The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

12 (May 2009)  |   Issue Editors: Larry Swain

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

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| Reviews |


Bately, Janet, and Anton Englert, eds. 2007. Ohthere's Voyages: A Late 9th-century Account of Voyages along the Coasts of Norway and Denmark and its Cultural Context. Maritime Culture of the North 1. Roskilde: Viking Ship Museum. 216 pages + 82 figures, maps, and tables. 9788785180476.

This handsome 8½-by-11-inch volume is the result of a seminar held at The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, 9–10 May 2003, on a remarkable text in Old English that recounts the sea-journeys of a Norwegian mariner named Óttarr or Ohthere (to use the Anglicized form of his name). Ohthere gave his report at the court of King Alfred of Wessex, who ruled 871–99. It is followed by the briefer account of a (presumed) Englishman named Wulfstan in the Old English translation of Orosius's Latin Seven Books of History against the Pagans, which had been written in response to the capture of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth in 410, an event that some had attributed to neglect of the old Roman gods. This polemical work opens with a general description of the known world, including Europe north of the Danube. Although Bately scrupulously insists that Alfred's responsibility for the inclusion of this text in the Old English Orosius is not certain, it is very likely that the learned and inquisitive monarch sought to expand Orosius's geography with this new information in his great translation project of "books most needful for men to know." In addition, Mathew Townend (2002) has argued that Old English and Old Norse were mutually intelligible in simple sentences at this time without the need for interpreters, so that the text is probably an Anglo-Saxon scribe's summary of Ohthere's and Wulfstan's narratives to the king. Wulfstan may even be the scribe and/or interpreter himself, who could be understood as merely describing yet another leg of Ohthere's voyages. The editors supply photos of eight pages of the text from the Lauderdale and Cotton MSS of the British Library, plus many other large illustrations, photos, and maps, often in color.

This is no mere coffee table book, however. Bately supplies a careful scholarly edition of the text and an exact translation into Modern English, with alternative renderings (sometimes of very minor significance) in square brackets. She also provides, with the help of E. G. Stanley, notes on key terms, persons, and places. Ian Wood summarizes earlier accounts of the North before the Old English Orosius and Stefan Brink describes the land, place-names and political organization of early Scandinavia. Ohthere claimed to live "furthest north of all Northmen," even though the land stretched "a long way north from there, but it is all waste," he says, "except that in a few places here and there Finnas camp, engaged in hunting in winter and in summer fishing by the sea" (44). Irmeli Valtonen identifies these Finnas as Sami and the Cwenas, with whom Ohthere also had contact, as Kvens, a non-Sami, non-Norse fur-trading people living on the northern shore of the Gulf of Bothnia, probably of Finnic or mixed ethnicity. Ohthere says he sailed five days south beyond the North Cape of Norway and Nikolaj A. Makarov discusses the various possible locations where he might have encountered the Beormas, a people of uncertain ethnicity, and another called Terfinnas, probably eastern Sami or the Terskaya Lop' of the Kola Peninsula. Makarov notes the absence of archeological evidence for settlements around the shores of the White Sea in this period and suggests that Ohthere only got as far east as Varangerfjord or, at furthest, the southern shore of the Kola Peninsula.

Inger Storli discusses possible locations of Ohthere's farm at various sites excavated in Hålogaland in northern Norway, concluding that it should be placed somewhere between the chieftain's center on Bjarkøy to the south and the northernmost limit of cereal cultivation on the southwest coast of Kvaløy to the north. Gerd Stamsø Munch gives an idea of what this residence might have looked like by describing the excavation of Borg in Lofoten. Arne Emil Christensen attempts to reconstruct Ohthere's ship on the basis of analogues recovered at Gokstad and Tune, while Anton Englert scrutinizes the details of Ohthere's voyages from a nautical point of view. The mariner said that it took at least a month to sail southwards from his home to a trading center somewhere in southern Norway called Sciringes healh 'Skíring's landing' perhaps, to conflate at least several of the possible meanings broached for the second term of this place-name. Dagfinn Skre discusses the site Kaupang on the western shore of Oslo fjord as a "seasonal marketplace" in Ohthere's time, which identification with Sciringes healh he and most contributors seem to accept, though other (undiscussed) sites on the southwestern Norwegian coast in Rogaland or Vest-Agder have also been proposed (Birgisson 2006, Masdalen 2007). Andres Siegfried Dobat looks more closely at the fifth day of Ohthere's route further south through the Schlei fjord to Hæthum 'to the Heaths', that is, the well-excavated trading emporium at Hedeby in Schleswig, Germany, called Haithabu in a contemporary runic inscription. Michael Müller-Wille describes what Ohthere would have seen at this site in the second half of the ninth century. Wulfstan (or Ohthere himself) traveled from Hedeby along the south coast of the Baltic eastwards to the mouth of the Vistula, land of the Ests, a Baltic people probably to be associated with the Æstii mentioned by Tacitus in the first century AD and the Estonians of a later time. Peter Sawyer reviews other destinations in Norway, Denmark, and England, while Stéphane Lebeq and Carsten Müller-Boysen offer a broader assessment of maritime trade in the period, with the latter suggesting that Scandinavian kings sought to encourage free trade as a means of increasing of their own prosperity, often allowing foreign merchants some protected autonomy by locating trading posts at a friendly but watchful distance on a shore across from their own courts.

As might be expected in such a collaborative effort, there is some repetition among the various essays, as well as the casual assertion by one author of information that has been questioned by another. The reader must often work again through familiar material to get to a fresh contribution. But the volume is an excellent and convenient resource, with a fine bibliography of primary and secondary sources; a list of its 18 contributors, their positions and contact information; and an index of persons, peoples, and places mentioned throughout the whole volume.

Reviewed by Craig R. Davis
Smith College

Cooper, Alan. 2006. Bridges, Law and Power in Medieval England 700–1400. Woodbridge and Rochester: The Boydell Press. 185 pages. 1843832755.

With apologies to Robert Frost: Nothing there is that doesn't love a bridge. They are structures of romance and technology, emblematic of all that is most solid, particular, and material about a time and place. Products of the most local conditions and labor, they are also crucial to the proper functioning and security of the nation as a whole, intimately related to issues of defense, economy, government, and communication. In Alan Cooper's hands, they are also a great deal more besides. This thorough and meticulous study of bridge maintenance and repair from the Anglo-Saxon period to the late middle ages moves beyond the confines of its perhaps dauntingly narrow subject to provide insights into the wider concerns of a radically changing nation. In tracing the evolution of the laws of bridge-work, this book explores the broader developments taking place in the most fundamental and practical aspects of kingship, and suggests the complex matrix of economic and social responsibility that knit together the English countryside throughout the Middle Ages.

From the eighth to the fifteenth centuries, bridges went from being rare and largely unnecessary structures to being both common and crucial to the communications and economy of the country as a whole. And while their construction was often the result of local need and action, their maintenance was a matter of national concern. The way this maintenance was instituted and managed reveals the changing nature of community, ecclesiastical power, royal authority, and the changing history of power.

In the Anglo-Saxon period, the issue of bridge maintenance, which would seem a very straightforward and concrete issue, reveals itself as neither. While the obligation to perform bridge-work appears in Anglo-Saxon charters from the eighth century onwards, evidence suggests there were few bridges in England before the tenth century. As Cooper suggests, this leaves us to wonder why a substantial emphasis on bridge repair should co-exist with a remarkable shortage of actual bridges. In this light, the widespread emphasis on bridge-work can be seen not just as a practical issue, but as a symbolic one, having to do with developing the late Anglo-Saxon understanding of proper land use, communal responsibility, and royal authority.

From the eighth century, the right of the king to compel church estates to provide laborers was highly contested. The regulation of bridge-work may thus be seen as part of the larger relationship between the church and the crown, and the decision, ultimately, to oblige even church lands to participate in bridge maintenance suggests both the need for compromise between church and ruler, and the perception that bridge-work was part of the common burdens. As such, it represented an obligation that even the king himself could not avoid. Bridge maintenance, along with military service and the maintenance of fortifications defined the common burdens. And the ability to impose this conception of communal obligation upon the nation reflected a growth in the power and sophistication of royal government. Bridge maintenance, then, became a marker of the success with which Alfred and his immediate successors were able to exercise a new kind of royal authority and create a sense of national community in the face of the Viking invasions and their aftermath.

In the years that followed, however, changes in the landscape brought about by forest clearance, draining fields, and the damming of streams to support water mills increased the flow of many rivers, and the use of fords became impractical. In addition, the increased reliance on carts rather than pack animals to transport goods meant that bridges became a necessary means of traversing the waterways. The three centuries after Alfred, from about 900 to 1200, thus formed the great period of new bridge building, and the need to maintain and repair these new structures revealed the very different historical and cultural context of Anglo-Norman England. For if the maintenance of bridges was seen as necessary, the question of who would do the work-that is, who could be compelled to work for the common good-changed, providing insight into the nature of royal power and the perceptions of the ties and obligations of community.

With the advent of the Norman conquest, the Anglo-Saxon sense of communal obligation gave way, and bridge-work became a responsibility that could be, and was assigned, shirked, and remitted. Beginning with William the Conqueror, obligations that had once been communal and public, became "an instrument for lordly rule," (66) and the power to remit the need for bridge-work became a source of patronage. By the middle of the twelfth century bridge-work had evolved into a complex variety of personal and institutional obligations "exempted through favour, demanded through malice."(79) In tracing the changing nature of bridge-work, Cooper also traces the changes in the power and structure of the king's authority and his laws.

By the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries bridges had become a common feature, vital to the country, and their maintenance and repair became even more important. But without the pre-existing sense of communal obligation, different approaches to maintenance had to be developed. Attempts were made to re-invoke existing obligations, but these obligations were based on custom and so were often erratic and unreliable. The fact that evidence of these obligations is seen most often in the legal attempts to avoid them suggests how ineffective they were. For as the need for bridge maintenance became more substantial and more onerous, the efforts to avoid the obligations became more intense. From this time on, bridge-work was established by customary precedent and litigation. Thus, its study provides evidence, not only for the specifics of bridge maintenance, but for the function of the courts in the most local concerns of economic and social responsibility.

In the course of his study, Cooper brings together an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, anchoring his broad and insightful analysis in a rigorous close reading of ancient Latin and Anglo-Saxon law codes, chronicles, charters, and histories. He provides detailed portraits of some of the most historically significant bridges, such as the old London bridge, tracing the developments in building and maintenance techniques that went hand-in-hand with new ways of paying for the necessary work. And at every step he embeds the technical and legal information within a broader cultural context, suggesting with each new development the web of obligations and needs operating at all levels of society. Complex legal cases about the responsibility for bridge repair reveal the inner workings of local government and the complex matrix of economic and social responsibility. And while the research is detailed and Cooper's presentation is dense with documents and citations, the author manages to move beyond his dauntingly narrow focus to use bridge work as a lens through which to suggest the complex interrelations of medieval society as a whole. This book builds toward an understanding, not just of bridge maintenance, but of the changing nature of community and power that tied the English nation together.

D. K. Smith
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Corona, Gabriella, ed. 2006. Ælfric's Life of Saint Basil the Great: Background and Context. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. 272 pages. 1843840952.

From the time of his own life St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea (329–79), has been honored as one of the foremost Fathers of the Eastern Church and an influential proponent of monasticism. It comes as no surprise then that Theodore of Tarsus may have brought with him to Anglo-Saxon England the books and knowledge of Basil the Great. Gabriella Corona's extensive research into the background, transmission, and influence of Basil and his works in Anglo-Saxon England provides a thorough context for her edition and translation of Ælfric's Old English version of Basil's Vita. This book includes a brief introduction to the project, chapters on the cultural and linguistic background of the Greek, Latin, and Old English versions of the Life of Basil, text with facing-page translation, commentary, appendices, bibliography, and index.

In the first of the six chapters that make up Study section of the book, Corona carefully lays out the history and transmission the life of Basil from what little is known about its Greek origins to the earliest Latin translation (BHL 1023) of the Greek life circulated in the mid-ninth century Carolingian realm north of the Alps. The second chapter traces the evidence for knowledge of Basil's writings and cult in Anglo-Saxon England from the arrival of Archbishop Theodore to Ælfric's translation found in the collection known as Lives of Saints. Before translating the complete Life found in Lives of Saints, Ælfric translated a portion of the life of Basil in his first homily for the Assumption of Mary (Catholic Homilies I.30), so Corona devotes the third chapter to a comparison of Ælfric's style and method of translation in this homily and in the later translation of the complete Life. A more complete analysis of the full Life and its relationship to the Latin source follows in the fourth chapter, leading Corona to the conclusion that "Ælfric's translation of [the Life of Basil], even though clearly based on the textual tradition of BHL 1023, is highly original, because it is adapted to respond to his educational intent" (94). The originality and effectiveness of Ælfric's translation lie in the stylistic and rhetorical elements of the Old English work as Corona describes in her fifth chapter. In the sixth and last chapter of this section of the book, Corona turns from analysis of the background for Ælfric's translation and provides a codicological description of the three manuscripts collated into her edition of the Life. She also outlines her editorial policy and notes the major differences between her edition and the only previous edition by Walter Skeat. Finally, Corona gives the codicological information on the manuscripts of the Cotton-Corpus Legendary from which she draws her working edition of the Latin text of the Vita Basilii provided in Appendix I.

Corona aims to provide a critical edition of Ælfric's Life of Basil, trying to come as close as possible to Ælfric's probable original text instead of following the idiosyncrasies of the only complete manuscript witness, London, BL, Cotton Julius E. vii, as Skeat did. Even though Cotton Julius E. vii serves as the base manuscript, Corona follows Michael Lapidge's method for reconstructing Ælfric's spelling and silently changes the spellings found in the Julius manuscript without recording the variants in her apparatus unless they seem significant. She also generally prefers the variants found in the legible portions of London, BL, Cotton Otto B. x + Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson Q. E. 20 and London, BL, Cotton Vitellius D. xvii to those found in Cotton Julius E. vii. Corona does retain Skeat's verse layout, however, and also collates two fragments not used by Skeat.

The text and facing-page translation are divided into chapters according to the Latin edition in Appendix I and the lines are numbered in the standard five-line divisions instead of replicating Skeat's four-line numbering. Corona does not use the pointing and accent marks found in Skeat's edition and so the appearance of the text on the page is clean and easily legible. Modern punctuation and regularized spelling and capitalization add to the attractiveness and readability of the Old English text and make the edition helpful to new students of Old English and scholars in the field alike. The translation is fluid and avoids the affected archaisms of the translation provided by Skeat. It is not, however, without some infelicities in the words chosen for the modern translation. For example, Corona translates "cum halig bisceop, se wæs fram cildhade swiðe gehealdsum . . ." as "A certain holy bishop who was very frugal from childhood . . ." using 'frugal' to translate gehealdsum (1–2). The Old English word can mean 'frugal,' but it can also mean 'continent' (used by Skeat) or 'abstinent.' The choice of words here has implications for Ælfric's purpose in translating the Life of Basil. If Ælfric meant to hold up Basil as an example of chastity, as he did in his prologue to the Admonitio ad filium spiritualem (43), then he may have used gehealdsum to indicate Basil's chastity while maintaining the alliteration established in the first line. The use of 'frugal,' in the translation, however, adds emphasis to Basil's act of giving away his wealth to the needy in lines 50–55. Since Ælfric's opening lines summarize the prologue of the Latin version, which does mention his chastity (224, line 10), a strong case may be made for the use of 'continent' or 'abstinent' in the translation here, instead of 'frugal.' There are a few other examples of debatable word choices in the translation—'tame' instead of 'gentle' or 'mild' for bylewita (line 99), 'will' instead of 'understanding' or 'knowledge' for andgite (line 313), and so on—that do not seem to precisely translate the meaning of Ælfric's words, but overall this translation is much to be preferred over Skeat's.

Corona's commentary follows next and focuses on issues of Ælfric's translation, style, rhetoric, often providing comparison to the Latin version found in the Cotton-Corpus Legendary.

The working edition of the Latin text based on the manuscripts of the Cotton-Corpus Legendary and fragments of an Exeter manuscript appears as Appendix I and is valuable for comparing Ælfric's translation with the versions believed to be most closely related to the Latin source used by Ælfric. This Latin text has not been previously edited or published. The second appendix contains a list of spelling variants for Old English words that are unique to the manuscripts containing Ælfric's Life of Basil. The bibliography and index follow the appendices.

Corona's edition is part of the well-regarded Anglo-Saxon Texts Series and reflects the high scholarly standards of the series. Without doubt this book will be the standard edition for anyone studying Ælfric's Life of Basil and a valuable resource of those studying the transmission of texts and ideas into Anglo-Saxon England.

Rhonda L. McDaniel
Middle Tennessee State University

Fleming, Donald F. and Janet M. Pope, eds. 2007. Henry I and the Anglo-Norman World: Studies in Memory of C. Warren Hollister. [Haskins Society Journal 17]. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. 239 Pages. 9781843832935.

Henry I and the Anglo-Norman World is a festschrift in the truest sense of the word, for it is a celebration of the life and work of Warren Hollister and also of the posthumous publication of his long-awaited biography of Henry I (ed. Amanda Clark Frost. New Haven, 2001). Those who knew Hollister and benefited from his unparalleled scholarship will treasure this volume, especially the introductory essay by Lois Huneycutt, which explains the long evolution of the biography, reminisces about how Hollister worked with his graduate students and colleagues, and most important, discusses the questions that he was asking at the end of his career.

Several essays cluster around Henry's early years, expanding upon Hollister's work on the period leading up to the battle of Tinchebray. Kathleen Thompson takes a look at Henry's early career in western Normandy before his accession to the English throne. There he learned to be a strong ruler and made valuable contacts among the local nobility, especially Hugh of Avranches, earl of Chester, and with the clergy of the diocese of Sées, many of whom would attain high office in England and Normandy. Richard Barton discusses Count Helias of Maine, who commanded the troops from Maine and Anjou that broke Robert Curthose's line of battle at Tinchebray and delivered the victory to Henry I. He argues that feudal ties, piety and self interest were not sufficient to explain the count's actions. Barton closely examines the narrative sources, especially Orderic Vitalis, and concludes that years of fighting the same enemies in the same territory had made the two men personal friends, and that it was this tie which motivated Count Helias to take his place beside Henry at Tinchebray.

Robert Babcock invites us to consider the world beyond the twelfth-century political boundaries of England and Normandy. He describes the role of Ireland in English politics, especially during the early years of the reign when Henry battled the rebellious Montgomery earls, and shows that by the end of the reign, Welsh ties to Ireland had been replaced by bonds with England.

Ann Williams looks at the question of ethnicity and nationality in the time of Henry I through the lens of his relationships with two women named Edith and therefore commonly considered English: his half Scottish queen Edith Matilda and his Scandinavian mistress Edith daughter of Forne. Williams suggests that while the ancestry of Henry's two Ediths reflects the ethnic diversity of the island's population, all groups were united in allegiance to the rex anglorum, himself half Norman and half Flemish.

Two articles in the collection deal with the Anglo-Norman Church. David Spear offers an account of the two displays of the relics of St. Romanus of Rouen in 1124, based upon a neglected document that Hollister first called to his attention in a 1977 research seminar. Spear skillfully deduces multiple layers of meaning from this document, ranging from the rivalry between the cathedral chapter and the monastery of St. Ouen to the high politics of the Anglo-Norman realm. Sally Vaughn analyzes the relationships of Henry I with his three Archbishops of Canterbury, demonstrating that Henry largely acquiesced in Anselm's vision of king and archbishop united as joint rulers. Anselm's successor, Ralph d'Escures, accomplished little, but the next archbishop, William of Corbeil, achieved limited successes that would have pleased the king, for during his tenure, he regained the position of papal legate, and York acquired some control over the Scottish Church.

Hollister would have been particularly gratified by the essays which expand upon his interest in the use of primary documents to study administrative developments. David Crouch offers an account of the career of Robert of Beaumont, Count of Meulan and Leicester, and an analysis of his surviving acts. Full Latin texts of the thirty-two acts and notices are included. Stephanie Mooers Christelow challenges Hollister's laudatory view of the administrative system under Henry I with an analysis of the Pipe Roll of 1130, pointing out that the barons of the exchequer exercised independent power, granting themselves tax exemptions and tolerating long delays in payments from tax farmers. Heather Tanner goes beyond the reign of Henry I and disputes the view that the output of the royal chancery declined drastically during the anarchy of Stephen's reign. Tanner demonstrates with a sophisticated and nuanced statistical analysis that in the areas that Stephen controlled, the chancery functioned as it had under Henry I. The most striking change in Stephen's reign was the increased prominence of London as an administrative center.

It was a particular pleasure to find at the end of the volume an expanded version of a paper that RáGena de Aragon originally presented at the first annual meeting of the Haskins Society, of which Hollister was the first president. De Aragon tells the story of Agnes of Essex, who, far from being a placid pawn in the never-ending game of medieval aristocratic marriage, successfully fought to preserve her union with the much-older Aubrey III de Vere, who had wanted to have the marriage annulled after her father was convicted of treason.

The thread that unites these essays is the debt each owes to Warren Hollister. In some cases the debt is to Hollister's methodologies, for example the statistical analysis of administrative evidence or the prosopographical study of noble families. Others expand and even contradict the conclusions reached in Henry I, and some rely upon specific suggestions that Hollister made to the authors. Taken together, the collection demonstrates that the last word has not yet been written and that the reign of Henry I remains a lively and rewarding field for investigation.

Jean A. Truax
Houston, Texas

Laing, Lloyd. 2006. The Archaeology of Celtic Britain and Ireland: c. AD 400–1200. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 406 pages. 0521547407

The academic medieval world is in desperate need of an in-depth, but concise book on archaeology of the Celtic peoples of Britain and Ireland. There is no comprehensive study about these people or their way of life. Lloyd Laing's text, The Archaeology of Celtic Britain and Ireland: c. AD 400-1200, promises to do exactly that; unfortunately, it does not live up to the anticipation. This volume is a survey of the finds by archaeologists in various places in the United Kingdom. It includes chapters on where the Celtic people lived, how they worked, what they ate, who they bartered and traded with, how they migrated, and what items they wore, carried, and used. This is Laing's second attempt to create a work aimed at "students and the general reader," but it misses the mark.

Archaeology is a difficult subject to cover in a survey text. There are many nuances and techniques that must be explained in conjunction with the articles found at various sites to help the uninitiated to understand how and why specific areas are excavated and why certain finds are considered valuable to the modern researcher. Laing has forgotten this in the prologue, introduction, and first three chapters of his book. The prologue and introduction have a tone of regret for mistakes made in his previous research and writings. This is rather disconcerting for the average reader, as well as any student looking for answers to some basic questions. Not only does Laing seem apologetic, but repeats various phrases as a method of debunking other people's research and summations; noting that an item or method "has often been assumed (on scant evidence) that [of] local sources" creates a sense of distrust for the audience. This book leaves one feeling less informed about the Celtic world, the settlements, farming, and the use of everyday objects and equipment. These topics are paramount to understanding the rudiments of medieval Celtic society and the hierarchal set of connections between the peasantry, elite, royalty, and the monasteries. There is a sense that Laing believes he and everyone involved in understanding the archaeological finds has put together their research and assumptions through guesswork and conjecture, and that much solid evidence is still to be uncovered.

This text relies too heavily on speculation in the first four chapters, but includes much more detail. A student who wishes to gain a true grasp of materials and implements utilized during the medieval and prehistoric periods will be gratified to reach Chapter 5. Laing covers metalwork in great detail, describing the tools used, the products made, and the various uses for each. Once he immerses his reader in the intricacies of iron, silver, gold, tin, and lead sources, the words take on a life of their own, giving a deeper appreciation for the difficulties encountered in gathering, melting, pouring, and working such diverse metals (and sometimes glass and pottery). The author gives a good account of the types of moulds, crucibles, and adornments. While the detail in Chapter 5 of metalworking and the explanations of glass and stone use are rather too concise, there is an in-depth examination of clothing and the various methods of holding cloth and leather together in Chapter 6; however, these two sections are bisected by Chapter 7 with a discussion on trade and communications. This interrupts the flow of the text, an occurrence in the earlier chapters, as well. It lacks a sense of cohesiveness that pulls everything together.

This deficit of order is not confined to just a couple of chapters, but to the entire format of the book. The first half of the text describes the similarities common in Ireland, Scotland, the Orkneys, Southern England, and Wales. Each chapter is interspersed with information about all of these places, often using place or town names without a map or any identifying directions for the locations. Those uninitiated or unfamiliar with the geography of these countries will feel confused about the location of various settlements, excavations, and manufacturing localities. Once Laing delves into each of his chapter topics, he loses sight of his audience's understanding of the areas involved. This book may, in his estimation, be aimed at students and general readers, but in reality only those who live in the United Kingdom or are intimately familiar with the region will feel comfortable with the place names and topography mentioned. It will be frustrating for the inexperienced to read about the finds in "Birsay," "Cavancarragh," or "Trethurgy" without having a comprehensive map at hand. Imagining the trade routes will be even more difficult for these readers.

The Celtic ability to manufacture useful items as well as necessary goods is very well defined, which leads the reader to question how, if any, trading occurred between settlements. Laing finally includes maps in Chapter 10 and subsequent chapters. These sections are a general of the peoples of South-western Britain, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man, Southern Scotland, and Northern England, and Northern Scotland. Each one summarizes how the previous nine chapters fit into each region. This is very useful, but misplaced information; the general reader will want to have an understanding of the maps and placement of settlements before reading about the contents and industries of each township. A survey must take into account, especially when the author defines the audience in terms such as "general readers," that most will not have a great familiarity with the topic and will want a more general overview of each of the concerned provinces before being immersed into the minutiae of ore gathering, jewelry making, ornamentation, or technology of the era. It makes more sense to organize the passages according to geography, using maps and photographs of the areas, to illustrate the larger scheme of Celtic life and the connections made between the districts.

Many in academia have a fascination for the Celtic people who inhabited the British and Irish lands more than 800 years ago Lloyd Laing's text, The Archaeology of Celtic Britain and Ireland: c. AD 400-1200 has great deal of useful information about their travels, industry, tools, clothing, and survival, which is an important starting point for anyone interested in doing more research into Celtic clans, their environments, and their habits. Lloyd Laing's text supplies his audience with a broad understanding of all of these, but leaves too many unanswered questions for the general reader. Judging by the number of in-text citations he uses throughout the text (even though many key suppositions are left without citation), there is plenty of material and research already published on the Celtic people without having to try to comprehend the confusing paths of Laing's book.

Sally-Jayne Gilpin
Collin College, Plano, TX

Lee, Stuart D. and Elizabeth Solopova. 2005. The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien. Basingstoke, Hampshire, and New York: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN-13: 978-1-4039-4672-0; ISBN-10: 1-4039-4672-8; ISBN-13: 978-1-4038-4671-3; and ISBN-10: 1-4039-4671-X.

This book bridges the gap between two intertwined disciplines: Tolkien studies and medieval languages and literatures. The master fantasist and medieval scholar himself would surely approve. Lee and Solopova's book will not offer any startling insights to those readers already knowledgeable in the field of medieval studies, but as a text for students it can prove very useful. Having used it myself in a seminar in medieval literature for advanced undergraduate students and lower-level graduate students, I would highly recommend it to those planning a similar or related class. As the authors argue in their introduction, the book can both "serve as an introduction to the range of medieval languages and literatures that Tolkien studied" and should be "of interest to teachers and students of medieval literature" as what they term a "themed reader" (3). As its title indicates, it can provide a means for students to unlock the treasure hoard of the Middle Ages through Tolkien's fiction. The only limitation to its usefulness in this complex task is the book's exclusive focus on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. An expanded edition including The Silmarillion would have wider and more comprehensive use in the twin fields of medieval and Tolkien studies.

The introduction discusses Tolkien's career as a medievalist, his fiction, and provides useful introductions to the three languages in which the texts appear: Old English, Middle English, and Old Norse. There are also sections on topics such as "the theme of the quest," "the epic," "runes," and "alliterative verse." The medieval texts presented in whole or part, coupled with relevant passages from Tolkien's works, include the following:

A comprehensive bibliography is also provided, as well as an index.

John Damon
University of Nebraska at Kearney

McCormack, Patrick: Albion - Three Novels of Arthurian Britain. (Constable & Robinson 1997; 2000; and personal communication, 2007)

Patrick McCormack's Albion is a trilogy: The Last Companion, The White Phantom, and The Lame Dancer. It is told in third person, from the points of view of many different characters. The two most important are Bedwyr and his much younger companion Nai. The story takes place around 520, thirty years after the battle of Badon, and ten years after Camlann, but through flashbacks and narrations by various characters, details of the past are revealed. These episodes are concentrated in the periods 475–78 and 493–497, before and after Arthur's great battles against the Saxons.

The story centres on the Chalice of Sovereignty, a cup held by a clan of the Attecotti (a tribe of western Scotland) supposedly since the Britons lost sovereignty to the Romans. In mysterious circumstances Arthur leads a naval expedition to reclaim the chalice in 493, and he is acclaimed Amherawdyr (Emperor) of Britain. Now, ten years after his death, certain kinglets seek to gain the chalice for themselves, while Nai and Bedwyr try to stop them. Other characters are drawn into the struggle, including Eurgain, a young Dumnonian woman, Ceolric, a Saxon youth, and, as the series progresses, former members of Arthur's court who have been in hiding.

The Albion trilogy is refreshingly different from most novels of Arthurian Britain. It is steeped in the early (pre-Galfridian) Welsh myths, legends, and histories, and is almost completely uninfluenced by Geoffrey or the Romances. While there are strong elements of fantasy, such as scrying and the echo of legends in present events, the setting is mostly realistic, even gritty. McCormack's descriptions of life are full of detail and completely convincing. He captures expertly the economic, social and political realities of dark-age Britain, in particular the complex relations between Britons and Saxons. These features more than make up for the few structural weaknesses the novels have.

The Last Companion, and The White Phantom were published by Constable & Robinson in 1997 and 2000 respectively. Sadly, they felt unable to continue with the third Albion volume. I obtained the manuscript for The Lame Dancer by personal communication with the author. However, with the permission of Patrick McCormack and Constable & Robinson, I have now made a print-ready pdf file of the book freely available at this url:

Howard M. Wiseman
Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

Shippey, Tom, ed. 2005. The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm's Mythology of the Monstrous. [Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 291. Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and Renaissance 14]. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, in collaboration with Brepols. xii + 433. 2503520944.

In his introductory essay, "A Revolution Reconsidered: Mythography and Mythology in the Nineteenth Century," the editor Tom Shippey describes the goal of this impressive collection of essays: a reassessment of the methods, achievements, and limitations of Jacob Grimm's monumental Deutsche Mythologie, the fourth edition of which appeared in 1875–78. It was rendered into English as Teutonic Mythology (1882) in four large volumes. Shippey describes a "paradigm shift" in the study of the humanities earlier in the nineteenth century with the invention of the "science" of historical linguistics in which languages living and dead are systematically compared to reconstruct their various relations and family trees (1). The key insight of this new comparative philology was offered in 1787 by Sir William Jones, a Welsh judge and classical scholar in Calcutta, who suggested that Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek, together with the various Germanic and Celtic languages of Europe, are so similar in form that they must surely have sprung "from some common source which, perhaps, no longer exists" (quoted 5). Grimm was the first scholar actually to piece together a major branch of this prehistoric language, Common Germanic, from its surviving representations in Gothic, German, English, and the Scandinavian tongues in his Deutsche Grammatik, the first volume of which was published in 1819. Grimm's grammar had for what we would now call cultural studies "much the same effect as Darwin's Origin of Species [1859] for the life sciences" (6). It explained observable but mysterious analogies between apparently unrelated phenomena. Similar words in different languages, far removed in time and space, are demonstrated as clearly cognate or parallel developments from a common ancestor according to definable principles or "laws" of variation and distinction.

The explanatory power of this linguistic theory of evolution led Grimm and others to hope for more, that they might be able apply the same system of comparative analysis to the fragments of old story and belief, "to take the scattered relics of Northern myth … and work them into the connected whole which they were sure must have existed before" (12). Of course, these learned scholars, like everyone, were the products in many conscious and unconscious ways of their own cultural moment. Grimm's inspiration was explicitly nationalistic, politically liberal, even subliminally Lutheran, so that his imagined Germanische Altertumskunde 'Germanic Antiquity' was something of a Romantic chimera or emotional projection, as well as the object of precise scholarly research. Part of the problem in this case was lack of evidence. Instead of fully developed but divergent modern languages to work back from in the reconstruction of earlier forms, Grimm had only shards of tradition embedded in later medieval literary texts or the (presumed) archaic features of contemporary German folklore from which to rebuild his common Germanic mythology. He also worked before the development of the academic disciplines of anthropology and comparative religion with their more sophisticated models of cultural formation based upon ethnographic data collected from many parts of the world. Grimm himself was far too exacting a scholar ever to claim or define explicitly, in the face of such inadequate resources, the essential character of Germanic religion, but a potent nostalgia for that imagined world drove his laborious compilation for over half a century. This volume describes with sympathy, respect, and acuity, how and why Grimm's comparative model, so successful with language, failed with myth, especially in his goal of discovering the nature and function of the ancient Germanic divinities, as well as a uniform and stable view of the world that he felt still somehow lived on in the German Volksgeist.

Grimm's preconceptions skewed, undermined, and effectively ruined his capacity to theorize usefully about many aspects of ancient Germanic belief, especially the gods for whom he sought respectable characterizations according to his own nineteenth-century ideals and assumptions. But in one area he was somewhat more successful: the evil, neutral, or ambiguous creatures of that old world—beings of fear and loathing, avoidance or appeasement—ironically proved more amenable to accurate description. Grimm may never have found his Germanische Altertumskunde, but he was able to produce a "mythology of the monstrous," which has remained of lasting influence even with its many imperfections. These inaccuracies are the particular focus of the nine studies that follow. Paul Battles writes on "Dwarfs in Germanic Literature: Deutsche Mythologie or Grimm's Myths?" Battles demonstrates that several assumed characteristics of these creatures—their skill at smith-craft, for instance, or their love of gold or dance or music—are projections by Grimm of a feature from one or another surviving tradition without a more general applicability. Dwarfs themselves are common to all branches of Germanic lore, however, in each of which they "constitute a race distinct from human beings," short in stature but "not simply small or deformed" humans: they are endowed with "more than human" intelligence and skill in reverse proportion to their subhuman size (78). They live in the earth, mountains, or other inaccessible places, seeking out other races mainly in their "desire for women" (79). They thus represent a people perceived to be inferior and repugnant to humans in some ways, but in others, superior, even threatening, with whom alliance is potentially beneficial but also unpleasant and costly.

Randi Eldevik finds a similar pattern of over-generalization from parochial or etymologically dubious evidence, as well "contamination" from non-Germanic (mainly Greek and Judeo-Christian) traditions, in Grimm's characterization of the older, wiser, and crueler cousins of the gods. In "Less than Kind: Giants in Germanic Tradition," Eldevik quotes part of Hamlet's famous phrase, "A little more than kin, and less than kind," to describe the close but hostile relations between Scandinavian jötnar and their divine rivals, the Æsir. She shows how Grimm privileged the depiction of giants as stupid in contemporary German folklore over their superior knowledge in much older Norse sources in order to create a structural counterpart to the dwarfs: giants are less intelligent than humans to the same extent they are physically stronger and larger. Grimm's giants, Eldevik concludes, have "scarcely anything in common with those august and tragic outcasts" of Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon tradition (110).

In "Hvat er Tröll nema þat? ['What is a Troll but That?']: The Cultural History of the Troll," Martin Arnold quotes the question with which an old troll woman concludes a series of riddling kennings (poetic circumlocutions) in a poem by the ninth-century Norse skald Bragi the Old. In this earliest extant poetry from Scandinavia, Arnold finds, trolls are "exclusively female" (116), "an exotic, even erotic, social other" (123), who are inherently magical, demonic creatures, hostile and predatory upon men. These dangerous women were often hybridized with other folkloric creatures in different cultural milieus over the centuries, where they can also appear in masculine form, but almost always to embody some kind of sexual ambivalence or other threat. Arnold describes how in the nineteenth century the troll as a "signifier of cultural anxieties" (142) underwent "embourgeoisement" in the Kunstmärchen or literary folktales that were "collected" and much rewritten "by romanticists and nationalists" like Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (155).

Tom Shippey discusses potentially friendlier beings in "Alias Oves Habeo ['I Have Other Sheep']: The Elves as a Category Problem," referring to the old belief that there dwell on the boundaries of human experience other kinds of creature that are not monsters nor angels nor devils nor outcast members of our own fallen seed of Adam, but rather "other sheep" who are also, though ambiguously, God's people. Elves appear in all Germanic traditions as creatures of some danger and sexual allure, but Shippey suggests that beliefs about them were never coherently systematized. Instead, like modern ghost stories, accounts of elves or "hidden people" were ubiquitous, but often contradictory and taken with varying degrees of seriousness: "There was accordingly a long-lasting category problem" as to who or what these creatures were, whether they were even human, a question "which could not be solved, and could not be dropped" (186). Shippey imagines that the conversion to Christianity may have even intensified "a new and unofficial sympathy for the elves," who were "now condemned to soullessness as well as marginality," as a way of expressing concern for unbelieving relatives, "recently deceased parents or grandparents, now left out of Heaven" (186).

In "Grendel: Bordering the Human," Philip Cardew tries to define one of the most ambiguous creatures of all, the quintessential sceadugenga 'shadow-walker', as he is called in line 703a of Beowulf, an epithet from which the whole collection takes its title. As a common noun, a grendel was a hostile humanoid who inhabited fresh water-rivers, swamps, pools, or fens, called a wasserkarl in German or thyrs in Old English. Grendels could be male or female and were thought especially to resent man-made structures like mills or halls near their habitat. They are related to, but distinct from, the mountain trolls of Scandinavian tradition, so Cardew avers, who inhabit rocky rather than marshy terrain, as well as from the Norse draugar 'walking dead', who are corporeal revenants or undead zombies, rather than members of an amphibious race. Beowulf's Grendel is discussed more fully than any other non-human besides the old gods in the Deutsche Mythologie, even though Grimm was not particularly interested in the Christian poet's rationalization of that creature as a descendent of Cain and executor of Satanic malice.

In "'As Rare as They Are Dire': Old Norse Dragons, Beowulf, and the Deutsche Mythologie," Jonathan Evans concurs that the "literary and cultural importance" of the Beowulf poet's attempt to depict the pre-Christian Germanic world remained "unexplored" by Grimm (215), even in its thousand-line depiction of the hero's desperate combat with the most powerful kind of monster of all. Instead, Grimm used the poem "primarily for support and corroboration"—in particular, as a mine of details about dragons—though in this case he proved rather reluctant to generalize about the larger function of these creatures in Germanic mythology. He merely records in six different chapters on other subjects the several attributes of dragons mentioned in various sources, like being very old, guarding treasure, breathing fire, etc. Grimm apparently chose not to contemplate what forces in nature or culture these grim beasts might be thought to incarnate. As for the warriors who confront them, Grimm only discusses the successful German dragon-slayer Siegfried and the old god Thor, leaving aside the Anglo-Saxon poet's account of the Geatish king's last stand against this dire antagonist.

Joyce Tally Lionarons describes Grimm's treatment of "Dísir, Valkyries, Völur, and Norns: The Weise Frauen of the Deutsche Mythologie," which was sharply colored by his own cultural expectations as to the proper relations between men and women in society. Grimm divides the female divinities into full goddesses (wives or daughters of masculine gods) and unmarried "half-goddesses," like Hel, who problematically for Grimm prove to be even more potent than "real goddesses," but lack male counterparts to legitimize for him their divine status (272). Lionarons suggests that even the individualized goddesses of Snorri's Edda are late rationalizations. In the earliest tradition virtually all kinds of female divinity were scarcely differentiated "figures of terror," rather than sources of supernatural aid and comfort. They all played a role in "the prediction and execution of a human being's death" (275), as fetches, fates, furies, unfriendly witches, or agents of slaughter and doom. By the time the Scandinavian sources for these figures were composed, Lionarons believes, goddesses had been to a large extent "domesticated," that is, assimilated "to the activities of human women within the patriarchal society of the Viking Age" (275). She reminds us that these creatures from earlier "Germanic myth may be female, but they are not women, and they tell us little about the lives and circumstances of human women in the real world. What they can tell us concerns the fragility and uncertainty of human life, the inevitability of human death, and the attempts within early Germanic culture to understand and represent those forces that are beyond the knowledge and control of either men or women" (297).

In "Theriomorphism: Jacob Grimm, Old Norse Mythology, German Fairy Tales, and English Folklore," Peter Orton ambitiously and systematically surveys accounts of human-animal transformation in these many sources, as well as various theories broached to explain their meaning. Sarah L. Higley looks more closely at one species of such metamorphosis in "Finding the Man Under the Skin: Identity, Monstrosity, Expulsion, and the Werewolf." She reviews the appearance of this figure in popular legend and literary texts, as well as the ambiguous "prestige in which the wolf was viewed … as both an animal to be admired for its ferocity … but also as a loathed and despised creature" (338–39).

Tom Shippey concludes with an "Afterword: A Chair, A Sock, and Language," in which he describes again the misconceived object of Grimm's magnificent work: the rebuilding of "a fixed, stable, encyclopedic text … which should be completely definitive of belief—the source of that 'copious spring' or 'ancient river' which that scholar felt 'has left, alas, mere puddles behind'" (379). The chair mentioned is that in the Old Icelandic Ketils saga Hængs, where the titular protagonist is scolded by his father Hallbjörn Half-troll as a worthless son. Ketill leaves home for three days, returning with a chair that he gives to his mother, the significance of which remains unexplained in the saga. As Arnold and Battles point out in their essays, these gifts are typically received from trolls or dwarfs as a sign of special favor and alliance with those elusive beings. The chair thus comes to symbolize for Shippey the whole world of lost tradition whose former existence is revealed, but only as a glimpse, in such tenuous allusions. The sock is a similarly cryptic motif, one which J. K. Rowling uses in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), in which the character Dobby, a "house-elf," is inexplicably emancipated, like the traditional "hob" of English folklore, by the gift of an article of clothing. Shippey's point is that these folk beliefs haunt the borderlands of cultural memory, hinting suggestively at the traditional language of narrative signs in which such motifs would have made sense. The lost language of myth, like the unwritten language in which it was spoken, was "the great collective achievement of unknown numbers of minds, … a product of many individual but co-operating imaginations" (388). Grimm sought this vanished world, as he had his ancestral Germanic tongue, but it was never the consistent, stable, and unified whole he imagined, analogous to his own Protestant Christianity: "What there was," Shippey suggests in his earlier essay on elves, "was a non-anthropocentric universe not readily compatible with the Judaeo-Christian concentration on the relationship of human and divine, its universe of man and God, with no place for neutrals or the uncommitted" (186–87). In this old world were many strange creatures and contradictory beliefs about them. But each kind of "monster"—dwarfs, giants, trolls, elves, witches, werewolves, or dragons—had their own place in that universe and played a significant role in the human mind's attempt to comprehend it.

Craig R. Davis
Smith College