The Truth of Ivanhoe

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The Truth of Ivanhoe

Is Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe a true representation of the Norman-Saxon feud? Yes, and through a comparison of statements and ideas from Ivanhoe, Arthur and the Anglo Saxon Wars, The Anglo Saxons, Scott, and England in Literature: America Reads it will be proven that the Norman-Saxon feud was accurately depicted by Scott in Ivanhoe.

In Ivanhoe, Prince John attempts to take over England while his brother, King Richard, is away fighting the Crusades. In the book there are basically two sides to this struggle for control of England, the Normans and the Saxons.

Prince John and his followers make up the Normans, while the Saxons are led by the title character Wilfred of Ivanhoe. The Saxons try to prevent Prince John from stealing the throne. The story occurs during the third crusade, but the feud between the Normans and the Saxons in 1066 well before this time.

In 1066 at the Battle of Hastings, the Normans, led by William I, defeated the Saxons and took over control of England. Before this the Saxons had ruled England for 600 years. During the battle both sides fought strongly. It was a bloody war and many people died. The Saxons had fought and had won 21 wars to preserve their reign of England before their loss at Hastings.

The Normans were from the English hated-France, so they didn’t have much of a chance of being liked by the Saxons. What little chance the Normans did have was destroyed by William. He established a new ruling class that was all Norman. He also took the land belonging to 5,000-6,000 Saxon nobles and gave it to 180 Normans who supported him. "The laws which William made were oppressive and severe and the taxes were heavy." Saxons commonly referred to William as a tyrant because of this.

The Normans and Saxons were further separated through language. The Normans spoke French, the Saxons spoke English, and both groups commonly refused to speak the other’s language. There was one instance in Ivanhoe where two Normans were guests at a Saxon castle. The Saxons refused to speak French, and the Normans refused to speak English. In the end both groups spoke their native language only, even though they were fluent in both French and English.

Another example of the Norman-Saxon feud from Ivanhoe occurred in the first several pages. Two Saxon servants came upon two Normans in the woods, and the Normans asked for directions to the nearest castle.
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