The Dragon and the Raven

The Dragon and the Raven, or, The Days of King AlfredThe Dragon and the Raven, or, The Days of King Alfred by G.A. Henty

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My first read of G.A. Henty’s 140 or so books, I came away somewhat satisfied.

The main character, fictional Edmund, is placed in the historical events of King Alfred’s early reign when the Danish Vikings were plundering and overrunning divided England. Edmund, through discipline of himself and his men, helps push back the Norsemen. He acts with honor and courage even when captured. He thinks ahead and plans wisely, fighting in defense of his country, but never for his own aggrandizement.

I read after finishing that Henty was a war correspondent, and that makes sense. Sometimes his writing is rather factual and historical – not always an engaging plot-mover. But he writes mainly for young boys, both to convey history and encourage their personal virtue – a uniquely edifying purpose in books for young readers these days.

Three themes I appreciated:
1. The contrast of Viking to English worldview. Do the strong take what they can for themselves, or use their strength to protect and provide for the weak? Henty more shows and assumes this by how the (his)story goes than preaches about it.

2. Strength and dominance is not always with the virtuous and the Christian. Living at this point of time in the West we can forget this point, though events are pressing it upon us again as we become more and more post-Christian.

3. Unity and teamwork are a critical element to being strong. Edmund’s soldiers don’t succeed until they work together and follow orders in the middle of battles. Coordinated plans with multiple fronts acting together succeed.

May God give us the strength in these days to be self-controlled, work together for the good of others, and to look to our good Lord Jesus Christ for mercy.

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