Research blew my mind

I’ve been enjoying myself with research this week. I’m starting to gather ideas and images for a historical fantasy novel, based loosely on Anglo-Saxon England (arounfibula18d the 7th or 8th century) so have been reading my way through a big pile of books I bought earlier this year. Things I have learned that are really cool:

* Tolkien didn’t invent ents and orcs. Okay, I figured he didn’t invent elves and dwarves, but had always thought ents and orcs were his. They aren’t; they’re Anglo-Saxon. He totally made up hobbits though: kudos.

* The word “wife” is related via Old English to the word “weave”. Women were weavers, both literally and metaphorically. Their role was to be married, thus unmarried women were the ones who never got past spinning to get to weaving: ie. “spinsters”.

* Interesting Northumbrian woman who became a Mercian saint in the seventh century named Cyneburh: add her name to the Old English word “leah” (meadow) and you get Cyneburh’s Leah, or Kimberley in Norfolk. That’s right, my alter ego does have a touch of the medieval about her.

The next book I have on my pile is a book of Anglo-Saxon recipes. So I may soon be subjecting my family to stodgy germanic treats like “bræde sceapen flæsc” (roasted sheep flesh… doesn’t sound as appetising as “lamb roast” does it?),  “mearh smeamete” (sausage casserole), or “bæcen æpplas” with “flete estmete” (baked apples with sour cream custard).

Dang, now I’ve gone and made myself hungry for historical food: hate it when that happens. What’s Old English for “nom nom nom”?

11 responses to “Research blew my mind

  1. “Nom nom nom” always sounds a little Latin to me.

    Many years ago, I gave in to the impulse to buy a book of Anglo-Saxon riddle poems. Let me know if you have any desire to rummage through that.

  2. “Yum, yum, yum,” as lol cats hadn’t been invented yet. Poor humour- deprived people…

    Kim, do you know Gillian Polack? She knows a lot about Medieval food, at a university level. She is on my friends list.

  3. You’d be surprised how good some of the medieval food can be, Kim! I used to belong to a medieval society and have a number of books. One is called Plentyn Delit. Check it out! Can’t wait for this new book! Let us know when you have a working title. I love the origin of your name! Any idea on pronounciation of the dishes you discovered? Will you include a little pronounciation guide/glossary?
    Vicki

  4. Kim, you make research sound fun – not my strong suit I’m afraid. Maybe there is a medieval cookbook on the horizon???

  5. Ooh, sharing that information with the Cliterati–my term for the Qld Spinners, Weavers, and Fibre Artists.

    I never had the guts to try paniertes euter while I dated my little Bavarian. Makes no sense. Most are more game to try the pan-fried udder than date a Bavarian.

    Bet they didn’t whinge about being offal-intolerant and allergic to tripe and other gut linings.

  6. I can get so caught up in the Research part that I neglect the duty of writing (maybe that should tell me something).
    I, too, loved the info on “weaving” and “spinster”. Makes me wonder what a “divorcee” is called (i.e., me)?
    Cheers,
    Kerrie

  7. Hello Kim,

    I love Anglo-Saxon stuff too – especially when you quote it in class! Anyway, you may already know but just in case – Tolkien also didn’t invent Middle Earth [although his legions of rabid fans will argue that no-one else can ever use it – ever – because it’s his!]

    Middle Earth was the Anglo-Saxon’s was of refering to the earth we live in now – or the mortal’s earth. I think Hell was Lower Earth and I am not sure at all about what they called Heaven.

    But it’s all so fascinating. I lust after a nice copy of the Exeter Riddles…

    Jennifer B

  8. Thank you thank you thank you for writing about Anglo-Saxon England! I love your books and now have one about my favourite history period to look forward to.

    I think the Anglo-Saxons have had a bad rep over the year. Just look at how they were portrayed in that terrible King Arthur film – the one starring Clive Owen.

    You might also be interested in (or probably already know) that recently the largest Anglo-Saxon gold hoard ever found was discovered buried in a field in England (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/staffordshire/8272058.stm). There are also a couple of good books by Kathleen Herbert that give good insights into Anglo-Saxon thinking “English Heroic Myths” and “Peace-Weavers and Shield Maidens” which discuss the roles of Anglo-Saxon women, including the very wonderful Aethelflaed.

    Anyhow – thanks Kim for the enjoyment I get reading your books and I very much look forward to this one!

    • I have read both those books, Emma, but thanks. Unfortunately, the Staffordshire hoard will be tucked away in the bowels of the British Library when I head to Engerland this Xmas, but I am definitely going to see the barrows at Sutton Hoo.

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