Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 7570
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Hennequin , M. Wendy.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Judith Warrior Princess?
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 34, 3 (Spring 2001): Appendix A: Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies. Conference paper presented at the Thirty-Sixth International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 3-6, 2001, Nineteenth Symposium on the Sources of A
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Judith, Old English Poem Literature- Verse Warfare and Warriors in Literature Women in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 10
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  • Abstract: The poet of the Old English fragment Judith tells us of her triumph over Holofernes: "Hxfde oa gefohten foremxrne blxd / ludith xt guile, s\va hyre Gode uroe,/ swegles Ealdor, pe hyre sigores onleah" [Judith at war had then won by battle very illustrious glory, as God granted to her, Heaven's Lord who lent her victory] (Judith 122a-246). The diction represents Judith as a heroic soldier, one who is at war with her enemies ((et guile) and has emerged victorious, eaming victory (sigores) and glory (blred) by fighting (gefohten or "gained by fighting"). Indeed, tile poet not only con-structs Judith here as a soldier, but later represents her as a war-leader. It is her order that has established the vigil on the Bethulian walls before the fragment begins. as the poet reminds us in lines 141 b-46a, and Judith herself commands the army of Bethulia to attack the Assyrians in lines 1866-986. After issuing this order, however. Judith does not go forth with her troops into battle but apparently stays home in Bethuha. The account of the battle only mentions her twice, and briefly and never in combat: Holofernes' soldiers speculate that Holofernes and Judith are together in bed (2536-61 a), and later, the Bethulians present her with war-spoils at the end of the poem (3356-42a). If Judith is indeed a war-leader, then her role and her participation in battle are very different from other war-leaders of Old English poetry. Such as Beowulf, who leads his companions successively and successfully against Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon, or Earl Byrhtnoth in The Battle of Alalrlnr7 who not only leads his troops against the Viking invaders, but dies in the fight. And in fact, Judith's killing of Holofernes, the one action which the poet describes as "battle" ((et guile, cited above). is one that she in her speech describes as "hewing off" (geheauan, 90a), not fighting, not meeting in battle, but a mere chopping. This paper explores what view of Judith the poet intended to give the audience. Is she a warrior, a war-leader. one who has triumphed in battle, a princess of warriors, as Holofernes is a "warriors' prince" (beorua brego, 254a)? Or is she something else, and if so, what? [Reproduced by permission of Robert Schicler, the “Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies” editor, and the editors of the “Old English Newsletter.”].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Connecticut
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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