celts and saxons

The history of story-telling started long time ago, in Celtic times. The Druids, Celtic wise men, were the only ones who could read and write. They were divided into three categories: the Ovates – future tellers, the Druids – teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, musicians, judges and priests – and the Bards who protected and transmitted the tradition of the tribe telling stories and poems. The Bards were celebrated like rock-stars, they were rich and famous. True bards knew about 360 poems by heart. They had to lie on the floor with a rock on their stomach and a blanket on their face and repeat the poems. The bards told verses in the villages during festivals or ceremonies. They had a metal branch with some bells. The branch was made of brass, of silver or of gold, it depended on the ability and the fame of the bard. Their clothes were quite original, too. They usually wore a mantle with feathers, duck feathers. The most famous poets wore the head of a swan on their shoulders because the swan represented the unity of body and soul. During Celtic festivals there were also singers called ‘parasites’ – word that means companions in Celtic language. They sang before the assembly.
After the Celts, new invaders came to Britain from the north of Germany about 8th and 7th century before Christ. They were the Anglo-Saxons.
Sir John Ronald Reuel Tolkien in Lord of the Rings, the famous fantasy novel written in 1955 describes the Saxons as “proud and determined” but also “fair and generous; brave but not cruel; intelligent but ignorant. They did not write books but sing many songs”.These tribes used to listen to songs and stories while eating and drinking. Their stories were about brave warriors and their adventures. Saxon minstrels usually played an instrument to accompany their songs and poems.
The minstrels were called scops; they did not read or write, they told their long poems by heart. They travelled from village to village telling tales for food and money. If they played an instrument, a harp or lyre, they were also called harpers.
The sense of exile and sadness comes from Anglo-Saxon nostalgic poems and legends. J. R. R. Tolkien studied a lot the Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse literature and has made us enter a world where dragons and monsters are real, a world of myth and story characteristic of the peoples from the North before the coming of Christianity.

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