Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Anglo-Saxons

You have seen how the poor Britons had vainly appealed to the Roman general in Gaul to come and deliver them from the Picts and Scots, who were ravaging the whole country and driving them into the sea. When the Britons found out that the Romans could not help them, they began to look around them for other aid.

In the days of the Romans, light willow barks, covered with skins, had sometimes visited the shores of the island. These boats carried hardy warriors, who came from the shores of the Baltic Sea. They belonged to the Teutonic, or German, race—a race never subdued by the Romans, who were then masters of nearly all the known world.

These men were so brave that Vortigern, the British chief, begged some of them to come over to Britain and help him drive back the Picts and Scots. One of the Teutonic tribes, the Jutes, consented; and about the year 449 a whole fleet of little ships came dancing over the sea, which the Teutons called the "Swan Road," because when winter drew near they often watched the birds flying or swimming southward over the waters.

The leaders of the Jutes, it is said, were two brothers, Hengist and Horsa, the descendants of Woden, who was the principal god of the Teutonic nations. The Jutes were used to fighting, and helped the Britons drive back the Picts and Scots. The marauders were forced to retreat to the other side of the walls, which were repaired and provided with defenders.

In reward for their services, Vortigern gave the Jutes the island of Thanet; and while some of them settled down there contentedly, others went back to their native country to tell what they had seen. But, as Britain was much more fertile than the land where they dwelt, they soon came back, with their families, to settle in it.

The Jutes were followed, before long, by another Teutonic tribe, the Saxons. As there was not room enough for them all in the island of Thanet, the Saxons settled on the mainland, where they were joined by other Saxons; and their numbers multiplied so fast that they soon covered much territory.

The Britons were forced to retreat before the new-comers; and as they were afraid of the Picts and Scots, and dared not go north, they withdrew to the west, where they took possession of Cornwall and Wales, Now that it was too late, Vortigern saw what a mistake he had made in inviting the Jutes to come over and help him. He could not quarrel with them, however, because he had married Rowena, Hengist's beautiful young daughter. It seems that he had fallen in love with this maiden at first sight, when she came to offer him a drink, as was the custom in her country whenever a stranger came into the house.

The Jutes and Saxons spread farther and farther over the southern part of Britain, until they took entire possession of Vortigern's kingdom, driving him far into the west, where he died of grief. After the Jutes and Saxons came a third Teutonic tribe, the Angles, who, in their turn, settled in the eastern part of Britain.

They killed all the natives who would not peaceably make way for them, sparing only the women and children, whom they made their slaves. But the Angles were not nearly so civilized as the Britons, who had learned much from their Roman conquerors, and they destroyed many of the Roman buildings, which they were too ignorant to admire.

When they first came over to Britain, the Anglo-Saxons—as the Angles and Saxons are often called for short—knew nothing at all about Christianity, and brought with them their own language, laws, and religion. This old Anglo-Saxon religion soon gave way before Christianity, as you will see; but the names of the heathen gods of the Anglo-Saxons are still found in our names of the days of the week. Thus, Sunday was the day of the sun god; Monday, of the moon deity; Tuesday was named after Tiu, god of war: Wednesday, after Woden, their principal divinity, and the ancestor of their kings; Thursday took its name from Thor, god of thunder; Friday, from Frea, goddess of beauty; and Saturday, from Saturn, a Roman divinity.

But, although there are now very few traces left of the old Teutonic religion, the Anglo-Saxon laws and language form the basis of the present English laws and language, so they are of great interest to the one hundred and fifty million English-speaking people of this century.