April 19, 2021

#08-072: King Alfred and the Cakes

black-and-white illustration of a man in a peasant's clothes sitting staring into a fireplace where several flat cakes lay on a flat stone, as an old woman gestures at him, seemingly scolding him
The King gets scolded

Note: "Uneasy lies the head..." The burdens of kingship can distract one from a simple task like baking,  as King Alfred found out when he was on the run from the Vikings.

Get Ready: What sorts of things does a good king or other government leader have to worry about?

King Alfred of England is yet another monarch known as "the Great," as much for his promotion of a legal system and fostering of education as for his defeat over the Viking invaders.

He established a school at court for the education of his own children as well as the children of the nobles and "a good many of lesser birth." He brought scholars from the continent, and promoted the use of English (in those days, Anglo-Saxon or "Old English") as well as the usual Latin, encouraging the translation of well-known texts and even translating some of them himself.

But Alfred the Great is perhaps best remembered for a legend of the time before his kingdom was settled, when he was still a new king (having inherited the throne from three brothers who died before him) and fighting almost guerilla-style with the invading Danes.

Although Alfred had bought off the invaders for a limited time, in 878 the Viking king launched a surprise attack, and Alfred fled with a small company of his men into the swampy area known as the Somerset Levels.

While on the run, the king--dressed as a common soldier, with none of the trappings associated with royalty--sought shelter in the cottage of an old shepherd's wife. She was surprised to see a Saxon knight out and about, but quickly hid his horse in her pig barn and seated the king himself by her fire.

Brusquely explaining that she was busy and had no time to provide hospitality, she informed the young soldier that to pay for his bed, he would have to tend to the cakes she had cooking on the fire as she went out to fetch some water.

He readily agreed, but as you can imagine, had a lot on his mind. He had just lost his kingdom, and must strive to get it back--but how? He needed to regroup his men, and...

"What do you think you're doing?" came a shriek from behind him. In his distraction, the king had let the cakes burn! With a whack of her broom to his head, the old lady kicked the fugitive king out of her smoke-filled house and made him sleep the night with his horse--and the pigs!


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. brusquely
  2. fostering
  3. fugitive
  4. hospitality
  5. inherited
  6. invading
  7. promotion
  8. shriek
  9. swampy
  10. trappings

  1. received as an heir
  2. encouraging something to flourish
  3. nurturing; caring for
  4. in a rough manner; abruptly; rudely
  5. having run away; in hiding
  6. friendly acts of receiving a guest
  7. a loud, high-pitched scream
  8. filled with wet, spongy land
  9. pieces of equipment or clothing; decoration
  10. entering a country by military force

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 19, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. c; 3. e; 4. f; 5. a; 6. j; 7. b; 8. g; 9. h; 10. i