The Heliand

Summary
The Heliand is an epic poem that is the Anglo-Saxon Gospel. The story is comparable to an Anglo-Saxon version of the New Testament in the Bible. The word Heliand actually means saviour. Their God is referred to as the Creator, the Chieftain, or the All-Ruler. The epic poem is separated into "songs." Song one talks about the Creator's spell which holds together the entire world and is taught to four heroes. The heroes are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are responsible for writing down the word of the Creator. It then tells about Zachary who is a dedicated follower of the Creator. He is happy and spreads the word of the Creator even though his life is not perfect. His wife could not bear any children. Song two is when Zachary sees the Chieftain's angel Gabriel in the shrine. Gabriel explains to Zachary that his wife is going to have a child and that the Chieftain wants them to name him John. In song three Zachary questions what he saw and if what the angel said will come true. The angel Gabriel gets mad and punishes Zachary by taking away his ability to speak until the baby is born. Zachary's wife Elizabeth suddenly becomes pregnant and eventually John is born a beautiful baby. Zachary can finally talk again and tells the people how it was an act of God that the baby was born and that the angel Gabriel spoke to him. He says that the Chieftain has willed it for the child to be named John. Even though one man suggests that they pick a different name, they followed the Creator's wishes and name the baby John.


In song four the All-Ruler's angel comes to Mary in Galileeland. Mary is a virgin and is supposed to marry a man named Joesph. The angel tells her that she is going to have a baby who will be the saviour even though Mary is a virgin. When Mary becomes pregnant Joseph starts to question her fidelity. Joseph is worried because Mary could get in trouble if they were married and she was not a virgin. That's when Gabriel comes to Joseph and tells him that Mary is a virgin and she is bearing the Creator's son. In song five the Chieftain of mankind is born in David's hill-fort. In song six they bring the baby to the All-Ruler's shrine. Then in song seven, three thanes from the East led by workings of fate follow a star to where the saviour is. In song eight, the three foreign warriors each give a gift to the child. In song nine Herod orders his warriors to behead all the two-year-old boys around Bethlehem. In song ten Mary and Joseph find the holy child at the shrine. In song eleven, John announces that Christ is coming to Middlegard. In song twelve Christ the Chieftain is immersed in the Jordan River by his loyal thane John. In song thirteen Jesus fights off his first enemy. In song fourteen Christ chooses his first warrior companions. In song fifteen he calls twelve of the warriors to be his men. In song sixteen the Chieftain gives instructions on the mountain until song twenty-three. In song twenty-four there is a marriage feast in the guest-hall at Fort Cana. In song twenty-five, the Creator's son of peace heals a household lad of a commander of 100 men at the hill-fort in Capharanaum.


Annotated Bibliography

Augustyn, Prisca. "Thor's Hammer and the Power of God: Poetic Strategies in the Old Saxon Heliand Gospel." Daphnis 33.1 (2004): 33-52. Web.


Prisca Augustyn is a professor at Florida Atlantic University and has her Ph.D. in Germanic Linguistics. Considering that The Heiland is a Germanic text I trust that Augustyn is a credible source to be writing about this subject. Her argument counterattacks others who say that The Heiland is just Christianity being embellished to appeal to the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Augustyn argues that the work the unknown author of this piece put into it was much larger than just an overlay of the new testament. She says that the author includes Germanic myth and religion by including mythopoetic formulas and themes. I feel like this article could definitely help us better understand the Heliand and how it was not merely Christianity rewritten. It was more of a tailored gospel made specifically with Anglo-Saxon culture in mind. Christ was made into a warrior figure as opposed to someone who was a gentle healer.


Bosman, Frank G. "Teach Us the Secret Runes'. The Lord's Prayer in Heiland" Perichoresis. (2016) 39-51. Web.


Dr. Frank Bosman is a researcher at the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. I think that he is qualified enough to give us a theological perspective on The Heliand and be trusted as a credible source. This article focuses more on the Christian influence that this text had on the Anglo-Saxons because of the Frankish invaders. It is almost a counter-argument to Augustyn's piece by saying that the monk who wrote it basically made Jesus fit into the Anglo-Saxon culture. This article specifically focuses on the Lord's Prayer that is given on the mountain. He does point out many of the differences between the Christian version and this Anglo-Saxon version. He argues that the author makes Jesus speak directly to his readers in The Heliand, making him more relatable to their culture. This is important because the author of The Heliand does not want readers to think they are trying to westernize them.



Pelle, Stephen. "The Heliand and Christological Orthodoxy." Florilegium (Ottawa) 27 (2010): 63-89 Web.


Stephen Pelle is a graduate of the Center for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto where he earned his Ph.D. I think that his background in medieval studies makes him a credible source. His preferred research topics are Old English homilies and their Latin sources. Pelle reinforces the idea that The Heliand was made to bring Christianity to the Anglo-Saxon people. He examines The Heliand for traces of heresy or heterodoxy such as Spanish adoptionism. He also focuses on how the author tailors the story of Jesus to the Anglo-Saxon people. He discusses the other Saxon biblical epic Genesis and how it was written in comparison to The Heliand. He also wonders if the author of The Heliand was actually more of a supporter of Christianity or paganism, most likely Christianity considering what he wrote.


Close Reading
He saw, behind the altar, an angel of God inside the shrine. The angel spoke to him in words and told the old man not to be afraid or frightened of him. 'Your deeds are precious to the Ruler,' he said, 'as well as your word. He is grateful for your service to Him and grateful that you think so much of His power alone. I am His angel. My name is Gabriel, I always stand before God, I am always in the presence of the All-Ruler, except when He wishes to send me off on His affairs. Now He has sent me on this journey and told me to let you know that a child will be born to you-from your elderly wife a child will be granted to you in this world-and he will be wise in words. Never in his lifetime will he drink hard cider or wine in this world: this is the way the workings of fate made him, time formed him, and the power of God as well. God said that I should say to you that your child will be a warrior-companion of the King of Heaven. He said that you and your wife should care for him well and bring him up on loyalty, and that He would grant him many honors in God's kingdom.” (Heliand 7-8)


It been a long time since I have read or learned about the Bible, but is there actually a parallel to this story in the Bible? Is there actually a birth story for John just like this one? The part that confused me was about John never drinking hard cider or wine in this world. Does that mean that he gets to drink it all in heaven? Or perhaps Gabriel is just saying that this warrior doesn't have time to celebrate but needs to stay focused on helping Jesus do God's bidding. I think that it implies that John has important work to do and in the end he will be rewarded for all his good deeds. Gabriel clearly says that John will be “wise in words," which I assume means that he will not only help Jesus fight, but spread the word of God as well? A religious text like this can say suggest one idea but imply a different meaning depending on a person and their beliefs. I think that's definitely worth noting that much like any religious text this one has a lot of discrepancies that are up to interpretation.

There in hill-fort Nazareth the angel of God addressed her face to face, calling her by her name and saying to her from God: 'Health be with you, Mary, your wisdom, woman full of grace. You are to be sanctified more than any other woman. Do not waver in your mind and do not let yourself fear for your life. I have not come here to put you in any danger and I am not bringing you any kind of trick or deception. You are to become the mother of our Chieftain here among human beings. You will bear a child, the Son of the high King of Heaven. His name among the peoples will be Healer. The broad kingdom over which He will rule as a great leader will never come to an end.'” (Heliand 12)

I think it's definitely notable that most of these events happen in places like hill-forts that were very familiar to the Anglo-Saxons. In this quote as Gabriel delivers the news to Mary he makes sure to tell her that this isn't some kind of joke. Maybe this is because the whole idea of the virgin Mary bearing a child seems impossible, so this was to assure the reader that this was possible. At some point religion has to make the unbelievable sound believable or convince its readers to believe it. The word choices the author uses here are definitely worth noting as well. For example, referring to her future child as the Son of the high King of Heaven, it as if Christ is going to be royalty. Not only will Mary herself be made holy and sacred, but her son is going to practically be royalty. His rule will never come to an end. This idea of living on forever as a leader sits very well with the Anglo-Saxons and their previous ideals. It reminds them of the times where they could go to heaven and have an eternal life as royalty, drinking mead and living the good life.

Christ, God's own Child, then set off for Galileeland, journeying to His friends, to the place where He was born and beautifully raised. There He, the most powerful of kings, told His clan relatives in words how they should repent of their own sins. He told them that they should make themselves regret their many injurious deeds and chop down the evil they had done. 'Now has come to pass what the ancients said long ago when they promise you Heaven's kingdom as your help. It has now come to you through the power of the Rescuer. You can enjoy it from now on-anyone can who is willing to serve God and act according to His wishes!' Many of the people were delighted at this; the teachings of Christ were very sweet to the warrior-companions.” (Heliand 40)

With this quote I also wanted to focus on the author's word choices. A word that really stood out to me in Anglo-Saxon culture which was the word “clan.” Christ has his own clan relatives that he tells about the word of God instead of just the people. "Clan" is a very Anglo-Saxon term and definitely not something you would see in the Bible, but is similar to the word "tribe." He tells them they should repent their sins and “chop down” the evil they had done. In other words to get rid of all their sins from being pagan and join this more monotheistic religion that Christ preaches about. Christ says that people in the past (other religions) have promised them heaven, but now they can actually achieve it through the power of God. The author makes it seem like such a happy thing to do that it makes it hard to say no to God. The people were so happy to hear the news. They were so grateful for the teachings of Christ and his warrior friends. The choice of the word warriors definitely resonates with the Anglo-Saxons, much more than the apostles would. Would the Anglo-Saxon people have believed this text as much if Christ didn't have a bunch of warrior companions?

Proposed research calendar:

Thursday, September 21st: Re-read Heiland.

Tuesday, September 26th: Visit the library for assistance with research topics. Search and read through potential sources. Form chosen sources into an annotated bibliography.

Wednesday, September 27th: Write the summary.

Monday, October 2nd: Choose quotes for close reading and analysis.

Tuesday, October 3rd: Check in with research group if they have been formed by then, if not check in before October 13th.

Wednesday, October 4th: Review classmates pages and post constructive feedback/suggestions. If classmates don't have their assignments up yet then get this done before October 13th.

Thursday, October 5th: Set up an appointment with Dr. Tracy to discuss progress and see if anything could improve.

Wednesday, October 11th: Apply feedback on progress so far.

Thursday, October 12th: Visit the library again and add 3 more entries to the annotated bibliography.

Friday, October 13th: Write a reflection on trends in scholarship.

Monday, October 16th: Write research query.

Tuesday, October 17th: Read and post constructive comments and suggestions on classmates pages. If classmates don't have their assignments up yet then get this done before November 6th.

Wednesday, October 18th: Pick a journal article idea.

Thursday, October 19th: Set up an appointment with Dr. Tracy to discuss journal article idea.

Friday, October 20th: Create an outline of the journal article.

Monday, October 23rd: Write the abstract for the journal article.

Tuesday, October 24th: Add 3 more sources to the annotated bibliography.

Wednesday, October 25th: Write argument against a scholarly article.

Thursday, October 26th: Show Dr. Tracy and research group my rough draft and get some feedback

Friday, October 27th: Apply feedback.

Monday, October 30th: Review classmates posts and post constructive comments or suggestions. If classmates don't have their assignments up yet then get this done before November 29th.

Wednesday, November 1st: Start writing the journal article, making more and more progress each day.

Friday, November 10th: Finish writing journal article.

Monday, November 27th: Get feedback and revise the journal article.

Tuesday, November 28th: Write the cover letter.

Wednesday, November 29th: Get feedback on the cover letter.

Thursday, November 30th: Make revisions on the cover letter.

Monday, December 4th: Get feedback from Dr. Tracy and research group about entire piece.

Tuesday, December 5th: Make revisions and have someone read it over to be sure.

Wednesday, December 6th: Submit the whole piece.