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Sutton Hoo and the Dragon

Dave Roper’s replica of the magnificent dragon mount from the Sutton Hoo shield.

with Dr Sam Newton

in The Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 24th September 2011

A dragon is no idle fancy. Whatever may be his origins… the dragon in legend is a potent creation of men’s imagination, richer in significance than his barrow is in gold (J.R.R.Tolkien).

We begin with an examination of the bejewelled and gilded dragon mount from the royal shield found aboard the great ship-burial Sutton Hoo, which has been described as, “the first dragon of English art.” We shall also look at related dragon designs in early medieval art before attempting to assess the significance of the belief in dragons in the Old English and Old Norse legend.

Of primary importance here is the Old English epic of Beowulf, which provides us with the first authentic description of a dragon in English literature. Beginning with the elegiac passage known as the “The Lay of the Last Survivor”, we shall consider the history of the dragon’s mound and his treasure. This he guards for 300 winters until, angered by the theft of a single cup, he awakes to wreak his vengeance on the neighbouring people of old king Beowulf. The scene is thus set for the hero’s last battle.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 The Dragon on the Royal Shield from Sutton Hoo  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 The Dragon of Northern Legend  
  12.45 Lunch break (bring picnic or eat in NT restaurant)  
  14:00 The Dragon and His Treasure in Beowulf  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 The Dragon Awakes  
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991 and is the author of The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (1993) and The Reckoning of King Rædwald, (2003). He has lectured widely around the country as a free-lance scholar and has contributed to many radio and television programmes. He is also a Director of Wuffing Education, NADFAS lecturer, and Time Team historian.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)
Bjork, R.E., & J.D.Niles (eds), A Beowulf Handbook (Nebraska University 1997, 1998)
Bruce-Mitford, R., Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (Gollancz 1974)
Fulk, R. (ed.), Interpretations of Beowulf: A Critical Anthology (Indiana University 1991)
Garmonsway, G., & J.Simpson, Beowulf and Its Analogues (Dent 1968, 1980)
Heaney, Seamus (tr.) Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, ed. J.Niles (Norton 2007)
Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson, A Guide to Old English (Blackwell 1986)
Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson (eds), Beowulf (Blackwell 1998)
Newton, S., The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (Brewer 1993, 1994)
Speake, G., Anglo-Saxon Animal Art (Oxford 1980)
Webster, L., & J.Backhouse, The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900 (British Museum 1991)


Please phone or email to check the availability of places.  Study Days are £38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition.  Once you have reserved your place please send a cheque to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
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Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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We have learnt of the fame of the Wuffing folk-lords of long ago, of how those wolf-kings held the ancestral land of East Anglia....
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