Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thoughts on Sytherin's Retirement

I suggested a while ago that Salazar Slytherin went to the fens, surrounding Ely, to join the last Saxon resistance to the Norman Conquest when he argued with his fellow Hogwarts founders about who is permitted entry in their school. Back before the last book came out and anything could still be significant, I argued that the arrival of the first Malfoys into his house was probably the last straw for Slytherin and so he went to join Hereward.
It may be that Rowling had never thought that far afield when planning her novels. It may be that she did think of somewhere that he went and it will be included in the oft mentioned encyclopedia that she may publish at some point in the future.
Since Slytherin's descendants now went by the name of Gaunt, I assumed that they somehow married into the family of John of Gaunt, son of Edward III and Duke of Lancaster, but there is another Gaunt, who owned the lands where I thought Little Hangleton was placed on. This Gaunt was Gilbert of Gaunt, a knight from Flanders who came over with William the Conqueror. This Gaunt was also possibly godfather to Hereward and nephew to William's queen, Matilda. This provides Hereward with a powerful friend to reconcile the king to him and any that broke through the siege at Ely with him.
Once the surviving resistance leaders like Hereward or Edric the Wild were reconciled to the king and other potential leaders like Earl Morcar or Earl Edwin were dead, was there any point in carrying on the resistance? And even if you could defeat William, who would you replace him with? Edgar the Aetheling should have been the heir to the throne but he was not able to attract the following that Hereward was and possibly lacked the talent in tactical matters that Hereward seemed to have. Even with Earl Morcar, one of the most important of the remaining Anglo Saxon nobility and an heir of the Mercian royal family, at Ely, Hereward was the resistance leader. So, would Slytherin, by now an old wizard, want to carry on a bush war that had no hope or would he opt for peace and settle on a bit of land?
The other piece of the Gaunt family history, the Peverils also settled in the same area of Little Hucklow ( my candidate for Little Hangleton) where William Peveril, a Norman knight and possibly William I's bastard had a castle.
Another question would be - did Slytherin marry late in life after the pardon by the king or did he retire to a farm with a family that he already had? This is my guess then. He already had a family, took a pardon and retired to Little Hucklow and his only daughter or granddaughter caught a Peveril or (most likely, since the Gaunts were Flemish and not of the hated Norman invaders) a Gaunt eye and so the family name was lost, although the genes and propensity for talking with snakes was passed on.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hereward and Bohemond

While researching the life of Hereward the Wake for a paper, my imagination was captured by the thought that during the years that Hereward was exiled, he may have been fighting with the Varangian Guard. There is no doubt that he was exiled and was fighting on the continent, most likely as a mercenary. The accounts say Flanders but there is speculation that he joined other Saxon nobles, dispossessed by the events of 1066, and went to Constantinople to join Alexius, Anna Comnena's father, fighting our old friend Bohemond and his father Robert Guiscard.
There is not much of a description of Hereward out there. He was not a tall man but rather solidly built so Bohemond would have towered over him. I think Bohemond would have beaten him just because Bohemond was so much larger but they would have been matched in ferocity and bravery. Both were capable military leaders with the charisma to attract followers although lacking a title and funds.
Before Hereward left for the continent, he most likely went north, possibly to help Malcolm fight MacBeth. It seems like Hereward managed to find himself in some of the most interesting places of his times.
He came home, hearing that the Normans had killed his brother and were harassing his mother. Whoever he was, when people heard he was back, they came to join him and his resistance army hidden in the fens of Lincolnshire. When William was about to break through the defences at Ely, Earl Morcar and Bishop Aethelwine opted to surrender and throw themselves on the king's mercy. They died in prison.
Hereward refused to surrender. He broke through the siege with a group of like-minded followers and disappeared into the Brunwald Forest. Later William made peace with him and restored all of his land since he could not subdue him militarily. After that there is disagreement over, if he ended his days peacefully and was buried at Croyland, or, if he was treacherously ambushed by disgruntled Normans and died, fighting off a whole crowd of them who would not have beaten him if four had not snuck up behind him and stabbed him in the back. It sounds as if he and Bohemond had much in common. The thought that they could have met on the battlefield amuses me but it really is not likely since I cannot see either man letting such a foe walk away without a fight.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I was reading Gesta Herwardi, or The Deeds of Hereward the Wake, last night when the name of Beorn appeared on the page. Since I just mentioned him in my last post, it was interesting to be handed a reason for Tolkien choosing Beorn as the name of the shapeshifter.
After being banished by his father, Hereward went north to Northumberland and spent Christmas watching people wrestle bears for fun. He decided to test his strength against the biggest, baddest bear there. "This was the offspring of a famous Norwegian bear which had the head and feet of a man and human intelligence, which understood the speech of men and was cunning in battle. Its father, so the stories and legends told, was said to have raped a girl in the woods and through her to have engendered Beorn, King of Norway."(M. Swanton trans.)
All the bees are easily explained. 'Beo' is Anglo-Saxon for 'bee'.
It is a curious little tale and is probably taken from the same story that this Norwegian legend was taken from. Whether Tolkien chose the name for the story in Gesta Herewardi or the Norwegian story, I do not know. Either one is likely.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thingol Was a Wanker

There is a good explanation for the title of this piece. I have been busy learning the Anglo Saxon language, for which knowing Tolkien as well as I do has been really helpful. I have to chuckle, as I memorize word lists, when I come across edoras which means 'building'. Of course it does.
I have come across beam as well, which means 'tree' and is why Quickbeam was such a hasty ent. Speaking of ent, it is the word for 'giant' so of course the ents had to be large. Flet is floor. Mearh is horse. Beorn has 'bee' as a root, as well as meaning 'chief', so he must be a leader and there would be some large bees at his home. Wine means 'friend'. Brandywine. Huru! (Indeed!)
Last week, on my word list to learn was a verb- asmeagian, to investigate, devise, examine, elicit. Sounds like Smeagol. Then, when we were going over the vocabulary list, my prof made some Gollum noises and said that this verb is where Tolkien got the name from. The inside joke is that, when Sam was calling him a sneak, it really was his name. The suffix -ol is added to a verb to create a noun much like in Latin when -ator is added to gladius (sword) to create gladiator.
So this brings me to Thingol. Thing + ol. Hmmm. What was Thingol up to off in his cave? It explains much that is strange about Legolas. Does it not?