Wednesday, December 2, 2009

From Wessex to Tolkien

I just finished the White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merkle. This book thrilled the inner Anglophile in me, as well as added depth to my understanding of J.R.R. Tolkien’s connection to Anglo-Saxon literature. Indeed Alfred as the “Ring-Giver”, the lands divided up into shires, and the meetings called shire-moots all resonated in my head as they might to one well verse in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Never the less, this book is far different than those works of fiction, as it tells the tale of Alfred the Great. I have been inspired to further read about the Saxons and am excited that at the conclusion of the text, the author included an annotated bibliography.

Alfred the Great was the Wessex King who stood firm against the Danes, fortified his Burghs (towns), and began the increase of his Kingdom through defense against Viking raiders and alliance with the local leaders under duress. Additionally Alfred instilled the need, while providing the means, for Anglo-Saxon literacy. Meanwhile he oversaw the translation of great works of literature into the Anglo-Saxon language and the assembling of Saxon law in one collection of rules.

I review for Thomas Nelson Publishing. When I saw this book on the list I knew I had to check it out. Once I started reading it, I could hardly put it down. It's a good thing I waited until after Thanksgiving, or it would have been challenging to relax leisurely over pie.

Thomas Nelson's Book Description:

"Sometimes the heroes of history are truly worthy of the golden reputations they carry.

King Alfred united Anglo-Saxon England against a Viking invasion, led the English into battle against the Danish hordes, created a renaissance of literature and the arts, reformed the legal system, and set the stage for a revival of Christian worship. But that's not what made him great. Ben Merkle unravels the tale of how a great man came to power during one of the most difficult periods in English history, how he led his nation through them, and how he laid the groundwork for England's coming triumphs on the global stage."

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