Hey! Toli the teller of tall tales here with a story of Anglian origin. Cos I am an Angle, see, not a Saxon. It’s those Normans, they can’t distinguish. They call this land England then call us Saxons, all lumped together. That’s like calling a bean-harvest a harvest of kale! So, as my liege lord would say, let me elucidate. Those soft southern bastards, kissers of the Norman arses, they are the Saxons. While we hard northern fellows, rebels to the very, we’re Angles.
That sorted, I’ll start. But forgive the way that it’s told. See, this being an Angles’ tale, I have to tell it the Angles’ way – the way it was told to me, as far as I can remember it, anyway.
- Woden was King of the Angles in the Migration Days; he led us to England, to be our new land.
- His son was Caser, though he didn’t last long.
- After him, the next to be elected was Toottman Casering.
- And his son, Trugil Toottmaning, succeeded him.
- And after Trugil was Hrothmund Trugling, the Wuffing-father of Rendlesham.
- And Hruth Hrothmunding succeeded him.
- His son Wilhelm Hruthing took the high seat to Helmingham where he fathered the Helmings.
- His son Wea Wilhelming was elected King of East Angles, the first of that name.
- Wuffa Weahing then was king after him.
- And Tootla Wuffing was king after Wuffing.
- Then came Rædwald Tootling. King Rædwald gained the most prominent fame. Bretwalda, the Great King over all of England; Imperium, Rex Anglorum, Bede called him. Buried now beneath his great haug at Sutton. From far and wide they brought their funeral gifts to him. Long will our people speak of him.
- His brother Eni Tootling was for a short year king after him.
- Next came the Great King’s son, Eorpwald Rædwalding, who was the first of the Wuffings to renounce the old gods, the gods of their fathers, which was to bring heavy curses upon them. Eorpwald shortly after was murdered by Ricbert.
- And for three years Ricbert returned his people to the worship of Woden.
- But next to the high seat of the East Angles came Eorpwald’s young brother, Sigbert called Saint, who until then had been hiding overseas with the Franks. There he, too, renounced the faith of his fathers, and took instead to the southerners’ god. Then so great was his love of heaven, he removed his arse from the high seat and gave it instead to a kinsman Ecgric, son of Eni Tootling. But that did not avert the Norns’ fury and neither did his god protect him. For King Penda and his Mercians attacking, Sigbert’s people dragged him, protesting, from his heavenly monastery and, with no more than a staff in his hand, he was slain in battle – along with Ecgric Ening.
- After those two kings, Anna Ening took the high seat. But despite he was busy swiving his wife, so many the saints he begot from his lions, still King Anna Ening was slain in battle, by the same King Penda. (Another king their god of peace had forsaken.)
- King Anna’s brothers Ethelhere, Ethelwold and Ethilric all followed in fast succession. In ten years, so many of the Ening-kings killed. (One would think they’d made the wrong choice, forsaking Woden for Christ. But of that I’ll say nothing.)
- And so at last came Aldwulf Ethilricing.
And in his days Bishye was bishop of all the East Angles. And in those days too came peace with Mercia, for King Penda died and his son King Wulfhere Pendring cared little but to press against the southern kingdoms.
But now a new cause for battle arose.
Between the land of the East Angles and that of Mercia lay the fenlands. Less habitable land than two persons could squat on, yet five tribes dwelt there: the Willa, the Wixna, the North and the South Gyrwa. The North and the South Gyrwa had long turned against the old ways. But the Willa and Wixna had not. And now released from King Penda’s attention, the Wixna sought to increase their lands – at the cost of the East Angles.
The fourth battle was fought along the edge of the heath-lands, and Bishop Bishye there attended his king. He raised his staff and called down the curses of his southern god. But the Wixna, their foe, called upon a god stronger. And great slaughter was wrought there that day.
As the sun sought its night-boat so Bishop Bishye picked his way through the feasting of crows to give succour to the sore-injured and to send to his heaven the dead souls. Nought he thought for his safety for the battle was done. Yet he shivered when he saw the woman approach him. Beautiful she, and hung all in white, but she’d a string of bones trailed behind her.
“Bishop Bishye,” she greeted, her voice deep as the halls of Holle. “You steal my night’s carting. My Lord Woden will not sing glee-songs.” Then she folded her arms and waited to hear what he’d say.
He laughed. “Over yonder lie your pickings. The Wixna. But these Helmings, Wuffings and Inings are mine. All, in the days of King Rædwald, set aside their heathen ways. Now they are the most honest of Christian men.”
She answered his laugh with a scoff of her own. “Yet they’re warriors still. And I see just with the cast of my eye, that many still wear my own Lord’s rune.” And she cocked her head at him.
“We cannot eradicate superstition amongst them,” he admitted.
“You cannot eradicate their desire to live, when you would cast them down,” she spat in return.
“How so?” he asked her. “They go now to Heaven.”
“Ay, ay, ay, ay, and no more to live? Warriors, Bishop Bishye, not simpering priests who’d rather pray than to swive with a woman. I ask you, priest of the Pure God, have you ever enjoyed the flesh of a woman?”
“Certainly not!” His face flared red, outraged at the thought.
To which she chuckled. “Then I’ll make you a deal. Come with me now and I’ll give to you such pleasure that surpasses your every notion of heaven. And if I should fail, all this day’s dead, the Wixna amongst them, you may send to your own god.”
Bishop Bishye looked at the dead, at the Helmings, the Wuffings and the Inings. He looked at the dead of the Wixna. And if she should fail all these dead he may send to his god. So many souls to be saved: five hundred East Angles and likely as many of the Wixna too. And what must he do but to refuse to find pleasure in what she gives him. He looked from the woman again to the dead. And what pleasure could a woman give that surpassed his notion of Heaven?
“Challenge accepted,” he said. “Deal’s on.”
Alas, to spare the blushes of priests and maidens, the rest of this tale cannot be told but must be left to bud and blossom in your own imagination. Enough to say that that same night Woden’s hall was swollen by the souls of five hundred East Angle warriors and an equal count of the Wixna, there to feast and to drink and to fight and to brag until their final battle of Ragnarok.
~ ~ ~
Bisi, or Bifus, was bishop of the East Angles until 670 CE. After his death, so many by then were the converted Christians, the East Anglian see was divided between the Norfolk seat at Elmham and the Suffolk seat at Dunwich.
Of the king list given by Toli, those from Tootla Wuffing (Tyttil son of Wuffa) onwards are historically attested.
As to the rest of the tale, I cannot vouch for its veracity. But I can say this. I promised Toli I’d not interfere with his tellings, but when he whispered in my ear of what happened that night, I said no, he could not tell it all.