Havelok the Dane

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Havelok the Dane, also known as Havelok or Lay of Havelok the Dane, is a Middle English romance. The story, however, is also known in two earlier Anglo-Norman versions. Most scholars place Havelok the Dane at the end of the thirteenth century, between 1280 and 1290. The name “Havelok” also has many variations in spelling, and can found as “Haveloc” or “Havelock.”

Overview

The story of Havelok is first attested in lines 37-818 of Geoffrey Gaimar's Anglo-Norman Estorie des Engles of about 1135-40. This was the basis for another Anglo-Norman poem, the 'Lai d'havelok', which in turn may have influenced Havelok the Dane. Havelok is the second oldest surviving romance written in English; it is believed to have been composed somewhere between 1280-1310. The romance survives in one imperfect version, as well as some fragments. A copy of the 3,001 line poem is available to view in Grimsby Public Library. A new publication of the late 19th-century translation by Walter Skeat is available as The Lay of Havelock the Dane - ISBN 1-84384-108-8

'Havelok' is often categorized as belonging to the so-called Matter of England, because it deals with legends of English history rather than the legends of Rome, France and Britain, the three traditional subjects of medieval romance. The poem is notable for its interest in law and legal practice and its exploration of ideal kingship, as well as for its detailed depiction of working-class life in 13th-century...
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