Posted by: kljolly | July 5, 2012

Oakley draft revised

I have just posted a new draft of the Oakley chapter/short story that tries to account for the Durham A.IV.19 colophon and memorandum Aldred wrote.  This revision has taken a great deal of time, hence the silence in recent posts, also occasioned by other projects.  A recent presentation I gave on Beowulf at a children’s literature conference for teachers and writers was great fun and stimulated ideas for using Beowulf in my fall class.  I also gained some writing inspiration from the authors present.

For those of you who read the first draft and remember it, this one is quite different in the framing, but the dream-vision and colophon-writing remain pretty much the same.  The landscape, geographic and political, draws on charter evidence.  I have included more reflections on religious reform.  Most of all, Aldred’s personality–his struggles with pride–come through more.

I would appreciate feedback from Anglo-Saxon or tenth century experts as well as fiction authors and readers.  Some areas I am wrestling with include:

  • Direct speech:  trying to use Old English based words when the speech would have been in Old English; more Latiny when the provost and bishop discourse.
  • St. Swithun as a foil to St. Cuthbert:  the Winchester cult of St. Swithun officially begins in 971 with his translation, but the stories (apocryphal or not) must have begun in 970, I think.  Michael Lapidge’s über-volume on the Cult of St. Swithun is a huge help.
  • The monastic reform movement:  how much tension was there and what would the Northumbrians have felt about it?
  • Known bigwigs like King Edgar:  how to represent them in a fictional setting is tricky.
  • Charter evidence:  have I got the signing details right?

Some things I may pursue:

  • Bring in some of the other charter signers and political figures.
  • Develop an encounter with Abbess Herleva of Shaftesbury.
  • Take them to Winchester, go across the bridge Swithun built.

Other ideas?


  1. The only thing I’m close to qualified to talk about here is the charter signing. There is some argument over whether kings did in fact choose the words in their charters: the case is strongest for Æthelred the Unready, but still not proven. There’s also some argument over whether the writer of the charter would have been the king’s man or the recipient house’s; there might sometimes be no difference, of course. So the picture you have here is certainly possible, but it might be as feasible, if not more so, for just notes and names to be taken down at the assembly and the full worked-up text only to be produced later, at the recipient house and at leisure (or rather, in the hours of work under the Rule 🙂 ) That said, there is a council record somewhere in which a charter is drawn up during proceedings and signed off by those present–I’m guessing you know this–so the ideal of doing it the way you describe here did exist. And the set-up of the meeting in general makes the unusual possible, so I wouldn’t change it. But if you have any more charters being drawn up elsewhere in the narrative, this needn’t be a template case… As for the ordering of the witnesses, well, I think that’s quite ingenious, and lets in the Biblical allusions very neatly, but the order was set by the scribe, not by the seating, I’d have said. If the document was finished when Ælfsige enters the room, he’d be in his high place on it, not the low one, and would make his cross in place wherever he’d been sat. Or does this charter show autograph signatures?

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