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The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England

The Sword is closely associated with all that was most significant in a man's life in the Anglo-Saxon world: family ties, loyalty to a lord, the duties of a king, the excitement of battle, the attainment of manhood, and the last funeral rites. Hilda Ellis Davidson explores the revelations of archaeology, methods of sword-making, and references in Anglo-Saxon poetry and Old Norse sagas to reveal a past where the sword was of supreme importance, as a weapon and as a symbol. She restores a vital dimension to Old English literature, and endows those few surviving swords in museums with a real glamour and magic. She shows that for a fuller understanding of Anglo-Saxon poetry it is important to have due regard to the warrior culture from which it sprang, and of the potent part played by the sword within that culture. Much can be learnt from surviving swords and from the context in which they are discovered. Careful study of the disposition of swords found in peat bogs in Denmark, and in graves, lakes and rivers in the British Isles, yields information on religious and social practices. The swords themselves, and their decoration, reveal the technical skill and cultural achievements of the people who wielded them. To read Beowolf is to be immediately aware of the aura of magical power the poet vested in the sword, and Hilda Ellis Davidson's other concern in this book is to look at literary sources for what they reveal of the quality of a good sword and its significance in Anglo-Saxon and Viking societies - for Viking raiders played as important a part as Anglo-Saxon colonists in the history of early medieval Britain. A survey of the sword in Anglo-Saxon historical records and poetry isfollowed by an exploration of descriptions of the sword, and of the parts of the sword, in Old Norse literature. The real world of the Anglo-Saxons is brought into dramatic close-focus through this thorough study of the physical remains and literary memorials of a highly-charged symbol.
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Despite now being over fifty years old, it is still a work of great value. WWW.HISTORYOFWAR.ORG

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