Sunday, December 17, 2017

Wulf the Saxon by G. A. Henty

Wulf the Saxon
A Story of Norman Conquest
Written by G. A. Henty
$6.99 Paperback

I've mentioned shopping at the Half-Priced Books in Skokie Il before and perusing their dollar rack. This book is another captured from that shelf.

It's not going to win any modern awards, but it is a book over one hundred years old! I didn't realize that when I first picked it up. My cover is so out of date that I couldn't find the right image to put up on my blog so I had to scan it. I've also never read anything by G. A. Henty and was surprised that he had written so many books that I might be interested in as their historical eras are ones that have long fascinated me.

It's the story of 1066 and the battle of Hastings as told through the eyes of Wulf the Saxon.

There are a few bits readers should draw out for their own games:

1. Water is powerful: There are two separate occasions Wulf has trials and tribulations due to the waves he rides upon. One time casting him and his liege at the prisoners of William the Conqueror, the other dashing the boats of the English navy to pieces. This is a common trope in many stories though. If you've seen Frank Miller's 300, there is a scene where the Persian Fleet is destroyed.

Don't be afraid to showcase how wild, powerful, unpredictable and uncontrollable elements are outside of the characters and even their patrons.

2. Death is not to be feared: When the former king of England is ready to die, he's speaking of rejoicing. If the belief in the afterlife is firm, death should not be a trial. It should not be a tribulation. It should be a time of earnest celebration.

3. A celebration of Victories: If the party is in town and the GM needs to give the town some local color, have the players come upon the village while it is in the midsts of celebrating a victory over some regional foe. Orcs, bandits, ogres, trolls, and even hill giants all may be threats to such townships but having claimed a victory over a great force, say perhaps at a ford or river or pass, the town celebrates that victory every year to remind themselves of the cost and the valor of those who died to achieve that victory.

4. Names. There are many ways to go about naming a character. For example, we have William. He's sometimes referred to as William of London or even as Bishop William of London. The main character, Wulf, is known as Wulf of Steyning and eventually takes the last name of the family he's adopted into.

5. Hostages: George R. R. Martin's fantasy series, A Game of Thrones, has 'Reek' who was raised by the Starks only to betray them. Being raised by an enemy is a common feature of history. Your children go as hostages to another lord and are raised under that lord's banner and learn that lord's ways and methods. It can lead to high drama if years down the road those loyalties are tested.

A name can come from a variety of places. Adding the 'of XXX" is a frequent use. We have such individuals of Edwin of Mercia in this book. In fantasy, we have Elric of Melnibone for example. Instead of 'of XXX,' sometimes it's a descriptor, Conan the Cimmerian.

Names can also be of a profession or of a rank. Many nobles may go by Lord or Lady, for example, Lady Agnes. In religious factions, the rankings of the Church should be in full play. Is there a difference between a Bishop and a Cardinal? If you have four or five characters call Harold, you need a way to distinguish them.

They can be descriptive. Elric is also known as the White Wolf as is the most popular of Witchers. In this book, we have Edith of the Swan Neck.

Names can denote heritage such as Harkon the Son of Sweyn.

Names can also be of the House. For example, the House of Leofric. The House of Jor-El.

A character's name can say a lot about him without the character ever saying anything. Use it wisely.