Anglo-Saxon Word of the Week: Wundenlocc

A detail from Artimesia Gentileschi’s ‘Judith and Her Maidservant’.


This week’s word is inspired both by an adjective from the Anglo-Saxon poem, and by Chapter 10 of  the Vulgate Book of Judith, which contains a description of Judith adorning herself before going to  Holofernes’ camp that we don’t see in the incomplete poem. Wundenlocc  is a compound of the  verb windan, meaning to wind or twist or curl, and locc, which, as you might have guessed, translates  as locks of hair. There is some debate about whether wundenlocc, which appears three times  in Judith and once in Riddle 2, refers to hair that is braided, or hair that is curled. For more  information on this debate, you can find Dr. Megan Cavell’s excellent short article from Medium  Aevum, wherein she discusses both possible translations and what connotations the sexual content of  both the riddle and the Judith poem may lend the word, here.

In Chapter 10 of the Book of Judith, Judith discards her widows’ clothing and dresses in her finest  robes and jewels, clothing she wore when her husband Manasses was alive, and “made herself beautiful  enough to beguile the eye of any man who saw her” (Judith 10:4). While the description of Judith’s hair  as braided or curled is entirely the creation of the Anglo-Saxon poet, the Book of Judith does tell us  that she dressed her hair before going out to ensnare Holofernes.


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