I’ve always had a fascination for medieval Europe, especially England. Richard the Lionhearted and his deviant little brother John are two figures that loom larger than life in the histories. And by association, Robin Hood and the Magna Carta come in to play when I dream of this turbulent time.
Although I like to fancy that I am an amateur expert of ‘auld’ England, I have never read or examined the document (my mistake). The Magna Carta gives us a much better picture of the time than any Hollywood depiction. Phyllis Radford does an excellent job of guiding us through this immortal document that has had such an impact across the globe and throughout history. It is obvious that she has done her homework, and that she is a fellow enthusiast of the days of barons, knights, damsels, and that elusive fellow Robin Hood.
Does anyone else see Brother Cadfael as being a smooth, layed-back guy? If you don’t know who Brother Cadfael is: he is a monk and apothecary at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury England during the 12th Century. He is a fictional character created by Ellis Peters (a pseudonym of Edith Pargeter), and appears as the main character in a series of short mystery novels.
I accidentally got hooked on the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael by thumbing through one of the paperbacks because it had a cool looking cover. In fact, all the Cadfael books have good medieval style artwork on the cover. I am a history buff, and I knew the monasteries in that time period were sanctuaries from the harsh life outside, as well as cultural centers. I like to learn how day-to-day life was at that remote time. However, what got me hooked on the series was Pargeter’s magical ability to weave such an enchanting world and a such a charismatic monk.
Cadfael, with no official authority, is the primary detective and problem solver in the area of Shrewsbury. Partly because of the civil war that was raging at the time, many of the pilgrims and travellers passing through the abbey have problems with the law, or even family, because loyalties are divided between the two factions. And more often than not, a lovestruck young couple is being kept apart because of social differences, a tyrannical father or mother, or marraiges arranged for reasons other than love. Cadfael uses his generosity, charisma, wit, wisdom, influence with the sheriff, and crafty detective work to make wrongs right and to bring young lovers together. He does it not for personal gain, but because he is a man at peace with himself and God. He does it because he has nobler motives and a true goodwill towards his fellow man.