Offa of Angel

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Offa (also Uffo or Uffe) (fl. c. 450) was the (possibly mythical) 4th-great-grandfather of Creoda of Mercia, and was reputed to be a great-grandson of Woden. Whether historical or mythical, Offa was the son of Wermund, and the father of Angeltheow.

He was the most famous hero of the early Angles (Anglii in Latin). He is said by the Old English poem Widsith to have ruled over Angel, and the poem refers briefly to his victorious single combat, a story which is related at length by the Danish historians Saxo and Svend Aagesen.

Offa also successfully conquered the Myrgings, a clan of Saxon origin by slaying two Myrging princes in combat and installing himself as their king. The Myrgings were then absorbed by the Angles within a century though this new title as 'King' was soon abolished by Angeltheow a son of Offa.


Single combat

Offa is said to have been dumb or silent during his early years. His aged and blind father, King Wermund believed him to be a simpleton and in order to preserve his son's position as king had him marry the daughter of Freawine (a neighbouring warlord/king) so that Freawine would assist Offa when he became king. However, the plans did not come to pass, as Freawine was killed by a marauding Viking warlord (a Swede called Atisl). Wermund subsequently raised Freawine's sons Ket and Wig as his own. The two would eventually cause great dishonour to the Angles when they ambushed Atisl in a forest as he walked alone and slew him. The surrounding peoples began to mock the Angles, accusing them of cowardice and dishonour. Eventually the neighbouring Saxons decided that Wermund was too weak to resist their requests for him to surrender his kingdom, and they sent their emissaries to Wermund's court. There they proceeded to mock the blind man, prompting Wermund to challenge their king to a duel — but the king stated that he would not fight a blind man. It was then that Offa regained his speech, and revealed that his silence had been caused by the great dishonour involved in Atisl's death. He promptly challenged the prince of the Saxons and one of his champions to a duel in order to regain the honour of the Angles.

Offa's combat took place at Rendsburg on an island in the Eider River, and Offa succeeded in killing both his opponents. According to Widsith, Offa's opponents belonged to a tribe or dynasty called Myrgingas, but both accounts state that he won a great kingdom as the result of his victory. A somewhat corrupt version of the same story is preserved in the Vitae duorum Offarum, where, however, the scene is transferred to England.

Other Offas

It is very probable that the Offa whose marriage with Modþryð, a lady of murderous disposition, is mentioned in Beowulf (lines 1949 and 1957), is the same person.[1] This story also appears in the Vitae duorum Offarum, though it is erroneously told of the later Offa of Mercia, a descendant of Offa of Angel.

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