking Camps in England and Ireland’ in G. Williams et al. (eds), Vikings: Life and Legend (pp. 120–1) is a useful introduction to the subject of Viking camps

11. B. Orme, Anthropology for Archaeologists (1981, Cornell University Press), p. 196

12. G. Halsall, ‘Anthropology and the Study of Pre-Conquest Warfare and Society’, in S. C. Hawkes (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (1989, Oxford University Committee for Archaeology), pp. 155–78; T. J. T. Williams, ‘The Place of Slaughter’

13. Halsall, ‘Playing by Whose Rules?’

14. It should be noted, however, that – as I have argued elsewhere – the impression of novelty may be a product of the increased detail present in the source material from the ninth century onward: T. J. T. Williams, ‘The Place of Slaughter’ and Landscape and Warfare in Early Medieval Britain

15. This was normally a reference to Slavic people, but may have referred to any European transported eastward as a slave: Lunde and Stone, Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness, p. 222, n. 2

16. Ibn Rusta, c. 913, translated in Lunde and Stone, Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness, p. 126

17. EHD (13.1); R. Abels, ‘The Micel Hæðen Here and the Viking Threat’, in T. Reuters (ed.), Alfred the Great: Papers from the Eleventh-Centenary Conferences (2003, Ashgate), pp. 269–71; T. J. T. Williams, ‘The Place of Slaughter’

18. See Chapter 13

19. G. Williams, ‘Raiding and Warfare’, in Brink with Price (eds), The Viking World, pp. 193–203

20. L. Abrams, ‘The Conversion of the Danelaw’ in J. Graham-Campbell, R. Hall, J. Jesch and D. N. Parsons (eds), Vikings and the Danelaw: Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Thirteenth Viking Congress (2001, Oxbow), pp. 31–44; cf. D. M. Hadley, ‘Conquest, Colonization and the Church: Ecclesiastical Organization in the Danelaw’, Historical Research 69, pp. 109–28

21. ‘Dore, Whitwell Gap and the River Humber’ (ASC ABCD s.a. 942); G. Rollason, Northumbria, 500–1100: Creation and Destruction of a Kingdom (2003, Cambridge University Press), p. 26

22. ASC s.a. 827; S. Keynes, ‘Bretwalda or Brytenwalda’, in M. Lapidge, J. Blair. and S. Keynes (eds), The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England (2008, 8th edition, Wiley-Blackwell), p. 74

23. ASC s.a. 867

24. Rollason, Northumbria, pp. 192–8

25. All these behaviours are attested to in one way or another in Anglo-Saxon England. Farting in the general direction of the enemy could be one part of the defiant warrior’s arsenal; when in 1068 William the Conqueror turned up at Exeter expecting the town’s surrender, he was roused to particular wrath towards the ‘irreverent’ defenders because ‘one of them’ – according to the twelfth-century historian William of Malmesbury – ‘standing upon the wall, had bared his posteriors, and had broken wind, in contempt of the Normans [GRA, b.III]’; in 1006, a Viking army had jeered at the cowering townsfolk of Winchester (ASC CDE s.a. 1006), and the display of severed heads seems to have been commonplace in Anglo-Saxon judicial culture: A. Reynolds, Anglo-Saxon Deviant Burial Customs (2009, Oxford University Press)

26. ASC s.a. 867 (C s.a. 868); VA, 27

27. Ragnarssona þáttr (‘The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons’); Ragnars saga Loðbrókar (‘The Saga of Ragnar Loðbrók’); Krákumál (‘The Song of Kraka’); Gesta Danorum (‘Deeds of the Danes’) by Saxo Grammaticus (GD)

28. Jarl is an Old Norse word designating a nobleman – roughly analogous to the OE ealdorman

29. Saxo Grammaticus, in perhaps the earliest version of this tale, recounts that there were several serpents given to Þóra, and that they roamed wild over the land, burning and poisoning with their foul breath; GD, book IX

30. Krákumál, verse 1

31. Beowulf, lines 2312–20; trans. Heaney, p. 73

32. Beowulf, lines 2275–7; trans. Heaney, p. 72

33. Maxims II, lines 26–7

34. Maxims II, lines 28–9

35. Völuspá, verse 66

36. J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘The Monsters and the Critics’ [1936], in C. Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1997, HarperCollins), p. 12; Beowulf’s dragon is undeniably a model for the depiction of Smaug the Golden in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, originally published by George Allen & Unwin in 1937

37. The most complete version of the story is told in the late thirteenth-century Old Norse Völsunga saga, but it is also told in poetic form in a number of related – so-called ‘eddic’ – poems compiled together in the Icelandic Codex Regius: J. L. Byock (trans.), The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (1999, 2nd edition, Penguin); A. Orchard, The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (2011, Penguin)

38. C. E. Doepler, Der Ring des Nibelungen: Carl Emil Doeplers Kostümbilder für die Erstaufführung des Ring in Bayreuth (2012 [1889], Reprint-Verlag Leipzig); see also R. Wagner [trans. M. Armour], The Rhinegold & The Valkyrie (1910, William Heinemann) and Siegfried & The Twilight of the Gods (1911, William Heinemann) with illustrations by A. Rackham

39. J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘On Fairy Stories’ [1947], in C. Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, p. 135

40. E. Magnússon and W. Morris (trans.),Völsunga Saga: The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs, with certain Songs from the Elder Edda (1870, F. S. Ellis)

41. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009, HarperCollins)

42. G. B. Shaw, ‘William Morris as I Knew Him’, Introduction to May Morris, William Morris: Artist, Writer, Socialist, vol. 2 (1936, Blackwell), p. xxxvii

43. ‘Letter 216’ in N. Kelvin (ed.), The Collected Letters of William Morris, volume 1 (1984, Princeton University Press), p. 205

44. Beowulf, in what is clearly intended as a foreshadowing of events to come, refers to the Sigurd legend directly, although the poem substitutes Sigurd’s father Sigemund in the role of dragon-slayer; lines 873–99

45. G. Williams et al. (eds), Vikings: Life and Legend (pp. 120–1), p. 88; Tatarstan is a Russian republic with its capital at Kazan

46. Rundata (Sö 101; Sö 327); see V. Symons, ‘Wreoþenhilt ond wyrmfah: Confronting Serpents in Beowulf and Beyond’ in Bintley and Williams (eds), Representing Beasts, pp. 73–93

47. The Manx stones are as follows: Maughold 122; Andreas 121; Jurby 119; Malew 120; they are identified by the name of the parish in which they were found and the catalogue number assigned in P. M. C. Kermode, Manx Crosses or The Inscribed and Sculptured Monuments of the Isle of Man From About the End of the Fifth to the Beginning of the Thirteenth Century (2005 [1907], Elibron Classics). See also S. Margeson, ‘On the Iconography of the Manx Crosses’ in C. Fell, P. Foote, J. Graham-Campbell and R. Thomson (eds), The Viking Age in the Isle of Man (1983, Viking Society for Northern Research). The English stone cross-shaft is designated in CASSS as Halton St Wilfrid 1, 2, 9 and 10

48. Ragnars saga Loðbrókar

49. R. McTurk, Studies in Ragnars saga loðbrókar and Its Major Scandinavian Analogues (1991, Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature)

Chapter 8: Eagles of Blood

1. Hávamál, 144

2. One of Ragnar’s sons is named as Hvitserk (‘Whiteshirt’) in Ragnarssona þáttr; this may have been an alternative name for the individual named Halfdan and identified as a brother of Ivar and Ubbe in the Anglo-Saxon ChronicleASC All MSS s.a. 878 (C s.a. 879)

3. Ragnarssona þáttr

4. GD, book IX; a similar version appears in Ragnars saga Loðbrókar

5. M. Townend, ‘Knútsdrápa’, in D. Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035 (2012, Brepols), p. 649

6. R. Frank, ‘Viking Atrocity and Skaldic Verse: The Rite of the Blood-Eagle’, English Historical Review XCIX.CCCXCI (1984), pp. 332–43

7. Ibid., p. 337

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid., p. 337

10. GH IV.26; The translated passage is taken from A. Orchard, Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend (1997, Cassell), p. 169

11. O. Sundqvist, An Arena for Higher Powers: Ceremonial Buildings and Religious Strategies in Late Iron Age Scandinavia (2015, Brill), pp. 110–15

12. Archaeological interventions have discovered evidence for buildings underlying the cathedral church at Gamla Uppsala; these are no longer believed to belong to the temple described by Adam of Bremen; see A. M. Alkarp and N. Price, ‘Tempel av guld eller kyrka av trä? : markradarundersökningar vid Gamla Uppsala kyrka’, Fornvännen 100:4 (2005), pp. 261–72

13. Analysis of the excavated material has cast doubt on whether the human remains should be considered part of the evidence for sacrificial ritual – they seem to have been grouped together and show fewer signs of weathering than the animal bones, implying that they were buried earlier. This research also emphasized the presence of butchery marks on many of the animal bones – including the bones of several brown bears – implying that the animals were killed and cut up before being deposited at the tree (although none of this rules out the possibility that they were suspended from the tree in pieces, or butchered after having been taken down). O. Magnell and E. Iregren, ‘Veitstu Hvé Blóta Skal? The Old Norse blót in the light of osteological remains from Frösö Church, Jämtland, Sweden’, Current Swedish Archaeology 18 (2010), pp. 223–50; see also Price, ‘Belief and Ritual’ for a wider discussion of the evidence of cult sites

14. Lunde and Stone, Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness, p. 48

15. Ibid., p. 162

16. A. E. Christensen and M. Nockert, Osebergfunnet IV: Tekstilene (2016, Kulturhistorisk Museum, Universitetet i Oslo)

17. Orkneyinga saga, 8; the story is repeated by Snorri in Heimskringla, probably drawing on the saga: ‘Haralds saga ins Hárfagra’, chapter 30 (Heimskringla I)

18. N. Price, The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia (2002, Uppsala University), pp. 100–7

19. Völuspa, 28

20. Hávamál, 138–9

21. ASC s.a. 867

22. ‘Ynglinga saga’, chapter 8 (Heimskringla I)

23. ‘Hákonar saga góða’, chapters 13–14 (Heimskringla I)

24. CC s.a. 868, pp. 282–5; also ASC All MSS s.a. 868 (C s.a. 869)

25. Halsall, Warfare and Society, p. 223

26. It once adorned the walls of the king’s palace at Nineveh (in modern Iraq), but can now be seen at the British Museum in London (a fact for which the whole world should be grateful since the remains of Nineveh were systematically obliterated by Islamic extremists in 2015)

27. The Vikings, according to the poem De bellis Parisiacæ urbis [or Bella Parisiacæ urbis] by the Parisian monk Abbo, may have used some sort of rock-lobber during the siege of Paris in 886, though his account is exaggerated in a number of details (N. Dass (ed. and trans.), Viking Attacks on Paris: The Bella Parisiacae Urbis of Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (2007, Peeters Publishers); Halsall, Warfare and Society, p. 225)

28. ASC C s.a. 917

29. CC s.a. 868, pp. 282–5; ASC s.a. 868 (C s.a. 869)

30. We should, however, be slightly cautious about accepting the ASC at face value here; Mercia produced no independent chronicle for this period, and the only guide to events is provided by the Wessex-produced ASC compiled in the following decades. The reality of West Saxon involvement may have been far more complex and ambiguous than the ASC’s version allows

31. ASC s.a. 870 (C s.a. 871)

32. Beornwulf (ASC s.a. 823; CC s.a. 823) and Ludeca (ASC s.a. 825; CC s.a. 825)

33. PSE, V

34. PSE, X

35. It is likely, however, that Viking chiefs did indeed play central roles in cult practice. For an introduction to the issues see O. Sundqvist, ‘Cult Leaders, Rulers and Religion’ in Brink with Price, The Viking World, pp. 223–6


37. PSE, XIV

38. R. Pinner, The Cult of St Edmund in Medieval East Anglia (2015, Boydell & Brewer)

39. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is among the most baffling and incomprehensible aspects of Christian theology. Vatican attempts at clarification cannot always be judged wholly satisfactory (

Chapter 9: Wayland’s Bones

1. W. Camden, Britannia, ‘Barkshire’, 12: P. Holland (trans.), D. F. Sutton (ed.) (2004 [1607], The University of California):

2. Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s School Days (1857, Macmillan), pp. 11–13

3. The quote is attributed to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin), but he never seems to have used these precise words. He is, however, recorded saying: ‘we […] must probe with bayonets whether the social revolution of the proletariat in Poland had ripened’: R. Pipes (ed.), The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive (1996, Yale University Press). In 1975, the American columnist Joseph Alsop wrote: ‘The Soviets […] merely follow Lenin’s advice to probe with bayonets any situation that looks mushy, withdrawing only when the bayonets meet steel’ (J. Alsop, ‘Post-Vietnam Assessment is Intense and Painful’, Sunday Advocate (18 May 1975), p. 2-B, col. 2)

4. VA, 35–6

5. VA, 35–6. No evidence for any major earthworks of this period have yet been discovered at Reading (J. Graham-Campbell, ‘The Archaeology of the “Great Army” (865–79)’, in E. Roesdahl and J. P. Schjødt (eds), Beretning fra treogtyvende tværfaglige vikingesymposium (2004, Aarhus Universitet), pp. 30–46). It is possible that the defences were hastily built, perhaps utilizing buildings and timbers that were already present. If so, this might explain the reluctance of the Viking army to place much faith in the defences

6. ASC s.a. 871 (C s.a. 872)

7. VA, 35–6, p. 78

8. EE, 2953–71; Geoffrey is a little difficult to evaluate as a historian of this period; although his Estoire des Engleis (1135–7) contains details that are not preserved anywhere else (and he would have had few reasons to invent them), he also had a habit of including obviously fantastical material and was writing many centuries after the event

9. ASC s.a. 871 (C s.a. 872); VA, 37–9

10. VA, 37–9; Asser is probably mistaken about the death of Sidroc the Old – according to the ASC he had been killed at Englefield

11. A number of suggestions have been made. See, for example, P. Marren, Battles of the Dark Ages (2006, Pen & Sword Books), pp. 118–21

12. F. Wise, A Letter to Dr Mead Concerning Some Antiquities in Berkshire: Particularly Shewing that the White Horse, which Gives Name to the Vale, is a Monument of the West-Saxons, Made in Memory of a Great Victory Obtained Over the Danes A.D. 871 (1738, Oxford)

13. Ibid., p. 23

14. Hughes, Tom Brown’s School Days, p. 13

15. Ibid., p. 7

16. M. Gelling, The Place-Names of Berkshire, volumes I and II (1973; 1974, English Place-Name Society, volumes 49/50)

17. It is also possible that battles were not fought at these places at all, that these might simply have been the royal manors closest to where the fighting took place, and therefore useful geographical markers that everyone – especially the king – would have recognized

18. S288

19. S524

20. O. S. Anderson, The English Hundred Names: The South-Western Counties (1939, University of Lund), pp. 14–15

21. G. B. Grundy, ‘The Ancient Highways and Tracks of Wiltshire, Berkshire, and Hampshire, and the Saxon Battlefields of Wiltshire’, Archaeological Journal 75 (1918), pp. 69–194

22. NMR: SU 28 NE 4

23. It is also, incidentally, nearer to how it would have appeared to J. R. R. Tolkien when he visited the place with his family in the 1930s – one of a number of sights near Oxford to which the professor drove in his Morris Cowley (named ‘Jo’), charging around the countryside in a manner which his biographer Humphrey Carpenter described as ‘daring rather than skilful’. H. Carpenter, J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (2002 [1977], HarperCollins), p. 39

24. The phrase appears in a boundary clause, in a charter of King Eadred (r. 946–55) dated to 955 (S564); the phrases ‘Wayland’s Smithy’ and ‘Wayland Smith’ may or may not have something to do with the choice of the name ‘Waylon Smithers’ for the subservient assistant to Springfield power-plant owner Monty Burns. If this is a deliberate joke, the relevance is not altogether clear. It has been suggested that the choice of name may be an ironic inversion of macho stereotypes, the violent, rapey manual labourer becomes, in Mr Smithers, an effete, homosexual personal assistant. I think it’s a push, but who knows? The creators of The Simpsons have never – so far as I am aware – made any comment on the matter. M. S. Cecire, ‘Wayland Smith in Popular Culture’ in D. Clarke and N. Perkins, Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination (2010, Boydell & Brewer), pp. 201–18

25. Wise, Letter to Dr Mead, p. 37

26. Wise also asserted that the tomb was the burial place of the Viking king Bacsecg, a claim for which he offers no supporting evidence whatsoever and which is, needless to say, total bunk. This is not to say, however, that important Vikings were never interred beneath impressive monuments, as the following chapter elaborates

27. Boethius II.7; OE Boethius XIX. The works traditionally believed to have emanated from Alfred’s circle are summarized in S. Keynes and M. Lapidge, Alfred the Great: Asser’s ‘Life of King Alfred’ and Other Contemporary Sources (1983, Penguin), p. 29. Alfred’s personal input has, however, been questioned in recent years, especially by Malcolm Godden (M. Godden, ‘Did King Alfred Write Anything?’, Medium Ævum 76 (2007), pp. 1–23). The noun faber in Latin means ‘smith’; it is uncertain whether Alfred is being playful or erroneously literalistic in his translation of the Latin proper name Fabricius

28. C. R. Peers and R. A. Smith, ‘Wayland’s Smithy, Berkshire’, The Antiquaries Journal : Journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London 1 (1921), pp. 183–98

29. N. G. Discenaza, ‘Power, Skill and Virtue in the Old English Boethius’, Anglo-Saxon England 26 (1997), pp. 81–108

30. Beowulf, line 907; Deor, lines 1–13

31. Völundarkvida, verse 34

32. Price, ‘From Ginnungagap to the Ragnarök: Archaeologies of the Viking Worlds’, p. 7

33. Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’ (trans. Alix Strachey), in S. L. Gilman (ed.), Sigmund Freud: Psychological Writings and Letters (1995, Continuum), pp. 126, 142; see also G. Moshenska, ‘The Archaeological Uncanny’, Public Archaeology 5 (2006), pp. 91–9 and ‘M. R. James and the Archaeological Uncanny’, Antiquity 86.334 (2012), pp. 1192–1201

34. ASC s.a. 871 (C s.a. 872)

35. Ibid.

Chapter 10: Real Men

1. CC s.a. 850

2. ASC s.a. 872 (C s.a. 873)

3. ASC s.a. 873 (C s.a. 874)

4. ASC s.a. 874 (C s.a. 875)

5. W. J. Moore, The Saxon Pilgrims to Rome and the Schola Saxonum (1937, University of Fribourg)

6. St Wystan’s churchyard is also notable as the resting place of the extraordinarily multi-talented C. B. Fry (1872–1956). His career took in football, rugby, athletics, acrobatics, politics, writing, publishing, broadcasting, teaching and, above all, cricket. One can’t help but think that had Fry been around in 874, the Vikings would have found themselves batting on a very sticky wicket

7. R. I. Page, Norse Myths (1990, British Museum Press), p. 35

8. Gylfaginning, 21

9. Thrymskvida, verse 8; Freya was the goddess of love, sex and fertility: she was frequently an object of desire among gods, giants, elves and dwarves: Orchard, Dictionary, p. 48

10. Thrymskvida, verses 15–17

11. Ibid., verse 31

12. Page, Norse Myths, p. 14

13. P. M. Sørensen, The Unmanly Man: Concepts of Sexual Defamation in Early Northern Society (1983, Odense University Press)

14. In general, D. Wyatt, Slaves and Warriors in Medieval Britain and Ireland, 800–1200 (2009, Brill), pp. 206–14; Sørensen, The Unmanly Man, pp. 76, 83

15. Ibid., pp. 17–18, 80, 82, 111; see also, for example, the planned rape of a man and his wife by the hero of Guðmundar saga dýra (Wyatt, Slaves and Warriors, pp. 211–12)

16. Helgakviða Hundingsbana fyrri, verses 37–43

17. Lokasenna, verse 24

18. S. W. Nordeide, ‘Thor’s Hammer in Norway: A Symbol of Reaction against the Christian Cross?’, in Andrén et al., Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives. A. S. Gräslund, ‘Thor’s Hammers, Pendant Crosses and Other Amulets’ in E. Roesdahl and D. Wilson (eds), From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800–1200 (1992, Nordic Council of Ministers)

19. J. Staecker, ‘The Cross Goes North: Christian Symbols and Scandinavian Women’ in M. Carver (ed.), The Cross Goes North, pp. 463–82

20. DR 110, DR 209, DR 220, Vg 150; Tentative: Sö 140

21. Thrymskvida, verse 30

22. S. Degge, ‘An Account of an Humane Skeleton of an Extraordinary Size, Found in a Repository at Repton in Derbyshire …’, Philosophical Transactions 35 (1727–8), pp. 363–5; M. Biddle and B. Kjølbye-Biddle, ‘Repton and the “Great Heathen Army”, 873–4’, in Graham-Campbell et al. (eds), Vikings and the Danelaw, pp. 45–96

23. Degge, ‘An Account of an Humane Skeleton’

24. R. Bigsby, Historical and Topographical Description of Repton (1854)

25. J. Richards et al., ‘Excavations at the Viking Barrow Cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby, Derbyshire’, The Antiquaries Journal 84 (2004), pp. 23–116; cf. Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle, who suggested – largely on account of the apparent stature of a number of the male skeletons – that many of the later bones were of Scandinavian origin, and were the recovered bones of earlier deceased members of the Viking army

26. According to the thirteenth-century Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham, King Cnut had the relics of Wystan moved to Evesham in the early eleventh century (J. Sayers and L. Watkiss (eds and trans.), Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham (2003, Clarendon Press)); this is suspicious, however, on a number of levels (How did Wystan’s relics survive the Viking takeover? What was the nature of the relics moved by Cnut, and how can we be sure they ever belonged to Wystan? Did Cnut ever move anything to Evesham, or did the monks of Evesham simply need a credible provenance for whatever mouldy old bones they had decided could usefully be attributed to an obscure saint? And so on)

27. If he can be equated with the Imair of the Irish chronicles, Ivar the Boneless had been active in the Irish Sea, on and off, during the 850s, 860s and 870s: C. Downham, Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland (2007, Dunedin). The Annals of Ulster record his death as 873, the year the micel herecame to Repton. The tenth-century English chronicler Æthelweard states that he died in 870, but implies that his death came in England. Ragnars saga Loðbrókar claims that he was buried in Northumbria under a barrow (see Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle, ‘Repton’, pp. 81–4)

28. ‘Ynglinga saga’, chapter 8 (Heimskringla I)

29. Ibn Fadlan; Lunde and Stone, Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness, p. 51

30. Ibid., p. 53

31. Although ibn Fadlan recounts that a poor man was also burned in a small boat, and modest boat burials are known from Britain and Scandinavia; ibid., p.4

32. Ibid., p. 54

33. Although it is the diversity of Viking burial practice – as we have already begun to see – that is perhaps its most defining characteristic. N. Price, Odin’s Whisper: Death and the Vikings (2016, Reaktion Books); also Price, ‘Belief and Ritual’

34. ASC s.a. 876

Chapter 11: The Return of the King

1. G. K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse (2010 [1911], Dover Publications), Book I

2. VA, 53

3. Beowulf, lines 102–4

4. VA, 92; see also the explanatory notes to the text in Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great

5. Ibid.

6. VA, 55

7. ASC s.a. 874; VA, verse 48

8. ASC A s.a. 877; the events are also mentioned in all other versions of the ASC s.a. 877 (C s.a. 878) and VA, 49

9. Ibid.

10. CA, p. 42

11. VA, 52; see also ASC s.a. 878 (C s.a. 879)

12. HSC, 16

13. L. Simpson, ‘The Alfred/St Cuthbert Episode in the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto: Its Significance for mid-Tenth Century English History’ in G. Bonner, D. W. Rollason and C. Stancliffe (eds), St Cuthbert, His Cult and His Community toAD 1200 (2002, Boydell & Brewer), pp. 397–412

14. HSC, 12–13

15. ASC s.a. 878 (C s.a. 879); ASN s.a. 878, p. 78; VA, 54, pp. 83–4 ; CA, p. 43; EE, 3144–56

16. Geoffrey Gaimar later claimed that his body was interred at a place called ‘Ubbelawe’ (‘Ubbe’s barrow’) in Devon (EE, 3144–56)

17. ASC s.a. 878 (C s.a. 879)

18. ASN, s.a. 878

19. Lavelle, Alfred’s Wars, pp. 55–106; J. Baker and S. Brookes, Beyond the Burghal Hidage: Anglo-Saxon Civil Defence in the Viking Age (2013, Brill), pp. 199–208; Halsall, Warfare and Society, pp. 40–133

20. Anglo-Saxon riddles could be surprisingly suggestive. For example, Riddle 44 in the Exeter Book is translated into prose by S. A. J. Bradley (Anglo-Saxon Poetry, p. 379) as follows: ‘A curiosity hangs by the thigh of a man, under its master’s cloak. It is pierced through in the front; it is stiff and hard and it has a good standing-place. When the man pulls up his own robe above his knee, he means to poke with the head of his hanging thing that familiar hole of matching length which he has often filled before.’ Riddles 25 and 45 are also notoriously rude: all are translated by Bradley; see also K. Crossley-Holland, The Exeter Book Riddles (1993, Penguin) [the solution to Riddle 44 is ‘Key’]

21. The story of Finn and Hengest is told in two Old English poems, Beowulf and a fragment known as ‘the Fight [or Battle] at Finnsburgh’ (ASPR 6); it is a tale of divided loyalties, betrayal and revenge. The episode was discussed by Tolkien in a series of lectures, published after his death as ‘Finn and Hengest: The Fragment and the Episode’ (2006 [1982], HarperCollins)

22. For Anglo-Saxon beacon systems see D. Hill and S. Sharpe, ‘An Anglo-Saxon Beacon System’, in A. Rumble and D. Mills (eds), Names, Places & People (1997, Paul Wathius), pp. 97–108, and extensive discussion in Baker and Brookes, Beyond the Burghal Hidage

23. VA, 55–6

24. Baker and Brookes, Beyond the Burghal Hidage, pp. 186–7; J. Baker, ‘Warrior and Watchmen: Place Names and Anglo-Saxon Civil Defence’, Medieval Archaeology 55 (2011), pp. 258–9

25. Anderson, The English Hundred Names: The South-Western Counties, p. 152

26. P. H. Robinson, ‘The Excavations of Jeffery Whitaker at Bratton Camp’, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Bulletin 25 (1979), pp. 11–13

27. A. L. Meaney, A Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites (1964, Allen & Unwin), p. 266

28. Beowulf, lines 3137–49

29. T. J. T. Williams, ‘The Place of Slaughter’; the place-name Edington (Eðandun) may have been used by the chronicler to suggest a reference to Alfred’s grandfather Egbert and his achievements at Ellendun in 825, a victory that prefigured Alfred’s own in establishing a greater West Saxon sphere of control (the alliteration, rhyme and equal syllabic count of the two place-names may also have helped to foster the comparison)

30. S290

31. Alfred’s Will is translated in Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great (pp.173–8); S1508; S765

32. NMR ST 95 SW 38

33. G. K. Chesterton, Alarms and Discursions (1910, Methuen)

34. Parker, England’s Darling

35. Ibid., p. 195, n. 16

36. E. A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England, 5 vols (1867–79, Clarendon Press), p. 51

37. See especially Parker, England’s Darling, but also S. Keynes, ‘The Cult of King Alfred the Great’ in Anglo-Saxon England 28 (1999), pp. 225–356 and B. Yorke, The King Alfred Millenary in Winchester, 1901 (1999, Hampshire County Council)

38. T. Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology (2005, 2nd edition, HarperCollins)

39. Shippey, Road to Middle-Earth, pp. 222–31; Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories; H. Carpenter, The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends (2006, 4th edition, Harper Collins], pp. 42–5

40. G. K. Chesterton, ‘The Blatchford Controversies’ [1904], in D. Dooley (ed.), The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, vol. 1(1986, Ignatius Press)

41. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse

42. Parker, England’s Darling

43. Carpenter (ed.), The Letters of J.R.R.Tolkien, No. 80, p. 92

Chapter 12: The Godfather

1. G. K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse (2011 [1911], Dover Publications), Book VIII

2. An example of a mid-ninth-century Anglo-Saxon font survives at Deerhurst (Gloucestershire). R. Bryant, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture: Vol. X, The Western Midlands (2012, Oxford University Press), pp. 161–90

3. VA, 46, p. 85

4. E. Dümmler (ed.), Epistolae Karolini Aevi, vol. 2 (1895, Berlin), nos 134 and 137; J. H. Lynch, Christianizing Kinship: Ritual Sponsorship in Anglo-Saxon England (1998, Cornell University Press)

5. It is possible, however, that Alfred’s son Edward was promoted to a ‘kingship’ – perhaps of Kent – later on; a charter which includes both Edward and Alfred lists him as rex on a Kentish charter’s witness list (Alfred is designated rex Saxonum); Keynes, ‘The Control of Kent’, Early Medieval Europe 2.2 (1993), pp. 111–31

6. VA, 56; ASC s.a. 878 (C s.a. 879)

7. ASC s.a. 880 (C s.a. 881)

8. The evidence is fairly complex, but relates to the naming of moneyers unknown at established southern mints, die links between ‘Alfred’ coins and others, and the maintenance of a different weight standard. See M. A. S. Blackburn, ‘Presidential Address 2004. Currency under the Vikings. Part 1: Guthrum and the Earliest Danelaw Coinages’, British Numismatic Journal 75 (2005), pp. 18–43

9. G. Williams, ‘Kingship, Christianity and Coinage: Monetary and Political Perspectives on Silver Economy in the Viking Age’, in J. Graham-Campbell and G. Williams, Silver Economy in the Viking Age (2007, Left Coast Press), pp. 177–214

10. Alfred-Guthrum, 1

11. Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, p. 171 (although the dating of the treaty is open to revision: G. Williams, pers. comm.)

12. D. Hadley, The Vikings in England: Settlement, Society and Culture (2006, Manchester University Press), pp. 31–3; P. Kershaw, ‘The Alfred-Guthrum Treaty: Scripting Accommodation and Interaction in Viking Age England’, in D. M. Hadley and J. D. Richards (eds), Cultures in Contact: Scandinavian Settlement in England in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries (2000, Brepols), pp. 43–64

13. ASC s.a. 886 (C s.a. 887)

14. Alfred-Guthrum, ‘Prologue’

15. Kershaw, ‘The Alfred-Guthrum Treaty’; P. Foote, ‘The Making of Angelcynn: English Identity before the Norman Conquest’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th Series, 6 (1996), pp. 25–49

16. Ibid. See also Downham, ‘“Hiberno-Norwegians” and “Anglo-Danes”’

17. ASC s.a. 871 (C s.a. 872); VA, 40

18. The large quantities of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ material culture at a Viking camp like Torksey might even be evidence of this (see following Chapter 13)

19. ‘Sermon of the Wolf to the English’, EHD (240)

20. Ibid.

21. Alfred-Guthrum, 5

22. S362; B. Yorke, ‘Edward as Atheling’, in N. J. Higham and D. H. Hill (eds), Edward the Elder, 899–924 (2001, Routledge), pp. 25–39

Chapter 13: Rogue Traders

1. R. E. Howard, ‘The Dark Man’, Weird Tales (December 1931)

2. VA, 91

3. VA, 91

4. Nor was it any use bothering the king’s ear with humiliating apologies, for – as Asser helpfully pointed out – ‘what use is their accursed repentance, when it cannot help their slaughtered kinsfolk, nor redeem those captured from a hateful captivity, nor even occasionally be of use to themselves who have escaped, since they no longer have anything by which to sustain their own life?’; VA, 91

5. Ibid.

6. VA, 8, 11; see also the notes in Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, pp. 232, 234; the issues around Alfred’s interactions with the pope are discussed in J. Nelson, ‘The Problem of King Alfred’s Royal Anointing’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 18.2 (1967), pp. 145–63

7. ASC A s.a. 853; this was evidently a good lesson in the political advantages that could be gained by turning powerful aquaintances into one’s ‘sons’

8. S. Irvine, ‘The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Idea of Rome in Alfredian Literature’, and D. Hill, ‘The Origins of Alfred’s Urban Policies’, in T. Reuter (ed.), Alfred the Great (2003, Ashgate), pp. 63–77; pp. 219–33

9. VA, 91

10. It only acquired that name in 1897 thanks to the intervention of the great legal scholar Frederic William Maitland: Domesday Book and Beyond. Three Essays in the Early History of England (1897, Cambridge University Press); D. Hill, ‘The Burghal Hidage – the Establishment of a Text’, Medieval Archaeology 13 (1969), pp. 84–92

11. The relationship of burhs to the territory that sustained them is drawn out in the greatest detail by Baker and Brookes, Beyond the Burghal Hidage; see also papers in D. Hill and A. Rumble (eds), The Defence of Wessex: The Burghal Hidage and Anglo-Saxon Fortifications (1996, Manchester University Press)

12. S. Keynes, ‘Edward, King of the Anglo-Saxons’, in N. J. Higham and D. H. Hill (eds), Edward the Elder, 899–924 (2001, Routledge)

13. N. Brooks, ‘The Unidentified Forts of the Burghal Hidage’, Medieval Archaeology 8.1 (1964), pp. 74–90

14. J. Haslam (ed.), Anglo-Saxon Towns in Southern England (1984, Phillimore)

15. S. R. Bassett, ‘The Middle and Late Anglo-Saxon Defences of Western Mercian Towns’, Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 15 (2008), pp. 180–239

16. G. Williams (ed.), A Riverine Site Near York: A Possible Viking Camp, and Other Related Papers (forthcoming); M. A. S. Blackburn, ‘The Viking Winter Camp at Torksey, 872–3’, in M. A. S. Blackburn (ed.), Viking Coinage and Currency in the British Isles (2011, Spink), pp. 221–64; D. Hadley and J. D. Richards, ‘The Winter Camp of the Viking Great Army, AD 872–3, Torksey, Lincolnshire’, The Antiquaries Journal 96 (2016), pp. 23–67

17. P. Wallace, Viking Dublin: The Wood Quay Excavations (2015, Irish Academic Press); I. Russell and M. F. Hurley (eds), Woodstown: A Viking-age Settlement in Co. Waterford (2014, Four Courts Press)

18. I. Gustin, ‘Trade and Trust in the Baltic Sea Area during the Viking Age’, in J. H. Barrett and S. J. Gibbon (eds), Maritime Societies of the Viking and Medieval World (2016, Oxbow), pp. 25–40

19. Some of the most spectacular finds come from the Danish trading site of Hedeby, near the modern town of Schleswig in Germany; an introduction can be found in V. Hilberg, ‘Hedeby: An Outline of Its Research History’ in Brink with Price, The Viking World, pp. 101–11

20. VA, 91

21. Viking skulls from Gotland and Dorset have been found that display evidence of deliberate dental modification – horizontal striations filed into the tooth enamel of the front incisors; the purpose was presumably aesthetic; C. Arcini, ‘The Vikings Bare Their Filed Teeth’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 128 (2005), pp. 727–33; L. Loe, A. Boyle, H. Webb and D. Score (eds), ‘Given to the Ground’: A Viking Age Mass Grave on Ridgeway Hill, Weymouth (2014, Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society)

22. Deliberately bent coins are a relatively common feature of silver coins in Viking hoards, as are those with evidence of what is known as ‘nicking’ and ‘pecking’ (deliberate gouges on the surface of the metal); all are methods of testing the purity of the silver: see, for example, M. Archibald, ‘Testing’ in J. Graham-Campbell (and contributors), The Cuerdale Hoard and Related Viking-Age Silver and Gold from Britain and Ireland in the British Museum (2013, 2nd edition, British Museum Press), pp. 51–63

23. R. Gameson (ed.), The Codex Aureus: An Eighth-Century Gospel Book: Stockholm, Kungliga Bibliotek, A. 135 (2001, Rosenkilde and Bagger)

24. Trans. University of Southampton []

25. Certainly, the concept of the trading settlement (emporium) was no novelty: Scandinavia had several, and they would continue to develop throughout the tenth century until the largest of them (Hedeby, Birka etc) took on major significance for North Sea economy and the wealth of Scandinavian monarchies – but this was little different to the situation that had pertained in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms when the Vikings had arrived (D. Skre, ‘The Development of Urbanism in Scandinavia’ and sub-papers, in Brink with Price, The Viking World, pp. 83–145)

26. G. Williams, ‘Towns and Identities in Viking England’, in D. M. Hadley and L. Ten Harkel (eds), Everyday Life in Viking-Age Towns: Social Approaches to Towns in England and Ireland, c.800–1100 (2013, Oxbow), pp. 14–34

Chapter 14: Danelaw

1. Egil’s Saga, 68

2. ‘And Guthrum, the northern king, whose baptismal name was Æthelstan, died; he was King Alfred’s godson, and he lived in East Anglia and was the first to settle that land.’ ASC A s.a. 890

3. See R. Abels, Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England (1998, Routledge) and Lavelle, Alfred’s Wars

4. ASC s.a. 893–7

5. ASC s.a. 897

6. ASC A s.a. 901

7. This epithet was coined in the late tenth century by Wulfstan the Cantor to distinguish him from Edward the Martyr; the proliferation of Edwards in royal nomenclature later led to the adoption, from 1215, of a numbering system for Edwards. This, however, started at the number one, with Edward I, disregarding the three – including Edward the Confessor – who had preceded him. The complex science of Edwardology gave medieval historians all sorts of bother: see M. Morris, A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain (2008, Hutchinson), pp. xv–xvi

8. ‘The Will of King Alfred’ in Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, pp. 173–8; R. Lavelle, ‘The Politics of Rebellion: The Ӕtheling Ӕthelwold and West Saxon Royal Succession, 899–902’, in P. Skinner (ed.), Challenging the Boundaries of Medieval History: The Legacy of Timothy Reuter(2009, Brepols)

9. ‘The Will of King Alfred’ in Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, pp. 173–8

10. ASC s.a. 901

11. Attributed to Ambrosius Aurelianus by Gildas and Bede, but to Arthur in British sources of the ninth century. Ex. 26.1; HE i.16; HB, 56; E. Guest, Origines Celticae, Vol. II (1883), pp. 186–93

12. ASC A s.a. 901

13. ASC D s.a. 901

14. ASN

15. Lavelle, ‘The Politics of Rebellion’

16. ASC A, D s.a. 905

17. CA, p. 52

18. The other soft-bearded prince was presumably Beorhtsige, son of Beorhtwulf – whom the ASC describes as ætheling (prince). It may be, as some have argued (see Lavelle, ‘Politics of Rebellion’), that this Beorhtwulf was a scion of the dispossessed royal house of Mercia, a possibility which puts rather a different complexion on the whole affair; one could quite readily frame the rebellion as armed resistance to a tyrannical and overreaching West Saxon regime: an attempt to restore the pre-878 geopolitics of Britain

19. An initiative that took off in 2001 – the Great Fen project – aims to recreate a much more substantial tract of fen habitat over the next fifty years (

20. M. Gelling and A. Cole, The Landscape of Place-Names (2014, 3rd edition, Stamford)

21. Kormáks saga, chapter 10 (translated by W. G. Collingwood and J. Stefánsson, The Saga of Cormac the Skald (Viking Club, or Society for Northern Research), pp. 65–7)

22. Olav Bø, ‘Hólmganga and Einvigi: Scandinavian Forms of the Duel’, Medieval Scandinavia 2 (1969), pp. 132–48

23. T. S. Jonsson, ‘Thingvellir as an Early National Cente’ in O. Owen (ed.), Things in the Viking World (2012, Shetland Amenity Trust), pp. 42–53

24. W. Morris, ‘1871 and 1873 Journeys to Iceland’ in M. Morris (ed.), The Collected Works of William Morris, vol. 8, p. 77

25. Völuspá, 57, p. 13

26. J. Byock, ‘The Icelandic Althing: Dawn of Parliamentary Democracy’, in J. M. Fladmark (ed.), Heritage and Identity: Shaping the Nations of the North (2002, Donhead), pp. 1–18

27. A. Wawn, The Vikings and the Victorians (2000, Boydell), pp. 277–9

28. Lǫgsǫgumaðr: the law-speaker was an elected elder/local bigwig whose role was to memorize local law, preside over the thing and impose its judgements

29. O. Olwen, ‘Things in the Viking World – An Introduction’ in Olwen (ed.), Things, pp. 4–29; G. Fellows-Jensen, ‘Tingwall: The Significance of the Name’ in D. Waugh and B. Smith (eds), Shetland’s Northern Links: Language and History (1996, Scottish Society for Northern Studies), pp. 16–29

30. B. Smith, ‘Shetland’s Tings’, in Olwen (ed.), Things, pp. 68–79

31. A. Johnson, ‘Tynwald – Ancient Site, Modern Institution – Isle of Man’, in Olwen (ed.), Things, pp. 104–17 (see also:

32. ‘Óláfs saga Helga’, chapter 80 (Heimskringla II)

33. ASC A s.a. 909

34. ASC A s.a. 911

35. See Baker and Brookes, Beyond the Burghal Hidage for the development of Anglo-Saxon civil defence

36. Now a village/suburb on the outskirts of Wolverhampton (West Midlands)

37. CA, p. 53

38. Downham, Viking Kings

39. Ibid. The sources for this period are woefully inadequate, and the historical arguments surrounding the Uí Ímair are complex

40. D. Horowitz, Notes and Materials on the Battle of Tettenhall 910AD, and Other Researches (2010, self-published)

41. A separate set of annals that provides additional specifics relating to Æthelflæd’s remarkable military leadership, later inserted in the C manuscript of the ASC

42. ASC A s.a. 912

43. J. Haslam, ‘The Location of the Burh of Wigingamere – Reappraisal’, in A. R. Rumble and A. D. Mills (eds), Names, People and Places (1977, Watkins), pp. 114–18

44. ASC A s.a. 921

45. ASC A s.a. 921

46. ASC A s.a. 922

47. ASC A s.a. 922

48. VA, I, see also Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, p. 225

Chapter 15: Lakeland Sagas

1. W. G. Collingwood, The Book of Coniston (1897, Titus Wilson)

2. L. Abrams and D. N. Parsons, ‘Place-names and the History of Scandinavian Settlement in England’ in J. Hines, A. Lane and M. Redknapp (eds), Land, Sea and Home: Proceedings of a Conference on Viking-Period Settlement (2004, Northern Universities Press), p. 380

3. D. Coggins, K. J. Fairless and C. E. Batey, ‘Simy Folds: An Early Medieval Settlement Site in Upper Teesdale. Co. Durham’, Medieval Archaeology 27 (1983), pp. 1–26; D. Coggins, ‘Simy Folds: Twenty Years On’ in J. Hines et al. (eds), Land, Sea and Home, pp. 326–34; A. King, ‘Post-Roman Upland Architecture in the Craven Dales and the Dating Evidence’ in Hines et al. (eds), Land, Sea and Home, pp. 335–44 (see also the broader discussion in Hadley, The Vikings in England, pp. 81–144)

4. King, ‘Post-Roman Upland Architecture’, p. 340

5. Dawn Hadley (The Vikings in England, pp. 99–104) provides an excellent overview of the issues and literature

6. See, for example, the names of moneyers working during the reign of Æthelred (R.978–1013, 1014–1016); J. J. North, English Hammered Coinage, Vol. 1 (1994, Spink), pp. 162–7

7. K. Leahy and C. Paterson, ‘New Light on the Viking Presence in Lincolnshire: The Artefactual Evidence’ in Graham-Campbell et al. (eds), Vikings and the Danelaw, pp. 181–202

8. J. F. Kershaw, Viking Identities: Scandinavian Jewellery in England (2013, Oxford University Press)

9. J. Geipel, The Viking Legacy: The Scandinavian Influence on the English Language (1975, David and Charles); see also S. D. Friðriksdóttir, Old Norse Influence in Modern English: The Effect of the Viking Invasion (2014, unpublished BA dissertation, University of Iceland) []

10. M. Townend, The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland: The Norse Medievalism of W. G. Collingwood and His Contemporaries (2009, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society), p. 67

11. A. Wawn, ‘The Spirit of 1892: Saga-Steads and Victorian Philology’, Saga-Book of the Viking Society 23 (1992), pp. 213–52; M. O. Townend, ‘In Search of the Lakeland Saga: Antiquarian Fiction and the Norse Settlement in Cumbria’, in D. Clark and C. Phelpstead (eds), Old Norse Made New: Essays on the Post-Medieval Reception of Old Norse Literature and Culture (2007, Viking Society for Northern Research); Wawn, The Vikings and the Victorians, pp. 308–9

12. Townend, The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland, pp. 33–4

13. For his part, Collingwood seems to have felt no sadness at his eclipse, though it was noted by contemporaries (Townend, The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland, pp. 44–5)

14. Ibid., p. 258

15. My own first-edition copy of Scandinavian Britain, I recently discovered to my great delight, is ex libris Robert Eugen Zachrisson, the famous Swedish philologist and place-name scholar: he signed the flyleaf in 1924 and, at some point, added a personalized bookplate. Zachrisson was responsible for a good deal of pioneering work on, among other things, the etymology of English place-names (including their Norse origins) and the Norman influence on modern English pronunciation; he is chiefly remembered today, however, for an ingenious attempt to overhaul the spelling of English with a system which he called Anglic. Although at the time it received considerable support, with reports (in Anglic) noting that ‘leeding eduekaeshonists and reprezentativz of the Pres, who hav been prezent at korsez givn in Stockholm and Uppsala, hav testified that Anglic is a moest efektiv meenz of teeching English to forinerz’, it was – perhaps mercifully – doomed to fail. A sage voice in the Spectator, commenting approvingly on these initiatives, observed in 1931 that ‘Language can be, and often is, the greatest obstacle to thought, and nowhere is this truer than in thinking about language itself.’ There may be something in that, but it was not, thankfully, enough to overcome the ‘instinct of every educated man […] to rise in revolt against any attempt to interfere with a custom sanctified by long usage’ (A. Lloyd James, ‘Anglic: An International English’, Spectator, 14 August 1931, p. 7:

16. Townend, The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland, p. 157

17. For the tenor of the debate see, e.g., D. Austin, ‘The “Proper Study” of Medieval Archaeology’, in D. Austin and L. Alcock (eds), From the Baltic to the Black Sea: Studies in Medieval Archaeology (1990, Routledge), pp. 9–42; G. R. W. Halsall, Cemeteries and Society in Merovingian Gaul: Selected Studies in History and Archaeology, 1992–2009 (2010, Brill), pp. 49–88

18. Kitchin exemplifies in many ways the late Victorian churchman and antiquary. His improbable list of accomplishments is a record of his talents, but also serves as an indicator of the excellent connections and oodles of free time that his position in society afforded. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a member of the British Archaeological Society, to whom he delivered learned disquisitions on (among other things) the font at Winchester Cathedral and ‘The Burial-place of the Slavonians’ at North Stoneham Church in Hampshire; he was dean of Winchester Cathedral (from 1883) where he contributed significantly to the restoration of the reredos, and was later dean of Durham Cathedral (from 1894) and chancellor of Durham University (from 1908) until his death in 1912; he wrote the popular hymn ‘Raise High the Cross’ as well as a three-volume history of France and a biography of Pope Pius II; as a young man in 1863 he was private tutor to Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark (later crowned King Frederik VIII). He also, and probably this is the least interesting of all his many achievements despite being the one for which he is most remembered, fathered Xie Kitchin, the favourite child-muse of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll; indeed, he was himself photographed by Dodgson and the result can be found in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery. A copy of the same likeness hangs on the wall of my study: I am contemplating his magnificent mutton-chops even as I type

19. Wawn, The Vikings and the Victorians, p. 128; Townend, The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland, p. 52

20. Townend, The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland, pp. 189–90; M. Townend, Language and History in Viking Age England: Linguistic Relations between Speakers of Old Norse and Old English (2002, Brepols Publishers)

21. G. W. Kitchin, ‘The Statesmen of West Cumberland’ in Ruskin in Oxford, and other Studies (1904, John Murray), p. 56; Isaac Kitchin, my great-great-great-great-grandfather, was born in Cumberland and educated at St Bees Theological College

22. When Kitchin spoke of the ‘love of liberty and simple independence, bred in the blood of men of mountain regions’ he was also, of course, including himself in this blood-borne character portrait (Ibid.)

23. Quoted in Townend, The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland, p. 192

24. D. Griffiths, Vikings of the Irish Sea (2010, Oxbow), p. 23

25. W. G. Collingwood, The Book of Coniston, pp. 1–7

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

Chapter 16: A New Way

1. W. G. Collingwood, Thorstein of the Mere (1895, Edward Arnold), p. 1

2. C. Krag, ‘The early unification of Norway’ in K. Helle, (ed.), The Cambridge History of Scandinavia, Volume I: Prehistory to 1520 (2003, Cambridge University Press), pp. 184–9

3. e.g. ‘Haralds saga ins hárfagra’, chapter 19 (Heimskringla I)

4. Krag, ‘The early unification of Norway’

5. Griffiths, Vikings of the Irish Sea, p. 51

6. K. A. Hemer, J. A. Evans, C. A. Chenery, A. L. Lamb, ‘No man is an island: Evidence of pre-Viking Age migration to the Isle of Man’, Journal of Archaeological Science 52 (2014), pp. 242–9; Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons, pp. 14, 148–52

7. AU s.a. 878

8. AU s.a. 839

9. A. Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070 (2007, Edinburgh University Press), pp. 9–10

10. Ibid., p. 66

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., pp. 93–8

13. CKA

14. The Annals of St-Bertin, s.a. 847; J. Nelson (ed. and trans.), The Annals of St-Bertin (1991, Manchester University Press)

15. CKAAU s.a 866

16. AC s.a. 870

17. AU s.a. 870

18. AU s.a. 871

19. CKA; Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, p. 109

20. AU s.a. 873

21. Downham, Viking Kings

22. Glasgow Community Planning Partnership, Govan Area Partnership Profile 2016 (2016, Glasgow City Council) []

23. K. Goodwin, ‘The Glasgow Effect’, Guardian (10 June 2016) []

24. ‘No City for Old Men’, The Economist (25 August 2012) []

25. A. Campsie, ‘Everything You Need to Know About Clyde Shipbuilding’, Scotsman (30 March 2016) []

26. I say probably, because, as others have observed, none have survived in their original settings: H. Williams, ‘Hogbacks: The Materiality of Solid Spaces’ in H. Williams, J. Kirton and M. Gondek (eds), Early Medieval Stone Monuments: Materiality, Biography, Landscape (2015, Boydell & Brewer)

27. J. T. Lang, ‘Hogback Monuments in Scotland’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 105 (1976), pp. 206–35

28. See, for example, the largest of the brooches, BM 1909,0624.2; Graham-Campbell, The Cuerdale Hoard, contains considerable detail on the contents of the hoard and its protracted recovery

29. NMS X.FC 8 []

30. The Irish of the tenth century had their own word for this phenomenon: Gallgoídil (‘foreigner Gaels’); see Downham, ‘“Hiberno-Norwegians” and “Anglo-Danes”’

31. CKA

32. AU s.a. 900; CS s.a. 900

33. The development of the Scottish nation is a complex subject to which this book cannot hope to do justice; for the fullest narrative treatment, see Woolf, From Pictland to Alba

Chapter 17: The Pagan Winter

1. Völuspá, v. 45 (author’s translation)

2. There’s no point searching for it – it was flattened after excavation in 1946 to facilitate the progress of farm traffic

3. For discussion of the burial see:; see also Wilson, Vikings in the Isle of Man

4. These are often, mistakenly, assumed to have been used as the figureheads of ships. Five such pillars accompanied the occupants of the Oseberg burial into the grave-mound, and we can presume therefore that they had some purpose in the most elaborate Viking death theatre. Handles at the base of the posts would have allowed these objects to be attached to another object – what, why or precisely how is unknown

5. Lunde and Stone, Land of Darkness, pp. 47–8

6. H. E. Davidson, ‘Human Sacrifice in the Late Pagan Period of North-Western Europe’ in M. O. H. Carver (ed.), The Age of Sutton Hoo: The Seventh Century in North-Western Europe (1992, Boydell Press), pp. 331–40

7. Griffiths, Vikings of the Irish Sea, pp. 81–3

8. Reynolds, Anglo-Saxon Deviant Burial

9. Ibid.

10. Price, ‘Belief and Ritual’

11. Price, The Viking Way

12. The list of objects is adapted from that published by the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History []

13. []

14. Canmore ID 9383

15. Sjøvold, The Viking Ships in Oslo

16. The story of the discovery of the grave is dramatic in itself, involving a race against time by archaeologists, bracing themselves against the dire Orkney storms that sweep off the Atlantic in the autumn; Graham-Campbell, Vikings in Scotland: An Archaeological Survey (1998, Edinburgh University Press), pp. 138–40; see also

17. Broadly speaking: as ever, the details are contradictory and late

18. C. Abram, Myths of the Pagan North: The Gods of the Norsemen (2011, Bloomsbury), pp. 157–68

19. Maughold (I) [202A]; Kirk Michael (III) [215]; individual Manx runestones are identified by the parish in whch the stone was found, followed by the individually assigned number of the stone within that parish. The Rundata reference is provided in square brackets

20. This is not to say that Scandinavian runestones never feature carved crosses – they frequently do – but the style and form of these monuments is usually very different

21. Braddan (IV) [193A]

22. Andreas (II) [184]

23. Ballaugh [189]

24. Andreas (I) [183]

25. Braddan (III) [191B]

26. Braddan (II) [191A]

27. The twin ravens Huginn (‘thought’) and Muninn (‘memory’) were key attributes of Odin; see, esp., Gylfaginning 38

28. W. S. Calverley and W. G. Collingwood, Notes on the Early Sculptured Crosses, Shrines and Monuments in the Present Diocese of Carlisle (1899, Titus Wilson); C. A. Parker, The Ancient Crosses at Gosforth and Cumberland (1896, Elliot Stock)

29. Gylfaginning 51

30. Völuspá 59, p. 13

31. Völuspá 65, p. 14

32. Abram, Myths of the Pagan North, p. 165

33. Price, ‘Belief and Ritual’

34. Abram, Myths of the Pagan North

Chapter 18: The Great War

1. APV, lines 14–17, 115–20

2. Halfdan didn’t last long according to the HSC. In punishment for his depredations ‘he began to rave and stink so badly that his whole army drove him from its midst’

3. ASC s.a. 875; see also CKA and Woolf, pp. 111–12

4. ASC s.a. 875

5. HSC, ch. 13

6. Ibid.

7. Oswiu of Northumbria (r. 640–70) was the king whose reign can be said to have ushered in that kingdom’s Golden Age. It was Oswiu who had killed (against all expectations) the notorious pagan king of Mercia, Penda, in the battle of the Winwæd in 655 – an act which had made him the most powerful man in Britain and overturned the last bastion of non-Christian belief on the island. During his reign he had also presided over the Synod of Whitby (664), a meeting which formally brought religious observance into line with Roman practice, and Northumbria firmly into the orbit of the mainstream religious–political–intellectual circles of post-Roman Europe. For any king to be proclaimed at a place named Oswiu’s Hill would have been to make an unmistakable political statement and, indeed, we may well wonder if this place had a long association with the public acknowledgement of kingship in Northumbria; see also discussion and references in Hadley, The Vikings in England, pp. 37–41

8. Hadley, The Vikings in England, pp. 44–54

9. Ibid.; Blackburn, Viking Coinage; G. Williams, ‘Kingship, Christianity and Coinage’

10. G. Williams, ‘Kingship, Christianity and Coinage’

11. This identification has at times been contested, see Downham, Viking Kings, pp. 94–6

12. AU s.a. 902

13. ACFA

14. FA s.a. 907; see also Lavelle, Alfred’s Wars, pp. 230–3

15. Hadley, The Vikings in England, p. 177

16. AU s.a. 913

17. AU s.a. 917; ASC s.a. 924

18. J. Graham-Campbell, The Viking-Age Gold and Silver of Scotland,AD 850–1100 (1995, National Museums of Scotland); Graham-Campbell, Cuerdale

19. T. Hugo, ‘On the Field of Cuerdale’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association 8 (1853), pp. 330–5; Graham-Campbell, Cuerdale, pp. 21–37

20. ASC D, s.a 926, ASC E s.a 927; GRA 1.3

21. Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, p. 158; EHD (104)

22. ASC D s.a. 926

23. North, English Hammered Coinage

24. Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, pp. 164–6

25. HR

26. ASC D s.a. 934; Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, p. 161, n. 73

27. CC s.a. 934

28. GRA 1.3

29. APV, lines 132, 143, 162

30. AFM s.a. 937

31. APV, lines 40, 60

32. Brunanburh, lines 61–5; M. Alexander (trans.), The Earliest English Poems (1991, Penguin), p. 97

33. According to Æthelweard, writing in the late tenth century; CA, p. 54

34. ASC E, s.a. 937

35. A. Tennyson, ‘The Battle of Brunanburh’, lines 1–14 in C. Ricks (ed.), The Poems of Tennyson III (1987, Longman), pp. 18–23

36. AU s.a. 939

Chapter 19: Bloodaxe

1. Egil’s Saga, 80, v.4 (p. 159)

2. The Chronicle of Melrose, s.a. 941; J. Stevenson (ed. and trans.), A Mediaeval Chronicle of Scotland: The Chronicle of Melrose (1991 [reprint of 1850s edition], Llanerch)

3. ASC A s.a. 942

4. See Chapter 20

5. ASC A s.a. 944

6. CC s.a. 946

7. G. Williams, Eirik Bloodaxe

8. Ibid.

9. ‘Hakonar saga góða’, chapter 3 (Heimskringla I)

10. ASC D s.a. 948

11. ASC A s.a. 948

12. M. Shapland, Buildings of Secular and Religious Lordship: Anglo-Saxon Tower-nave Churches (2012, unpublished PhD thesis, UCL)

13. R. Hall, Viking Age England (2004, The History Press), p. 283; R. Hall, ‘York’, in Brink with Price (eds), The Viking World, pp. 379–84; Hadley, The Vikings in England, pp. 147–54; the full Coppergate excavations are published in twenty-one volumes by York Archaeological Trust

14. Hall, ‘York’, p. 376

15. Q. Mould, I. Carlisle and E. Cameron, Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York (2003, CBA/York Archaeological Trust)

16. Olaf ended his days as a monk on Iona, not the retirement one might imagine for a Viking king – it shows how much the cultural compass had shifted since the Viking Age began

17. G. Williams, Eirik Bloodaxe

18. FH I

19. ‘Hakonar saga góða’, chapter 4 (Heimskringla I)

20. Grímnismál, verse 36

21. Slightly adapted from R. D. Fulk, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Eiríksmál’ in D. Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035 (2012, Brepols), p. 1003

22. Price, The Viking Way

Chapter 20: Wolves

1. ‘Sermon of the Wolf to the English’, EHD (240)

2. ASC CDE s.a. 1006

3. No Anglo-Saxon remains have been found, although the former use of the mound as a Bronze Age burial mound has been confirmed: A. Sanmark and S. J. Semple, ‘Places of Assembly: New Discoveries in Sweden and England’, Fornvännen 103. 4 (2008), pp. 245–59

4. The walking dead appear frequently in Old Norse literature, most famously in Grettis saga: see G. A. High (trans.) and P. Foote (ed.), The Saga of Grettir the Strong (1965, Dent)

5. Egil’s Saga, 61, v.11 (p. 116)

6. T. J. T. Williams, ‘For the Sake of Bravado in the Wilderness’; E. M. Lacey, Birds and Bird-lore in the Literature of Anglo-Saxon England (2013, unpublished PhD thesis, UCL), pp. 114–19

7. T. J. T. Williams, ‘Landscape and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England and the Viking Campaign of 1006’, Early Medieval Europe 23 (2015), pp. 329–59

8. The stones replaced an even older timber monument; J. Pollard, ‘The Sanctuary, Overton Hill, Wiltshire: A Re-examination’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 58 (1992), pp. 213–26. J. Pollard and A. Reynolds, Avebury: The Biography of a Landscape (2002, Tempus)

9. CC

10. This Maccus may conceivably have been the man who ended King Eric’s life in 954: there is no way to be certain. More importantly, this reference represents the first time that a kingdom of the isles is mentioned in contemporary records. A political entity that brought together the Scandinavian-settled territories of north-western Britain and the Irish Sea was coming into view for the first time

11. Lavelle, Alfred’s Wars

12. CCFH

13. ASC D s.a. 959; in the twelfth century, William of Malmesbury helpfully elaborated on Wulfstan’s sentiments by explaining how the English had picked up the despicable foreign habits of drunkenness from the Danes, effeminacy from the Dutch and ferocity from the Germans (GRA)

14. EHD (41)

15. Ibid.

16. FH

17. Maldon, lines 46–56; trans. Bradley, Anglo-Saxon Poetry

18. J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son’ in The Tolkien Reader (1966, Ballantine)

19. Neil Price, in a personal communication to me, suggested the old-fashioned word ‘vim’ – a particularly apposite approximation

20. Maldon, lines 96–100

21. Halsall, Warfare and Society, p. 183

22. Maldon, lines 312–19

23. J. D. Niles, ‘Maldon and Mythopoesis’, Mediaevalia 17 (1994), pp. 89–121; Wanderer

24. Other, smaller sums were dished out on an ad hoc basis; S. Keynes, ‘The Historical Context’ in D. Scragg (ed.), The Battle of MaldonAD 991 (1991, Blackwell), p. 100

25. See J. Gillingham, ‘“The Most Precious Jewel in the English Crown”: Levels of Danegeld and Heregeld in the Early Eleventh Century’, English Historical Review 104 (1989), pp. 373–84 and ‘Chronicles and Coins as Evidence for Levels of Tributes and Taxation in Late Tenth and Eleventh Century England’, English Historical Review 105 (1990), pp. 939–50

26. J. C. Moesgaard, ‘The Import of English Coins to the Northern Lands: Some Remarks on Coin Circulation in the Viking Age based on New Evidence from Denmark’, in B. J. Cook, G. Williams and M. Archibald (eds), Coinage and History in the North Sea World, c.AD 500–1250: Essays in Honour of Marion Archibald (2006, Brill)

27. E.g. coins of Svein Estridsen (r. 1047–76)

28. ASC CDE s.a. 999

29. S. Keynes, ‘The Declining Reputation of King Æthelred the Unready’ in D. Hill (ed.), Ethelred the Unready: Papers from the Millenary Conference (1978, BAR), pp. 227–53; L. Roach, Æthelred (2016, Yale University Press)

30. ASC A s.a. 1001

31. ASC CDE s.a. 1001

32. ASC CDE s.a. 1002; A. Williams, ‘“Cockles amongst the Wheat”: Danes and English in the Western Midlands in the First Half of the Eleventh Century’, Midland History 11 (1986), pp. 1–22

33. EHD (127); S909

34. A. M. Pollard, P. Ditchfield, E. Piva, S. Wallis, C. Falys and S. Ford, ‘“Sprouting like Cockle amongst the Wheat”: The St Brice’s Day Massacre and the Isotopic Analysis of Human Bones from St John’s College, Oxford’, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 31 (2012), pp. 83–102

Chapter 21: Mortal Remains

1. EHD, 48

2. ASC CDE s.a. 1013

3. T. Lindkvist, ‘Early Political Organisation: Introductory Survey’ in K. Helle (ed.), The Cambridge History of Scandinavia, Volume 1: Prehistory to 1520 (2003, Cambridge University Press)

4. See chapters by I. Skovgaard Petersen (‘The Making of the Danish Kingdom’), C. Krag (‘The Early Unification of Norway’), M. Stefánsson (‘The Norse Island Communities of the Western Ocean’), T. Lindkvist (‘Kings and Provinces in Sweden’) in Helle (ed.), The Cambridge History of Scandinavia

5. A. Pedersen, ‘The Royal Monuments at Jelling’ in G. Williams et al., Vikings: Life and Legend, pp. 158–60

6. The Dream of the Rood (ASPR 2); Alexander, Earliest English Poems, p. 87

7. ASC CDE s.a. 1012

8. CC s.a. 1013, p. 477

9. ASC CDE s.a. 1014

10. ASC CDE s.a. 1016

11. ASC D s.a. 1057

12. CC s.a. 1016, pp. 487–9

13. ASC E s.a. 1016

14. ASC D s.a, p. 152

15. Enc. 10; pp. 24–7

16. Ibid.; pp. 26–7

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Enc. 11; pp. 28–9

20. They carry, in fact, some of the earliest uses of the term ‘England’ to be found anywhere, proof that the concept of England had become sufficiently concrete by the eleventh century to be common currency outside Britain (Jesch, Ships and Men, pp. 70–7)

21. U194

22. U344; see discussion in S. B. F. Jansson, Swedish Vikings in England: The Evidence of the Rune Stones (1966, UCL)

23. Jansson, Swedish Vikings in England, pp. 12–13

24. DR337

25. Loe et al., Given to the Ground

26. N 184

27. M. O. Townend, English Place-Names in Skaldic Verse (1998, English Place-Name Society), p. 31

28. ASC CDE s.a. 1017

29. HA, vi. 13, pp. 360–1

30. Enc. ii.15; CC s.a. 1017

31. In addition to a previous wife, an English noblewoman named Ælfgifu

32. M. Biddle and B. Kjølbye-Biddle, ‘Danish Royal Burials in Winchester: Cnut and his Family’ in Lavelle and Roffey (eds), The Danes in Wessex, pp. 231–2

33. Ibid., p. 232


1. B. E. Crawford, The Northern Earldoms: Orkney and Caithness fromAD 870 to 1470 (2013, Birlinn); Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, pp. 275–311

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