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Foulksrath Castle, Ireland

Foulksrath Castle is a 14th-century Anglo-Norman tower house located in Jenkinstown in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

The castle is closely associated with both the De Frene and Purcell families. The estate and original fortified and moated dwelling were first built in 1349 and occupied by the De Frene family and it is thought that the castle derives its name from Fulco De Frene (d. 1349) who was in the military service of Edward III and fought at the Battle of Crecy and the Siege of Calais. In the early 15th century the current castle was built by the Purcell family, relatives to the De Frene’s, after the estate came into their possession.

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Why You Swear in Anglo-Saxon and Order Fancy Food in French - Tom Scott

They Might be Giants: Attack on Titan and the Legends of Gog and Magog

CW: Discussion of medieval antisemitism

Floch speaking of Erwin in Chapter 84. Perhaps also, inadvertently, referencing the powers of Ymir.

Ever since we got our first glimpse into Grisha’s notebooks I’ve had this suspicion in the back of my mind, but in the wake of Chapter 90 it’s crystalized for me. Isayama clearly draws inspiration from a wide range of mythological and religious sources, but there’s one family of apocalyptic legends that I think is particularly intrinsic to his world-building, based on the most recent chapters. That is the stories of the people of Gog and Magog and Alexander’s Gate.

A depiction of the Gog and Magog cannibals from a 14th century manuscript of Roman de toute chevalrie

There are many stories of Gog and Magog, and these stories adapt over time to suit the political ends of the people writing them. I’ll try to give the briefest possible overview that I can, and I will direct you to the Wikipedia page for the legends, since it is actually quite good. In general Gog and Magog are often people, possibly giants and cannibals (we’ll get to that), who have been sealed away by Alexander the Great in the Caspian Mountains. During the apocalypse, these people will be unleased and will have to choose a side in the final struggle of good and evil. In many versions of the legend they are the agents of Satan and the Antichrist.

The earliest mention of Gog and Magog appears in the Hebrew Bible, specifically the book of Ezekiel. Look familiar? Zeke is a standard shortened version of the name Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 38-39, Gog is the prince of a land called Magog. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to Gog:

“Therefore, mortal, prophesy, and say to Gog: Thus says the Lord God: On that day when my people Israel are living securely, you will rouse yourself and come from your place out of the remotest parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army; you will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the earth” (Form Ezekiel 38:14-16, The New Oxford Annotated Bible).

Here, Gog from Magog is an enemy whom God later tells Ezekiel He will crush. He is occupying a remote territory but will eventually launch an attack. It’s this idea of a dormant nemesis that becomes crucial to many of the later stories.

Over the following centuries, Gog from Magog shifts to Gog and Magog, both groups of people, but the apocalyptic element of the story remains. In the early Christian text of Revelations 19:11-21:8, for example, Satan rallies the peoples of Gog and Magog into a final battle with Christ.

Eventually these accounts of Gog and Magog merge with legends of Alexander the Great sealing a group of people in the Caspian Mountains (perhaps the Caucasus Mountains) with a great gate: sometimes Gog and Magog even becomes a name for the place, rather than the people trapped inside it. One of the earliest mentions of this tale comes from the first century Jewish writer Josephus, but it becomes important to many of the cultures around the Mediterranean. Both the Quran and the seventh-century Syriac The Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius elaborate that Alexander’s Gate is sealed by two mountains coming together, a detail that is quite prominent in the (much later) medieval Alexander Romances.

In many early accounts of Gog and Magog, the people sealed within the gate are construed as monstrous in some form. For instance, In Roman de toute chevalerie, the twelfth-century work of Anglo-Norman writer Thomas de Kent, Gog and Magog are cave-dwelling cannibals. They are also sometimes conflated with the British (as in Welsh) giant Gogmagog. In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century Historia Regum Britanniae (“History of the Kings of Britain”), Gogmagog is the leader of the giants who attacks the Trojan settlers of Britain (don’t ask; many early western medieval civilizations like to claim Trojan descent). The Trojans eventually slaughter them all except for Gogmagog, who is kept alive to wrestle with the Trojan hero Corineus. Gogmagog loses. There are versions of this particular story where Gogmagog gets separated into Gog and Magog, leading to some confusion and overlap between the two initially disparate narrative strains.

You may be able to see a pattern here: Gog and Magog are almost always representatives of a lurking existential and possibly monstrous threat to civilization. Over the course of history they have been identified with many specific peoples for various fear-mongering purposes. Perhaps one of the more well-known and virulent versions of the Gog and Magog story is related in Sir John Mandeville’s fourteenth-century The Book of Marvels and Travels, where he claims (and he is by no means the first person to do so) that the people locked in Gog and Magog are the ten Lost Tribes of Israel: Alexander prayed to God for a miracle to seal them away, and God responded by locking together the mountains (104-105 in the Oxford World Classics version, if you’re interested). Mandeville’s antisemitism is staggering: he asserts that these people will serve the Antichrist once released from their imprisonment at the time of  the Apocalypse—a fox will burrow beneath the mountains and lead them out—and that Jews living among Christians in Europe continue to learn Hebrew so that they can speak with these tribes upon their return. He writes, “These Jews say that they know through their prophecies that the Jews who are within these Caspian Mountains will emerge and Christians will be subject to them as they have been subject to Christians” (105). This “prophecy”, to Mandeville’s mind, justifies keeping Jewish populations cordoned off and oppressed within medieval “Christendom.” 

Sound familiar? It’s similar to the attitude of the Marleyans towards the Eldians in Attack on Titan. They keep them in containment zones and justify their cruelties by claiming that “Subjects of Ymir” are devils who are seeking the destruction of humankind. For the Marleyans, an apocalyptic threat hangs over the island of Paradis. If they didn’t need Eldians to make more mindless titans, they would perhaps wipe them out (although, they sometimes tell Eldians that their mercy is a sign of innate Marleyan superiority). 

Gross saying horrible things in chapter 87. His reference to Grisha and the Restorationists being “rats” for trying to contact Paradis puts me in mind of Mandeville’s story about a fox. This speech also smacks of modern antisemitic rhetoric. Gross is just the worst, isn’t he? :(

Given all of this evidence, it seems to me that Attack on Titan has taken some of the elements of the Gog and Magog legends and refocalized them through the lens of the people within the Walls. The Eldians in Paradis have the capability of turning into titans, which are cannibal giants, but this is much more of a curse upon them than a boon. Their exile, while still miraculous and seemingly absolute, is self-imposed for reasons that are still unclear. The outside world hates and mistrusts them, fearing the power of the titans locked with the Walls, but the people on the inside are ignorant of their history; in fact, much like the stories of Gog and Magog, the transmission of history in Attack on Titan is a muddied process where pieces get removed, added, or altered as time wears on. There are lots of discussions of devils (from Bertolt calling the Eldians within the Walls “children of the devil” to more innocuous references like Jean’s comment “The 104th has the devil’s luck” when they return to Wall Rose with Eren in tow), but the people within the Walls are always our first point of sympathy. What would it be like, Attack on Titan asks, to be the people locked away and wake up to discover the rest of the world despises you, associates you with the apocalypse, and seeks your destruction? Terrifying, to put it mildly.

Hange ruminating on the state of the world in chapter 89.

I can’t offer any real predictions on where this story will go from here based on this source analysis. In most of the legends, as stated above, Gog and Magog are defeated by God at the apocalypse. Considering how Isayama has crafted the story so that we are sympathetic to the plight of the people of the Walls, I cannot imagine such an ending could be deemed “justice,” at least for the reader (the First King might be a different matter … ). 

I think Isayama takes inspiration from a wide range of places, but this is one that I hadn’t seen discussed before and had not really occurred to me until the full breadth of the outside world was revealed in the most recent chapters, so I thought I would put it out there :) I am by no means an expert on the Gog and Magog stories and this has pretty much exhausted my personal knowledge on the subject, so if anyone would like to add or correct something, please do so!

“Want” and “Vacuum” (and more!)

The English word want derives from Middle English wanten meaning “to lack”.  It replaced will, which originally meant “to want”, after the later shifted in meaning to the future tense auxiliary.  Wanten in turn was a borrowing from Old Norse vanta, from Proto-Germanic *wanatōną, which was derived from a noun *wanô, “lack, deficiency” (also the root of the English word wane), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁weh₂- “leave, abandon, give out”.

This root, with various suffixes, produced several different Latin words.  The form *h₁uh₂-ko-, using the zero grade, produced the verb vacāre “to be empty”, which produced the adjective vacuus “empty”, the source of the noun vacuum.  The verb also produced the gerund vacans, root of the English “vacant”.

Another derivative was  *h₁weh₂-sto-, which produced the Latin vastus, source of English “vast”, as well as the English “waste”, through a circuitous route, being a borrowing from Anglo-Norman, and in turn from Old Franksih.  The direct route produced the obsolete westen.

Yet another derivative was *h₁weh₂-sno-, which produced the Latin vānus, ancestor, via French, of English vain.


A follow up to this post - Priory Graveyard, Holywood, Northern Ireland.

Holywood’s rich ecclesiastical heritage is represented today by its most distinctive building, the Old Priory. The site is a monastery founded by St. Laiseran in the early 7th Century. The present ruins are 12th century Anglo-Norman Augustinian Abbey built by Thomas Whyte and much of these ruins remain. After the Black death (1348-1350) Niall O’Neill refurbished the church for the Franciscan Order. The Priory was dissolved on New Years Day, 1541, by Henry VIII with its lands passing into the hands of the O’Neill family and then to Sir James Hamilton, First Viscount Clandeboye. Hamilton laid out the town, with a maypole at the crossroads and most of the early buildings are clustered round the Priory. The tower dates from the 1800’s when this was the site of the town’s Parish Church. The graveyard has some interesting “residents” including members of the Praeger family, the Dunvilles of whiskey fame and Sir Joseph Larmor the world famous mathematician.

Princess Aethelflaed, of Mercia

Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, was born over 1100 years ago in dark-age England, an was the daughter of Alfred, the first king of England. She eventually ruled Mercia in the English Midlands from 911 until her death. She was the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, an was born around 870 in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. The name Æthelflæd is old English an means ‘noble beauty’ ~ an it is pronounced ‘ef-el-fled’. 

After the Battle of Edington in 878 the foundation of England was born, as the Wessex-controlled western half of Mercia came under the rule of Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, who accepted Alfred’s overlordship. In the mid-880s, Alfred sealed the strategic alliance between the surviving English kingdoms by marrying Æthelflæd to Æthelred. Æthelred and Æthelflæd fortified Worcester against vikings raids several battle. 

After her husbands health declined early in the next decade, Æthelflæd was mainly responsible for the government of the Mercian kingdom. After Æthelred died in 911, Æthelflæd then ruled Mercia as Lady of the Mercians. The accession of a female ruler in Mercia is described by historians as “one of the most unique events in early early-medieval history”. 

Alfred had built a network of fortified boroughs and in the 910s King Edward and Æthelflæd embarked on a programme of extending them. In 917 she sent an army to capture Derby, the first of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw to fall to the English, a victory described by historians as “her greatest triumph”. 

In 918 Leicester surrendered without a fight. Shortly afterwards the Viking leaders of York offered her their loyalty, but she died on 12 June 918 before she could take advantage of the offer, and a few months later Edward completed the conquest of Mercia. Æthelflæd was succeeded by her daughter Ælfwynn.

Historians agree that Æthelflæd was a great ruler who played an important part in the conquest of the Danelaw. She was praised by Anglo-Norman chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury, who described her as “a powerful accession, the delight of the kings subjects, the dread of his enemies, a woman of enlarged soul”. Like Queen Elizabeth I, she became a wonder to historians in later ages.

English actress Millie Brady plays her the historical tv-drama ‘The Last Kingdom’

So there’s a variety of theories going about that try to justify why Jim—a run-of-the-mill human—would be the first human in HISTORY to wield an amulet that is (as Blinky says) “Crafted By Trolls” and for all intents and purposes is meant to be used BY Trolls.

These theories range from “Jim is a changeling/part changeling” to “Jim is a descendent of Merlin”

Here’s a theory I came up with that no one else seems to have suggested:

What if Jim is Merlin’s REINCARNATION?

I mean, they already showed that Toby had more than a passing resemblance to the Shattered King, though Toby personally denies it. 

Also Jim is good at cooking, and cooking is technically chemistry—chemistry could be mistaken for a type of magic, right?

On a similar note, do you know who Merlin was romantically involved with in multiple Arthurian legends? The Lady of the Lake.

What’s Jim’s Surname? 


Now you may be thinking to yourself “Now wait a minute—Wasn’t Merlin a human?” 

The answer: Not Necessarily. 

In several Arthurian legends, “Merlin’s traditional biography casts him as a cambion: born of a mortal woman, sired by an incubus, the non-human from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities.[2] The name of Merlin’s mother is not usually stated, but is given as Adhan in the oldest version of the Prose Brut.” 

According the the welsh versions of Merlin’s early life,  he “is said to have gone mad after the Battle of Arfderydd at Arthuret at which Rhydderch Hael of Strathclyde defeated Gwenddoleu. According to the Annales Cambriae this took place in AD 573.[2] Myrddin fled into the forest, lived with the animals and received the gift of prophecy” . Who’s to say that trolls weren’t involved somehow?

In fact, “Myrddin Wyllt”—the name mentioned in the prophecy of Gunmar’s Bane— more or less means “Myrddin the Wild”. On another interesting note, midevalist Gaston Paris  sugguests that “Geoffrey [of Monmouth] chose [to latinze the name as] the form Merlinus rather than the regular Merdinus to avoid a resemblance to the Anglo-Norman word merde (from Latin merda) for feces.[5]


Queens of England + Empress Matilda (1102-1167)

Matilda was born in February 1102, the eldest child of Henry I and Matilda of Scotland. She had one younger brother, William Adelin. Little is known about her early life, but it is likely that she stayed with her mother where she was taught to read and educated in religious morals.

In April 1114, Matilda married Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. During this marriage she gained considerable practical experience of government. She played a full part in it by sponsoring grants, dealing with petitioners, and taking part in ceremonial occasions. She was controversially crowned Empress of the Holy Roman Empire when she and Henry traveled to Italy in 1116 and acted as imperial regent when her husband traveled. Henry died in 1125 and left childless, Matilda returned to Normandy.

Henry I’s failure to produce another male heir after the death of William Adelin in 1120 made Matilda his preferred choice as his successor. In 1126, the Anglo-Norman barons swore to recognize Matilda and any of her future heirs. In order to secure the southern borders of Normandy, Henry married her to Geoffrey of Anjou, the son of Fulk, Count of Anjou. They were married in 1128 and by the time Henry I died in 1135, they had two sons, Henry and Geoffrey.

After Henry’s death, Matilda and Geoffrey faced opposition from the Norman barons and were unable to pursue their claims. Instead, Matilda’s cousin, Stephen of Blois easily claimed the throne with the backing of the English Church. In 1139, Matilda crossed into England to take the kingdom by force with the support of her half-brother Robert of Gloucester and her uncle, David I of Scotland. Her forces captured Stephen in 1141 but her attempts to be crowned at Westminster failed due to bitter opposition from London crowds. Because of her retreat she was never formally declared Queen of England and only received the title Lady of the English.

Later in 1141, Matilda’s brother Robert was captured and she agreed to exchange him for Stephen. The war then degenerated into a stalemate and in 1148, she returned to Normandy which was now in the hands of her husband. She left her eldest son Henry to continue the campaign in England. She settled into her court near Rouen and for the rest of her life focused on the administration of the Duchy. When Geoffrey died in 1151, Henry claimed the family lands and in 1154 succeeded the throne as Henry II.  In Normandy, Matilda often acted as Henry’s representative and presided over the government. Henry depended on her during the early years of his reign and asked her advice on policy matters.

In her old age Matilda focused increasingly in Church affairs and her personal faith. When she died in 1167 her remaining wealth was given to the Church. Her tomb’s epitaph included the lines, “Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring: here lies Matilda, the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry.” (x)


Clonmacnoise Castle, County Offaly, Ireland

During the period of 1170-1220 the Anglo-Normans began the colonization of Ireland, building Motte and Bailey Castles throughout the island. The wooden castle that stood on the top of the motte at Clonmacnoise was destroyed by fire and later in 1214 the Justiciar of Ireland, Henry of London, built a stone castle on the motte. This was to guard the bridge across the River Shannon.

The castle was destroyed during the Gaelic Resurgence in the late 13th to early 14th century. Originally it had three stories but very little remains of the castle today. The ruins are very dangerous, delicately balanced in a bizarre but fascinating position on the edge of the mound.


History Meme:  Six Women (2/6) Empress Matilda, Lady of the English

was the leader of one of the factions in the English civil war known as the Anarchy. The daughter of King Henry I of England, she moved to Germany as a child when she married the future Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.  Matilda and Henry had no children, and  he died in 1125.

Meanwhile, Matilda’s younger brother, William Adelin, died in the White Ship disaster of 1120, leaving England facing a potential succession crisis. On Henry V’s death, Matilda was recalled to Normandy by her father, who arranged for her to marry Geoffrey of Anjou to form an alliance to protect his southern borders. Henry I had no further children and nominated Matilda as his heir, making his court swear an oath of loyalty to her and her successors, but the decision was not popular in the Anglo-Norman court. Henry died in 1135 but Matilda and Geoffrey faced opposition from the Norman barons and were unable to pursue their claims. The throne was instead taken by Matilda’s cousin Stephen of Blois.

In 1139 Matilda crossed into England to take the kingdom by force, supported by her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, and her uncle, King David I of Scotland, while Geoffrey focused on conquering Normandy. Matilda’s forces captured Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, but the Empress’s attempt to be crowned at Westminster collapsed in the face of bitter opposition from the London crowds. As a result of this retreat, Matilda was never formally declared Queen of England, and was instead titled the Lady of the English. Robert was captured following the Rout of Winchester in 1142, and Matilda agreed to exchange him for Stephen. Matilda became trapped in Oxford Castle by Stephen’s forces that winter, and was forced to escape across the River Isis at night to avoid capture. The war degenerated into a stalemate, with Matilda controlling much of the south-west of England, Stephen the south-east and the Midlands, with large parts of the rest of the country in the hands of local barons.

Matilda returned to Normandy, now in the hands of her husband, in 1148, leaving her eldest son to continue the campaign in England; he eventually succeeded to the throne as Henry II in 1154. She settled her court near Rouen and for the rest of her life focused on the administration of the Duchy, acting on Henry’s behalf when necessary. Particularly in the early years of her son’s reign, she provided political advice and attempted to mediate during the Becket controversy. She worked extensively with the Church, founding Cistercian monasteries, and was known for her piety. She was buried under the high altar at Bec Abbey after her death in 1167. Her Epitaph reads “Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring”


Queens of England + Matilda aka Edith of Scotland (1080-1118)

Matilda was born around 1080 in Dunfermline, the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret. She was christened Edith, and Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, stood as godfather at the ceremony. Queen Matilda, the consort of William the Conqueror, was also present at the baptismal font and served as her godmother. Baby Matilda pulled at Queen Matilda’s headdress, which was seen as an omen that the younger Matilda would be queen one day.

When she was about six years old, Matilda of Scotland and her sister Mary were sent to Romsey Abbey, near Southampton, where their aunt Cristina was abbess. Her education went beyond the standard feminine pursuits. This was not surprising as her mother was a great lover of books. Her daughters learned English, French, and some Latin, and were sufficiently literate to read St. Augustine and the Bible. 

After the mysterious death of William II in August 1100, his brother, Henry, immediately seized the royal treasury and crown. His next task was to marry and Henry’s choice was Matilda. Because Matilda had spent most of her life in a convent, there was some controversy over whether she was a nun and thus canonically ineligible for marriage. Matilda testified that she had never taken holy vows, insisting that her parents had sent her and her sister to England for educational purposes, and her aunt Cristina had veiled her to protect her “from the lust of the Normans.” Matilda claimed she had pulled the veil off and stamped on it, and her aunt beat and scolded her for this act. 

Matilda’s mother was the sister of Edgar the Ætheling, proclaimed but uncrowned King of England after Harold, and, through her, Matilda was descended from Edmund Ironside and thus from the royal family of Wessex, which in the 10th century had become the royal family of a united England. This was extremely important because although Henry had been born in England, he needed a bride with ties to the ancient Wessex line to increase his popularity with the English and to reconcile the Normans and Anglo-Saxons.

After Matilda and Henry were married on 11 November 1100 at Westminster Abbey by Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, she was crowned as “Matilda,” a hallowed Norman name. By courtiers, however, she and her husband were soon nicknamed ‘Godric and Godiva’. She gave birth to a daughter, Matilda, born in February 1102, and a son, William, called “Adelin”, in November 1103. Matilda was the designated head of Henry’s curia and acted as regent during his frequent absences.

Matilda had great interest in architecture and instigated the building of many Norman-style buildings, including Waltham Abbey and Holy Trinity Aldgate. She also had the first arched bridge in England built, at Stratford-le-Bow, as well as a bathhouse with piped-in water and public lavatories at Queenhithe.

She was an active queen and, like her mother, was renowned for her devotion to religion and the poor. Matilda exhibited a particular interest in leprosy, founding at least two leper hospitals, including the institution that later became the parish church of St Giles-in-the-Fields. She also administered extensive dower properties and was known as a patron of the arts, especially music.

After Matilda died on 1 May 1118 at Westminster Palace, she was buried at Westminster Abbey.After her death, she was remembered by her subjects as “Matilda the Good Queen” and “Matilda of Blessed Memory”, and for a time sainthood was sought for her, though she was never canonized. Matilda is also thought to be the identity of the “Fair Lady” mentioned at the end of each verse in the nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down. The post-Norman conquest English monarchs to the present day are related to the Anglo-Saxon House of Wessex monarchs via Matilda of Scotland as she was the great-granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside. (x)

Chirk Castle (Castell y Waun)
Wrexham, Wales by Upsadaisy2

Built in 1295 CE, Chirk Castle was one of many such fortifications built during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). Originally home to an Anglo-Norman family – the Mortimer de Chirk – the castle was sold to Thomas Myddelton in 1593. The Myddeltons first sided with the Parliament during the English Civil War (1642-1651), but in 1659 fought alongside George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer, for the restoration of Charles II.