Talk:Hengist and Horsa

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Rewrite launched[edit]

For some time I've intended to rewrite this article. Recently I set out to do so, and, with the merging of the Hengest and Horsa articles into 'Hengist and Horsa', the rewrite is now live. Unlike the previous version, every line of the body is solidly referenced and the article is completely free of WP:SYNTH and WP:OR (no lines such as "that he is a Jutish mercenary in Hnaef's service is a very plausible hypothesis"—unattributed no less).

This rewrite is, however, not complete. First of all, there's more to be said about the two not covered in early British sources. For example, there is a Frisian folktale that relates that Hengist and Horsa had a sister whose name meant "swan," and this has aided in reconstructing Proto-Indo-European myth. This needs to be covered. Secondly, there's some business about heraldry that the previous article covers, but, like the Uffington White Horse figure, this needs to be dealt with fully. Third, the Finnesburg Fragment section needs to be expanded upon. Including Tolkien's theory and exploring further how Hengist and Aesc were combined together into a single tradition (for that matter, the fact that Aesc is also considered mythological should be handled to some extent).

If there's something I missed in the rewrite that I haven't mentioned above, please mention it here. I'd like to bring it into the article. My goal is to bring the article to GA (and even FA) standards, and, in the process, make this article the finest and most comprehensive article on these two important figures on the internet. :bloodofox: (talk) 01:28, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Excellent work. I've made a few edits, nothing major. My major suggestion towards the push to Good Article status is to shorten the summaries of the HB and HRB material, they're very long and detailed for a discussion on these figures. --Cúchullain t/c 20:42, 16 September 2009 (UTC)


Thank you. The Historia Brittonum and Historia Regum Britanniae sections are total summaries of their attestations. I wouldn't want to chop them up; I think they provide a service by showing exactly how the accounts have snowballed. If we need to compromise, maybe we can hide them behind a drop-down menu or something. :bloodofox: (talk) 04:11, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
Guidelines such as WP:PLOT and Wikipedia:Manual of Style (writing about fiction)#Plot summaries, as well as the proposed Wikipedia:Plot-only description of fictional works, speak against including such detailed plot summaries. I don't think anything would be lost by trimming it down. The Geoffrey section could easily discuss the embellishments he made without going into this level of detail. But otherwise the article is turning out quite nicely.--Cúchullain t/c 13:57, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
Thanks again! I'll take a look and see what I can summarize down in the account. I just need to make the time for it. :bloodofox: (talk) 00:31, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
Very much like the second part of the article, but the extremely long summaries of texts don't really add anything useful. These could - and should - be briefly summarised in a paragraph or two with an external link for the interested reader. fluoronaut (talk) 18:46, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
I'll see what I can do as well.--Cúchullain t/c 14:24, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
I don't really understand why you took out the section about the connection to Germany. In Bünde there are two streets named after Hengest (Hengist) and Horsa, no citation needed. Ok, I have no citation about the legend that they made a pact to take over britain on the city's area, but the two knights on the coat of arms are there. Also it is interessting indeed that Lower Saxony (Hanover) as well as Westphalia show a white horse on red ground, just like Kent, and that the city lays exactly in the middle of those regions. "Interessting" might not be enough but think about it... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pavelus Chekovus (talkcontribs) 18:09, 16 January 2010 (UTC)
It was removed from the article because no reference was provided for it. All material must be appropriately sourced. :bloodofox: (talk) 06:58, 11 March 2010 (UTC)


Does anyone know where we can get some Hengist and Horsa images? To my surprise, and after some pretty decent searching, I've found very little. It would be great if we could get some more illumination for this article. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:12, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

When ever I read of Horse i think of the cordial Viking of Prince Valiant - maybe there's a free image of him out there?·Maunus·ƛ· 02:25, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
I must admit that I am not familiar with the character (nor the Prince Valiant comics, though I've caught a glimpse here and there). If you can provide a source directly indicating that the figure was inspired by Horsa then we can add some information about him to the "modern influence" section too. :bloodofox: (talk) 04:05, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
I have uploaded the image of Hengist and Horsa from Verstigan's Restitution of Decayed Antiquities. It's not all that exciting but it might be the earliest depiction of them. It's the earliest depiction of the White Horse flag in association with Kent. Æscing (talk) 17:55, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
Excellent, thanks! I've continued to find it very unfruitful to search for images of the two. Any usable images depicting the two that we can find are of value to this article. Do you know in what work the image you've uploaded was published? I'd like to find a higher resolution version. :bloodofox: (talk) 18:27, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
The image was first published in 1605 in a book called...wait for it..."A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities concerning the most noble and renowned English Nation" by Richard Verstegan. The library in my city actually had an original copy. It was weird, they brought it out to me on a plate with a latex glove and a pair of tongs. I didn't know whether to read it or eat it. You probably want to track down a copy, it must be the earliest scholarly work on Anglo-Saxon Heathenism. I pulled this image off the internet a couple of years ago when I was writing an article on the White Horse symbol for Runa. Unfortunately I have no record of what site it came from and google produces nothing, so this is all I have. The only way to get a higher resolution would be to track down a copy and scan it yourself, although I don't know if they'd even let you considering the most recent reprint was 1673. Æscing (talk) 08:09, 26 December 2009 (UTC)
Google Books has several copies of the work but, frustratingly enough, none of them are available for viewing for whatever reason. If any of them were, we could simply pull it from their scan but alas. Maybe someone out there can snap a stable, guerrilla photo of the image from a copy? I still find it very odd that there seem to have been so few depictions of the brothers given their important (yet quite legendary) role in English history. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:51, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Horsenden and White Horse Stone[edit]

After a little skimming, it appears that Horsenden, a location, seems to be (or was) considered related to Horsa, but it's unclear what the current opinion on the matter is. This needs to be handled by the article. I'll see what I can dig up. Similarly, there's also the matter of the White Horse Stone, but this seems far more questionable. :bloodofox: (talk) 04:13, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

I can't help but notice that Horsenden is in Ayelsbury Vale, and Horsa died in Aylesford.
We know from the ASC that Horsa was killed in Ayelsford, and from Bede that Horsa was buried in East Kent and that there was a monument bearing his name. Both these sources fit in with the location of the WHS. Although the word he uses is "insigne" which I assume means inscribed with his name. I recall some scholarly theory that the name Horsa may be a misreading of a fragmentary Latin word on a Roman gravestone in the area.Æscing (talk) 20:40, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

The White Horse Stone definitely gets some attention these days and we definitely need a proper section handling this. I'm pretty sure I've read something similar somewhere... :bloodofox: (talk) 02:51, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Horse and Stallion's sister, Swan[edit]

In modern Indo-European studies, it appear that it's generally held that Hengist and Horsa originally had a swan sister, which fits them into reconstructed Proto-Indo-European cosmological myth. Regarding Germanic paganism, Hengist and Horsa are considered a prime example of the evolution of this myth:

Early Germanic legends are salted with the appearances of Divine Twin-like heroes. For example the kingdom of Kent was founded by two Anglo-Saxon leaders named Hengist 'stallion' and Horsa 'horse', whose sister was named Swana 'Swan'. The consort rescue theme has been popularized in Germanic epic, notably in the jumbled skein of tales compromising the Volsunga saga and the Nibelungenlied. Historically, these epics build on the heroic sagas about famous figures and events dating from the period of Germanic migrations. Accreted to these are an array of themes and motifs drawn from folklore and myth, including the consort rescue theme. [...] (Plus there's plenty more interesting information at the source: [1])

There are a number of other results when looking for this swan sister, including a 19th century work posits a potential toponym after this swan-sister: [2]. Obviously, this is an extremely important element to bring into the article. But the issue is what are the sources for this sister? Does anyone know exactly where Swana is attested? Without this information, I don't yet feel comfortable bringing this crucial element into the article. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:42, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

I was searching a bit around earlier this year for this swan sister. The sources that might be of interest that I have found so far are texts by the historians Suffridus Petrus and Ocka Scharlensis. There is a book I'd like to get a hold of that seems to detail the sources of this, namely The divine twins: an Indo-European myth in Germanic tradition. I will come back with more information as soon as I find back to the books I searched out earlier this year. –Holt (TC) 02:43, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
Excellent. It seems that we could use articles for both Suffridus Petrus and Ocka Scharlensis too, so maybe whatever we dig up can be used for producing articles on these figures. Very nice image find, by the way! We could use a lot more images for this article. It would be fantastic to find that these horse heads are actually still up somewhere.. I'd very much like to take some shots of them. :bloodofox: (talk) 06:39, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
Doing some digging around about information regarding Suffridus Petrus, I discovered this quote in a work by Edward Stillingfleet (1837, page 320):
Suffridus Petrus saith, "these people were called Angrivarii, and the country, Angria, which was subdued by Udolphus, father to Hengist and Horsa, and prince of Frisia; but their mother's name was Suana, daughter of Vectgistus, a great man about Hamburgh."Source: [3]
For this line, Stillingfleet references "De Orig. Fris. lib. ii. c. 15." One step closer? :bloodofox: (talk) 07:19, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Well, that book has been digitized by Google but it's a bit confusing because it looks like chapter 15 is mislabeled as 14. But the chapter starts here: [4] A few pages in we get:

Habitabat ea tempestate prope Hamburgum præcipuæ nobilitatis satrapa Vetgistus, qui filios duos Hengistum & Horsum, & filiam unam nomine Svanam habebat. Filii in Albis mortui sunt. Udolphus dum, visendorum amicorum gratia Saxoniam in ressus, ad Vetgistum divertit, amore Svanæ correptus est, quam & cum parentum utrinque consensu uxorem duxit: patre deinde defuncto, anno Christi 360. septimus & ultimus dux Frisiæ inauguratus est; nam post hunc reges novem Frisiæ præsuerunt usque ad Carolum Magnum.

The book has a lot else to say about H&H. Haukur (talk) 09:42, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Fantastic! So it seems that Suffridus Petrus is indeed the primary source for Swana. Now if we could just get a professional translation (if such a translation into English even exists for this work...). In other news, Ocka Scharlensis seems to be a dead end; he apparently doesn't mention a swan sister at all and reportedly mainly just follows Geoffrey of Monmouth's account. Some modern secondary sources treating this attestation are also important for treating this, especially one that outright says that this is where she is attested. The work that Holt mentions earlier in this conversation seems to do exactly that, yet unfortunately I can only see a snippet view, and only in the search results is this confirmed. The work is Ward, Donald (1968). The Divine Twins: An Indo-European Myth in Germanic Tradition. University of California Press. It seems to be 30 pages long. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:16, 21 October 2009 (UTC)
Unfortunately the libraries over here don't have that book. As for the Latin there's nothing wrong with summarizing the account directly and Wikipedia has some good latinists. You could try posting some reasonably sized snippets on the language reference desk. Haukur (talk) 13:18, 22 October 2009 (UTC)
I see you two found back to the passages I mentioned earlier, that's great. I'm still a bit confused about Ocka Scharlensis. It seems like Suffridus was quoting Ocka Scharlensis, but mistaken in doing so, because no mention is made of Svana in Ocka Scharlensis' work. See Haigh, Daniel Henry (1861). The conquest of Britain by the Saxons (search Svana and Swane) and Lappenberg, Johann Martin (1845) translated by Benjamin Thorpe. A History of England Under the Anglo-Saxon Kings (search Svana) for the Ocka/Petrus stuff and some other things. Those two books are both from the 19th century, there is probably much more from more recent times. I can get books from a big library close to here, maybe they have something interesting. I'll be going to the city about a week, I might have time to stop by the library. Anyway, do any of you know anything else of Suffridus' sources? Be careful with calling Suffridus the primary source, though; these historians are not always to be trusted 100%.
Haigh also gives a good account of the topoyms on page 152:

Frisian tradition tells us of a sister of theirs named Swane; her name we find at Swanwick in Derbyshire, not far from Horsley; three Swantons (Swanetun )15 in Norfolk, a few miles to the west of the group of parishes which bear the name of Horsa; Swanborough near Horstead in Sussex; Swanthorpe, about a mile from Horsdon in Hampshire; Swanage on the coast of Dorsetshire, opposite to Hengistbury head; and Swanborough in Wiltshire.

15 The ancient forms of the names of these places determine the sex of their original possessor. The masculine name Swan formed the genitive Swanes; the feminine genitive was Swane, Thus Swanscombe bears the name of a man, Swanetun, and the rest in the text, that of a woman.
As you will find by looking a bit around in Haigh, he states a lot of toponyms for many central characters in the Anglo-Saxon geneaologies. –Holt (TC) 01:22, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
I'm as fascinated as always by this little-known subject, and hope to get back to this in the near future. I appreciate all of the effort you have put into digging up this information, Holt. :bloodofox: (talk) 14:25, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Those horse head gables[edit]

This is pretty neat: Ašvieniai. I'll just reserve this section for other neat stuff and theories about the gables and similar. Feel free to post. –Holt (TC) 01:36, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

That is indeed pretty neat. It's a shame that the article isn't better referenced; a can't preview any of the Google Book hits it pulls up. Nevertheless, it seems to fit the pattern perfectly. :bloodofox: (talk) 10:32, 30 November 2009 (UTC)
The image in that article is misleading because while the cottage is in Lithuania, it was actually built by the German writer Thomas Mann to be his holiday home. So the horse head gables aren't strictly the Lithuanian Ašvieniai, they're still German.Æscing (talk) 01:21, 27 December 2009 (UTC)
Good point. I've adjusted the image caption to better reflect this fact. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:51, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

An image of horse head gables was used as a logo at the beginning of at least one Nazi propaganda film: Was it perhaps the logo of the Nazi Office of Racial Policy (Rassenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP)? Æscing (talk) 16:21, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

A curious find, but without further correlation, I don't think we should have the image on this article. :bloodofox: (talk) 18:14, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
I have added the Dutch region of Tweante to the gable section, as it is still commonly seen in this region, be it in a more detailed shape. picture of a gable sign with several symbols, including two rampant horses. Woolters (talk) 11:57, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

I can tell that those gables are still common in rural areas. (talk) 19:31, 18 April 2016 (UTC)

A fun fact: Hengst is the German standard word for a male horse.2001:16B8:42E8:9D00:801:B6B5:E3CE:83CB (talk) 07:54, 24 April 2018 (UTC)

Modern influence section[edit]

I removed a couple of these items and was reverted. The items in that section seem to all be sourced to works that are not primarily about Hengist and Horsa; I think that without a secondary source about Hengist and Horsa that discusses modern depictions, a list of references to them in other sources is hard to distinguish from original research (if an argument is made for relevance) or from trivia (if no such argument is made). I'd support getting rid of the whole section, in fact, but since another editor disagrees let's see if anyone else comments. Mike Christie (talk) 18:41, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

Horsa or Hors?[edit]

I started a section where we could talk about the names, do you think it's important? The word Horsa is meaningless and Nennius refers to him as Hors. Also the names Hengest and Horsa seem to be anachronistic for the 5th century, because the Anglo-Saxons were still using the word eoh for a horse. It is the opinion of several scholars that if there was a pair of historical brothers, Hengest and Horsa were not their real names. Which only reinforces the notion that they have been conflated with a pair of divine horse-twins. Æscing (talk) 21:57, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I think it's definitely important to bring out in detail here. I've turned the section you've created into an etymology section and brought some material out of the lead to help flesh it out a bit. :bloodofox: (talk) 02:51, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

British/English distinction[edit]

This is an especially important distinction in the history of the fifth century. As pointed out, the term 'English' did not exist until the time of the Anglo-Saxons; the island of Britain was known as Britannia throughout Roman times, and beyond.

It becomes even more crucial to make this distinction in the context of the history of Geoffrey of Monmouth, written in the twelfth century and in which Hengist and Horsa make an appearance: the Welsh considered themselves to be the inheritors of the island of Britain (Prydein) and the English to be their invaders. At the time when Geofffrey was writing, the Welsh were under physical and cultural attack from the Normans, the rulers of England.

The terms 'English' and 'British', therefore, have been heavily politicised. While the history of the island of Britain is indeed part of the history of the English, as it is also of the Welsh, on no account would Hengist and Horsa have been able to have been called 'English'.fluoronaut (talk) 14:42, 20 June 2010 (UTC)

A few points:
  1. It's wrong to say that the English language and the English, as a people, did not exist before the fifth century. The Angles (that is to say the English) are attested by Tacitus, which means they were around well before the fifth century, and so was Angle-land (England) before the Angles migrated from Jutland to carve out their new "England" in Britain. (Further reading: Herbert, Kathleen (2007). Looking for the Lost Gods of England. Anglo-Saxon Books.)
  2. It's quite obvious that these figures are mythical. Their names plus their solid Indo-European cognates, and, not at all least, the Jutlandic horse head gables—attested in the exact area from which came the Angles—make the picture quite clear. Our early sources on the figures are entirely English and, obviously, so are the figures themselves. Geoffrey's absurd "history" is a much later source and is just an example of English influence.
In summary, it's far more accurate to refer to Hengist and Horsa as "English legend" rather than "British legend". There's nothing at all "British" about these figures. :bloodofox: (talk) 16:19, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
I am sorry I missed these comments. The problem with calling them "figures of English legend" is that it implies they only figure into the legends of the "English", which is obviously not true. They also appear in the Cambro-Latin Historia Brittonum, and in Geoffrey's internationalized Historia Regum Britanniae. Of course in this context "British" may be confusing, as it also can refer to the Britons specifically. Perhaps we could say, "figures of Anglo-Saxon and Brythonic legend" to be specific.--Cúchullain t/c 12:56, 26 July 2010 (UTC)
That looks better to my eyes, but I think it would be better to be clear that the figures stem from Anglo-Saxon lore (and English might be technically more correct, given the evidence) and then, from there, spread into Britonic sources. :bloodofox: (talk) 13:51, 26 July 2010 (UTC)
Looks good. I prefer using "Anglo-Saxon" to "English" and "British" or "Brythonic" to "Welsh" for this period, so as to avoid implications about race or nationality, but as a descriptive it's ok.--Cúchullain t/c 15:06, 26 July 2010 (UTC)
Great. I am glad that we could work it out. :) :bloodofox: (talk) 15:14, 26 July 2010 (UTC)
Except, it seems, it wasn't fully implemented. The first sentence links to (general) "England", continues with "and subsequently British" [emph. added]. That means the "British" in question is not ancient/Brythonic; or that the "English" in question is not merely from the land of England but specifically Anglo-Saxon (or that the word "subsequently" is simply erroneous).
Given Cuchullain's clarification [edit history] that ancient British is intended, "Anglo-Saxon" is called for. Alternatively, using "Brythonic", rather than "British", will be more accurate for the average reader, who will otherwise (incorrectly) understand the modern senses of both words. Jmacwiki (talk) 17:08, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
I think the real issue is to just be consistent. The hyperlinks and the context put the reader on the right track.--Cúchullain t/c 21:13, 28 March 2011 (UTC)


So, "Horsa" is pretty straightforward. However, is "Hengist" pronounced "hen-jist" or "heng-gist" with a hard "g" in the middle? Or in some other wise? This would be good to have in the lede. *Septegram*Talk*Contributions* 18:12, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

First, pronunciation is almost never good for the lede. It leads to idiocies like London. We've got a Wiktionary for that. Just add the entries under a ===Proper Noun=== heading.
Second, you've got it backwards. Hengist (/ˈhɛŋɡɪst/) is perfectly straightforward (why in Wotan's name would anyone say it jist with that n right there, particularly w/an OE etym?) while Horsa is much more iffy. It certainly would've involved a rolling Scots burr aRrRRrRRR if it had one, but it's possible it would've been something bizarre like /huːʃɑ/ in the manner of Norwegian kurs (/kʉ:ʃ/).  — LlywelynII 05:52, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
Just stopped by to look at this page and noticed your reply. For someone with no expertise in language, "henjist" is at least as reasonable as "heng-gist." Likewise, to the average reader with no experience in the correct pronunciations of Old English, "Horsa" would be reasonably expected to be pronounced like "equine draft animal+a"
Anyhow, thanks for the information.
*Septegram*Talk*Contributions* 22:20, 28 June 2016 (UTC)


"Horsa and Hengist" rolls off the tongue much more pleasantly than this pig's breakfast, but Google confirms Wiki (or at least Wiki's influence). It was horsi et hengisti in the Welsh Annals. This just 'cuz of Hengest ⁊ Horsa in the A-S Chronicle? or because Horsa used to be pronounced more unpleasantly (above)?  — LlywelynII 05:52, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

Insertion and Reinsertion of Purported Death Dates, Poor References, and Naming Conventions[edit]

A user has now twice inserted purported death dates, removed the word "legendary", placed a few poorly cited or misunderstood references, and added an artist's title ("sir") into the article. The second of his or her two edits looks like this: [5]

First, whether or not they're euhemerized figures from Anglo-Saxon paganism, they're still figures from legend. They're overwhelmingly considered by Germanicists and Indo-Europeanists to be a product of euhemerization. The only reason we don't simply describe them as such is because Wikipedia is neutral. Adding purported death dates from a poor Encyclopedia Brittanica article is extremely misleading.

Next, we don't use titles on Wikipedia. Otherwise every figure in this article would be a "Dr.".

Finally, blogs are unacceptable sources on Wikipedia ([6]). The German link provided does not make the claim to which it's attributed: [7]. All it says is "Was ist überliefert über diese Recken, die vermeintlich das Stadtwappen zieren?" Emphasis on vermeintlich: who is making this claim? Is this from tradition or from some website? Please find reliable secondary sources from academics and we can add discussion regarding it but otherwise please keep it out of the article. :bloodofox: (talk) 14:56, 14 November 2016 (UTC)

I agree with the removal. The edits were not an improvement.--Cúchullain t/c 15:30, 14 November 2016 (UTC)
Are the question marks given with the death dates not enough to shown they're debatable?
And here are different references if those ones aren't good enough for you: [8] [9] Zacwill (talk) 17:12, 14 November 2016 (UTC)
The death dates are misleading and otherwise inappropriate, question marks or not. We discuss the situation in the introduction already in highly objective manner, probably more so than we should: I don't think anyone today in ancient Germanic studies or Indo-European studies argues for historicity behind these figures given how much Indo-European studies has advanced since, for example, Tolkien's time.
As for the links you've provided, they're not helpful either. We need secondary, academic sources discussing the matter for the reasons outlined above. :bloodofox: (talk) 18:47, 14 November 2016 (UTC)
So your objection to these sources is that they don't explicitly state where their claims are coming from? Is it not extremely obvious that they're local legends? Zacwill (talk) 19:06, 14 November 2016 (UTC)
The objection is that they're random websites that are just as likely to be echoing one another as they are reflecting local tradition. It happens. We need secondary analysis from academics to make any sense of the situation. If these sources in fact reflect local tradition, then it's likely some of the secondary sources, such as Simek, would mention them. If we can find reliable secondary sources discussing the matter, then it needs to go in. If not, it needs to stay out until we can. :bloodofox: (talk) 19:17, 14 November 2016 (UTC)
[10] [11]
If these sources still aren't to your liking, type "kent white horse hengist" and "bünde hengist" into Google Books and find some that are. Zacwill (talk) 19:33, 14 November 2016 (UTC)
Zacwill, as the one wanting to add the material, it would be best if you found reliable sources to support it.Cúchullain t/c 01:22, 15 November 2016 (UTC)