The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue 15 (October 2012)

a tale of Wade: The Anglo-Saxon origin myth in an East Saxon setting

Phillip Heath-ColemanMailto: Icon

Independent Scholar

© 2012 by Phillip Heath-Coleman. All rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2012 by The Heroic Age. All rights reserved.

Abstract: In the past Walter Map's tale of Gado, included in his De Nugis Curialium, written towards the end of the twelfth century, has been merely regarded as a Medieval Latin version of a pre-conquest lay concerning the exploits of the Germanic hero Wade. However, if we look past the fantastic elements which surround him we are left with what appears to be an East Saxon version of the English settlement myth most familiar in the Kentish form involving Hengist and Vortigern, which itself seems to have been adopted from a common Germanic theme.

§1.  In his De Nugis Curialium, written towards the end of the twelfth century, Walter Map relates a curious tale set in Colchester which tells how "King Offa" is treacherously besieged in Colchester by the "Emperor of Rome" after wedding the latter's daughter, but is saved by the appearance (in fantastic circumstances) of his friend Gado (Map De Nugis Curialium).

A certain Gado, son of a king of the Vandals, from love of adventure leaves his home as a boy and wanders through the world redressing wrongs. At last he comes to the court of King Offa who has just married the daughter of the Roman emperor. On their return home the Roman guests urge an attack on Offa, but the Romans are deterred by fear of his friend Gado. But when Gado has been called off to the Indies the Romans send a mighty army and refuse all Offa's terms for peace. In the meantime Gado, having completed his task, is returning home when his ship, much against his will, carries him to Colchester. He greets Offa there, and accompanied by a hundred chosen knights goes to the headquarters of the Romans in an attempt to make peace but is repulsed. Thereupon he arrays the English forces, placing Offa with the main body in the market-place of the town, Offa's nephew Suanus with five hundred men at one gate, and himself with a hundred men at the other. The Romans avoid Gado and concentrate their attacks on Suanus who, at the third assault, appeals for help. Gado refuses, but as Suanus prepares for the third attack, commands him to fall back. The enemy rush in and are met by Offa in the market place, whilst their retreat is cut off by Gado. A great slaughter of the Romans follows until quarter is offered to the survivors, who return to Rome with their dead.1

§2.  In the past Walter Map's tale of Gado ("De gradone milite strenuissimo") has aroused scholarly interest by virtue of the fact that it is the only surviving insular narrative of any substance to describe an exploit of the otherwise shadowy Germanic hero, Wade (OE Wada), of whose name Gado is a Latinised form.2 As M. R. James noted in his edition "This chapter is usually supposed to preserve an episode of the saga of the mythical hero Wade" (Map De Nugis Curialium). Wilson thought the tale might exemplify a body of lost heroic legends which would have existed in Old English and provides a useful summary of the literary sources which refer to Wade (1970, 15–16).3 He cites Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida (3.614), in which Panardus "tolde a tale of Wade," and the Merchant's Tale, which more significantly in the present context refers to "Wade's boot." Editing Chaucer in 1598, Speght "pass(es) over 'Wade and his bote called Guingelot, as also his strange exploits in the same, because the matter is long and fabulous …'"4

§3.  Chambers used the story to flesh out the sole OE reference to Wade ("Wada weold Haelsingum"), which occurs in the mnemonic list of heroes in the OE Widsith (Chambers 1912)5

§4.  However, if we remove the fantastic elements in the story which surround Wade we are left with a straightforward narrative which is not without its echoes elsewhere in Germanic legend.

§5.  Those echoes become more obvious if we isolate the main elements in that narrative:

  1. Two kinsmen feast with a foreign lord to celebrate an apparently dynastic marriage between their two families.
  2. The foreign lord's followers treacherously decide to fall upon the kinsmen and their followers.
  3. The kinsmen are besieged, and have to defend themselves against assault at two entrances to their stronghold.
  4. The besieged feign retreat and the besiegers are routed; the survivors are given quarter.

§6.  Perhaps the parallel which most readily comes to mind is that of (c) with the Finnsburh fragment.6 If, however, we also take the Finnsburh episode into consideration, similarities are also apparent with elements of (a), (b), and (d). The Finnsburh story involves two kinsmen (Hnaef and his nephew), who are enjoying the hospitality of a foreign lord to whom they are related by marriage (Hnaef's sister Hildeburh is the wife of Finn); Hnaef and his followers are treacherously attacked by an element in Finn's entourage and have to defend themselves in a hall with two entrances; the besiegers are driven off and an uneasy peace ensues.

§7.  The Finnsburh story is not alone in presenting a series of similarities to Walter Map's tale of Gado. An even closer parallel can be seen in the story of Hengist and Vortigern, as recorded in the Historia Brittonum,7 and subsequently repeated by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae (6.10–16)8 and later authors: Hengist, the leader of the English ("Saxones"), whose daughter is married to Vortigern, the king of the British, has summoned his son Octha and nephew Ebissa to his side (Historia Brittonum 37–38); subsequently the English treacherously turn on and slaughter the British at an ostensible peace conference. Vortigern is spared, but he is obliged to surrender Essex and Sussex to the English (Historia Brittonum 45–46). It seems reasonable to posit that the surrender of Essex and Sussex is not based on any historical circumstance but suggested by the etymology of the two names.

§8.  It has long been recognised that the narrative in the Historia Brittonum of which these events form part derives from an English original (Brooks 1989). The following comparisons may be made with Map's tale of Gado:

  1. the leader of the English forces (Hengist/Offa) is accompanied by a close kinsman (Octha and Ebissa/Suanus);
  2. he is related by marriage to the leader of a potential enemy (Vortigern/the "Roman emperor"), both of whom have "Roman" connections;
  3. a peaceful meeting is devastated by treachery; the English prevail.

The principle differences are that

  1. Hengist had to travel to Vortigern's territory, while Offa apparently rules from Colchester;
  2. in the story related in the Historia Brittonum, the treachery is on the part of the English, who nonetheless benefit from it; in Walter Map's story the English are the victims of the treachery, but ultimately prevail by means of subterfuge.

Some of these differences can be readily accommodated:

  1. The Historia Brittonum is relating the story of Hengist and Vortigern for a British audience. This is how they might wish to hear, or have always heard it. It is perhaps more likely that an original English version would have told of British treachery. Regardless how the incoming Saxons behaved, they are unlikely to have celebrated their own treachery as such in their oral traditions. If the Offa story is more faithful to the original English version, then it was originally Vortigern and the British who planned to get rid of Hengist and his Saxons once and for all, but came unstuck, like the "Romans" at Colchester. It seems unlikely that the British would have sat down unarmed with Saxons they regarded as barbarians in the way described in the Historia Brittonum. However, one man's treachery is another's cunning ruse, and the two versions may represent different perspectives on the same set of circumstances.
  2. Like Hengist, Offa may originally have been the visitor to a stronghold of the Romano-British. Colchester, after all, is a suitable residence for a "Roman emperor", and the story's Colchester setting and the presence there of "Romans" surely constituted a single element in the original story. Perhaps, once Colchester was firmly in English (East Saxon) hands, it was assumed that it must have been home to Offa, and the Romans were inevitably taken to be the visitors.9

§9.  That the original of Walter Map's tale of Gado was regarded as a story of the earliest days of the English settlement is supported by the presence of "Romans" (and English together) in Colchester, and by the insertion of the name of Offa at an appropriate point in the genealogy of the kings of the East Saxons (one level above Escwini/Erchenwin, whom John of Worcester and Henry of Huntingdon regard as the first King of Essex). It was presumably the same circumstances that ultimately lent the name of Camulodunum (Colchester), in the form Camelot, to the citadel of the Romano-British in Arthurian legend (Morris 1993, 138).

§10.  The name of Offa's nephew Suanus bears a superficial resemblance to that of Suanna. However, the form which Roger of Wendover gives for OE is Swaeppa, the third name above that of Offa in the East Saxon royal genealogy. Roger, who seems to share his sources with Henry of Huntingdon, has apparently misread OE -pp- in his source as -nn- (while Henry has Spoewe, which probably involves a misreading of the OE (originally runic) letter wynn as p rather than a unique metathesis). One of Offa of Angeln's two adversaries in the Vitae duorum Offarum is called Sueno, but there is no real reason to associate him with Suanus.

§11.  Closer to home, however, the form Suanescamp is found for the placename Swanscombe in Kent in a charter dated c. AD 687 in which Eorcenwald (Erkenwald), Bishop of London, that is the East Saxon diocese, grants land, mainly in South-West Essex, but also at Swanscombe and Erith in Kent, to Barking Abbey, where his sister Aethelburh (Ethelburga) was Abbess (Sawyer S 1246). Swanscombe is not recorded again until the Domesday Book in 1087. This placename seems a possible corollary for our legendary Suanus, especially in view of the connection with Essex (a later reader of the Charter—perhaps at Barking—may not have realised where Suanescamp was).

§12.  Walter Map inevitably associates the Offa of his narrative with the celebrated King Offa of Mercia. The degree to which the semi-legendary Offa of Angeln, the historical King Offa of Mercia, and Offa of Colchester may have been confused, integrated or identical in Anglo-Saxon and later minds probably varied from hardly at all in the first instance, to completely by post-Conquest times.

§13.  The similarities between the Hengist and Offa stories on the one hand and the Finnsburh story on the other suggest that the former have adapted a popular theme to describe the circumstances of the English settlements and the defeat of the British. Finnsburh, however, shares one significant similarity with the story of Offa which is absent from the Hengist/Vortigern story, to wit the defence of two entrances. In the Offa story the presence of two entrances seems in some way connected with the deception that allows Offa to get the better of the Romans, but is hardly essential to it. A similar deception may have featured in Finnsburh, perhaps between the events described in the fragment and those in the episode, even if the absence of any essential connection between the presence of a second entrance and the success of the ruse presents difficulties (though it need not have done to its intended audience).

§14.  The association of different sets of protagonists with what is in essence a single theme depicting the earliest English settlements is paralleled by the five different versions of the story of the (usually) two kinsmen and their (usually) three ships which appear in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The Chronicle relates that

449 Hengist and Horsa land in three ships at Ypwinesfleot/Heopwinesfleot (Ebbsfleet, Kent).
477 Aelle and his three sons Cymen, Wlencing and Cissa land in three ships at Cymenesora (The Owers, to the south of Selsey Bill, Sussex).
495 Cerdic and his son Cynric land at Cerdicesford with five ships.
501 Port and his two sons, Bieda and Maegla, land in two ships at Portesmuşa (Portsmouth, Hampshire).
514 The "West Saxons" Stuf and Wihtgar land with three ships at Cerdicesora.

§15.  The duplication is most apparent in the entries for 495 and 514. In all of these entries with the exception of that for Hengist one at least of the personal names involved seems to have been derived from a placename (according to the Chronicle Wihtgar was subsequently buried at Wihtgaraburh/Wihtgarasburg), a situation which compares with that of Suanus and Suanescamp (ASC an. 544).

§16.  That fact that Jordanes, the historian of the Goths, relates in his history of the Goths, the Getica, how the Goths and Gepids travelled to Europe from Scandinavia in three ships indicates that we are dealing with a pan-Germanic origin myth, or rather formula. The formulaic nature of both these narratives—the arrival in three ships and the treacherous siege—underscores the fact that we are dealing not with history, or any attempt at it, but with the application of legendary formulas/formulaic legend, adopted and adapted to suit individual circumstances.

§17.  Modern scholarship is reluctant to read too much into the information which the earliest sources—Bede, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Historia Brittonum—give about the earliest stages of the English settlements: the formulaic nature of these (and other) narratives means that we should in fact not expect them to contain even a shred of historical accuracy. It follows that:

§18.  For the same reason it seems likely that Bede's sub-division of the Germanic incomers into Angles, Saxons and Jutes (Bede HE 1.15) is probably another reflex of the fondness for tripartition which is apparent in their myth of origin, rather than of any actual tribal or cultural affiliations.

§19.  The identification of the circumstances of this "tale of Wade" is important in that it places the contractual element in the marriage of Vortigern to Hengist's daughter as described by Geoffery of Monmouth in the realm of myth rather than in a historical context. Rather than illustrating an aspect of the historical acquisition of southern Britain by the English, it gives the contractual relationship of intermarriage an (equally) important place in the English (and probably originally pan-Germanic) myth of origin.

§20.  An echo of the story of Offa and the Roman Emperor, also located in Colchester, may survive in one of the legends attaching later in the Middle Ages to King Coel, or Cole, the eponymous but legendary founder of the town, which has him besieged there for three years by Constantius, the father (subsequently) of the Emperor Constantine; the conflict ends with Constantius marrying Coel's daughter, (St) Helen.11

A continental parallel

§21.  It has often been noted—and the suggestion as often dismissed—that there are similarities between the plot of the Finnsburh story and the second part of the Old High German epic known as the Niebelungenlied. In the latter, the Burgundian king Günther and his brothers visit Attila, who has married their sister Kriemhild. Although they are guests, they end up under siege in Attila's hall. It is not necessary to suggest, of course, that either story is a version of the other, but it is now obvious that the story of the last stand of the Niebelungen which constitutes the second part of the Niebelungenlied, is an adaptation of the theme which occurs not only in Finnsburh, but also in the legends of Hengist and Offa.

§22.  Again we are dealing with an apparently pan-Germanic (but not necessarily solely so) formula.

§23.  The validity of this comparison is underlined by the similarities which both Finnsburh and the Niebelungenlied share with the story of Offa and the Romans. There is enough of (a), (b) and (c) in the second part of the Niebelungenlied to make any suggestion of coincidence at least questionable.

§24.  The climax of the Niebelungenlied is somewhat confused. A Burgundian hero (Dancwart) holds the door to the hall to prevent the Huns from leaving, while the other Burgundians indulge in what can only be described a frenzy of slaughter. Other Huns wait helpless outside, and the Niebelungen poet has the warrior on the door ridicule them for not coming to the aid of their compatriots. However, comparison with the same situation in the Old Norse Þiðrekssaga, which is generally held to be a more archaic version of the same story (and ultimately also of continental German origin), suggests that the Burgundians were originally also besieged in a hall. At one stage in its narrative, however, Þiðrekssaga also has the Burgundians attacked in an orchard, where, tellingly, they slaughter a number of Huns who are barred in with them.12

§25.  In both Niebelungenlied and Þiðrekssaga the Huns slain respectively within the hall and in the orchard (which is apparently standing in for the hall) are reminiscent of the Romans lured to their deaths in the market place at Colchester. If there is a thematic relationship, then either the luring of the Romans in the Gado story is a device to rationalise the presence of representatives of both sides within the besieged town, or the situation in Niebelungenlied and Þiðrekssaga represents an attempt to explain the presence of Huns on the inside once the deception had been forgotten. Indeed, the evidence of Niebelungenlied, where Dancrat uniquely, and bizarrely, holds the door to stop Huns getting out, suggests that it is the Offa story which most accurately preserves the original motif. However, it is not impossible that the two versions are compatible. The besieged may have been besieged because they had already killed associates of the besiegers within their stronghold. The incompleteness of the Finnsburh story makes this interpretation a tantalising possibility in that story too—one which previous studies of Finnsburh have not been able to consider.

§26.  What is true of Finnsburh, however, is that this identification of the formulaic nature of its theme makes any attempt to make historical or even logical sense of the action futile. In particular the fragment and the episode need not be any more compatible than are the Niebelungenlied and Þiðrekssaga .

§27.  In all of the narratives under discussion individual aspects of the theme reflect different institutions in early Germanic society:

  1. the role of kinship, and in particular the bond between uncle and nephew (Offa/Suanus, Hnaef/unnamed nephew, Günther and his brothers/Kriemhild's sons);
  2. the sanctity of hospitality, even between potential foes;
  3. the use of the arranged (royal) marriage to forge an alliance or keep the peace.

§28.  What these stories serve to illustrate, whatever their outcome (which unlike the theme is not, of course, constant) is the vulnerability of all these institutions to the overriding demands of vengeance, or rather, as the protagonists would surely have seen it, honour.

§29.  It is ironic (or as the Saxons themselves might have said weird) that the demise of the Anglo-Saxon state should have been due to English warriors on Senlac hill falling victim to the very deception by which according to this tale of Wade they themselves had originally gained the upper hand over the Romano-British.


§30.  The story of Offa's marriage to the daughter of the "Emperor of Rome" functions simultaneously—if not entirely harmoniously—at both political and artistic levels:

  1. while the basic theme is apparently evidence of dynastic marriage as an effective political device designed to avert conflict, this and other literary accounts turn on the tragic failure of that device;
  2. in the case of Offa and Hengist that failure was ultimately to the advantage of the Saxon party, and legitimised their acquisition of territory.

§31.  Comparison with the Niebelungenlied and Finnsburh suggest that the basic theme is an old one, and one which was essentially tragic, with its emphasis on honour and revenge and the resultant downfall of realms. But in Saxon England the old implication of the theme seems to have been stood on its head: the loser is now the Romano-British world which was opposed to the Saxons, and the tale has become a success story, celebrating and justifying the establishment and existence of Saxon, or rather English, kingdoms. In the case of Offa it is probably no coincidence that the main Saxon protagonist shares his name with an East Saxon king of the late eighth century: the fact that the king's name breaks a long sequence of regal alliteration on initial S- may also suggest that he was named in honour of the legendary Offa of Colchester, or that a version of the story came into being which used his name for the hero. Either way this would suggest that the story in this form reflects a desire to legitimise (East) Saxon hegemony in the eighth century. It is probably not fanciful to see that desire—and the new emphasis in the legendary or literary motifs which were employed to give expression to it—as an aspect of the consolidation of the Christian ethos among the ruling classes of Anglo Saxon England.

Post scriptum

§32.  It is possible that the Wade character (though not, however, Wade himself, or the supernatural element) is an early accretion, or even original to the plot of the legend. Comparison may be made with Sigeferth in the Finnesburh fragment, and Dancwart in the Niebelungenlied (and perhaps Hogni in Þiðrekssaga): all are great heroes who play a significant part in the defence of the besieged hall. That role may have been Wade's entrée to the Offa version of the story.

§33.  The role of Sigeferth "Secgena leod, wrec*e* wide cuð" in the Finnsburh Fragment, which seems to cast Hengest in a subordinate role ("and Hengest sylf—hwearf him on laste"), may be evidence that the Fragment itself had an East Saxon (courtly?) audience at some point during its transmission. Not only does the East Saxon royal genealogy in BM Ms Add 23211 include a Sigeferð Seaxing amongst the earliest East Saxon kings, but it also includes Gesecg and Antsecg as the immediate heirs of the god Seaxneat who (by implication) stands at its head. It has been argued that there is no explicit connection between the names Gesecg and Antsecg and the Secgan, and how can there be, given that the first two at least are mythical? However, it seems unlikely that the East Saxon mind would not have made both links at some time. The latest king in the most complete line in BM Ms Add 23211 (i.e. the one which includes legendary and mythical sections before the historical kings) is Offa, whom Bede (5.19) has abdicating and going to Rome in AD 709 (though exile rather than pilgrimage may be nearer the mark), and it is possible that he owed his name (which, unlike that of every other recorded historical king of the East Saxons does not alliterate on S-) to interest in his legendary namesake, the friend of Gado. BM Ms Add 23211 also includes an East Saxon king Selered in one its lines, and the name of Sledd(a) himself, who it implies was the progenitor of all three lines, may also be a hypocoristic form of Selered: if we could ascribe the English art of punning to the Anglo-Saxons, we might perhaps be tempted to see an attempt to appeal to an East Saxon audience in Beowulf itself (whose marshland setting would also have struck a chord with an East Saxon audience) in the following lines:

secgan to sóşe selerædende (line 51)
selerædende secgan hýrde (line 1346)


Thematic similarities between the stories of Offa, Hengist and Vortigern, Finnsburh and the Niebelungenlied

General Theme Offa/Wade Hengist Finnsburh Niebelungenlied
Two or more kinsmen (a leader and his nephew) Offa and his nephew Suanus Hengist and his brother Horsa / Hengist and his son Octha and nephew Ebissa Hnaef and a band of men including Hengist (Hnaef's nephew, his sister Hildeburh's son, is apparently, but not necessarily, on the other side) Günther, the king of the Burgundians, his brothers and entourage. (Attila's sons are nephews to Günther and his brothers by their sister Kriemhild)
enjoy the hospitality of a foreign lord receive the Roman Emperor (in Colchester) are entertained by the British King Vortigern in Kent. are staying with Finn at Finnsburh. visit Attila
to celebrate the marriage of one of the parties and the daughter/sister of the other. where Offa is to marry the Emperor's daughter. Vortigern is enamoured of Hengist's daughter and is betrothed to her. Finn is already married to Hildeburh, apparently Hnaef's sister. who is married to Günther's sister, Kriemhild.
They find themselves at odds with their hosts (who may already have a score to settle) as the result of treachery. The Romans plan to besiege Offa's men. The Saxons plan to turn on the Britons at a feast. A section of Finn's entourage has a score to settle with Hnaef and his men. They betray Finn's hospitality and besiege Hnaef in the hall. The Huns turn on the Burgundians, slaughtering their squires.
They are besieged in a hall and have to guard two entrances. Offa and Suanus hold out in Colchester. Suanus and the returning Wade defend its two opposite gates. Sigeferth and Eaha hold one door, Guthlaf and others the other. A Burgundian warrior holds the door to the hall.
The besieged warriors (ultimately) prevail; their adversaries sue for peace. The Romans are lured in and slaughtered; the survivors are granted quarter. The Saxons slaughter the British nobility; Vortigern surrenders up his lands in return for his life. Hnaef (and his nephew) are killed, but his followers fight the besiegers to a standstill, and subsequently get the better of them in renewed fighting. The Burgundians have trapped a number of Huns in the hall and slay them. (The Burgundians are finally defeated by the Huns and their allies outside).


1. Summary in translation from the original Latin taken from Wilson (1970). [Back]

2. The original uses the form Grado once in the title and once in the text (its very first word). Thereafter forms of Gado are used throughout. G- or Gu- is the usual treatment of initial W- in Latinised forms of Germanic names. [Back]

3. Wade appears as Wate in the MHG poem Kudrun, as Vathe in the ON Þiðrekssaga, and in local folklore in the north of England; in Yorkshire, he is often a giant whose name is associated with prehistoric or Roman remains and prominent natural features. [Back]

4. Speght 1598, quoted in Wilson 1970, 16. Tolkien and Gordon regarded the name which Speght gives to Wade's boat as borrowed from Guingalet, Gryngolet, the name of Gawain's horse in Arthurian legend (see Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 90, note on l. 597). [Back]

5. *Wada weold Waelsingum would be more satisfactory from the point of view of alliteration, but this is not the place to pursue that line of thought! [Back]

6. References to the Finnsburh episode and fragment are to the Tolkien/Bliss edition. [Back]

7. References to the Historia Brittonum (formerly ascribed to Nennius) are to the parallel text in Morris (1980). [Back]

8. In the same context Geoffrey has Vortigern grant Hengist land at a place "which we call Castrum Corrigie in Latin … known as Kaercarrei in the Welsh tongue and as Thanceastre in Saxon". Tatlock (1950) associates this with Caistor in Lincolnshire (Thwangcastre in 1322). It is, however, possible that Geoffrey's Thanceastre derives from a misreading of Ythancaestir, the name which Bede gives to the Roman station at Othona (Yþþanceastre in the OE version), which stood at Bradwell on Sea in Essex on the south bank of the Blackwater Estuary; this name survived as Effecestre (with East Saxon /e/ for standard late West Saxon OE /y/) in the Domesday Book. This is the site of the seventh century chapel which St. Ceadda built as a base for the conversion of the East Saxons. [Back]

9. Archaeology reveals a Saxon presence (in the forms of huts, cruciform broaches, combs, pottery) within the Roman walls of Colchester from the early fifth century (Crummy 1997). The close proximity at Colchester of the early Norman Castle, which uses Roman materials and is built upon Roman foundations (or, according to local legend as preserved in the thirteenth/fourteenth century Colchester Chronicle, those of the "palace of King Coel" [Essex Record Office, D/B 5 R1, f.20, entry for 1076]), and the Chapel of St. Helen's, whose "restoration" in the eleventh century, recorded in the same entry in the Colchester Chronicle, already suggests antiquity, and which uses Roman materials and may similarly be built upon Roman foundations, may be indicative of the collocation of a royal presence and a church in early Saxon times, in the same way as the location of the church of All Hallows Barking, or All Hallows by the Tower, relative to the site of Tower of London at the other end of the East Saxon kingdom is suggestive of the juxtaposition of a royal site and an ecclesiastical foundation of Barking Abbey. The Victoria County History of Essex suggests that the bishop of London's soke, with its own court, which was held in Colchester by the early twelfth century, may have originated in the same context, as the bishop's residence at an East Saxon royal centre. [Back]

10. Under AD 571 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records a West Saxon victory over the Britons at a place called Bedcanford (Peterborough MS) or Biedcanford (Winchester MS). The appearance of a king called Bedca (BM ms ADD 23211) or Biedca (in Henry of Huntingdon's twelfth century Historia Anglorum) as the father of the legendary East Saxon Offa ("Bedcing") in the "prehistoric" section of the East Saxon royal genealogy suggests that the name of both the king and the site of the battle were interdependent and legendary, and subject to appropriation by more than one Saxon royal house. [Back]

11. Colchester Chronicle (Essex Record Office, D/B 5 R1, f.20(iii): entries for AD 260 and AD 264), Geoffrey of Monmouth (5.6) describes a similar set of circumstances, but without any reference to a siege. [Back]

12. A useful summary of Þiðrekssaga in English is contained in The Niebelungenlied, 375–383. [Back]

Works Cited

Bede. 1969. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English people. Ed. and trans. Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors. Oxford: Clarendon Press.  [Back]

Brooks, N. 1989. The creation and early structure of the kingdom of Kent. In The origins of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, ed. S. Bassett. London: Leicester University Press.  [Back]

Chambers R. W., ed. 1912. Widsith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  [Back]

Crummy, Philip. 1997. City of victory. Colchester: Colchester Archaeological Trust.  [Back]

Geoffrey of Monmouth. 1966. History of the kings of Britain. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth: Penguin.  [Back]

Hatto, A. T., trans. 1965. The Niebelungenlied. Harmondsworth: Penguin.  [Back]

Map, Walter. 1914. Walter map: De nugis curialium. Ed. M. R. James. Anecdota Oxoniensia 14. Oxford: Clarendon Press.  [Back]

Morris, John. 1993. The age of Arthur: a history of the British Isles from 350 to 650. London: Weidenfeld.  [Back]

Morris, J., ed. and trans. 1980. Nennius: British history and the Welsh annals. London: Phillimore.  [Back]

Swanton, Michael, ed. and trans. 1996. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. London: Dent.  [Back]

Tatlock, John S. P. 1950. The legendary history of Britain: Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae and its early vernacular versions. Berkeley: University of California Press.  [Back]

Tolkien, J. R. R. 1982. Finn and Hengest: the fragment and the episode. Ed. Alan Bliss. London: George Allen and Unwin.  [Back]

Tolkien, J. R. R. and E. V. Gordon, eds. 1967. Sir Gawain and the green knight. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  [Back]

Wilson, R. M. 1970. The lost literature of medieval England. London: Methuen.  [Back]