Peace-weaver

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Peace-weavers were women who were married to a member of an enemy tribe for the purpose of establishing peace between feuding groups.[1] It was hoped that by relating two tribes, the animosity between them would be eased as individuals would be reluctant to kill their own flesh and blood.

History[edit]

Anglo-Saxons thrived on battle. Politically organized into tribes with local chieftains, Anglo-Saxons were sworn to protect their leaders and had a fierce loyalty to their own tribes. Tacitus said of the Anglo-Saxons: “They choose their kings for their noble birth, their leaders for their valour ... Many noble youths, if the land of their birth is stagnating in a protracted peace, deliberately seek out other tribes, where some war is afoot.”[2] With this cultural background, peace was difficult to achieve in Anglo-Saxon communities. There were two major ways that the Anglo-Saxons tried to establish peace between tribes. One was weregild, and the other was the creation of peace-weaver.[3] Although tribes attempted to establish peace through these means, their intended goals were rarely met, as fighting was an institution more honorable than peace.

A few scholars believe that the term "peace-weavers" “does not necessarily reflect a Germanic custom of giving a woman in marriage to a hostile tribe in order to secure peace. Rather, it is a poetic metaphor referring to the person whose function it seems to be to perform openly the action of making peace by weaving to the best of her art a tapestry of friendship and amnesty."[1] This argument originates from the idea that the term is used to refer to angels that are sent from God as peace-weavers between God and man. Thus, peace-weaver can have a broader meaning, but when speaking of peace-weavers in literature, the most common discussions revolve around women married to rival tribes in order to establish peace between warring peoples.

Literature[edit]

The Anglo-Saxon word for peace-weaver is freothuwebbe (fríÞwebbe). It is a kenning, a literary device common in Anglo-Saxon poetry.[4]

Beowulf[edit]

Two main characters in Beowulf stand as peace-weavers. Wealhþeow is a fairly able peace-weaver inasmuch as a peace-weaver can be effective.[5] She attended to the successes of her husband and sons while providing her daughter as another peace-weaver to a different enemy tribe. The Old English describes Wealhþeow as both a freothuwebbe, or a peace-weaver, and as a frithu-sibb, a peace-pledge. Some scholars consider the minor difference in terms as irrelevant. Others, though, point out the difference distinguishing freothuwebbe as one who weaves peace socially and frithu-sibb as one who creates peace politically.[1] Wealhþeow's role as a peace-weaver is both social and political, and she is clearly effective in both dimensions.

The second character portrayed in the peace-weaving role is Hildeburh. She experiences, unlike Wealhþeow, the destruction of her husband's people (including her own son) and her brother's people. Hildeburh, too, serves as a peace-pledge bringing the Danes and Frisians together. She returned to her home land after her husband's kingdom was destroyed. This history represents the conflict that many peace-weavers felt: with whom should the loyalty lie? Anglo-Saxon tradition says that once married, the peace-weaver’s duties and loyalties lie first and foremost with her new husband.[6]

In this text the queen of the Danes gives Brosinga mene (read Brísingamen) to Beowulf as the price for killing Grendel. She acts as an Völva.

"The Wife's Lament"[edit]

Although the term peace-weaver is not specifically mentioned in this particular piece, it has been hypothesized that the narrator is a peace-weaver who is mourning the distance between herself and her husband, and she remains with his family.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Dorothy Carr Porter, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 August 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2006., "The Social Centrality of Women in Beowulf: A New Context," The Heroic Age Issue 5
  2. ^ [1] "The Anglo-Saxon Fyrd c.400–878 A.D."
  3. ^ Michael Delahoyde, [2], Washington State University
  4. ^ Ellen Amatangelo and Dr. Rick McDonald, [3], "Peace Weavers," Utah Valley University
  5. ^ Anthea Rebecca Andrade, [4], The Anglo-Saxon Peace Weaving Warrior, 2006
  6. ^ Jennifer Michelle Gardner, [5], "The Peace Weaver: Wealhtheow in Beowulf, 2006
  7. ^ Ellen Amatangelo and Dr. Rick McDonald, [6], "The Wife's Lament," Utah Valley University