Guthorm's Invasion of Wessex:
The Battle of Ethandun (Edington)

Who knows what really happened on the battlefield that May morning in 878? The details, unfortunately, are lost forever. But, using what little is known about the battle and what we know about the Vikings' way of life, together with some imagination, perhaps the battle can be described like this:

The Lay of Guthorm's Army at Ethandun

Upon the Salisbury Plain face to face
Englishmen eager for home's defence
Shieldwalls woven in tight protection
Guthorm's warriors call to Odin
With voices grumbling
Danes delight in battle always.
`Gainst attack from either side,
Wielding words to frighten foemen.
Gods of battle grow greedy for slaughter
The shouts of men fighting fiercely
On biting sword's and gory axe's field
Beneath men's boots, bodies fall
The ravens bark above the din,
The plain runs red with blood.
Shields ring out and split asunder
From either side in equal number.
The gods of war council Vikings:
Each man must valiant be
After death, talk recalls deeds
The Valkyries gather valiant men
Warriors fight fearless and strong!
Before the blade his skull bites.
Little is lost for men who fight well.
To fight again another day.
Guthorm's men fought fiercely, far from home
But saw not Odin's favour that day.
Back to Chippenham weary behind walls
Little the loss for men who fight well;
They wielded weapons
Guthorm turned his warriors back,
To fight again another day.
Yet Odin gives fickle fortune.

And so it went at the battle on Salisbury Plain, near Ethandun (now called Edington). Guthorm retreated back to Chippenham after the battle. Alfred pursued him there and surrounded the Viking camp. He killed the loose cattle and the men he found outside the walls. Guthorm and his men must have wondered if their gods still favoured them. Some may have complained to their war leader that it was a good time to make peace, settle, and farm the lands outside of Wessex. And while they discussed their next move, Alfred was keeping any food and water from coming into the camp. Within two weeks, in late May, 878, Guthorm and his army surrendered and accepted total defeat of the plan to conquer Wessex


- 14. august 2004 -