Blood of Kings: Saint Edmund and the problem of sacrificial kingship in Aelfric's Legend of St. Edmund
Though Abbo of Fleury is first to treat the historical death of King Edmund of East Anglia in a full-length narrative, he is not the only hagiographer to attempt to make sense of Edmund's death in 870. Aelfric of Eynsham, an Anglo-Saxon Abbot, takes Abbo's account, abbreviates it, and translates it for two of his friends in a larger work, Lives of the Saints. This collection was a compilation of lives of saints celebrated by the local monastic community and was intended for private devotion. Though Aelfric borrows heavily from Abbo's version of the tale, he alters the text to suit his audience. In editing Abbo's work, Aelfric contends that he retains the complete sense of the narrative. In the Legend of St Edmund, however, Aelfric's editing mars even the sense of Abbo's Passio Sancti Eadmundi. It is my contention that the Legend of St Edmund, Aelfric severs the natural ties between the king and the land, and omits the ritual slaying of the king. I also contend that Edmund's guardian, the grey wolf, is significant to an understanding of kingship that recognizes the role of the Christian God as well as the role of Odinn.
Saints Edmund, syncretism, literature, kingship
Orsag, D. (1999). Blood of kings: Saint Edmund and the problem of sacrificial kingship in Aelfric's Legend of St. Edmund (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.