Þe Red Ƿurm ⁊ þe Hƿite Ƿurm

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This article contains Anglish translations of two versions of an old Arthurian legend. The legend is noteworthy for its symbolism wherein a red serpent or dragon represents the native Britons while a white serpent or dragon represents the incoming Anglo-Saxons.

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/nennius-full.asp

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Six_Old_English_Chronicles/Geoffrey%27s_British_History

The Writ[edit]

Historia Brittonum (8th century or 9th century)[edit]

But soon after calling togeðer his tƿelf ƿisemen, to ask hƿat ƿas to be done, þeg saged to him, "Go to þe far meres of þi kingdom; þere bild and umbtrim a boroug to scield þiself, for þe folk þu has nimmed in are sƿikel; þeg are seeking to oferset þee bi sare, and, efen bin þi life, to fang upon all þe lands under þi ƿield, hu muc more ƿill þeg fand, after þi deað!" Þe king, cƿeemed ƿið þis rede, left ƿið his ƿisemen, and fared þruge manig deals of his land, in seeking of a stead good for bilding a stronghold. Hafing, to no end, fared far and ƿide, þeg came at lengð to a scire called Guenet; and hafing hoƿed þe barroƿs of Heremus, þeg fund, on þe cop of one of þem, a good spot for þe stronghold. Upon þis, þe ƿisemen saged to þe king, "Bild here a boroug; for, in þis stead, it ƿill efer be sund agagnst þe utelanders." Þen þe king sent for craftsmen, ƿoodƿorkers, stoneƿrigts, and gaðered all þe antimber needed to bild; but þe hƿole of þese sƿund in one nigt, so þat noþing ƿas left of hƿat had been set aside for þe bilding of þe stronghold. Antimber ƿas, þerefore, from all ofer, gaðered a tƿoð time and a þird time, and agagn sƿund as before, making eferig fand idel. Vortigern asked his ƿisemen hƿi þis happened, and ƿið so muc idel sƿink. Þeg ansƿered, "Þu must find a cild born ƿiðute a faðer, put him to deað, and sprinkel ƿið his blood þe grund on hƿic þe stronghold is to be bilt, or þu ƿill nefer fulfill þi end."

For þis þe king sent bodes þrugeute Britten, seeking a cild born ƿiðute a faðer. After hafing looked in all þe scires, þeg came to þe field of Aelecti, in þe land of Glevesing, hƿere sum knafes ƿere plaging at ball. And tƿo of þem fliting, one saged to þe oðer, "Knafe ƿiðute a faðer, no good ƿill efer happen to þee." Upon þis, þe bodes asked þe moðer and þe oðer knafes hƿeðer he had a faðer. His moðer saged no, saging, "In hƿat ƿag he ƿas begat I knoƿ not, for I haf nefer slept ƿið anig man." Þen sce earnestlig seeðed þat he had no earðlig faðer. Þe knafe ƿas þerefore led aƿag and brougt before Vortigern þe king.

A meeting came þe next dag for putting him to deað. Þen þe knafe saged to þe king, "Hƿi haf þi þanes brougt me hiðer?" Þe king ansƿered, "Þat þu mag be put to deað, and þat þe grund on hƿic mi stronghold is to stand mag be sprinkelled ƿið þi blood, ƿiðute hƿic I cannot bild it." Þe knafe asked, "Hƿo told þee to do þis?" Þe king ansƿered, "Mi ƿisemen." Þe knafe saged, "Bid þem hiðer." Þis being done, þe knafe þen spoke to king, "I ƿill soon unfold to þee eferigþing, but I ƿisc to fragn þi ƿisemen, and ƿisc þem to tell þee hƿat is hidden under þis grundline." Þe ƿisemen acknoƿlecged þeger unknoƿingness. Þe knafe spoke, "Þere is a pool. Cum and delf." Þeg did so and fund þe pool. Þe knafe spoke, "Nu tell me hƿat is in it." Þeg ƿere ascamed and made no ansƿer. Þe knafe spoke, "I can unheel it to þee. Þere are tƿo crocks in þe pool." Þeg looked, and fund it so. Þe knafe spoke, "Hƿat is in þe crocks?" Þeg ƿere hƿist. Þe knafe spoke, "Þere is a tield in þem. Sunder þem, and ge scall find it so." Þis being done bi þe king's bidding, þere ƿas fund in þem a folded tield. Þe knafe asked þe ƿisemen hƿat ƿas in it, but þeg kneƿ not hƿat to sag. Þe knafe spoke, "Þere are tƿo ƿurms, one hƿite and þe oðer red. Unfold þe tield." Þeg heeded, þen tƿo sleeping ƿurms ƿere fund. Þe knafe spoke, "Look ƿell hƿat þeg are doing." Þe ƿurms began to figt ƿið eac oðer, and þe hƿite one, ragsing himself up, þreƿ dune þe oðer into þe middel of þe tield and sometimes drofe him to þe ecg of it, and þis ƿas done þrise more. At lengð þe red one, seeminglig þe ƿoaker of þe tƿo, his strengð ƿaxing, þreƿ þe hƿite one from þe tield, and þe latter being hunted þruge þe pool bi þe red one, sƿund. Þen þe knafe asked þe ƿisemen hƿat ƿas betokened bi þis ƿunderful hƿate, and þeg scoƿed þeger unknoƿingness agagn. Þe knafe spoke to þe king, "I ƿill nu unfold to þee þe meaning of þis rune. Þe pool is a token of þis ƿorld, and þe tield þat of þi kingdom. Þe tƿo ƿurms are tƿo drakes. Þe red ƿurm is þi drake, but þe hƿite ƿurm is þe drake of þe folk hƿo lif in some scires of Britten, efen almost from sea to sea. At lengð, huefer, ure folk scall rise and drife aƿag þe Saxisc folk to begeond þe sea, hƿense þeg first came, but þu must leaf þis stead hƿere þu are not leafed to bild a stronghold. I, to hƿom ƿird has geefen þis huse, scall bide here hƿilst it is on þee to seek anoðer scire hƿere þu mag bild a stronghold." Þe king asked, "Hƿat is þi name?" Þe knafe ansƿered, "I am called Ambrose." Þe king asked, "Hƿat is þi backgrund?" Þe knafe ansƿered, "A Roomanisc consul ƿas mi faðer." Þen þe king dealt him þat boroug, ƿið all þe ƿestern scires of Britten, and leafing ƿið his ƿisemen he reaced þe stead named Gueneri, hƿereat he bild a boroug hƿic ƿas named Cair Guorthegirn after him.

De gestis Britonum (12th centur)[edit]

As Vortigern, king of þe Britƿelsc, ƿas sitting upon þe stað of þe dragned pond, þe tƿo ƿurms, one of hƿic ƿas hƿite, þe oðer red, came forð, and, nearing one anoðer, began an atel figt, and cast forð fire ƿið þeger breað. But þe hƿite ƿurm had þe upperhand, and made þe oðer flie to þe end of þe laƿ. And he, for drie at his fligt, edneƿed þe onfall upon his hunter, and made him aslake. After þis guðe of þe ƿurms, þe king bade Ambrose Merlin to tell him hƿat it foretold. Upon hƿic he, bursting into tears, told hƿat þe ƿitigdom meant, as folloƿs.

"Ƿoe to þe red ƿurm, for his fleem cums sƿiftlig. His lurking holes scall be fanged bi þe hƿite ƿurm, hƿic betokens þe Saxes hƿom þu laðed to Britten; but þe red betokens þe Britƿelsc, hƿic scall be oferset bi þe hƿite. Þerefore scall its barroƿs be efened as þe dales, and þe eas of þe dales scall run ƿið blood. Þe leef scall be forspilled, and circes laged open to ƿrake. At last þe ofersat scall ƿin, and stand agagnst þe reeðness of utelanders. For a boar of Cornƿall scall geef his filst, and tread þeger necks under his feet. Þe ilands of þe sea scall feel his migt, and he scall haf as his oƿn þe ƿoods of Gall. Þe huse of Romulus scall dread his boldness, and his end scall be tƿeenful. He scall be herried in þe muðes of þe folk; and his deeds scall be food to þose þat speak of þem. Six of his offspring scall sƿag þe kingeard, but after þem scall arise a German ƿurm. He scall be furðered bi a seaƿolf, hƿom þe ƿoods of Africk scall samedsiðe. Leef scall agagn be fordone, and þere scall be a wending of þe metropolitan sees. Þe ƿurðmint of London scall disen Dorobernia, and þe sefenð scepherd of Eferƿic scall be set agagn in þe kingdom of Armorica. Holig David's scall put on þe pall of þe City of Legions, and a loreboder of Ireland scall be dumb along of a babe groƿing in þe ƿomb. It scall ragn a scure of blood, and a ƿooden dearð scall treg mankind. Hƿen þese tings happen, þe red one scall be morned; but hƿen his ƿeariness is ofer, scall groƿ strong. Þen scall unluck fall upon þe hƿite one, and þe bildings of his geards scall be pulled dune. Sefen þat sƿag þe kingeard scall be killed, one of hƿom scall becum a halloƿ. Þe ƿombs of moðers scall be ripped up, and babes be slagn. Þere scall be a most mornful ƿite of men, þat þe inlanders mag be aneƿed. He þat scall do þese þings scall put on þe brasen man, and upon a brasen hors scall for a long time ƿard þe gates of London. After þis, scall þe red ƿurm eftcum to his hendness, and ƿend his ƿood upon himself. Þerefore scall þe ƿrake of þe Þunderer scoƿ itself, for eferig field scall let dune þe bure. Deað scall snac aƿag þe folk, and make ƿeastness ofer all lands. Þe lafe scall gield þeger homeland, and settel in neƿ land. A blessed king scall readig a fleet, and scall be reckoned þe tƿelfð in þe hird among þe halloƿs. Þere scall be an atel ƿeastness of þe kingdom, and þe floors of þe harfests scall ƿend back to ƿoods. Þe hƿite ƿurm scall rise agagn, and laðe a daugter of Germani. Ure geards scall be agagn filled ƿið utelandisc seed, and þe red one scall pine aƿag at þe end of þe pond. After þat scall þe German ƿurm be kinhelmed, and þe brasen aðeling berried. He has his meres set for him, hƿic scall not be oferfarendlig. For a hundred and fiftig geres he scall lif in ado and ofersetness, but scall bear sƿag þree hundred. Þen scall þe norð ƿind rise agagnst him, and scall snac aƿag þe blossoms hƿic þe ƿest ƿind made. Þere scall be gilding in þe harroƿs, nor scall þe ecg of þe sƿord halt. Þe German ƿurm scall hardlig get to his holes, for þe ƿrake of his sƿike scall ofernim him. At last he scall þee for a littel time, but þe forspilling of Neustria scall hurt him. For a folk in ƿood and in iron coats scall cum, and ƿrake on him his ƿickedness. Þeg scall edneƿ þe fern ƿaren to þeger dƿellings, and þere scall be an open bane of utelanders. Þe seed of þe hƿite ƿurm scall be sƿept ute of ure geards, and þe lafe of his offspring scall be fordone. Þeg scall bear þe geoke of þeƿdom, and ƿund þeger moðer ƿið spades and pluges. After þis scall cum tƿo ƿurms, hƿereof one scall be killed ƿið þe sting of niðe, but þe oðer scall eftcum under þe scadoƿ of a name. Þen scall cum a lee of rigtƿiseness, at hƿose roar þe Gallisc steepels and þe iland ƿurms scall befer."