The Celts and the Anglo-Saxons

So we’ve started back up with Story of the World Vol. 2, which covers the dark ages to the end of the Renaissance.

We studied a bit of the Celts.  I used to have a complete obsession with all things Celtic, around about the middle school years.  Or all things Welsh, to be more precise.  I was such a strange kid.  They don’t get their full due here, but that’s okay.  To celebrate their most well-known artistic motif, the kids made Celtic knot patterns.  I got the idea from this book I have from back when I was still really into that sort of thing:

Here’s BalletBoy working on his:

And here’s the finished product from Mushroom:

If you look at Mushroom’s, you can also see a bit of his rendering of Grendel.  After the Celts came the Anglo-Saxons and they brought us a certain burly hero by the name of Beowulf.  By the way, check out this cool map slide show of how Britain went from Roman to Celtic to Anglo-Saxon.  Well, back to Beowulf.  I admit that I sort of hated this book in high school when I read it.  It was just so gory and so weird.  As heroes go, Beowulf was even less sympathetic to me that Gilgamesh.  The only thing I understood about it was why someone would write a book from the point of view of Grendel, because at least he seemed to dislike Beowulf as much as I did.  There are two excellent picture book versions of Beowulf, both of which came out in the last few years.  In that way that picture books have, they brought out the best aspects of the story and distilled them for us.  I can’t say I’m like rah, mead halls, or anything, but that’s okay.  I don’t have to love every piece of mythology out there.

The simpler version is The Hero Beowulf by Eric Kimmel, which has brightly colored illustrations and a very short text.  It’s not bad at all.  However, I give the crown to the wonderful Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold by James Rumford.  This version has a much more complete version of the story, though still without being too long.  The first and last pages allude to the way the original text begins and ends with grand language about heroics and bravery.  The art style seems influenced by graphic novels.  The pictures have a very green and gray color scheme.  Pictures are in a box with images of the dragon that ends Beowulf’s life hidden behind them, which gives us a nice sense of foreshadowing through the art.

4 thoughts on “The Celts and the Anglo-Saxons

  1. Read-alouds with Welsh settings, just in case you are interested, now or in the future.

    The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo (part of a trilogy)
    The Grey King by Susan Cooper (part of a 5 book series)
    The String in the Harp by ?? Older readers.

    The first two I read to 8/9yr old and 10/11yr old.

    1. I don’t know The String in the Harp, but Susan Cooper’s series is one of my all-time favorites. There’s also Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles about a fantasy world based on Welsh mythology. I think that’s what got me started on that particular obsession in 5th grade or so.

  2. Oh, we love The Dark Is Rising here too 🙂 What age would you say the Prydain books would work for as a read-aloud ? Any good for a 6yr old who has a ‘listening age’ a bit higher than that ? Thanks.

    1. I feel like the first two books in the series would definitely be okay. The second one was actually made into a highly unsuccessful, but not terrible, Disney film in the 80’s. As I recall, the later books in the series become more serious and maybe more violent. But I’m having trouble remembering them in detail. This is actually making me want to put them on my reread list.

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