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Lesson 10

King Alfred, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Since 8th century the British Isles were attacked from Scandinavia first by Danes and later by Norwegians. By the end of 9-th c. the Danes occupied some part of England called Danelaw.Gradually the settlers began to bring their families and intermix with English.
(see the map)

When Alfred the Great came to the throne of Wessex (reigned 871-899) he reconquered Danelaw, but not for long, and started improving the state of learning in the country. He imported teachers from Europe who helped translate Latin books into West Saxon English. So now the dialect of culture became a southern one. This way much of Latin prose was translated into Old English (including the Ecclesiastical History of Bede).

The legends

One of the legends tells how once Alfred was given shelter by a peasant woman who, not knowing he was a king, left him to watch some cakes cooking on the fire. Alfred let the cakes burn. The woman on her return told him off but realizing the king's identity apologized. Alfred insisted that he was the one who needed to apologize.
At about the same time, he is supposed to have disguised himself as a harpist to gain entry to enemies camp and discover their plans.

In the time of Alfred Anglo-Saxon Chronicle started. It was the first history of a Germanic people, kept by monks in several monasteries.

There is the part of the Chronicle (AD876) describing king Alfreds victory over Danes:
Her hiene bestæl se here into Werham Wesseaxna fierde,
7 wiþ þone here se cyning friþ nam,
7 him þa aþas sworon on þam halgan beage,
þe hie ær nanre þeode noldon,
þæt hie hrædlice of his rice foren;

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