Whether or not he specifically thought of himself as rewriting the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon when writing Gandalf's stand against the Balrog (see Bruce and Bowman), his non-fictional writing clearly indicates his belief that Byrhtnoth makes the wrong decision, and he just as clearly believed that Gandalf makes the right decision under similar circumstances.
Maldon and Moria: On Byrhtnoth, Gandalf, and Heroism in The Lord of the Rings.
Led by their ealdorman, Byrhtnoth, they faced up to a larger Viking force at the River Blackwater.
Fair even in the midst of a bloody ght, Byrhtnoth harked to the Viking's calls for them to be allowed across the river to join full combat - and chivalrously he gave up his defensive strongpoint.
The sense corresponding to 'very' is also evident in the quotation from Byrhtnoth
, a text written before the year 1000:
7) The Anglo-Saxons lose their leader Byrhtnoth and, in response to his death, we have a catalogue of English warriors who one by one boast that they will avenge their lord--and one by one enter the battle, and one by one do some heroic deed before being cut down.
Defying Morgoth's orcs and dragons, Turgon's household guard "would not budge a foot, but gathered thickly about the base of the king's tower," much like the faithful retainers choosing to die with their lord Byrhtnoth (185).
9) poer ongean gramum gearowe stodon Among his warriors Byrhtnoth
stood bold Byrhtno[TH phonetic symbol] mid beornum.
The latter is of course standard throughout the book, but here I wondered if 'richest' was not tendentious for ricost in its context (Danes asking Byrhtnoth
for money, line 36); or if 'in the land' was right for on eorpan (line 107), considering that Scragg (p.
This list, I would like to suggest, can taken as evidence of the "Maldon" poet's intention not just to pay formal tribute to Byrhtnoth, but also to honor his loyal followers.
The opening lines of "The Battle of Maldon," the poem that served as Tolkien's source for "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son," or what we must take for its opening lines--the "Maldon" manuscript was among the texts damaged and destroyed in 1731 in the Cotton Library fire--present Byrhtnoth moving among his troops, encouraging them, and ordering each of his young men to drive his horse away and focus on what he will do with his hands and on "good thoughts," which I take to mean that he tells them they must mentally prepare themselves for the challenges to come.
This moment of two parties separated by a narrow bridge of course brings to mind the Anglo-Saxon "The Battle of Maldon," the poem that recounts in sometimes tragic, sometimes heroic language the events at Maldon in AD 991, when an English force led by ealdorman Byrhtnoth
fought--and lost to--a party of Vikings.