Wicing Sceal on Waelstowe: The Viking Maxim in The Battle of Maldon
In The Battle of Maldon, the valor of the English who fight is never in question. The infamy of the cowards who flee is evident. The way the poet views the Vikings, however, is slightly less obvious. The poet treats all characters who act within the contract of battle with a sort of biased equanimity—of course, the English are portrayed as more heroic and sympathetic, but the Vikings are referred to in a practical manner as seafarers or warriors. It is my contention that the Maldon poet treats the Vikings as natural parts of the battlefield, as if they had their own maxim pairing and were acting according to expectation. By defining how maxims function in the Old English corpus, illustrating the prevalence of Viking violence leading up to the battle, and presenting literary evidence of a Viking maxim in Maldon and The Battle of Brunanburh, I will define what I believe to be the integral parts of the "Viking maxim" and clarify how its presence in The Battle of Maldon informs the poem overall.