I know you’re quite busy at the moment, Tovi, so I really appreciate the fact that you’ve stopped by for a visit. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you in your first two books. In fact, you’ve become one of my favorite characters. But I’m suspecting a lot of people reading this interview right now won’t have read the books so won’t know who you are. I’d like to ask you a few questions to get to know you, if that’s alright?
Gódne dæg, Stephanie. Thank you for letting me come and tell you and your readers about my world.
First tell me about where you live. What your village like? Your house?
I was born, so our priest tells us, in the year of our Lord, 1044. They say that records weren’t kept back then, but our priest wrote everything down that happened to us. The records were lost when… well, I will tell you about that another day.
You can still find the village where I lived, today as I’m told. It’s called Little Horsted now, but back in my day it was just Horstede. My father, Wulfhere, he is the thegn or hlaford and my mother, Eadlgytha, is his hlahfdige. You would say lord and lady, I believe.
Horstede is nestled on the slope of a marshy hill in the shire of the Súþ Seaxa, today known as Sussex. My father’s long hall has a wooden palisade and the little stream and mound that surrounds it adds to its fortification. It has twin towers on either side of the gates and within the enclosure, exists a little wooden church with a belfry from which a giant bell once rang. These days it doesn’t. I think it has rusted.
In those gate towers my older twin brothers, Wulfric and Wulfwin, often used to sit as they played their games, looking out for an imaginary enemy. Often that enemy was myself and my sister, Winflaed, though she and I hardly knew it until they leapt upon us, ambushing us, and beating us to the ground in a sport they found enjoyable but that Winflaed and I did not.
Also inside the enclosure was the smithy, where my father’s sword, Hildbana, which means Battle Slayer, was forged many years ago for my grandfather and where my own sword will be hammered one day. There are also plenty of other smaller buildings inside the compound, weaving sheds, storage huts, and workshops. Then there are the sleeping huts for guests and byres where the animals are kept, and also the stables where my father’s beloved horses are stalled. My father loves his horses.
Father’s longhall is one of the most splendid halls in the area. Outside, the gables are painted in brightly coloured designs and a fine dark reddish brown adorns the porch doors, with large ornate iron hinges painted black. The walls are plastered and underneath, the framework has been filled in with wattle and daub. It is a fine hall, inside and out, and my parents were always very proud of it. Mother keeps the fire going day and night in the hearth which covers much of the space in one side of the hall, and it is always very smoky inside. The interior lime-plastered walls, painted with murals, are hung in winter and at celebration times, with Mother’s beautiful embroideries. I thought everything inside the hall was magnificent till I came to see my Lord Harold’s hall in Waltham which made my parent’s home look quite desolate. Still, Horstede was a wonderful sight to behold when one had been away for some time. Whether my siblings and I had been in the fields, helping with the harvest, or neglecting our chores and playing in the woods, when we came home starving at the end of the day, our eyes would bulge and our bellies rumble to smell the supper emanating from the cooking pot that hung over the hearth, wafting around the homestead.
Outside the walls of our enclosure live my father’s tenants in much smaller houses with a larger one that serves as the village moot hall. And surrounding the clearing in which our village stands there is a wooded area that linked our homestead with the much smaller village of Gorde, owned by my father’s nemesis, Helghi.
As children we would play in that forest, but we never ventured further than we should lest we stray into the area close to the Helghisons’. Always told never to go near that part of the woods, we never knew why until one day the feud between our families that had lain dormant for many years, was rekindled when my oldest sister, Freyda, began a love affair with Helghi’s son. It is now a bloodfeud that having been reignited, will be very hard to extinguish.
Sounds very ominous doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an end to it. At least not until either my father or Helghi is dead.
Tell me about your family.
*Tovi looks seriously pensive for a moment before carrying on.
Father is, as I mentioned, a thegn which means we are members of the numerous military class which are below the earls in status. My father does not own much land other than the minimum 5 hides that a thegn must own, but he has other wealth other than soil, such as his horses but he is by no means a rich man. He is relatively affluent. Plus he is a king’s thegn which makes him higher in rank than an earl’s thegn.
Mother is of far nobler stock than Father is, and she likes him to remember it when she is nagging him for some misdeed or other. Or when she is taking him to task about not trying to better himself and wheedle his way into the king’s favour like other men have to gain more than he really needs.
“I have enough to contend with,” he used to say, “With what I have and you, Woman.”
Mother’s grandfather, whom I am named for, was Tovi the Proud. He was King Cnut’s standard-bearer so we have Danish ancestry as well as Saxon.
I have 6 siblings, well two of them are no longer with us.
The oldest is Freyda who at the time of my speaking, is 19 and married. She caused a lot of trouble for us when she was younger with her dalliance with Helghi’s son, Edgar. When she decided to plight her troth with him, it set off a series of events that led to some terrible things happening to our family. It was hard to understand how she could have caused such trouble, and I have yet to forgive her.
The terrible twins are the next in age at 17, they are 2 years my elder they both made my younger sister’s life and mine very difficult. To say that I hated them would be an understatement.
I don’t know if Winflaed, who was 2 years younger than myself, hated them as much as I did, but she certainly disliked them. Once I caught them using her for target practice, so I grabbed their bow and broke it. They hung me down the well! I thought I was going to die down there!
Winflaed is my favourite family member. She and I are very close. We grew up sharing much together, the daily abuse from our twin brothers and our pain. I have not see her for some time and I miss her.
Younger than Winflaed is little Gerda and then there was the baby of the family, Drusilda, who died when she was only 2 winters old of the ague. Gerda is 8 summers now and very sweet, but it seems that she is deaf, though despite this she is still a lovely little thing.
Who is the hardest member of your family to get along with, and why?
*Tovi’s eyes cloud, and it is clear that this question has touched a deep nerve. It is some moments before he can respond.
Today you might say that our family have a functional problem- I forget the word my scop called it. It would probably be easier to tell you who I did get on with, but even though my brothers terrorized me and abused me, I always knew where I stood with the twins.
I think the relationship with my father became difficult after he and Mother grew apart because of all the wrong he did to her. For some reason she took her hurt out on me and this made it hard for me to love my father as I once had, for in the same way she used me as a battering ram for her pain, I took mine out on Father. His reluctance to stand up to Mother I saw as a weakness, and in a way it was. He allowed her to take him hostage to her need for recognition of what he’d done to her.
Their problems have had a huge effect on me as I grew up. You see my father had been like a god to me. But all this hate between Mother and him left me with so much uncertainty about life, and what was expected of me as I grew, and I find now that it is a struggle for me to trust anyone.
If you could choose any kind of future for yourself, what would it be?
All I ever wanted in life was to be like my father, a warrior. I was sent to Waltham collegiate to be educated and learn the ways of the priesthood, but it is not what I want for myself. It was Mother’s idea. I think she wanted me out of the way, because of the dark secret she carries that I am privy to. She is afraid that I will tell my father, but for years I have kept it hidden in my heart and carry it round like my own personal cross that I must bear.
If you could change one thing that’s happened to you in your life, what would it be?
Once upon a time I might have said being born, but right now things are turning around for me and I am getting on better. *Tovi thinks for a moment before continuing. If I was to change something, it would be that I would not have knowledge of Mother’s secret. It would be much better for her and I that I had not been party to it. Some might say that the knowing of it is my fault. Perhaps it is.
Your author is working on a new book for you and your family. What can you tell us about it?
She is indeed, though I prefer to call her my scop.
Anyway, its called Wolf’s Bane. It seems we are obsessed with wolves in our family. Apparently, it has something to do with our ancestors believing they are descended from the creatures they called werewulfas.
Wolf’s Bane is going to be a little different to the first two books in that it concentrates more on the family this time. Though we will still see characters from the other books, mostly the focus is on me, my father and my family. She tells me she has some terrible things to do to us all but in actual fact she has already done some really horrible things already so I’m hoping that things can only get better from here on.
Tell us about your author. Why does she enjoy the period of history when you lived, and what got her started writing about it?
She told me that she went to a big battle reenactment and it piqued her interest. She wanted to learn more about how the people lived and what it must have felt like to have experienced such a traumatic time in their history and if a family like mine night have overcome such an awful suffering. She won’t tell me what the battle was called or much about it because she doesn’t want me to know what is going to happen. Its very irritating when she does that, but perhaps I am better off not knowing – for now.
What other books/series do you recommend for people who want to read more on this era?
I will have to ask my scop this one. I have no idea.
Later, Tovi returns with his author’s answer.
She says that she has read and enjoyed the following:
Helen Hollick’s, Harold the King and The Hollow Crown
Patricia Bracewell’s Emma of Normandy series
Hope Muntz’s The Golden Warrior
Mercedes Rochelle The Last Great Saxon Earls series
Carol McGrath’s Daughters of Hastings
James Aitcheson’s The Harrowing comes from me highly recommended, she says and if anyone is interested in what the Norman perspective was… (here Tovi looks as if he is going to spit, but obviously then realizes he is in genteel company so refrains and composes himself) these are the best she has ever read.
Thank you for kind invitation to tell you about my story. Below is the cover of the new book that is coming soon.
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