The sword is closely associated with all that was most significant in a man's life in the Anglo-Saxon world: family ties, loyalty to the lord, the duties of a king, the excitement of battle, the attainment of manhood and the last funeral rites.
Hilda Ellis Davidson explores the revelations of archaeology, methods of sword-making and references to Anglo-Saxon poetry and Old Norse sagas to reveal a past where the sword was of supreme importance, as a weapon and as a symbol. She restores a vital dimension to Old Engliish literature. and supplies a vivid context for those few surviving swords in musuems.
The book is in two parts: the first, careful study of the dispostion of swords found in peat bogs in Denmark, and in graves, lakes and rivers in the British Isles, yields information on religious and social practices. The second part is concerned with literary sources, especially Beowulf, Through this classic work, the real world of the Anglo-Saxons is brought into dramatic close-focus.