Oral Tradition And The Middle Ages

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Much of the known history of a certain nation, which survived the Middle Ages, is derived from a specific story or collection of stories. These stories are defined as epics, because they often contain a hero or heroic group that slayed an evil force of some kind. One of the greatest effects the epics had on the tribes or communities of the Middle Ages was their unifying influence. Through oral tradition, the tribal communities were brought together to be educated in their history. With the prevailing overthrow of the Roman Empire, the European world was brought into a period known as the Dark Ages. Learning via oral tradition was rather common during the Middle Ages, as the literacy skills to read and write mostly died with the beginning of Germanic tribe rule. Oral tradition also provided people something to compare themselves to what they strive to be. The epics allowed for the tribal people to be unified with a common goal. This was more often than not the objective of keeping their history, and the most dominant way of achieving this came through defeating their enemies who wished to overthrow the tradition. The tribes were brought together to fight the “outsider” enemy. These “outsiders” were viewed as being different based on their life, religious, and/or cultural views. Two of the most significant elements in defining how epics create nations are the effects war and Christianity had on the culture. The epic of Beowulf was successful in defining Anglo-Saxon culture.

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