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8-08-2015, 16:39

“Ut, ut, ut!”

According to one medieval source, just before the start of the Battle of Hastings a single Norman rode out and stopped in the empty no-man’sland stretching between the opposing armies. An entertainer known for his juggling skills, that rider, Taillefer by name, began taunting the enemy i ghters. Repeatedly, he expertly juggled his sword, tossing it up into the air and catching it by the handle, each time escaping injury from the sharpened blade. Enraged at this display, a lone Saxon soldier lost his temper and ran out to attack Taillefer. What the Englishman did not realize was that the juggler was also an accomplished warrior. As the assailant approached him, he swiftly plucked his sword from the air and swung it sideways with tremendous force. h e blade separated the other man’s head from his body, which collapsed to the ground with a dull thud. h e sight of this gruesome but impressive feat i lled the Normans with coni dence. Duke William nodded at his trumpeter, who sounded a series of loud blasts, the signal for the charge, and the Norman ranks surged forward. Awaiting the oncoming enemy, the men in the Saxon lines raised loud battle cries. “Godemite!” (“God Almighty!”), they shouted, and then began chanting “Ut, ut, ut!” (“Out, out, out!”).1 Hails of Norman arrows showered the i rst few rows of Saxon soldiers. But the men raised their wooden, leather-covered shields, which stopped many of the arrows in mid-l ight. So Saxon losses to the Norman archers were few. Seconds later, the initial horde of Norman horsemen crashed into the front Saxon line, driving it backward several feet. Yet though a number of men in that rank were skewered on Norman lances and swords, soldiers from the second Saxon rank immediately leaped forward and took their places. As a result, the line largely held. Moreover, the men in the i rst several Saxon ranks hurled javelins and rocks at the mounted Normans, killing or maiming dozens of them. In the words of British military historian Christopher Gravett, “h e clash of weapons, the shrieks of the wounded men and horses, together with the shouting and chanting of those at the rear must have been appalling as the knights spurred their horses towards the mêlée. As they did so, they too were struck by missiles that tumbled them to the ground or maddened their horses.”2