Rudiments of Anglo-Saxon

Rudiments of Anglo-Saxon

An Introductory Guide to Old English for Christian and Home Schools

by Douglas Wilson
Publisher: Canon Press
Price: $22.00

If you prefer Whitman's barbaric yawp to Pope's couplets, Rudiments of Anglo-Saxon is for you. Despite the fact that Latin supplies 50% of our vocabulary, the structure of English—and its most common words—are Anglo-Saxon. Latin grammar was imposed on English by well-meaning Medieval monks, but they couldn't change the essence of this Germanic language.

Anglo-Saxon's poetic virtue lies more with the concept behind a given word than its sound (though the sounds are delightful, too). Kennings are a distinctly Anglo-Saxon literary form, combining words to describe or name something. Oceanic navigation paths in Beowulf are called whale-roads; "Beowulf" combines bee and wolf to make bear; a bard's vocabulary is his word-hoard.

A large word-hoard is essential for good communication. This crash course in Anglo-Saxon (or Old English) won't teach you the language, but it will help you understand the hidden lilting power of Modern English. As Doug Wilson says, this isn't a scholarly or complete course, but it's a good introduction for older students who love, or want to love, our glorious mother tongue.

Providing a school year of work, Rudiments of Anglo-Saxon is composed of two units. Unit one introduces pronunciation, provides Bible verses, prayers, passages of Beowulf, etc. for memorization, and offers tons of grammar and vocabulary exercises (and quizzes). In unit two students translate the Gospel of St. Mark and portions of Beowulf. An answer key provides answers to all exercises in the consumable workbook.

Two final exams ensure students retain what they learn. There are suggestions for further study and reading, recommendations for good dictionaries, and two short glossaries, one for Anglo-Saxon to English, one for English to Anglo-Saxon. This won't help students achieve fluency: it will foster appreciation and familiarity. Over 2000 vocabulary words give a flavor of Anglo-Saxon and start you toward enjoying some great literature in its original form.

Parents should know that among the words on the first vocabulary list is "bastard." The inclusion of this word wasn't necessary, and may put off some from using a fine book they would've otherwise enjoyed. This choice on Wilson's part is unfortunate, but such words don't recur in the text, and this is a good introduction. We especially recommend it for high school students with a desire to write or to study literature in-depth at home or in college.


  • Two units covering basic Anglo-Saxon grammar and syntax, and translations from most of Beowulf and Mark, with explanatory footnotes
  • Thirty-two chapters, each structured by week to include five days of vocabulary, grammar, composition or translation work, and quizzes
  • Weekly vocabulary lists teaching 2,000+ Anglo-Saxon words and highlighting English derivatives
  • Two short glossaries (Anglo-Saxon to English, and vice versa)
  • Extras including two memorization passages, two final exams, and suggestions for further reading
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Did you find this review helpful?

Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: "Bastard" appears in a word list
Summary Not really a course in Anglo-Saxon, this guide gives students a feel for the language.

Related Categories
Recommended for...