Title

St. Edmund's Talking Head

Date

5-26-2016 10:30 AM

End Time

26-5-2016 10:45 AM

Location

WUC Columbia Room

Department

History

Session Chair

Patricia Goldsworthy-Bishop

Session Title

History Senior Thesis Presentations

Faculty Sponsor(s)

Goldsworthy-Bishop

Abstract

The talking severed head is a phenomenon that appears in two staggeringly different genres of medieval writing: Celtic folklore and writings concerning saints, known as hagiography. This strange shared motif has sometimes been interpreted by scholars as an indicator of the influence of folklore on hagiographic writings. Written in the late 10th century by French monk Abbo of Fleury, The Martyrdom of St. Edmund tells the story of Edmund, a king of East Anglia who was decapitated by Viking invaders. After this decapitation episode, Abbo writes that Edmund’s head retained its powers of speech, calling out directions to his friends until it was finally found between the paws of a wolf that was acting as the head’s guardian. While Edmund’s decapitation story is commonly used as an example of the influence of folklore, scholars debate the use of this method of identifying elements of folklore in other genres of writing. Regardless of this debate, it can be demonstrated that the talking severed head in both hagiography and Celtic folklore often fills the same role: to provide continued guardianship over those remaining in the world of the living.

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May 26th, 10:30 AM May 26th, 10:45 AM

St. Edmund's Talking Head

WUC Columbia Room

The talking severed head is a phenomenon that appears in two staggeringly different genres of medieval writing: Celtic folklore and writings concerning saints, known as hagiography. This strange shared motif has sometimes been interpreted by scholars as an indicator of the influence of folklore on hagiographic writings. Written in the late 10th century by French monk Abbo of Fleury, The Martyrdom of St. Edmund tells the story of Edmund, a king of East Anglia who was decapitated by Viking invaders. After this decapitation episode, Abbo writes that Edmund’s head retained its powers of speech, calling out directions to his friends until it was finally found between the paws of a wolf that was acting as the head’s guardian. While Edmund’s decapitation story is commonly used as an example of the influence of folklore, scholars debate the use of this method of identifying elements of folklore in other genres of writing. Regardless of this debate, it can be demonstrated that the talking severed head in both hagiography and Celtic folklore often fills the same role: to provide continued guardianship over those remaining in the world of the living.