The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth

The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth is Professor Tolkien's dramatic poem, which takes up the story following the disastrous "Battle of Maldon" in 991CE, taking place on the shores of the River Blackwater - then called Pante - near Maldon in Essex. The Anglo-Saxons with their leader Beorhtnoth (Brithnoth) were trying to defend Essex against a ravaging Viking army, but it ended in utter defeat for the Anglo-Saxons, with their commander Beorhtnoth being killed in the event.

A large fragment of a contemporary poem - 325 lines - has been preserved, the fragment has no end, no beginning and no title, but is now generally known as The Battle of Maldon [1].

Tolkien's poem recounts an imaginary event, taking place in the night after the fight, when two servants of the the Duke come to the battlefield to retrieve their master's body. Searching amongst the slain they converse in unheroic terms, about the battle, their 'needlessly noble' master and the wastefulness of war. In an illuminating essay accompanying the poem Tolkien wrote of the complex motives that inspired Beorhtnoth's conduct at Maldon.

According to Carpenter's TolkienBiography The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth was in existence by 1945, but not published until 1953.

Published in: Tree and Leaf

Further information: [2], [3]

Annotations and Comments

Carpenter also reports, that The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth was transmitted as a radioplay in 1954 on the BBC Third Program, but Tolkien - irritated, that the alliterative metre of the verses were ignored - lateron recorded a version himself, in which he spoke both parts and improvised some sound effects.

I just would love to hear that... -- Walter

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