The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthlm's Son
History of the Poem
This is an old English poem written by a monk. Tolkien describes here what the poem is about.
" In August of the year 991, in the reign of AEthelred II a battle was fought near Essex. On the one side was the defense-force of Essex, on the other a Viking host that had ravaged Ipswich. The English were commanded by Beorhtnoth son of Beorhthelm, the duke of Essex, a man renowned in his day: powerful, fearless,proud.
The problem here is that Beorhtnoth was now an old man. Although " vigorous and valiant" still.
The poem doesn't have a beginning or an end. It's focus is on two men sent out during the night by the Monks to recover their masters headless, mutilated body from the battle field.
The poem is the conversation the two men are having while searching for Beorhtnoth's remains.
This old English poem, like I mentioned above, has no beginning or an end. It starts as the two men, Torthelm & Tidwald, and searching the vast darkened battle field for Beorhtnoth's mutilated and headless body amongst the dead.
Beorhtnoth's pride and sense of honor resulted in his death and the death of his men. The Norwegian viking's were encamped on Northey Island after sailing up the estuary of the Pante, now called the Blackwater.
Beorhtnoth could of easily held off the enemy by guarding the bridge but when asked by the Vikings to cross for a fair fight, he obliged. Being a honorable man.
This story would of been a common one for Tolkien seeing and there were only three old English poems in the likes that he studied and wrote about. The Battle of Maldon (This poem) Beowulf, and Sir Gwain.
The slight bickering between the two men about how his pride killed him in the end, Beorhtnoth's senseless death out of battle courtesy and miss judging his opponent. The two men find his body eventually, after seeing thieves stealing from the dead and challenging them, they heave his remains in a wagon and make back to the monks. This is where the story ends.
Its a short but readable short story with great notes by Tolkien's view points on the tale.