- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (26 Mar. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0709064020
- ISBN-13: 978-0709064022
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,018,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Flight of the Sparrow Hardcover – 26 Mar 1999
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How to make a good story from two conflicting ones
There are two stories about how our forebears in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria became Christian. One,written in Latin by the Venerable Bede, says King Edwin of Northumbria was converted by Paulinus, friend of Saint Augustine of Canterbury and a missionary from Rome. He had come north with Edwin's new bride, a Christian Kentish princess. But the Welsh tell a different story. They say Edwin was baptised by a Celtic priest-prince, Rhun. And he very well may have been. As a boy, Edwin had to flee from Northumbria, because his brother-in-law had seized the kingdom and wanted to kill him. And this heathen boy fled to Christian Wales, the very people his Anglo-Saxon family were trying to conquer. So maybe they converted him, as well as protected him. Whenever I get two conflicting stories like this, I always find I get more mileage, not from deciding which one to go for, but asking myself, "Suppose they are both true!" What if Edwin did become a Christian as a youngster in Wales? And what if, when the Welsh were defeated and he had to flee to the heathen Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia,he dropped his Christianity and went back to his heathen gods? When he finally won the kingdom of Northumbria back, he became the greatest of all the English kings. So when his Christian bride and her bishop wanted him to be baptised, how could he confess to them that he already was? That he, the great Northumbrian conqueror, was a coward who had gone back on his vows of loyalty to his lord Christ? Bede's account says that Edwin agonised for months and kept half-promising to be baptised and then putting it off. I could see why. So what made him change his mind? Ah, you'll have to read it to find out. And there is another thing in those old stories. Northumbria's bitterest enemy was Cadwallon, King of Gwynedd. And who was he? The son of the same king who had taken Edwin in as a boy. His own foster-brother. And what did Edwin do when he got his kingdom back? He attacked the Welsh in Gwynedd, drove Cadwallon out of Anglesey to a tiny island and then forced him into exile. There's gratitude for you. I could see why Cadwallon would be bitter. So it's the relationship of these men, who should have brothers, driving the story to its climax. Oh, and Edwin's niece was Saint Hilda. And she was a remarkable young woman.