Echoes of Britons on a Fenland Frontier in the Old English Andreas

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This article explores the distinctive features of the geography of Mermedonia in the Old English Andreas that separate it from other versions of this apocryphal legend. The many parallels between this landscape and its people in Andreas and those of Anglo-Saxon England have been the subject of much recent interest; however, such an alignment leaves unaddressed the problem that the poem ultimately does identify this place and its occupants as a dangerous 'other'. Geographical details present only in the Old English version suggest that the poem aligns the cannibal nation with a more specific landscape within Anglo-Saxon England: that of the fens, a space which carried cultural baggage within the Anglo-Saxon corpus as a hiding place for a last population of Britons, a people associated with cannibalism in classical geographies. The unique cultural details present in the depiction of the Mermedonians themselves in Andreas suggest that the poem models its cannibals not after an exotic, distant race, but rather an 'other' found much closer to home. The use of a wild frontier wasteland haunted by the presence of dangerous Britons as a model for the 'other' in Andreas lends the sense not of distance, but rather familiarity, to even these monstrous cannibals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-89
JournalThe Review of English Studies
Issue number252
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2010


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