In this very special Saga Brief, we are joined by Graham and Ali of Rex Factor for a discussion of the Battle of Brunanburh. This decisive battle pitted the Anglo-Saxons of Mercia and Wessex against the Scots, the Welsh, and the Vikings of the Danelaw and the Hiberno-Norse. It was the largest battle to be fought on English soil up to that time. Five kings and thousands of men lost their lives that day as King Athelstan of Wessex eliminated the threat to his growing kingdom and secured Anglo-Saxon control of Northumbria. The Battle of Brunanburh served as a rallying cry to the Anglo-Saxons who sought to reassert their claim over Britain and the establishment of a new national English identity.
This episode opens with a reading of the poem found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 937. After that, the conversation ranges from the tensions leading up to the battle, including a Welsh prophecy of victory, to the mystery of the battle’s location, the little we know of the battle itself, and then to its aftermath and legacy.
If you are looking for more information about the Battle of Brunanburh from the English and Scottish perspectives, you’ll want to listen to Graham and Ali’s coverage of King Athelstan from their English Monarchs series and King Constantine II from their Scottish Monarchs series.
For those looking to dive deeper into the source material, we recommend Michael Livingston’s wonderful book, The Battle of Brunanburh: A Casebook, where you can read all the sources from the Welsh prophecy of the Anglo-Saxons’ defeat to the later, more imaginative histories we talk about.
Introduction –from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur
Battle of Brunanburh music – “Ivar’s Revenge” by Danheim
Outro – Ólafur Liljurós