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Literature / The Hereward Trilogy

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The Hereward Trilogy, by Marcus Pitcaithly (author of The Realm Of Albion), is a series of historical novels about the semi-legendary English rebel leader Hereward the Wake. The novels in the series are:

  • Hereward: Sons of the White Dragon (2008)
  • Hereward: The Fury of the Northmen (2009)
  • Hereward: Doom of Battle (2012)

These books provide examples of:

  • Adipose Rex: By the middle of the second book King William is growing stout; the Afterword to the third mentions (accurately) that he was obese by the time he died.
  • Aerith and Bob: The setting pretty much dictates this one. Norman cultural dominance over the centuries after the Conquest means that many Norman names became and remained commonplace while most Anglo-Saxon ones all but disappeared. There aren't many Herewards around now, but his enemies include multiple Williams and Roberts (history doesn't respect the One Steve Limit).
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  • The Alcoholic: Prince Godwin in the first book.
  • Annoying Arrows: Pretty much averted. An arrow wound is always very nasty - even if it typically takes more than one to finish off a major character.
  • Arc Words: "Wyrd goes ever as she will"; "That was [endured / overcome]; so may this be". (Both come from Old English poetry.)
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: most of them. Unsurprising, since the largely Norman aristocracy installed after the Conquest were the natural enemies of an Anglo-Saxon rebel. With the exception of Starkad and Gunnhild, all the main antagonists are of knightly class or above.
  • The Bad Guys Win
  • Bad Boss: Ivo Taillebois is the outstanding example, but most of the bad guys are this - King William being an exception.
  • Badass Boast: Pretty much paraphrased from Charles Kingsley's Hereward novel, with a nod back to the Norse sagas: "Behold the Lord of Bourne! I am Hereward! Hereward the outlaw, the champion, the berserker and the viking! I am the fattener of ravens, the darling of wolves and the curse of the widow! I am the land-thief and the sea-thief, slayer of bears and giants, ravager of the world!"
    • Edric: "I am Herne, I am Arthur, I am Woden. I am the Lord of the Wildwood..."
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    • Ulric: "Come on then, you bastards! Come on, and I'll teach you how to die!"
  • Bears Are Bad News: Harek the polar bear. Though it's easy to pity the imprisoned beast, and Hereward does deeply regret having to kill him.
  • The Big Bad: King William. Many of the lesser antagonists are worse people, and appear more often, but most of them work for him and he is the heroes' ultimate opponent.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Lots and lots of rescues. The attack on Spalding Keep (Book 1); the Danes rescuing Christian and Zainab (Book 2); the rescue of Mariana (Book 2); and of Simeon (book 3), just for starters.
  • Blood Knight: Edric, in a big way.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Ulric Grogan.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: This has happened offstage to Edric's Wish Hounds by the end of Book 2, and happens to Hereward's own gang in the later chapters of Book 3.
  • Burn the Witch!: Played with. It's accurately pointed out that the eleventh century Church didn't recognise maleficent magic as possible, but the suspicion of witchcraft against Kolfrosta, Torfrida, and Gunnhild is a serious matter nonetheless.
  • Corrupt Church: Prior Herluin, Abbot Thorold, every single bishop who appears.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Martin, when he kills his father in revenge for the abuse he and his mother suffered twenty years earlier in the first book.
  • Downer Ending: Three of them! The first book ends with the main rebel army defeated and Hereward fleeing back to the Fens; the second, with his Danish allies being bought off and abandoning him; and he dies in the third.
  • The Dragon: Offstage, Red Alan is King William's dragon; Abbot Thorold's steward Waryn, and Ivo's second steward Hubert, are both brutal enforcers for their masters as well.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Grendel to Starkad: "Look after Mother."
  • Evil Chancellor: Bishop Odo. Also all three of Ivo's successive stewards: they struggle to be quite as nasty as their boss, but are much smarter.
  • The Exile: Hereward at the beginning, with multiple flashbacks to this period of his life.
  • Feudal Overlord: It's early Norman England. The place is overrun with them.
  • Foil: Edric and Hiccafrith to Hereward; Elfthryth to Torfrida.
  • French Jerk: Technically, most of the Normans. Although the fact that Normandy was at the time both culturally distinct and politically an enemy of the Kingdom of France is clearly laid out.
  • Full-Boar Action: The hunt for the Yule boar in Book 1.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Mathilde may not go out of her way to be cruel, but she's utterly ruthless when necessary. (She may weep when having her former admirer Brihtric tortured to death, but she still does it.)
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Clothes tend to get more detailed descriptions than the people in them.
  • King Incognito: This is what Christian claims to have spent the last three years as, before revealing himself in Book 2... but we never find out if he really is Harold - and it's hinted that Lysir may be.
  • La Résistance: Hereward, his followers, and the Camp of Refuge.
  • The Lady's Favour: A theme in the development of Hereward's relationship with Torfrida, and his enmity with her rejected suitor Ascelin.
  • Literary Allusion Title: All three. Sons of the White Dragon is a quote from Ivanhoe; The Fury of the Northmen from the so-called "Fury Litany"; and Doom of Battle from Beowulf.
  • Little Miss Badass: Lucy.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Oh boy. Ascelin jealously covets Torfrida. Torfrida loves, and marries, Hereward. Hereward loves Torfrida, but is attracted to, feels protective towards, and temporarily ends up with Elfthryth. Elfthryth is married to Dolfin...
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: This happens a lot. Notably Lysir, who may actually be Woden!
  • One Steve Limit: The Normans weren't very imaginative when it comes to naming conventions, and there are a lot of Williams and Roberts around; but the author tries to stick to this where possible, for instance using the different forms Turaud and Thorold for two of Hereward's enemies who ought by rights to have the same name.
  • People of Hair Colour: Averted. This trope is very common when depicting the Norman v. Anglo-Saxon conflict, but here there's a wide variety on both sides.
  • Pirate: Brunman of Skirbeck, though we only get one scene of actual piracy.
  • Poisonous Friend: The lesser bad guys make a habit of selling one another out, but Ivo is the worst, most notably sending his loyal steward Hubert to the gallows to save his own neck in the third book.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Ivo. His misogyny and snobbery are consistent throughout the books, and in the third he comes out with "Do you know why I allowed those Jews to sully my hall with their unclean presence?" (Mind you, there's anti-Semitism on the good guys' team as well, until the revelation that Girolamo is Jewish shuts everyone up. This is, of course, accurate for the time period.)
  • Public Domain Character: Hiccafrith is the fairy-tale hero Tom Hickathrift; Thord, Girolamo, and Prior Herluin all come from Victorian novels about Hereward.
  • Red Right Hand: Gartnait's hook; Grendel's deformed appearance, though there's an element of sympathy here, and his handsome brother Starkad proves even more dangerous.
  • Red Shirt: Lots of Norman soldiers, though one or two are given their own little backstory.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Well, it won't if Edric has anything to do with it. He and his Wish Hounds, however, are exceptional: Hereward, though he can be fairly ruthless himself, is disgusted by their barbarism.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Hereward and his core group of companions are heroic rebels.
  • Rightful King Returns: Played with. Lots of people consider themselves the rightful King, and attempt to take "back" the Crown; and Hereward allies with pretty much all of them at different times, since his main concern is getting rid of William.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: The storming of Spalding Keep in Book 1.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Hereward's reaction to Toli's death in Book 1; the chasing down of Edwin's murderers in Book 3 (though the latter kind of fizzles out).
  • Shout-Out: Rowena's name is an homage to Ivanhoe, which supplied the title of the first book.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Book 2's flashbacks to Hereward's time in Scotland reference Macbeth, and occur in a chapter entitled "Daggers in Men's Smiles" - a quote from the play.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot. Plenty of obscure historical characters and real events crop up.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Father Hugo is a Norman who ends up on Hereward's team.
  • Token Minority: Zainab could be called this. Also Girolamo. Arguably, though, it's not really tokenism so much as realism: they both belong to groups whose numbers in Anglo-Norman England were tiny.
  • Trial by Combat: Hereward vs. Gartnait in Book 1; d' Éda vs. Osbern in Book 3.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: Who is/are the Guardian of Wandlebury?
  • Warrior Prince: William; Diarmait; Svend; Malcolm; Macbeth in the flashback to his death. (Also Christian, if he really is Harold...)
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Albert fitz Guy in Book 2 gets a potted biography, despite being essentially a Red Shirt.