I’m finishing writing a book and you guys will have the opportunity to review the manuscript some time towards late summer. The working title is Mead-halls of the Eastern Geats. Elite Settlements and Political Geography AD 375-1000 in ÃstergÃ¶tland, Sweden.
The title alludes to the Old English epic poem about Beowulf. Set mainly in 6th century Denmark, it is all about the petty kings of the time whose political life was centred upon the feasting hall. That’s where raids were planned, guests entertained, loot from raids shared out, religious rituals performed, epic poetry about raids listened to. Without a mead-hall, an armed retinue, a high-born wife, a court poet and a big chest of gold, nobody could be a king. The conflict that drives the first two thirds of the long poem is centred upon certain problems King Hrothgar of the Danes has with his mead-hall “The Hart”. It is being haunted by a bloodthirsty marsh ghoul named Grendel, and while this goes on Hrothgar is unable to function as a king. Who ya gonna call? Hrothgar calls the ghostbusting superhero Beowulf from GÃ¶taland (land of the Geatas, in Old English) to take care of the situation.
Now, the other day I was sitting on the gold chest in my hall talking to my high-born wife while the retinue was drinking mead and listening to this long poem about me. My wife is a journalist, and I received her along with a serious haul of gold back when I swore fealty to the Chairman-Emperor of China. She is my main contact with the real world where people have 9-5 jobs, watch TV and follow the news. And when I mentioned the title of the manuscript to her, it turned out that the beowulfian references an Early Medieval scholar takes for granted are completely lost on people from the modern world. “Eastern Geats” she could guess meant something about ÃstergÃ¶tland. That’s after all where I’ve done most of my fieldwork in recent years. But “mead-hall” she interpreted, in analogy with Sw. Ã¶lhall and Ge. Bierhalle, to mean “pub”. So, outside the book’s main audience of people who take an interest in 1st Millennium Scandinavia, I’m apparently completing a work named “Guide to the Pubs of the LinkÃ¶ping Area”.