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Definition of Anglo Saxon literature and Characteristics

Anglo Saxons Literature

The literature from the time of Anglo Saxons era is also referred to as old English literature. This is basically due to the reason that a lot of the literature during the times of the Anglo Saxons were written in the old English language.

Another phrase by which it is very popularly known is the old English Anglo Saxons literature.

The time period which majorly saw the Anglo Saxons literature was from the 7th century right up till the time right before the Norman conquest in the year 1066. Thus, quite a good number of decades witnessed the great rich culture of the Anglo Saxons Literature.

Even in the present days, many aspirant students of literature refer to the Anglo Saxons era literature and they follow different Anglo Saxons literature authors and Anglo Saxons literature books to know more about the historically rich literature.

In this article, we will also try to give a picture scape to the summary of Anglo Saxons literature through different various fields and as a whole.

Anglo Saxons Literature Historical Background


On studying the historical background of Anglo Saxons literature, the “Cædmon’s Hymn” marks the entrant poem of the literature during the times of the Anglo Saxons written in the 7th century. This is the reason why Bede also calls this poem to be the oldest poem of the old English literature or the Anglo Saxons literature.

On the other end is the poem “The Grave”. This poem is considered to be one of the latest entrants of the literature during the Anglo Saxons written near about 1066. One can witness this poem written in a language which comprises the mixture of the old English and Middle English. Besides “The Grave” is the “Peterborough Chronicle”. This is a text of the late periods of the Anglo Saxons literature which continued into the 12th century, that is, the times of the Norman conquest.

Two works mark the significance of the Anglo Saxons literature and is considered to be the best works during the Anglo Saxons literature. These two are the “Anglo Saxons Chronicle” and the “Beowulf”. Both of these works have proven to be a significant study of the history of the Anglo Saxons literature. This is also an integral part of the study of the Anglo Saxons literature definition.

This great historical significance of the Anglo Saxons literature inspires many literature lovers to take up the historical study and research on Anglo Saxons age in English literature.

Anglo Saxons Literature Themes

The Anglo Saxons art and literature was based on many genres and themes for which they were never monotonous in nature.

Following mentioned are the genres and the themes on which the Anglo Saxons literature stories and poems are based:

The different genres and themes on which the poetry of the Anglo Saxons literature is based are:

  • Heroic Poetry
  • Latin Poetry and Classical Poetry
  • Elegiac Poetry
  • Christian Poetry

The different genres and themes on which the prose of the Anglo Saxons literature is based are:

  • Secular Prose
  • Christian Prose

Apart from the proses and the poems, there were also many riddles based on the variety of same genres which marks the literature of the Anglo Saxons times. It is known that the Anglo Saxons were dedicatedly religious.

This is the reason why, if one goes deep into the literature of the Anglo Saxons times, they will find that from poems to proses and riddles, a good part of the Anglo Saxons literature is based on the religious background. This religious part of the Anglo Saxons literature marks the presence of the Anglo Saxons Christian literature.

Characteristics of the Anglo Saxons Period in History of English Literature

According to the study and research of the history of Anglo Saxons literature, there are many characteristics of the Anglo Saxons literature. Following mentioned are five characteristics of Anglo Saxons literature which are considered to be the most important ones:

  • Anglo Saxons made the use of blank verses to write their poetries. The meaning of the term ‘blank verse’ is that there is no such presence of any end rhyme which occurs from one line to another line.
  • Making use of caesura was very common amongst the Anglo Saxons literature. The term ‘caesura’ means to take a breath or to take a pause whilst in the middle of a particular line. The caesura really helped the scop to recite the long poems and epics of the Anglo Saxons literature.
  • The main motive of the Anglo Saxons literature was to be of high morale to the ones who used to listen.
  • It was also very common for the use of kennings. The terms ‘kennings’ is nothing but a phrase of metaphorical nature which was used to describe any figurative description.
  • Alliteration was a commonly used poetic device during the Anglo Saxons literature.

These characteristics of the Anglo Saxons literature also answered many Anglo Saxons literature questions and explained a common question of why was Anglo Saxons literature often dark and gloomy?

Introduction to Anglo Saxons Literature Beowulf

Beowulf- From Anglo Saxon Literature

One of the most heroic novels amongst the Anglo Saxons literature is the Anglo Saxons epic poem Beowulf. It mainly describes the historical events based on facts during that time and also various images of the traditions of the Anglo Saxons.

The novel describes the same through the use of metaphorical terms. The novel also describes the existence of the Pagan traditions as well as the Christian traditions of the Anglo Saxons times.

There is also the presence of the Anglo Saxons American literature which is not very much said off but can be found in such pdf for the ones who wants to study and research more on the Anglo Saxons literature.

What is a boast in Anglo Saxon literature?

A bēot is Old English for a ritualized boast, vow, threat, or promise. In other times and cultures may think of boasting as a sign of arrogance, or sinful pride. However, the pagan AngloSaxons highly regarded such behaviour as a positive sign of one’s bravery, determination, and character.

What is an Anglo Saxon boast?

For Anglo-Saxons warriors, it was fine to let the world know who they were, boast their noble parents, and their great achievements, and what is their next plan. When at a feast, their boasting was thought of as polite and was even expected.

Anglo-Saxon boast examples

What is Beowulf’s boast?

Beowulf, probably from the seventh century, tells the story of how the monster Grendel terrorises a Danish stronghold until the Swedish Beowulf arrives. Beowulf had no qualms about boasting

A typical example:

“Hail! King Hrothgar! I am Hygelac’s thegn, Hygelac’s kinsman. Many a deed of honour and daring I’ve done in my youth… The best of my people, prudent and brave, urged me, King Hrothgar, to seek you out; They had in remembrance my courage and might.

Many had seen me come safe from the conflict, bloody from battle; five foes I bound of the giant kindred, and crushed their clan… And now with Grendel, the fearful fiend, Single-handed I’ll settle the strife ….. “

Another example of a boast

Faramir from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Return of the King” introduces Aragorn in a boast:

“Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor.”

These examples indicate the victories or qualities of a hero. In this example, there’s an introduction to the hero’s lineage/parentage, which was a common practice in Anglo-Saxon boasts.

How to write a Boast?

Structure of a bēot

  1. Pledge – The individual pledges to endeavour a specific challenge
  2. Speculation of outcomes – The individual predicts two possible outcomes—success or failure—and elaborates the effects of either outcome.
  3. Commissioning to a higher power – The individual commissions the outcome of the challenge to a higher power (e.g. God, fate)

Follow these steps to write a boast

  1. Put your humility aside. We would be writing exaggerated and how special you are
  2. List your personal accomplishments – awards, your talents.
  3. Write a couple of your future goals
  4. Your genealogy – your parents or where you were born.
  5. Use some stylistic norm. Anglo-Saxon poetry is typically in alliterative verse (repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words.)
  6. Start poem with your introduction, include you are the son or daughter of and where you come from.
  7. Write about your accomplishments and boast those like they are the greatest things anyone has done
  8. Use words like “glory” and “victory” to highlight your achievements.
  9. Brag about your goals for your future
  10. Include that you are sure to make those goals without much effort.
  11. Divide draft into apx 15 to 20 lines.
  12. There should be caesuras in nearly every line ( a pause near the middle of a line ).
  13. Include plenty of alliteration and kennings (figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun), and
  14. ensure the ends of lines do not rhyme.

Some examples of Kennings

First Lady – the wife of the president.
Four-eyes – someone who wears glasses.

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