→Anglo-Saxon and Danish History and Culture
The Last Kingdom is a popular television series recently released by the BBC and the show has strived to portray an accurate depiction of the time and reign of Alfred the Great. The show focuses the life of Uhtred, son of Uhtred, who is a fictional character based on an amalgamation of several historical characters, during the Dane invasions of England during the 9th century. The events depicted in <i>The Last Kingdom</i> were critical early steps in forging what became England. <i>The Last Kingdom</i> is a reference to the Kingdom of Wessex, which was the last Anglo-Saxon kingdom to stand in the way of Dane conquest of England. Uhtred is from Bebbanburgh (modern Bamburgh), a part of Northumbria. The season begins with Uhtred's father being killed in a battle at York, where Uhtred was taken as a slave by the Danes. Uhtred's uncle then usurps the control of Bebbanburgh, where Uhtred was the rightful heir.
==Anglo-Saxon and Danish History and Culture==
[[File:Winchester 13.jpeg|thumbnail|left|300px|Figure 1. Modern day Winchester, which served as the main capital of Wessex in the Anglo-Saxon period.]]
The first episode focuses on the Danish characters, while they do act cruel to the Anglo-Saxons they are also fun loving and one of them, Earl Ragner, shows much affection to Uhtred. During the first episode, Uhtred's father and his army are slaughtered by the Danes soon after they arrive by sea. The first episode portrays the Anglo-Saxons as unprepared for war with the Danes and too dependent on their priests. There is some truth to this, the Anglo-Saxon army lacked professional warriors and the show states that the Danes believed the English were primarily farmers. In the first battle of the show, the Anglo-Saxons lost the battle because they were incapable of defeating a Danish shield wall. However, the Anglo-Saxon armies most likely were capable of properly forming a shield wall and they would not have been completely confounded by it. At this point, the Anglo-Saxons would have been well aware of Danish war tactics, even if they were not well prepared for them. The show ignored this reality because it allowed the lead character, Uhtred, to teach the Anglo-Saxons later in the season to both form and defeat a shield wall. In this case, historical accuracy was sacrificed to create a more compelling story.<ref>For more on Anglo-Saxon fighting methods, see: Lavelle, R. (2010). <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1843837390/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1843837390&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=6a8e3107364e1ba075415588f71b524a Alfred’s wars: sources and interpretations of Anglo-Saxon warfare in the Viking age]</i> Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.</ref>
The Last Kingdom has done a very credible job depicting Danes and Anglo-Saxons. While the Danes have often been called as Vikings, the show makes it clear that they were more than just Vikings. The Danes willingness to settle in England demonstrated that unlike actual Vikings, they did not want to survive simply by raiding. The Danish characters make it clear that they left Denmark because it was inhospitable to farming and there is truth to the fact that climatic events may have also contributed to increased Danish raids and invasions during this time.<ref>For background on the Danes, see: Jones, G. (2001). <i>A history of the Vikings</i> (2nd ed). London ; New York: Oxford University Press.</ref>
The Danes were not just savage in battle but showed more creativeness and ability to adapt to their new environment. The Anglo-Saxons could best be described as solemn, pious and fairly dreary. This difference results from the conflicting faiths of the Danes and Anglo-Saxons. The Danes at this time were polytheists and Anglo-Saxons were Christian. The series often depicts these cultural differences between the Danes and Anglo-Saxon and the resulting war between these societies as a broader conflict between the Christian faith and the Danish gods. This is certainly how Alfred described the struggle and there is historical accuracy, as also described by the <i> Anglo-Saxon Chronicle</i>, which is the primary historical source. The character of Uhtred is used to demonstrate this dichotomy. Uhtred, an Anglo-Saxon, prefers company with the Danes, but he later swears an oath to Alfred, king of Wessex the last remaining Anglo-Saxon king.
Many of the urban places are historical and the names used in the series reflects their Anglo-Saxon names. For instance, London and Reading are two cities mentioned. Wessex's primary town was Winchester (Figure 1), where most of the Wessex kings held court which is depicted in the series.<ref>For more on Winchester in the Anglo-Saxon period, see: Legg, P. (2011). <i>Winchester: history you can see</i>. Stroud: History.</ref> Winchester, in fact, was rival to London for a period as the capital of all of England.
Some of the terms used in the series were words prevalent at the time. This includes terms such as plowing a field having sexual connotations. Another term is <i>arseling</i>, used as a playful or sometimes mocking term of Uhtred by his friend Leofric, which also would have been a term used at the time meaning "from the ass."<ref>For more on Anglo-Saxon terms, see: Baker, P. S. (2012). Introduction to Old English (3rd ed). Chichester, West Sussex ; Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.</ref> Such terms and expressions were, in fact, contemporary to the period.