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Thread: Representations of Anglo-Saxon England in Children’s Literature

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    Representations of Anglo-Saxon England in Children’s Literature

    By Kristi A. Bobo

    PhD Dissertation, Brigham Young University (2002)


    This thesis surveys the children’s literary accounts of Anglo-Saxon history and literature that have been written since the mid-nineteenth century. Authors of different ages emphasize different aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture as societal need for and interpretation of the past change. In studying these changes, I show not only why children’s authors would choose to depict the Saxons in their writing, but why medievalists would want to study the resulting literature. My second chapter looks at children’s historical fiction and nonfiction, charting the trends which appear in the literature written between 1850 and the present day. I survey the changes made in authors’ representations of Anglo-Saxon England as children’s publication trends have changed. I show how these changes are closely related to the changes made in popular conceptions of the past. My third chapter discusses the way in which children’s retellings of Beowulf have placed the poem into a less culturally-dependent, more universal setting as they have separated the tale from its linguistic and cultural heritage. Children’s authors have gradually removed the poem’s poetic and linguistic devices and other cultural elements from their retellings, instead favoring a more courtly medieval setting, or even a generic universal one. Children’s literature is an important indicator of the societal values contemporary with its publication. Authors and publishers often write the literature to reflect their own ideologies and agendas more openly in children’s literature than in other literature. As I show in this thesis, the attitudes toward Anglo-Saxon England which pervade children’s literature of any age make it a particularly useful tool to those scholars interested in the study of popular reception of the Middle Ages.

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    The following are books referenced by the author in her thesis:

    Wulf the Saxon:A Story of the Norman Conquest by G.A. Henty(1895)
    "Follows a young Saxon thane as he fights alongside Harold in
    Normandy, Stamford Bridge and Hastings"

    King Olaf’s Kinsman:A Story of the Last Saxon Struggle against the Danes in the Days of Ironside & Canute by W. H. Margetson(1898)
    "Follows the fight of the Norwegian King Olaf against the Danes during the time of Kings Ethelred, Swein, and Cnut"

    King Alfred’s Viking:A Story of the First English Fleet by Charles Whistler(1899)
    "Fictionalized account of Alfred’s building of a fleet to fight against the invading Danes"

    The Dragon and the Raven by G.A. Henty(1886),
    "Fictionalized account of King Alfred’s campaigns against the invading
    Danes, Henty compares Alfred’s military efforts to those that England would take in the event of an uprising in India"

    Gytha’s Message:A Tale of Saxon England by Leslie Emma(1885)
    "Follows a recently converted Saxon family from 1053 until just after the Norman Conquest"

    A Saxon Settler by Rosemary Sutcliff(1965)
    "Follows the early arrival of one tribe of Saxons in England"

    A Thane of Wessex:Being the Story of the Great Viking Raid of 845 by Charles Whistler(1896)
    "Follows King Ethelwulf’s battles against the invading Danes in the
    9th century"

    Wulfric the Weapon-Thane: The Story of the Danish Conquest of East Anglia by Charles Whistler(1897)
    "Follows Edmund Ironside’s battles against the Danish invasion in the 11th century"

    Does anybody want to recommend a good book about Anglo-Saxon England?

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    "Does anybody want to recommend a good book about Anglo-Saxon England?"

    Heres a few titles from my library:

    'Looking for the lost Gods of England'

    "English Warrior: from earliest time till 1066"

    "Anglo-Saxon weapons and warfare"

    "First steps in Old English"

    " Sweets Anglo-Saxon Primer"

    "Rudiments of Runelore'

    "Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic"

    "The sword in Anglo-Saxon England"

    "Cnut and the Danes in England in the early 11th century"


    "The English resistance: the underground war against the Normans"

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