Edward Hunt's Forest of Dean Miscellany

Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

Earl Godwin

When Edmund surnamed Ironsides, was chosen by the witenagemot as king, in preference to either of the two children of their late ruler Ethelred, the country was so worn out and divided, and preyed upon by the ferocious Danes, that, although he was courageous in the field and wise in the council, he was forced to divide his kingdom with Canute, the great commander of the invaders. But previous to this an incident occurred in Dean Forest, which had in after years great influence over the fate of England and many of her children. In one of the battles between Edmund Ironsides and Canute, the Danes having been defeated and forced to flee, one of their principal captains, named Ulf, lost his way in the woods. After wandering all night, he met at dawn of day a young peasant driving a herd of oxen, whom he saluted and asked his name.

"I am Godwin, the son of Ulfnoth," said the young man;"and thou art a Dane."

Thus compelled to throw himself on the generosity of his querist, he confessed who he was, and entreated the young Saxon to point out his course to the Severn, where the Danish vessels were at anchor.

"It is foolish in a Dane, replied the peasant, "to expect such a service from a Saxon; and, besides, the way is toilsome, and the country-people are in arms.

The Danish chief drew off a gold ring from his finger, and offered it to the shepherd as an inducement to be his guide. The young Saxon, looked at it for an instant with earnestness, then returned it.

"I will take nothing from thee," said he; "but I will conduct thee to safety."

Leading him to his father's cottage, he concealed him there during the day, and when night had thrown her dark mantle over the earth, they prepared to depart together. As they were leaving the roof of the friendly Saxon thane, the old man thus addressed his guest:

"It is my only son Godwin who risks his life for thee. He cannot return among his countrymen again. Take him, therefore, and present him to thy king Canute, that he may enter his service.

The Dane promised, and faithfully kept his word.

The young Saxon peasant was well received in the Danish court; and rising from step to step, by the force of his talents, aided by the patronage of Ulf and his family, he afterwards became known all over England as the great Earl Godwin.

  The above text is from:
                "English Forests and Forest Trees,
                Historical, Legendary, and Descriptive"
                publisher: Ingram, Cooke and Co. 1853

Edward Hunt