The ‘darkWelsh’ as slaves and slave
raiders in Exeter Book riddles 52 and 721
The previous chapter argued that the Latin and vernacular Lives of Saint
Guthlac show a mixed Anglo-Welsh culture among warrior elites in the
borderlands. This conceptualisation of the borderlands was not limited to
the learned clerics responsible for Anglo-Saxon hagiography. More popular
vernacular literary tradition reflected some of the same ideas. A group of
Old English riddles whose setting is the Welsh mearc (march or boundary) depict a common culture of the borderlands in
The Welsh borderlands were a distinctive territory where two peoples came together throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. It was here that men skilled at law drew up the Dunsate Agreement, to solve the impending problems with cattle theft. This book explores what sets the Dunsate Agreement apart from other Anglo-Saxon law codes grappling with cattle theft, highlighting that creators of this document, and the community that it concerns, included both Anglo-Saxons and Welsh. It argues that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle represents the military culture of the Welsh borderlands in a distinctive way which aligns its inhabitants with outlaws. The book articulates a discernible culture in the Welsh borderlands prior to 1066. Bede's The Historia Ecclesiastica has long been interpreted as a narrative of Anglo/British strife. His rancour towards the pagan Mercians provides substantial information about the life of Penda of Mercia, whose entire reign over this borderlands kingdom was defined by consistent political and military unity with Welsh rulers. Expanding on the mixed culture, the book examines the various Latin and Old English Lives of the popular Anglo-Saxon saint, Guthlac of Crowland. Vernacular literary tradition reveals a group of Old English riddles that link the 'dark Welsh' to agricultural labour through the cattle they herd, and who have long been understood to show the Welsh as slaves. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is frequently cited as a paradigm of Anglo/Welsh antagonism. The book reveals that the impact of the Norman Conquest on the Anglo-Welsh border region was much greater than previously realised.
: Ideology and Figuration in the Sexual Riddles of the Exeter Book’, in Class and Gender in Early English Literature: Intersections , ed. Britton J. Harwood and Gillian R. Overing (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 21–42; Lindy Brady, ‘The “DarkWelsh” as Slaves and Slave Traders in Exeter Book Riddles 52 and 72’, ES , 95 (2014), 235–55.
2 The Medievalists of Color website, ed. Sierra Lomuto, Mariah Min, and Shokoofeh Rajabzadeh, http://medievalistsofcolor.com (accessed 11 February 2019); Jonathan Hsy and Julie Orlemanski, ‘Race and medieval
. H. Strickland, Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in
Medieval Art ( Princeton, NJ : Princeton
University Press , 2003 ).
On racial biopolitics, see C.
Lumbley , ‘ The “darkWelsh”: color,
race, and alterity in the matter of medieval
Peter Hall, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, 1987
Carol Chillington Rutter
with differences of opinion between actor and director. The director demanded more from the actor of what Hall called Hopkins's ‘dark, Welsh side’. The actor balked. Hall wanted 4.2, Antony's farewell to his followers – ‘usually done as a touching scene’ – to be ‘in fact’ ‘maudlin and disgusting’ (Lowen 1990 , 37), a far cry from the heart-wrenching scene in performance that Billington would find memorable for Antony's ‘false gaiety’ and ‘overpowering inward grief’. But to play ‘maudlin’, Hopkins said he needed to play drunk, to play ‘acute self pity’ arising ‘out
The Dunsoete Agreement and daily life in the Welsh borderlands
boundary) between Anglo-Saxon
England and Wales reflect a common regional culture by depicting shared
values of a warrior elite across the ostensible Anglo-Welsh divide. These
riddles, which link the ‘darkWelsh’ to agricultural labour, have long been
understood to depict the Welsh as slaves and thus reflect Anglo-Saxon
awareness of both ethnic and social division. Drawing upon understudied
Welsh legal material, this chapter argues that these riddles have a multilayered solution in which the Welsh are both slaves and slave traders,
complicating readings of negative Anglo
Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
). In Riddle 12, swarthy Welsh men are tightly fettered with ox-leather bonds, and a darkWelsh woman works on an object made of ox-hide. Rulon-Miller proposes as the most likely solution to Riddle 52 ‘yoke of oxen led by a female slave’, since the riddle subjects are associated with binding as well as with a female Welsh slave or ‘Wale’.
The association with oxen is thus quite transparent: both Britons and oxen are perceived in the riddles as servile creatures, physically or socially fettered, even if not all