Rosamund – Queen of Lombards

Tolkien was taken by the Queen of the Lombards and employed her legends in his unfinished book ‘The Lost Road’ (that his son Christopher finished). My cousin Daryl Bulkley was Christopher’s neighbor when she lived in Britain. I have been trying to get my daughter to take up the gauntlet in regards to this treasure trove of rosy legends, but, she is not a reader.

There is no credible portrait of Queen Rosamond, and Rossetti’s painting of Fair Rosamond, falls short. Too bad my late sister did not do portraits of some of these royal women. I would like to see my nieces take up such a a family orientated project that perhaps would get the attention of movie producers who never will quit looking for an enchanted queen. Consider Natalie Portman in Star Wars. When she made her debut I was reminded of Christine Rosamond’s beautiful women.

What is becoming clear is that the Renaissance Artist, Hieronymus Bosch, was a member of a guild of artists who were employed by the Swan Brethren to bring a new morality to human kind. The Tolkien and Star Wars Trilogy are seen as New Age Religions – alternatives to the evangelical cult of John Darby that has taken over the Republican Party co-founded by my kindred, Jessie Benton. Godeschalk Rosemondt was the Master of the Falcon Art College. Did he dictate the course that Bosch and other students took? Was Rosemondt a Master Artist who created the most fantastic world – the world has ever known?

Too bad I have been labeled a “parasite” by those who have brought nothing to the table, but like dogs…………..wait for the crumbs to fall to the floor. If only they could see the bigger picture.

It is up to me to do the portraits of these legendary Queens. I have so much work to do – and I am running out of time!

Jon Presco

Copyright 2012

In February 1968, in a Letter addressing an article, Tolkien wrote:

L. (C.S.Lewis) said to me one day: ‘Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.’ We agreed that he should try ‘space-travel’, and I should try ‘time-travel’.
Letter #294

And so was “The Lost Road” begun.

This exciting story had never been finished, yet it had a strong resonance within the whole scope of Tolkien’s Legendarium.

However, in the existing variants of The Lost Road, there are quite a few other intriguing elements – the strong reference to the history of the Lombards being certainly one of them.

In a letter of July 1964 (Letter # 257), Tolkien gives some account of his book:

When C. S. Lewis and I tossed up, and he was to write on space-travel and I on time-travel, I began an abortive book of time-travel of which the end was to be the presence of my hero in the drowning of Atlantis.

This was to be called Numenor, the Land in the West. … It started with a father-son affinity between Edwin and Elwin of the present, and was supposed to go back into legendary time by way of an Eadwine and AElfwine of circa A.D.918, and Audoin and Alboin of Lombardic legend, and so to the traditions of the North Sea concerning the coming of corn and culture heroes, ancestors of kingly lines, in boats (and their departure in funeral ships). … In my tale we were to come at last to Amandil and Elendil leaders of the loyal party in Numenor, when it fell under the domination of Sauron. Elendil ‘elf-friend’ was the founder of the Exiled kingdoms in Arnor and Gondor.

In a reverse mode, Tolkien named the central characters of his “The Lost Road” Alboin (being the father) and Audoin (being the son).

Lombardic Legend

In the main story, as far as the narrative of “The Lost Road” goes on, comes the Lombardic legend, told by Oswin Errol to his son Alboin.

…’I wondered why Alboin. Why am I called Alboin?…
…it is a real name, isn’t it?’ said Alboin eagerly. ‘I mean, it means something, and men have been called it? It isn’t just invented?

…and Oswin told his son the tale of Alboin son of Audoin, the Lombard king; and of the great battle of the Lombards and the Gepids, remembered as terrible even in the grim sixth century; and of the kings Thurisind and Cunimund, and of Rosamunda. ‘Not a good story for near bed-time,’ he said, ending suddenly with Alboin’s drinking from the jewelled skull of Cunimund…

Oswin Errol ended thus the story and did not tell his son how Rosamunda exacted her revenge. The outcome of her machinations was that Alboin was murdered in his bed, and his body was buried ‘at the going up of the stairs which are near to the palace,’ amid great lamentation of the Lombards.

The reference Tolkien makes to the Lombardic legend does not, however, end here.

Further in the course of developing the story, or rather creating its new versions, we find more on the issue – namely, in the myth of KingSheave ([1] , [2] ).

The legend of KingSheave itself is an intriguing and thrilling story. But what connects it to the Lombardic Legend is that in the Poem version, the mysterious child comes to the shores of the land of the Longobards! And it is their people that the migthy foreign king brings high up in development, for he:

Their need he healed,
and laws renewed long forsaken.
Words he taught them wise and lovely –
their tongue ripened in the time of Sheave
to song and music. Secrets he opened
runes revealing. Riches he gave them,
reward of labour, wealth and comfort
from the earth calling, acres ploughing,
sowing in season seed of plenty,
hoarding in garner golden harvest
for the help of men. The hoar forests
in his days drew back to the dark mountains;
the shadow receded, and shining corn,
white ears of wheat, whispered in the breezes
where waste had been. The woods trembled.

Halls and houses hewn of timber,
strong towers of stone steep and lofty,
golden-gabled, in his guarded city
they raised and roofed. In his royal dwelling
of wood well-carven the walls were wrought;
fair-hued figures filled with silver,
gold and scarlet, gleaming hung there,
stories boding of strange countries,
were one wise in wit the woven legends
to thread with thought. At his throne men found
counsel and comfort and care’s healing,
justice in judgement. Generous-handed
his gifts he gave. Glory was uplifted.
Far sprang his fame over fallow water,
through Northern lands the renown echoed
of the shining king, Sheave the mighty.

And it is so that the history of the people of the Longobards comes as a legend in “The Lost Road”.

Historia Langobardorum

In his notes and comments to The Lost Road (Volume V-th of the HoMe series), Christopher Tolkien himself pays special attention to the Lombardic legend, providing it in a longer variant, grounding it on the Historia Langobardorum by Paul the Deacon.

The Lombards (‘Long-beards’: Latin Langobardi, Old English Long- beardan) were a Germanic people renowned for their ferocity. From their ancient homes in Scandinavia they moved southwards, but very little is known of their history before the middle of the sixth century. At that time their king was Audoin …

“Historia Langobardorum” can be found in full details at [3].

Interrelations with other sources

It is interesting to find out why Tolkien had paid so much special attention to the tales and legends about the people of the Longobards, why he would make its main characters the prototypes of characters in his own myths and tales… Why the Longobards out of all other existing peoples?!

I would explain it by the fact that since the yearly years of his life Tolkien had been strongly fascinated by the ancient legends and tales of the Old Norse Mythlogy.

In fact, his peculiar interest in creating languages of his own had taken him along a road that lead him to studying the history of those peoples of the North who once, long before his own time, must’ve spoken the languages that appealed to him, peoples that must’ve spoken the language in The Land of Heroes – the “Kalevala”, the languages of those ancient peoples whose legendary heroes used to thrill the imagination of young Tolkien.

And as it is obvious from “Historia Langobardorum”, from the pure historical facts and from the myths themselves, the Longobards were once a people living far in the North. This people had a long and exciting history that must have impressed Tolkien very much. For their march from the far northern regions to the Southern parts of the continent did not last for a couple of years only, and during this migration the tribe would interact with most of the peoples then living in the lands of today’s Europe and left a memorable trace in the European history.

Can it be assumed which Northern people the Longobards were?

An answer to such a question is approached well in details in Book 1, Chapters 1, 2 and 3 in the “Historia Langobardorum”., the author calling them Winnili- coming from the Germanic tribes living in the far northern regions of Europe -in the what was then believed to be an island – Scandinavia. The name of the tribe is considered to mean eager for battle according to Bruckner (322); and according to Schmidt (37) it is related to the Gothic “vinja”, ” pasture.”

On the other hand, there is a striking similarity between what we read in the Lombardic legend itself – the part about KingSheave and his deeds for the people of the Longobards and what we read in “Beowulf” :

LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped, we have heard, and what honor the athelings won! Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes, from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore, awing the earls. Since erst he lay friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him: for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve, till before him the folk, both far and near, who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate, gave him gifts: a good king he!

Therefore, could it be that those Winilli were in fact the Danes!

The Danes were residents of Denmark. Hroðgar’s Heorot is likely to have been located on the island of Sjaelland near the present day city of Roskilde.
The Scylding line is known through Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon sources; the Anglo-Saxon king Cnut (1016-1042, a period coincident with the composition of the Beowulf manuscript) is known to have descended from this line.

The Danes are referred to as the Dena, Beorht-Dena? (Bright-), Gar-Dena? (Spear-), Hring-Dena? (Ring-, Corselet-), East-Dena?, Norð-Dena? (North-), Suð-Dena? (South-), West-Dena?, Scyldings (Sons of Scyld), Ar-Scyldingas? (Honour-), Here-Scyldingas? (Army-), Sige-Scyldingas? (Victory-), Þeod-Scyldingas? (People-), and Ingwines (Ing’s Friends).

Above data taken from : [4]

If the Danes were Ingwines, let’s remember the Ingwaiwar [5]

So, if we trace these interrelations, it results that the Winilli could be the same Danes who were the friends of Ing who in thweir turn were Elf – friends and that the legendary KingSheave = Scyld the Scefing had once come to their lands out from the open sea.

Interesting detail – the scull cup

In the great battle between the Lombards and another Germanic people, the Gepids, Alboin son of Audoin slew Thurismod, son of the Gepid king Thurisind, in single combat; and when the Lombards returned home after their victory they asked Audoin to give his son the rank of a companion of his table, since it was by his valour that they had won the day. But this Audoin would not do, for, he said, ‘it is not the custom among us that the king’s son should sit down with his father before he has first received weapons from the king of some other people.’ When Alboin heard this he went with forty young men of the Lombards to king Thurisind to ask this honour from him. Thurisind welcomed him, invited him to the feast, and seated him at his right hand, where his dead son Thurismod used to sit.
But as the feast went on Thurisind began to think of his son’s death, and seeing Alboin his slayer in his very place his grief burst forth in words: ‘Very pleasant to me is the seat,’ he said, ‘but hard is it to look upon him who sits in it.’ Roused by these words the king’s second son Cunimund began to revile the Lombard guests; insults were uttered on both sides, and swords were grasped. But on the very brink Thurisind leapt up from the table, thrust himself between the Gepids and the Lombards, and threatened to punish the first man who began the fight.

Thus he allayed the quarrel; and taking the arms of his dead son he gave them to Alboin, and sent him back in safety to his father’s kingdom.

Audoin died some ten years after the battle, and Alboin became king of the Lombards in 565. A second battle was fought against the Gepids, in which Alboin slew their king Cunimund and took his daughter Rosamunda captive. At Easter 568 Alboin set out for the conquest of Italy; and in 572 he was murdered.

In the story told by Paul the Deacon, at a banquet in Verona Alboin gave his queen Rosamunda wine to drink in a cup made from the skull of king Cunimund, and invited her to drink merrily with her father (‘and if this should seem to anyone impossible,’ wrote Paul, ‘I declare that I speak the truth in Christ: I have seen (Radgisl) the prince holding the very cup in his hand on a feastday and showing it to those who sat at the table with him.’)

From “Historia Langobardorum”

Many battles had the people of the Longobardi fought throughtout their stormy history, but the battle between them and another ferrociuos tribe, at the time when they had already settled in the lands of present North Italy, seems to be one of the most renown in the history of whole Europe.

Paulus Diaconus speaks of the enemy of the Longobardi to be another Germanic tribe – the Gepids and describes well, as the legend itself, too, the corageous fight of the Longobards against them.

Here are, however, some facts, provided by a leading Bulgarian historian – Bojidar Dimitrov, PhD?.

Indeed, some West-European? authors mention the Bulgarians even during that epoch. These were mainly accounts of battles describing them or their participation. We could only guess as to why did the Pannonian and the Carpathian Bulgarians not come to terms with the Longobards but the frequent wars between them are a fact. It is thanks to them that we know of the battle in which the Bulgarians had cruelly defeated the Longobards, slayed their king Agelmundi and took his daughter captive. Then Lamissio, the new king of the Longobards, hit back and defeated the Bulgarians.

The Bulgarian tribes’ involvement in joint operations with other peoples would eventually disperse a great many of those who inhabited Central Europe. Thus in 568-569 AD, when the Longobardic king Alboin conquered three big areas in northern Italy – Liguria, Lombardy and Etruria, the population that the king sent there did not consist of Longobardic tribes only, but also of Bulgarian allied tribes from Pannonia.

Other Bulgarian tribes in the Avar khanate also took part in the Avar campaigns against Byzantium. In 631-632 AD they launched fierce battles to take over the supreme power in the khanate, but were defeated and 9000 of them left Pannonia and withdrew to Bavaria under the Frankish king Dagobert. It is not known why Dagobert welcomed them but later gave orders for them to be killed overnight. The survivinq 700 families succeeded in escaping in battle, crossing the Alps and arriving in Longobardy, where many of their compatriots had already been living. At long last they were well received and offered their first accommodation in the region of Venice but after the year 668 AD they had to move to the deserted coast of Ravena, an exarchate in present-day Italian region of Campobasso. Two hundred years later an ancient writer, Paulus Diaconus, visited them and heard them speak Latin and Bulgarian.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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