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The myth of the Flood in Anglo-Saxon England
Author: Daniel Anlezark

The story of the Flood, inherited by the Anglo-Saxons during their conversion to Christianity, was transformed by them into a vital myth through which they interpreted the whole of history and their place in it. The dual character of the myth, with the opposition between threatened destruction and hope of renewal, presented commentators with a potent historical metaphor, which they exploited in their own changing historical circumstance. This book explores the use of this metaphor in the writings of the Anglo-Saxons. It is the integration of a well-known biblical story into the historical and cultural self-definition of a group of people converted to Christianity and its worldview. The Flood in the Bible is clearly a punishment, though the sin is not so well defined. This forms part of a historical pattern of sin and punishment extending back to Eden, and progressed to the sin and exile of Cain. For Bede the historian, the Flood was a key event in the earlier history of the world; for Bede the theologian, the Flood was an event replete with mystical significance. In Exodus and Andreas all the poems share an interest in two themes, which emerge from the biblical story of the Flood and its theological interpretation: covenant and apocalypse. Noah is the 'one father' not only of Israel, but of the whole human race, and his introduction widens the concept of 'inheritance' in the Exodus. The book concludes with a detailed discussion of the significance of the Flood myth in Beowulf.

Abstract only
Daniel Anlezark

The story of Noah and the Flood in the book of Genesis is the best known example of many ancient flood myths from a range of cultures. The story of the Flood, inherited by the Anglo-Saxons in the course of their conversion to Christianity, was transformed by them into a vital myth through which they interpreted the whole of history and their place in it. In works as diverse as the epic

in Water and fire
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Daniel Anlezark

Discussion of the Flood myth in Beowulf has been twofold. One line of argument, that the Flood myth forms an important backdrop to Beowulf ’s action, is less contentious than the suggestion that the poem can be located within a literary tradition in Anglo-Saxon England, revealed in Solomon and Saturn II , which sought a fusion between the Germanic, classical

in Water and fire
Vybarr Cregan-Reid

, antiquarians, historians, theologians, and amateur scholars would all question the meanings of the discovery. Querying what its implications were for biblical chronology, veracity, or accuracy. Asking what the discovery told them about the horizon of history: the point where the historical becomes the mythical or prehistoric. They worried about or defended the number of Flood myths and whether one particular story could be said to be authentic. These positions, and the way that they interact with one another, suggest a proliferating variety of opinion over the status of

in Discovering Gilgamesh
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Gilgamesh and the resublimation of deep time
Vybarr Cregan-Reid

controversy allows us to see the landscape of Victorian thought about the past from a slightly different vantage point. The media and public forms of attention drawn by the poem’s use of the Flood myth suggest the depth and extent of the Victorians’ need for an originary narrative. Here, I wish to briefly draw attention to how the controversy might be seen to affect the circulation of other myths in the late nineteenth century. The consideration of flood narratives in the period like Deucalion or the Eddas would be sufficient matter for an entirely separate study. It is

in Discovering Gilgamesh
The Bible and the Fathers
Daniel Anlezark

of the whole human race, the Flood myth is stripped of pagan gods found in Mesopotamian analogues, and has a strong moral character. The Flood in the Bible is clearly a punishment, though the sin is not so well defined, and forms part of a historical pattern of sin and punishment extending back to Eden, and carried forward through the sin and exile of Cain. The biblical Flood is presented as no local

in Water and fire
Daniel Anlezark

Beowulf’s sawol (‘soul’) – modern audiences certainly have – but this is set out in terms far more ambiguous than Scyld Scefing’s earlier journey to the ‘Lord’s protection’ ( frean wære , 27b). The allegorical application of the Flood myth elsewhere in the works of the Anglo-Saxons is not prominent in Beowulf , a story with no baptism and no Church. If the poem touches on the question of the

in Water and fire
Daniel Anlezark

Flood in terms of a great battle. But first a digression is necessary into a more literal historical understanding of the significance of the Flood myth for the Anglo-Saxons, who like all medieval Christians, believed themselves to be descendants of Noah. Notes 1 See Chapter 2 above, p. 48

in Water and fire