Osfrith is a boy's name
You’re quite right Eanflaed, thanks. Lapse of attention on my part. I’m so glad I found out now.
[J]ust as long as you show what a hero he was!! (I'm sure you will!)
Ooh, don’t worry about that! Bards perform The Lay of Alfred at least three times and it is mentioned some more, if only because I portray local variants. Free Mercia is the main setting for the first half of the book, so their versions play up the role of the Mercians. This and the tapestries inspired by it tell of King Alfred’s life, career and achievements. Scenes my child characters clap eyes on include “the Moonless Muster of the Saxon host before King Alfred beneath the boughs of a wide wood in Wessex called Selwood” ( using black sheep’s wool for the backcloth and amethyst and silver leaf sewn in for the torches of the Wexiteers) later followed by “a king on a high-stepping horse, welcomed by cheering throngs” which turns out to be King Alfred liberating London.
( Incidentally, what do think of web-sight as an Old English, -ish, synonym for ‘scene in a tapestry’, likely to appeal to the Net native?)
[K]eep his dignity, nothing too frivolous - children are quite sophisticated these days
Crumbs, too right! Again, my only worry on that front is being too solemn or boring or preachy for children’s taste. Already, thanks to the ‘mentions’ Lady Ethelflæda lets drop about King Alfred, my child characters “were astonished to hear that King Alfred did not, in fact, ride home in triumph from the Battle of Ashdown. He’d slipped in quietly the back way, over the fields.
“‘But it’s no use telling the bards that,’ chuckled his daughter. Yet the truth rang truer of the father Lady Ethelflæda spoke so lovingly, and Edwald led them all in agreeing that it spoke more nobly to the bones.”
I hope it will be shot through with humour as your posts are
This, too, is my fervent hope as I’m terrified I’m too prone to get lost in Dark Agey details that’ll just bore the party pants off the target age-range, which is anywhere you like between nine and fourteen. I’ve pinched Jane Austen’s sense of humour and bolted it on to my Lady Etheflæda because she, too, has the kind of mind that lights up distant objects. Re-reading Northanger Abbey and parts of Pride and Prejudice in quest of a bum-steer for what sense of humour should be in character for a high-IQ, high-status woman with the benefit of a good education, I cranked my silly head round the Blindingly Obvious Observation that you can’t do better than Jane Austen’s own, can you? There are none who can! So I’ve been developing some less-is-more, bone dry drolleries to put in Lady Etheflæda’s mouth too. You can tell me whether “Adam, alone of all his sex, bore alive a woman from the side of his ribcage” is much good ( for when Lady Etheflæda has occasion to mention the Genesis story) or her tendency, whenever Lord Athelred’s court draws near enough to a Mercian town to sight the welcoming throngs, to say “We’ve caught them in” is up to the mark.
Which brings me to:
You are being bound by somebody else’s idea of what is right. So I couldn’t kill Bernard Cornwell if I saw him
I was being facetious about Bernard Cornwell! ( Do you have a better use for him?) But you are quite right that, considered in abstract, there is a circularity of reasoning that choosing to do good works presupposes one is competent enough to judge good from evil, already. But I was trying to divine the mindset of a committed and instructed Christian king late in the Dark Ages, and such a one would look to Christian scripture and his senior churchmen for what good works are. King Alfred was very interested in King Solomon, for instance, and his interest in philosophy’s old, old bone of Freewill was spurred partly because, as a medieval ruler, he knew the risks of looking weak and he was anxious that the failure of the Judaeo-Christian god to punish obvious evil-doers makes God look weak. If my understanding ( and memory of how it all went) serves, King Alfred would say that you are always free to choose wrong as well as right, but, granted you wish to do right, you are freely co-operating with God’s will ergo you deserve credit. He was fussy about the distinction between a good intention and a good deed because he thought Boethius gave no proper thought to how often people may be in no practical position to do what is right, be they ever so willing to see it done. So beefing up people’s freewill by promoting literacy and making morally edifying reading material available to them was King Alfred’s ‘belt and braces’ way of making sure, not only that he couldn’t go wrong, but by thus using his royal power in a pious as well as practical way he was helping to solve this “But how?” side of the problem by generating some practical options for others do right, too.
Or to put it another way...
Yet maybe what I have made clear is, if anyone tells you King Alfred simply translated, mistranslated or woefully misunderstood The Consolation of Philosophy it’s their numptiness, not his. King Alfred thoroughly re-wrote whole sections, finding his own answers to some questions some of which, as you can see, are still pertinent. He was his own man and he knew what he was about.
I]t's probably unlikely
Well a Pilgrim’s Packhorse wouldn’t have to be by him, and thanks for reminding me that he did have a kingdom to rule and, even at the best of times, an unreliable ‘peace partner’ to keep his eye on! Any book inspired by his example or caught up in his policy would do. If I were tempted to fool around with a Pilgrim’s Packhorse it would be in the hope that I could ‘spin’ it in some way that would appeal to, or at least surprise, nine-to-fourteen-year-olds. At the moment it doesn’t seem to rise above being churchy and boring. As you know, I’ve been mugging up about the connections the Old English had with Germany, and whilst I had a good deal more success than finding out about Visigothic Spain ( of which hardly any information survives at any level of detail) it was, again, mainly churchy stuff some of which bored me, so what chance does that give the kids?
Clearly the fact that Old English missionaries spent some of their time wandering around in the original Mirkwood ( the Black Forest) will have to come into it. I have already squeezed in a reference to the Drachenbergs, where Fafnir had his lair. Yet trying to get much more narrative mileage out of the German angle has otherwise proven to be a bit of a pain in the old ears, even without having to tiptoe round the Ghost of Nazis Past and Wagner. – Because I hate blōdig Wagner!
Also, I keep forgetting that more letters to and by King Alfred would be about in the first decade of the tenth century. Now what would they say, and who might incorporate information or passages from them into some book or other? Isn’t one of the theories for why some of the herbs in Bald’s Leechbook are not native to the British Isles that King Alfred was using his international connections to search for a cure for his mystery illness, and the contents of some of his replies found their way into Bald’s Leechbook?
I'm not confident to challenge you
Ya-boo! Please don’t say that! I need people to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes at my literary genius, if only for fear I’ve drifted off into mungo-bungo land.
Incidentally, something else Keynes and Lapidge reminded me about was that line of King Alfred’s from the preface to Pastoral Care, in reference to Christian scripture, “all the other Christian peoples turned some part of them into their own language”, because “There is no certainty about what translations Alfred is here referring to. The Bible was translated into Gothic by Ulfilas in the fourth century, but Alfred is unlikely to have known of this work. It is more likely that he knew of one of the translations made in Germany during the ninth century: a prose translation of the gospel story ( based on Tatian’s Diatessaron in East Franconian made at Fulda c. 830; a metrical same gospel story ( similarly based on the Diatessaron) in Old Saxon made during the decade 830-40, perhaps at Werden, known as the Heliand; and a metrical version of the gospels in Rhenish Franconian made by the monk Otfrid of Weissenburg sometime between 863 and 871. See Bostock Handbook, pp. 157-83 and 190-212. Alfred may have known of one or all these translations through his continental helpers, Grimbald and John the Old Saxon. See also Wormald, ‘Uses of Literacy’, p. 106.”
For besides those translations King Alfred was blazing the trail when it came to vernacular translations of the Bible or almost everything else, bearing in mind that literacy was petty much co-extensive with latinity and remained so, bar Old England, for several centuries. Having mugged up about Visigothic Spain, where Orosius wrote his History Against the Pagans, where Bishop Aldhelm’s poems exerted some mysterious influence and where the British colony of Britonia survived until the Moorish conquest in AD 711, giving me a moral certainly that King Alfred would have taken an interest in King Sisebut ( of whose poem about eclipses Bede had a copy), I wonder if King Alfred had heard things about the Gothic liturgy? Copies of Wulfilas’ Bible may have not made it to Visigothic Spain, but I’ll bet his translations of the psalms did.
However, having mugged up about Old England’s connections with Germany, I should be astonished if King Alfred knew nothing about the Old High German translations Keynes and Lapidge mention. Resolved to do something similar in English, it would seem quite natural to him to bring at least one well-educated German churchman to his court.
This Diatessaron, by the way, is a pick’n’mix gospel editing all the best incidents and dialogue into one, continuous narrative. This is how this Tatian chap filled his time out in the Assyrian desert in the second century AD. Says Wikipedia, “this harmony, the Codex Fuldensis, survives in the monastic library at Fulda, where it served as the source text for vernacular harmonies in Old High German, Eastern Frankish and Old Saxon ( the alliterative poem ‘Heliand’).” Old English pilgrims definitely visited Fulda, where St Boniface’s tomb was
In later centuries such the Church turned against such “gospel harmonies” in favour of using the four gospels in the original, separately. Easier though it is to sympathise with the Virgin Mary upon being told she was having quadruplets, Lazarus has to get resurrected four times and then, right at the end, poor old Mary has to squeeze in fifty-two apostles at the Last Supper. Not one of the Judases has second thoughts about putting a stop to this nonsense, and who’s going to blame them for that?
The moral right of the author to be identified broadcasting on Radio Goodies, three miles offshore from The Saucy Gibbon, has been asserted.