Anglo-Saxons liked to gather in the lord's great hall, to eat and drink, and to listen to songs and stories. They loved tales about brave warriors and their adventures. A favourite story told how Beowulf, a heroic prince, kills the fierce man-eating monster Grendel, and Grendel's equally horrid mother. The story of Beowulf was first written down in the 8th-9th centuries, but long before that the story was told around the fire. The storyteller played music to accompany the songs and poems, on a small harp or on another stringed instrument called a lyre.
Riddles and runes
The Anglo-Saxons liked to play with words. They amused themselves by telling riddles, some of which were written down. Here's one riddle.
I appear on the ground like a blanket,
and melt in the midday sun.
Can you guess the answer?
Early Anglo-Saxons wrote using letters called runes. They believed runes had magical powers. You can see some runes in the Images section.
Anglo-Saxon leaders or lords were expected to entertain their followers with feasts. A lord gave his men gifts in return for their loyalty - treasure after a victory in battle, perhaps, or a roasted boar after a successful hunt. The feast was held in the lord's great hall.
On dark winter days, people gathered in the hall around a log fire. They listened to stories and poems, and sang. They ate roast meats, bread and fruit. They drank ale or mead, a strong drink made from honey. People often drank too much, so feasts were often noisy and sometimes ended in fights!
Games and sports
Men enjoyed rough and boisterous pastimes, such as wrestling, weight-lifting (using heavy rocks) and horse-racing. These sports kept them fit, for work and war. They also played ball games. One game seems to have been a bit like hockey, and another like baseball or cricket. In swimming races, it was apparently fair to push other swimmers under water!
Gambling was very popular. The grave of a prince or king found in Essex in 2003 contained more than 50 bone gaming pieces and two large dice, made from deer antler.