Rooting for Hengist and Horsa

It has long been a pet project of mine to write a novel, a historical novel set in the Dark Ages. Firstly because it is an era which has been described at best as barbaric in my country and at worst as dark in the Anglo-Saxon world (just like the Romans having turned off the light upon their departure) and secondly because when one has read Gregory of Tours one knows that reality is much more vibrant than any would be Game of Thrones romance.

I have not read the above books and I will not. not that I disrespect the writer or the story: it is that when one has in one’s mind a universe and so many characters actually talking to you, one finds no time for anything else! When my book ends, then yes I will.

Another writer I shall avoid and again without any disregard is Bernard Cornwell. I know he is writing a wonderful opus dedicated to Alfred. Alfred’s story is set after my timeline. Way after.

It says it all, isn’t it: decent research, sound historical background and yes: very much early Anglo-Saxon. Actually (shall I add at long last), there is a revolution in the academic world regarding the Dark Ages. these were the days where life could be harsh, rough. yet harshness does not preclude absence of vibrancy, lack of passion, strong trade and far-thinking diplomacy. And we shall not mention the beauty of the artifacts found in Archaeological digs.

On the other hand, Literature set between shall we say 450 and 750 AD, is almost uniquely composed of Mills&Boon romances set in Arthurian fantasy. I have no lingering doubt about the existence of some sort of Native Britto-Roman who fought the invading Germanic tribes who were to give their name to the English speaking world. Something did happen. But for Godsake, it happened to every body!

In the English speaking world, woe is the name. Bad Saxons. Good Arthur. By the way bad Vortigern (as in traitor) and all is nice and dandy with the Celts/Native Brittons or Britto-Romans. In my universe, it is not so.

449 AD was the year of the Saxons. Well, 451 AD was the year Attila visited Gaul. if the ancestors of the actual inhabitants of Wales thought it was tough, tell that to my ancestors. Attila, Scourge of God and terror of what was left of the active Roman Empire. 451 AD was the year a ramshackle band of brothers made of what was left of Roman legions stationed in Gaul, Gallo-Romans (i.e. the native Gauls after 500 years of Roman culture) and the Frankish new comers (not invaders, but foederati: army scouts allowed to live inside the borders of the Empire) faced the Hunnic menace on the Catalaunian Plains… and made history.

I have difficulty believing that for Britain the invasion was seen as tragic and most cruel (read Nennius and Gildas) whilst on the other side of the Channel the same ingredients of Romanitas, Natives and Barbarians called to the rescue would end up swigging Champagne (we are not far from the famous wine-yards). Gaul was to disappear and everybody would be very soon called a Frank. This victory was the happy foundation of my country and it would be hard to find a story with a negative view on the subject. The Frankish realm was barbarian by nature but totally embraced the Roman template. Chlodowech, our first king was thrilled to get recognition from Byzantium.
Tragedy in Dover while Calais rejoices. No. I do not buy it.

My heroes are going to be Angles, Jutes and Saxons. Some will be Gauls or rather Franks as my story starts at the time a Frankish king has decided that all his people will be known from niw on as Franks.

Bear with me. my story begins in Gaul; but quickly will move to Britain. Because it is how it happened. Wales will be barely mentioned. Because it was not relevant to Bede and Gregory. The heroes will be real characters who want their story told and see me as to fill the gaps missing …

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