EBK Activity Sheets


Bards & Scops: Who were they?

  • Minstrels were people who sang songs and told stories. The British called them 'Bards' and the Saxons called them 'Scops' (pronounced 'Shops'). They were popular well into Medieval and Tudor times.
  • This was a full-time job. It was seen as an important skill and they were paid well.
  • The minstrels might work for a single wealthy employer (a lord or king) or they might  'itinerant' - travelling around looking for people who wanted to hear them perform.
  • Sometimes they had a second part-time job as an ambassador (someone who meets people and sorts out agreements) or a 'public relations officer' (someone who tells everyone how great their employer is).
  • Most people could not write. So the minstrels had to remember all their songs, poems and stories.
  • They were also expected to make up new stories on the spur of the moment.
  • Their stories were usually about ancient gods or famous kings or warriors, like King Arthur.
  • Minstrels also remembered the family trees of lords and kings.
  • They sometimes played musical instruments too, like the harp. These have been found by archaeologists in Saxon graves.
  • The minstrels performed during big feasts held in great halls.
  • The most famous British bards were two people called Taliesin and Aneirin.  the most famous Saxon scop was a Northumbrian called Cadmon.
  • The most famous Anglo-Saxon poem is called 'Beowulf'. Beowulf was a famous warrior and the poem tells about his fight with a monster named Grendel.


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