Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Literature, as we all know today marks its beginning from the Britishers originally. But, the question is, did it originally start from Britain? If yes, then how Britain had its origin? Were Britishers the same as we imagine them today, the sophisticated ones since eternity or did it evolve with cultural invasions like our very own India. The answer is the latter. Yes! It did evolve.
It was not ruled in the way it is ruled today. It did not have the customs it has today. The Britain we see today and the British literature we study or adore today is the result of this very evolution.
Let’s talk about British history or rather history of British Literature before the advent.
This is the time when it all started, the Anglo-Saxon period. Britons were the original inhabitants of Britain from 55 BC until 410 AD, some Germanic invaders invaded Britain or the then land of Britons. These invaders were Pagans i.e. people who practiced polytheism unlike the local Britons. Also, they were divided into three tribes- Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Out of which, Angles were the dominant tribe. The name ‘England’ which is a part of the current “The Great Britain” originated from the Angle tribe (Angle land = England).
Having discussed the invasion over England, let’s discuss about the literature of that period. During those times, there were no printing press, there were no written documents which could be circulated in the name of literature and there was little or no literature, also there was little or no cultural advancement. Hence, the major literary works were lost due to their oral transmission.
The major literary works included poetry. The original God fearing tribe i.e. the Britons wrote religious poetry like “ The Dream of Rood” which signifies Christ’s crucification. Whereas, the polytheists ‘or’ the Pagans ‘or’ the Germanic Invaders wrote heroic poetry like “Beowulf” which demonstrates the story of a great warrior who defeated a great monster “ Grandal” and then his mother.
Though there are very little records of literature available there is one manuscript, “ The Exter Book” which has 131 poetries like Wanderer, Sea Farer etc.
There is very little evidence and knowledge about the literature iff this period but it is said that King Alfred started prose work during this era. The glorious Anglo Saxon Period ended in around 1066 AD which marked the beginning of another period known as the Anglo Norman Period with another significant invasion.
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