by Phyllis Irene Radford
I had a book come out today here on The Book View Café. Guardian of the Promise, Merlin’s Descendants #4 by Irene Radford.
In many ways this was my favorite of the 5 book series. Well, truth to tell, they are all favorites in some way. But this one is the book that should never have happened.
Previously I had sold Guardian of the Vision, Merlin’s Descendants #3 and proposed that it would run over the course of 30 years, from the day Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne of England in 1558, to the Spanish Armada in 1588. But that lively queen ruled for a long, long time. 45 turbulent years. There is so much good stuff during her reign that 900 manuscript pages later I’d only covered 6 of the 30 years and some of the key characters died on the last pages.
Back to the drawing board—or the synopses board if you prefer. And then I saw a snippet on the History Channel that during the 16th C the Catholic Church burned 30,000 confirmed werewolves.
Fodder for the fiction mill. I hit the research books and discovered that all across Europe legends proclaimed loud and clear that the mother of all werewolves was a Spanish princess.
I could work with that. Given Spain’s dominant presence in European politics during that period I’m not surprised that the blame for every heinous crime was laid at their feet.
Later, after the book was originally published in 2003, I came across another bit of information from a different History Channel program. (The good stuff always comes to light after the book is published.) The Little Ice Age, from roughly 1300 to 1800 current era. When I was studying history in high school and college, no one mentioned this little tidbit of climate change affecting politics. (Don’t get me started on the current climate of denial.) Think about it. For 500 years hunger and disease were a given. Some medical historians are now suggesting that the reason the Black Death and various other plagues wiped out nearly one half the population of Europe over the course of several centuries was weakened immune systems from malnutrition due to climate change.
This is also the period when werewolf tales exploded across Europe. Is there a connection.
In my opinion there is.
Hunger. Starvation. Watching your children die because the crops that have sustained you will no longer grow. By the time Europe as a whole switched to hardier grains and turnips instead of fresh fruit, the planet began to warm again. This is why the potato became so popular within a decade of discovery. It grew abundantly anywhere it was planted. And those nutritious roots survived storage through disastrous winters.
Before that switch hunger and disease haunted everyone, noble households as well as peasant hovels.
In European cultures cannibalism is one of the most heinous crimes. Given the state of hunger, imagine the desperation of the hungry and knowing that a freshly interred corpse might be the only thing standing between you and the hideous death of your children.
No one wants to admit it. Much easier to believe that a monster overcame the person who dug up the dead and ate them. Much easier to blame the monster than to believe a human could stoop so low.
Of course I write fantasy, so I have a different explanation in Guardian of the Promise. Easier to believe in the fantasy of magic than that soulless monsters howl at the full moon in clear warning that they are hungry…
Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of the Book View Café. Though raised in the seaports of America she was born in Portland, Oregon and has lived in and around the city since her junior year in high school. She thrives in the damp and loves the tall trees.
For more about her and her fiction please visit her bookshelf here on BVC.
Or her personal web page ireneradford.com