Saga Brief 16 – The Battle of Brunanburh (with Rex Factor)

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.

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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.

 Be sure to follow Graham and Ali as they review the royal consorts of the English monarchs. You can keep up to date with their latest adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Music Credits:

Introduction –from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Battle of Brunanburh music – “Ivar’s Revenge” by Danheim  

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Introduction –from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur Battle of Brunanburh music – “Ivar’s Revenge” by Danheim   Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Episode 29h – Egil’s Saga (Part 8)

In this episode, Egil and Thorolf arrive in King Athelstan’s England. The good news – Athelstan really likes the Skallagrimssons. The bad news – Anglo-Saxon England is about to go to war with King Olaf and his massive army of Scots, Danes, Irish-Norwegians, and Welsh. We’ll get a front row seat as Egil and Thorolf command Athelstan’s Viking troops in the Battle of Wen Heath! If you’re not familiar with the Battle of Wen Heath, then perhaps you know this incredibly significant engagement as the Battle of Brunanburh! That’s right, Egil and Thorolf will both play a significant role in the battle that would seal England’s fate. Are both Egil and Thorolf battle-savvy enough to survive the onslaught of King Olaf’s forces? There’s only one way to find out.

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Along the way, we talk about the major figures of the Battle of Brunanburh and the saga author’s fictionalized stand-ins. You’ll hear all about King Olaf Guthfrithsson of Dublin, King Constantine II of Scotland, King Owain of Strathclyde, the earls of Northumbria, Godric and the swift-footed Alfgeir, and the earls of Britain, Hring and Adils. We also touch on the origins of Alfred the Great’s famous epithet and the life of his dynamic daughter, Æthelflæd (see the picture from Matthew Paris’ Additamentorum episode below). Click here for an excellent biography of Æthelflæd by the boys at Rex Factor.

Finally, we announce the identity of the very special guests we invited to join us for a Saga Brief on the Battle of Brunanburh. That’s right, we’ve got a special episode coming for you soon with some guests we think you’ll all love.

And thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (

Summary Music “Wild Cherry Rag” by The Victor Orchestra

Preview Music – “Hringrás” by Danheim

Poetry Music – Poem 1 from “Vanheimr” and Poem 2 from “Hringrás” by Danheim

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License