I would like to start with the good news; this past weekend, I adopted a shepherd from the Burlington County Animal Alliance.  Shadow is a beautiful boy, looks like a white wolf, but he has a very sad history of abuse; he came into the shelter half-starved and terrified.  Susan, his foster “mom,” told me that there were strong indications he’d been kicked as well as beaten, and he wasn’t housebroken even though he is about three years old; that means he was an outside dog, chained up in a yard somewhere, a cruelty in itself for social pack animals like dogs.   Shadow blossomed in his foster home, probably the first time in his young life that he’d been treated with kindness.  I have great admiration for people who work in rescue, for it is demanding and emotionally draining.  And those who volunteer to foster dogs or cats are the unsung heroes, for they take in frightened, damaged animals, transform them into family pets, and then give them up so they can continue to help other creatures in need. 

       I found Shadow by chance when I checked out on impulse; I didn’t think I was ready yet to bring another dog into my house and heart.  But then I saw Shadow’s photo and felt a connection.  When Susan told me his dreadful history and that he got along very well with her small dogs and cats (an important consideration since I have a poodle who was Cody’s best pal and partner-in-crime), I had to go see him.  Well, it was love at first sight and he is now a full-fledged member of the Penman pack.  I am in awe of his sweet nature and his willingness to trust; had I suffered the abuse he did, it would likely have turned me into a serial killer.   But Susan and her family showed him that all humans are not cruel or evil and he is making remarkable progress.  This dog who was starving takes treats from my hand with a touch as delicate as a feather.  It was only a few weeks ago that he learned the housebreaking “rules,” but he has yet to have an accident inside.   He and Chelsea chase each other around like whirling dervishes.  He likes nothing better than to sit beside me while I’m working on the computer and put his head on my knee so I can rub his ears; Cody loved that, too—must be a shepherd thing J    Every now and then something scares him—a sudden noise, a memory—and he starts to shiver.   But this gentle boy is remarkably resilient and he soon relaxes again, remembering that the bad times are behind him.   We cannot erase his wretched past, but I can make sure that his future will be filled with love.

        It is true what people say about rescue dogs; they do seem so grateful to be given a second chance at life.   I realize adoption is not for everyone.    While pure-bred dogs are available through rescue groups and shelters, it is harder to find the “less popular” breeds, and if you’re set upon a puppy, that can entail a much longer wait.  But if you adopt a dog (or cat) from a shelter, you are quite literally saving a life; when I adopted Cody, I was told by a shelter worker that they have trouble placing the big dogs and I never forgot how easily that wonderful dog could have slipped through the cracks.     And by adopting through a rescue group, you will benefit from their evaluation and know in advance what sort of dog you will be getting, whether he is timid or cocky, whether he wants to be an “only child” or would be happier with other dog roommates, etc.    Rescue groups are very conscientious, too, about placing the right dog or cat with the right family, heading off “mismatches” from the get-go.   And we are fortunate in having such a wonderful resource in, begun some years ago by a young couple seeking to combine their computer expertise with their love of animals; virtually every shelter and rescue group in the country list their adoptable pets on this site.   Based on my own experience, I would wholeheartedly recommend adoption for those seeking to add a pet to their family.  Adoption gave me my beloved Cody, and now the sweet Shadow, so I feel twice-blessed.

          So now you know who Shadow is, but what of Keiko and Fauvel?   Keiko is, of course, the famous killer whale and star of the Free Willy films who was rescued from a miserable captivity and eventually returned to the wild after his story attracted world-wide sympathy.  His time as a free whale was sadly much too short, but I have no doubts that this highly intelligent animal would rather have had a year of freedom than another decade of the miserable existence he’d endured prior to the Free Willy film.   And Fauvel?   He was a magnificent bay stallion, first owned by a Cypriot despot and then by an English king, better known as Lionheart.   Fauvel not only caught Richard’s eye, he bedazzled the two chroniclers who’d accompanied the king on the Third Crusade; they described him as “fleet as a deer” and “the best horse from here to Ypres.” 

             But what is the connection between a killer whale and a stallion who lived eight centuries ago?   I think they epitomize the change in attitudes toward animals over the years.  Like us, people in the MA were capable of caring deeply for their horses, dogs, hawks.  Occasionally one is mentioned in the chronicles, like the famous Fauvel.  We know that King John fed chicken to his favorite falcon.  The names of cherished horses echo throughout the chansons de geste.   Giraldus Cambrensus, a.k.a. Gerald the Welshman, related a touching story of a greyhound’s loyalty to his slain master.  While cats were not usually regarded as pets, they seem to have found good homes in many convents, as nuns were often scolded for their devotion to cats and small dogs.    But the medievals would not have been able to understand our concern for Keiko, much less the global attention paid to three  grey whales trapped under arctic ice about twenty years ago; two were eventually saved by a joint American-Russian effort with a Russian icebreaker flying the flags of both countries (surely a first!)    

          In the Middle Ages, people believed that man had dominion over the earth and all upon it.  The concept of “animal rights” would have been even more alien to them than the idea of “women’s rights.”    Obviously there are places on the planet today where the medieval attitude toward animals still prevails; understandably, people struggling to survive have different priorities than citizens of more affluent nations.  But in many countries there has been a remarkable, almost revolutionary shift in public opinion, as evidenced by laws to combat animal abuse, no-kill shelters, the rescue movement itself, and compassion toward wildlife as well as family pets, etc.  

           Of course many of our most cherished beliefs would not have taken root in medieval soil.  Religious tolerance was not viewed as a virtue since Christians and Muslims and Jews alike were sure that theirs was the only true faith.   Equality of the sexes?   Not likely in a world in which the Church itself taught that women were daughters of Eve, and “A woman who is not under the headship of the husband violates the condition of nature, the mandate of the Apostle, and the law of Scripture:  ‘The head of the woman is the man.’  She is created from him and she is subject to his power.’” (Letter from Routrou, Archbishop of Rouen, to Eleanor of Aquitaine, urging her to return to her husband, “whom you have promised to obey.”)    As an aside, marriage vows routinely required a wife to promise to obey her husband until relatively recently; when my parents were wed in 1942, they deleted this provision, but then they were rebels before their time!   Nor would medieval people have agreed with the American Declaration of Independence and its bold statement that all men are created equal.  Even in the eighteenth century, that was far from a “self-evident” truth; in the MA, it would have been incomprehensible.  

       It is not surprising, then, that medievals were much more unsentimental than we are in their interactions with animals.  I have tried to reflect that in my novels.  In my first medieval mystery, Justin de Quincy rescues a dog that was pitched off a bridge with a bag of rocks tied to his neck. Most of the bystanders are indifferent to the dog’s plight, aside from Justin and a five year old boy, and even Justin is somewhat embarrassed that he is going to so much trouble for a dog that is not his.   In Prince of Darkness, there is a scene involving an angry carter, a wagon mired in mud, and the scrawny horse who is the object of his owner’s wrath.  A man beating a horse (or dog) in public today would stir outrage; there was far less indignation in medieval Shrewsbury.

          So as much as I love writing about the MA, I would not have wanted to live in those turbulent times.   Now time-travel would be an irresistible temptation—provided that I had a return ticket.   Query to readers—have any of you imagined living in a bygone age?  If so, when?  More to the point, why?

         Lastly, Coeur de Lion’s army is still bogged down by the River Rochetaille, six miles from his objective, the coastal town of Arsuf.   I divided the chapter into two parts, a common occurrence for my chapters seem to self-replicate like amoeba.  So the two armies have been camped on opposite sides of the river for days now,   But a friend, apparently channeling Richard, informed me that he said I should “stop mucking around with that damned dog and let him get back to slaying Saracens.”   And so I shall.  

May 5, 2010   


PS  Here are some rescue websites.

Burlington County animal Alliance (BCAA)  at   (handles all breeds of dogs and cats)  Read their story about Buddy, an eight month old retriever in desperate need of surgery; his owners brought him to the shelter to have him euthanized because they could not afford the medical costs.  But he was so young and exuberant that the rescue is trying to give him a chance at a normal life.

314 Responses to “SHADOW, KEIKO, AND FAUVEL”

  1. Cindy Says:

    Congratulations on your new addition! It sounds like Shadow has found a wonderful forever home in your pack :-D Thanks for sharing as well about the trouble rescue groups can have in placing big dogs. I’ve also heard they have challenges in placing older dogs too. Every cat we’ve had has “found” us and our lives are much richer for this. And thanks for the continuing updates as to “where’s Richard?”

  2. Susie Says:

    I find the medieval attitudes towards animals fascinating! I recently graduated from Arizona State University with a BA degree in Art History - my final paper was on animal theory and medieval bestiaries (now I’m going back for master’s with a concentration on medieval bestiaries). Animals were companions, tools (didactic and practical), food, reflections of God’s creation, enemies, sport…. amongst other things. There were so many feelings, often conflicting, about animals vs humans. I think that is something we share with the MA, even though the reasoning has changed. I don’t think the line between “human” and “animal” is any clearer now than back then!

    Anyway, great post as always :) and congrats on the new family member! What a handsome boy :D

    P.S. If anyone is interested, here’s a couple books on animals in the MA I enjoyed reading:
    The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages - Joyce Salisbury
    Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition - Laura Hobgood-Oster
    Mark of the Beast: the Medieval Bestiary in Art, Life, and Literature - Debra Hassig

  3. Susie Says:

    oh, and: Medieval Bestiaries: Text, Image, Ideology - also by Debra Hassig :)

  4. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks for posting these books. Another interesting one is Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures by Richard C. Foltz. Without a doubt, human feelings toward animals are complicated! We don’t go to watch bear baiting any more, but dog fighting still exists and so does bull and cock fighting.
    Cindy, I was surprised to learn that the hardest dogs to place are large black dogs. They are so hard to adopt out that there are rescue groups devoted only to their needs.

  5. Koby Says:

    Fascinating account, Sharon. I really like this post.
    And today, Sir James Tyrrell was executed, allegedly for killing the Princes in the Tower.

  6. Koby Says:

    I just found out that the river Rochetaille is apparently identified as Nahal Poleg. It’s a beautiful river, though not too wide or deep - how did they get bogged down in it?

  7. Anne Gilbert Says:

    A couple of teeny corrections here. First, “killer whales” are more properly known as orcas()rcinus orca). They are actually the world’s largest — and fastest — dolphin! Furthermore, there are three pods of them around where I live, and unfortunately, they’re choking on the pollution and starving from lack of chinook salmon — their favorite food — to eat. I don’t suppose medieval people would have cared, one way or another, about that conditions, so from the orca’s POV, our changes in attitudes are a good thing.

    Second, the whales rescued near Barrow, Alaska(I learned a lot of about that particular place high above the Arctic Circle because I”m “into” wolves, which you will see if you read my blog from time to time) weren’t gray whales. They were belugas, or white whales, sometimes called “sea canaries”, because they “talk” a lot and seem to like all kinds of music. They got caught in what the Inupiat people there call “savssats”, narrowing holes in forming ice they can’t get out of. The attitudes of the Inupiat people of Barrow, Alaska, have probably changed as much from their “traditional” ways, as we have changed from medieval attitudes. In “traditional” times, if whales got caught in these forming “savssats”, the community killed and ate them. They needed the food, after all.

    I hope I’m not rattling on too much, but I have a Siamese cat in my book(s). She did come from a convent, but she doesn’t live there any more, and like many cats, she manages to worm her way into some people’s affections(not everybody’s, though). I realize this may seem “out of period” to some of you(especially the Siamese part), but I have an explanation of sorts, and the cat does her job very competently as a mouser, etc, and people know it, because that’s what cats were for, in “them days”.

    I’ll probably blog about this, as I plan to for various characters in my book, and how it came to be, but that’s for later.

    Sorry to ramble on,
    Anne G

  8. Jel Says:

    Thanks for sharing about your new writing companion, and the joy of the gentleness the is shown.
    I think you say it well when you reflect on the affluence of our society and the care of animals. Even the wealthy in the MA’s did not really have the temperature controlled comfort that we have, drafty halls, and walks in keeps.
    Do you know the reason that Muslims do not like dogs? Would it have been a cleanliness thing, or did dogs in the 6th century arabia have rabies and so it was a protection prohibition?

  9. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    Great post Sharon and lots of food for thought as always.
    Shadow is really beautiful and I am so pleased you found him. I’m sure he’s in heaven with his ear rubs!
    Re Fauvel - does it specifically say in the sources that he’s a bay? R.H.C. Davis in The Medieval Warhorse has a list of colours at the back and he says that the colour (Fauvus) is ‘tawny brown with a preponderance of yellow or orange.’ And that a bay is a ‘Bai.’ In the medieval period, horses in the texts mostly seem to have been named by their colours. William Marshal had a tourney horse called Blancart - I assume a grey. I’m sure they must have called them other names too - or else it would have become very confusing when a lot were gathered together.
    Attitudes to animals have changed among mainstream urban civilisation, but you can still see some of the practicality and dominion over all side in the country. My neighbour has two working terriers - used as ratters and rabbiters. They’re not house dogs, but have their own kennel in the garden. They go with him in his van and are daytime companions but they’re not hearth dogs and don’t come in the house. The ratting is viewed as sport. Large populations of rats build up around the pheasant feeders which have been used to raise birds for shooting sport. So the men will gather with their ratting dogs and hold a kill fest and it’s all seen as good fun. The same guy takes his dogs and his ferrets to net rabbits, and quite often brings us a rabbit or two for our dogs. I would say that his attitude to animals is very similar to a medieval one. He truly does love his dogs, but they have their place and they have a specific function to perform, they are not just for companionship and pleasure. Actually, thinking about it, the medieval attitude is also the same attitude of much later times. I was recently reading a book about our village history, and only 80 years ago, the butcher would have a weekly slaughter of a cow and do the job in public, with young lads paid to hold the cow while it was killed. Wouldn’t happen today but it was the norm within living memory. Earlier than that the slaughter would have been preceded by baiting with dogs - it was the law in Winchester as I recall that butchers had to bait the bulls before slaughter with dogs, for entertainment purposes. I wonder if that’s where the likes of Staffordshire Bull terriers have their origins.
    I’d like to go back to the 11th, 12th & 13th centuries for holidays but not all the time and the reason I would like to go back is to watch how people made things and did things. There are some fabulous artifacts out there, both the magnificent and the ordinary, and I’d like to watch them being made.

  10. Misfit Says:

    Sharon, I am so happy you were able to Shadow a new home. As for what time period to travel to? So many choices but I think I’d have to go and find out what happened to the Princes in the tower myself….

  11. Ann Spicer Says:

    What a beautiful dog. May you have a long and happy relationship. Love shared is a blessing indeed.

  12. nanina d'onofrio Says:

    Sharon, Thank you for telling us about Shadow’s rescue. I love to hear about the big dogs finding happy homes. In the past when I’ve gone to the shelter to adopt a dog I always think, “I’ll just look for a little one.” I always end up with a lab or lab mix or rough collie or chow chow mix. After a while, with lots of love and instruction, they turn into “THE BEST DOG I EVER HAD.” Somehow they each have earned that title. May you, Shadow, Chelsea and family have many long dog years together!

  13. Sharon K Penman Says:

    What interesting responses–thanks! This blog is off to a good start. Koby, Richard’s real army wasn’t bogged down by River Rochetaille, their name for it; Amroise says it means Split Rock. They camped there after safely passing through the Forest of Arsuf on September 5th and passed the next day there, too, within sight of Salah al-Din’s camp fires. On Saturday, the 7th, they broke camp at dawn, and the battle itself occurred that day. My guys are “bogged down” there simply because I had to delay the battle chapter while I was adopting Shadow! But now it’s time to get back to the bloodletting. It is interesting to read the different names given to the same rivers by the Frank and Saracen chroniclers; for example, R’s men called one the Dead River and it was so overgrown with reeds that they suspected the Saracens of setting a trap for them. They weren’t accustomed to rivers that became mere trickles in the heat of high summer. Baha al-Din calls the same river the River of Reeds.
    I am so glad you asked about Fauvel’s color, Elizabeth! Fauvel, BTW, is naturally the name Richard gave him, since Isaac Comnenus would not have given his stallion a French name. I took the “bay” from several historians, but that was careless of me for not checking further. Ambroise actually calls him a “dun.” Salah al-Din’s brother, al-Adil, gave Richard two splendid Arabian stallions, but we’re not sure if they were safely transported back to his domains.

  14. Marie Belanger Says:

    Thank you for adopting Shadow and Cody!
    I appreciate what you said about chaining a social companion animla and I hope you will help us spread the word. I am always on the search for area reps for Dogs Deserve Better (than life on a chain) and I just wanted to express my gratitude for your post.
    Have a wonderful life with Shadow!!

  15. Marie Belanger Says:

    (sp) correction *animal*

  16. Megan Sneary Says:

    As much as I love reading about the MA, I would not care to live there or even vacation there, truly. The smells alone would send me home quickly!

    I have a black Great Dane rescue who is such a sweet dear! We are listed with our local shelter as a possible home for other Danes who come in. When large dogs come in to any shelter in our area they call around to the others to see who has a contact that may take it since they are so hard to adopt. If you want a particular breed of dog (or are willing to take one), consider doing this at your local shelter. It saves you having to check back all the time and the staff/volunteers are usually grateful to have the contact.

    We live quite near the Mexican border and the more “inferior” large dogs (less agressive) are often taken across to serve as fighter dog bait. Killing a larger dog apparently builds their confidence and they “perform better” at dog fights. So some attitudes about the place of animals persist from the less enlightened age.

    Though when I hear of things like that I can’t imagine what Ranulf would have done if someone tried to use his dogs as bait!!!

  17. Britta B. Says:

    Thanx for another informative post! As a child I always fantasized about living within an Indian tribe in the Americas (before the European invasion ‘-) So that would be my time travel request.

    It is true, we find that the black, male, non-catsafe dogs our Greyhound rescue takes in are the hardest to adopt out. No idea why since they are just as gentle, loving and loyal as any other.

    Thank you for adopting a shelter dog, and as you said, many of these dogs who’ve had a hard startin their live become such devoted and well-behaved companion that I don’t understand why not everybody gets a rescue, instead of paying lots of money for a pure bred.

    About to get on a plane and taking my trusty, worn Here Be Dragons copy w/me to start the trilogy all over ‘-)

  18. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Marie and Megan, I think it is wonderful that you are trying to make life easier for dogs who’ve had a rough time of it. Britta, safe flight. Jel, that is a great question; I’ll get back to you about it a little later, as I have to take the dogs for their walk before it gets too hot. We seem to have gone straight from winter to high summer here.
    To add a bit more about duns, there are bay duns, red duns, and blue duns, which is why the historians assumed Fauvel was a bay. I don’t know off-hand if one of these colors was predominant in the MA, will check with Elizabeth about that. She’s done a lot of research about medieval horses; I can suggest a few books on that topic if anyone is interested.

  19. Lisa Says:

    Time travel? Much as I enjoy your books, the European middle ages are definitely out of the question for me, at least without complete immunity to violence & disease. Not that such things don’t exist in plenty of other places and times (including our own), but the MA seem to have had such a surfeit of them.

    I’ve always been fascinated by Hatshepsut’s Egypt. And lately I keep fantasizing about visiting America in the last quarter of the 19th century–the rapid spate of scientific discoveries and inventions that essentially formed what we recognize as modern life was just extraordinary.

    Now, if we could arrange for time travel for *other* people–I would LOVE to have a long and leisurely lunch with Eleanor, especially in her later years. She’s an exciting personality due to her passion and spirit, but for me, her ability to hang onto those traits through many very difficult years–her fortitude and ability to take a very long view of events–is what I’d most like to hear about.

  20. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Eleanor would be at the top of my list, too, Lisa. She was able to learn from her mistakes; of course she had 16 years to ponder them!
    Britta is involved in greyhound rescue; these sweet dogs make wonderful pets, are elegant couch potatoes at heart. Here is the URL for her rescue group.

  21. Koby Says:

    Well, Poleg does mean ’split’, ‘divide’ or ‘disagreement’ (in Aramaic as well - ‘Pliga’) so that makes sense.

  22. Kelly Says:

    Sharon, Congratulations on your new family addition! We recently adopted a Doberman puppy that we named Octane (and boy does he live up to his name!!). He’s just shy of six months old and already approximately 60-65 lbs. - He’s going to be a big one!! We opted not to dock his ears (I couldn’t do it to our Boxer, Kato, either!) - they’re just too soft and silky, besides if God had intended for Doberman’s to have the ’stand up’ ears, they would already have them! We’ve been attending obedience classes with him and he’s doing wonderfully!

    I also wanted to say, that while waiting for your next novel to be published and Helen Hollick’s next pirate adventure to be completed, I’ve decided to re-read your Welsh Trilogy. I’m about halfway through “Here Be Dragons” (Joanna just burnt Llewelyn’s bed in the castle baily) and I have to say, I’ve fallen in love with Lewelyn all over again! And Joanna is one woman to be greatly admired - even more so, I think, than her celebrated grandmother!

    Enjoy your new addition! Take Care,

    Kelly Stambaugh
    Cleveland, OH

  23. Maritza Says:

    Oh, Sharon–Shadow is gorgeous!!! I’m curious, why “Shadow” for a white dog? I had a feeling that after you lost Cody you wouldn’t be able to resist letting another pup steal your heart. I know that someday (hopefully a far, far away day) when my Rosie no longer brightens my life, my hubby and I will open our arms and home to another lonely pup. Both my wonderful dogs have been rescues (Pepper, who passed away in 2006, was from our local Adopt-a-Pet center and Rosie just appeared on my doorstep). It will probably be a dog who’s a year or older (I don’t think I can handle doggy “toilet training”!) plus I understand these dogs are harder to place. Adopting a homeless or shelter animal is so rewarding and so needed that I can’t see anyone purchasing a pet. Blessings to you and your doggy brood!

    I know what you mean about rehabilitating an abused dog. When my Rosie arrived on our doorstep, she was so skittish, she didn’t allow anyone to pet her and wouldn’t look us in the eyes. The first time we bathed her, it took 3 of us to handle her and drying her was like trying to hold down a washing machine agitator. It took buckets of patience and a lot of love and human/dog bonding attempts to get her to calm down and accept us. We almost gave up on her and tried to give her away several times but God had other plans and today, I couldn’t imagine our home without our Rosie.

    I think if I could visit another era, I’d love to sit quietly next to Thomas Jefferson as he wrote the Declaration of Independence. It’s always been incredible to me that the ideals espoused in that document were written in the 1700’s. To be a witness to that event must have been truly inspiring.

  24. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    Re the horse colour Sharon. I’ve just been looking into it more. Prepare for lots of stuff, but I think the answer might be a deer!
    Prof Davis lists a dun as being separate to a Fauvus horse (just to muddy the waters - rolls eyes). He says in his glossary at the back ofThe Medieval Warhorse: Dun: a dull or dingy brown. If almost grey it is called blue dun, if almost brown a golden or yellow dun. Dun horses may have black points.’ Then, going alphabetically on his way, the next entry is ‘Fauvus - Fauvre Fr. Falbo Ital. Tawny (brown with preponderance of yellow or orange). He also states that bays had their own name - Bai in French. ‘A chestnut-coloured body (light, bright, dark or brown). It is the black points which distinguish a bay from a chestnut. I’ve always understood that bays have black points. A bay is mentioned as a ‘bai’ in the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal - Vol 1 line 2758
    As far as I know re dun horses, the brown dun is the default because it’s primitive wild horse colour - although having said that, Tarpan’s come out as mousey with black legs. Przevalski’s are dun though.
    Still researching, I’ve just looked in Malcolm Jones’ great book The Secret Middle Ages. Here he discussed the origins of the saying ‘To curry favour’ Which originally was ‘To curry Favel.’ Jones says in the course of his discussion that a ‘Fauvel’ horse is a ‘chestnut horse’ and that the name survives today in the slight altered form of the ‘Fallow’ deer species. Looking up ‘fallow’ for deer in the dictionary, it says ‘brownish yellow.’ Jones discusses the currying favour aspect of the Fauvel word in more detail. I don’t know if it’s worth anything, but while checking the dictionary for ‘Fallow’, I went to the ‘fav’ section and found that ‘favus’ is Latin for honeycomb - which might again be indicative of a yellow colour.
    I have wondered if a Fauvel horse is a kind of dark palomino colour, but that’s my speculation.

  25. admin Says:

    This is fascinating, Elizabeth–thank you! It sounds as if Richard’s Fauvel was a “red dun,” which might well look like a dark palomino, except with black mane and tail, of course. Well, now you all can see why Elizabeth and I can’t churn out a book a year–we do tend to get sidetracked in this sort of research!

  26. Jennifer Says:

    Hello Sharon!

    Thank you for this post! I am a big fan of your books (as are my mother and grandmother)! I am finishing up my second year in graduate school - I’m a conservation biology and environmental policy dual masters student in Washington, D.C. My career of choice is in animal welfare and imperiled species preservation (although I’ve started telling my mother I eventually want to be a history teacher!). To that end, I work as a policy analyst intern for the International Fund for Animal Welfare ( We work hard for all animals in peril: puppy mills puppies, animals abandoned due to natural disasters, elephants and whales who are still hunted for no real reason other than unadulterated greed.

    I am so happy you are spreading the word about rescue groups - they are such a good idea for both pets and potential pet owners!

    To answer your question - I do think about traipsing back through time to visit other ages (although I, too, would want a return ticket), but more often, I find myself wondering which historical figure(s) I would most want to introduce to this age. I think perhaps Simon de Montfort would be a good candidate - I would love to discuss today’s democratic process with him. I also think it would be very fun to show Eleanor of Aquitaine the modern world. Who would you want to bring forward in time?

  27. james watson Says:

    Hey Shron (Red Dun,… Being-A dry -fly??) I digress . Happiness too you Sharon with Your new Dog…Shadow.

  28. Dave Says:


    Tell me, have you ever heard of the legend of Gelert? I would imagine so since you lived in Wales for a while. If not, google it. It’s more likely a tourist gimmick like Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysyliogogogoch but, the story made a tear come to my eye, and I’m generally not a crier, even at funerals.

    Iechyd da,


  29. Sharon K Penman Says:

    This is an interesting legend, Dave, for it can be found in similar versions in many countries. If my memory serves, the Welsh legend dates back to a 19th century innkeeper–unless that is a legend, too! For those who aren’t familiar with it, Prince Llywelyn came home to find his baby son’s nursery in chaos and his family dog, Gelert, covered with blood. Thinking the dog had attacked his son, he killed it. And then he found the baby safe, and nearby the body of a dead wolf. Realizing Gelert had saved his child’s life, he ws so heartbroken that it was said he never smiled again. Beddgelert, a lovely little town in Gwynedd, has a plaque telling this story, and the name means Gelert’s grave. I am always fascinating by myths that seem universal. Same for proverbs. I recently discovered that the “A cat has nine lives” folk saying has an Arabic and Turkish equivalent, only they only allot the cat seven lives!

  30. Sandy Says:

    Sharon, congrats on the new family member! Can’t help wondering what you say if he trips? ;-)

    I, too, have great respect for those who foster. I tried and failed miserably as my two cats can tell you. They came to me as foster kittens and convinced me they were meant to stay. The night before their second trip to the adoption showcase, one developed a badly gooked up eye, indicative of an infection. They stayed home while I went to volunteer at the showcase and pick up some medicine. When I got home, the eye was perfectly clear!

    I’ve often thought about time travel, but, since my idea of roughing it is Holiday Inn, I’ve realized I wouldn’t want to stay in any other time period for long. Yes, I’d love to meet Eleanor, find out how advanced the Minoans really were, experience a Roman villa with a working hypocaust, keep Lincoln away from the theater, just to name a few, but I have no desire to give up modern plumbing for more than a day.

    One thing that’s been bothering me lately is John’s lost treasure. Do you know if any recent attempts have been made to find it? It seems to me that modern technology should be up to the task.

  31. Sharon K Penman Says:

    We’re kindred spirits, Sandy; I like my creature comforts too much to want to live without central heating, air conditioning, even computers like Demon Spawn. That’s an interesting question about John. I don’t know if this has ever been attempted? Any of my British readers able to answer Sandy?

  32. Sandy Says:

    Since I posted, I did a little research. Seems not a single verified artifact has been found. There seems to be a theory that the whole thing was a hoax and that the treasure was really stolen.

  33. Jenny Says:

    Referance from pg58 book title “Lock,Stock & Barrel”
    “favel the fallow or chestnut horse.”

  34. Kristen Elizabeth Says:

    Sharon, congratulations on your new addition! Shadow looks like a delightful creature and I am certain he will be a loving and loyal companion. I like rescue shelters, too. They really do work hard to get the right home for each animal. I was surprised to read that your shelter said larger dogs are harder to place. I love big dogs so much. I have a cat, but I wish I could have a big dog again. My house is too small for a large dog and I am gone such long hours that it just wouldn’t be fair at all to a social animal like a dog. :(

    Susie–congrats on your recent graduation! I’m an ASU alum, too! I graduated in 2003 with my MA in medieval literature, specifically in the writings for anchorites and female mystics. I miss being on campus sometimes. Thanks for the book recs–they sound awesome and definitely will be something I will check out.

    Sharon, in response to your question about time travel, I would definitely want to go back to the MA and see things for myself. Pretty much ALL of the MA is what I’d want to see, I think! I’d want to check out Ireland while I was there since that is my heritage more so than English, but I could never pass up the opportunity to see medieval England! I’d also want to check out the Roman Republic, as well as England when it was under Roman rule. I’d want to see these times to see just how accurate we think of them now. There is so much that is romanticized generally that I think we must be pretty off base in some respects.

    I do think, though, that I was born way too soon. I’m a child of the 80s and I was led to believe I’d be living on the moon by now. I’m so disappointed…

  35. Anne Gilbert Says:

    Hmmm. . . .thanks Sharon and EC, about the “Fauvel” information. Tarpan horses are (usually) a gray dun, at least the ones in bhe Bialowieza Forest are. Of course these “tarpans” are reconstructions. There are some of these “tarpans”romaing around certain Wicken Fen in East Anglia, and they seem to be more of a “red dun”, but what do I know? In any case, I assumed Fauvel was a chestnut of some kind, because palomino horses are basically a variant of chestnut, but again, what do I know? I know a little about horses, and I always wanted to learn to ride one, but unfortunately, I lived ina city. . . . .Anyway, I’m always willing to learn.
    Anne G

  36. Ken Says:

    Hi, Sharon, Glad to see you and your new housemate are getting along well!

    Further to my last post about Chateau Guedelon, a certain Linda McCabe on HFO posted photos and text of a visit she made to the building site in 2007. Well worth a look!

  37. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Ken. This is fascinating.

  38. ash Says:

    Sandy, several theories abound about the Wash treasure:

    I have always thought it odd that John died so soon after this incident. It would make sense to me that the legend was started to cover up theft and possible poisoning of the king. But then, I’ve always liked the mystery of the legend so there we are. Without the legend, we’d also never have had the wonderful novel by Eliz Chadwich, Marsh King’s Daughter!

  39. Gayle Says:

    Hello Sharon,
    I mentioned Keiko before in your blog. I am not sure that he was all that happy when he was allowed to swim away from Iceland. I saw him when he was incarcerated in the Newport, Oregon aquarium. He was so bored! He had nothing to do. This whale had worked all his life, and then suddenly no occupation at all. He didn’t know what to do with the fish he caught– he would take them to his handlers. He tried to make friends with people, but of course that wasn’t possible outside a controlled environment. Poor, lonely whale! I think he starved to death in the ocean, in the middle of plenty because he never learned to fend for himself. So I don’t believe his release was a success. Having said that, I don’t believe that capturing and imprisoning these beautiful creatures for entertainment is good.

  40. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Gayle, my understanding is that he died of pneumonia. But whatever he experienced in his last years, it had to be better than his captivity in Mexico, where he was kept in a small pen and was not in good health at all. I agree with you that he did seem to have formed a bond with humans that may have prevented him for connecting with his own kind. If anyone is interesting, there are several tributes to Keiko on YouTube–I find that an absolutely fascinating site and a dangerous one, for it is is a wonderful way to avoid working!

  41. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    Ash, I remember being about 11 or 12 when my parents took the family to the East Coast resort of Hunstanton for a week. My dad said to me ‘You know if you’re lucky and you dig in the right place, you might find King John’s treasure buried in the sand.’ Well of course, if it’s anywhere in the vicinity these days it will be well inland, but I didn’t know that then. I spent the rest of that holiday digging holes all over the beach in the hope of finding an elusive bauble or two!

  42. james watson Says:

    I was told it was Wells Next the Sea?? on Holiday in Kings Lynn??(Any Takers-There?)……Also,.. How much Treasure Did He Loose?”Bet His Mum wasnt too Pleased?

  43. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    Hi Sharon:

    I know this is a bit off-topic, but I am curious and as a fan of your writing and a Robin Hood enthusiast I have to ask.

    Are you considering seeing Ridley Scott’s new Robin Hood movie? I know from past blogs you are not a great fan of Scott’s Kingdom Of Heaven!

    Seeing as the film features characters familiar to your pen (and this applies also to Elizabeth Chadwick), such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Isabella of Angouleme, Kings Richard and John and the redoubtable William Marshal, I wonder if your interest is piqued, or if you deliberately avoid such portrayals so as not to prejudice your own approach.

    My guess is that since Kingdom Of Heaven did not dissuade you from approaching Balian as subject for a future project, that you might take the former course over the latter….

  44. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Blair, I will probably see it, if only from morbid curiosity, for I wasn’t impressed by the film clips I’ve seen. But Russell Crowe will probably make a better Robin Hood than Kevin Costner! Since I think of Robin as a fictional character, I won’t be as likely to embarrass my friends by muttering into my popcorn.

    And on this date, May 11, 1191, Richard of England wed Berengaria of Navarre in Limasol, Cyprus. According to the chronicler Ambroise, who accompanied Richard on Crusade, “She was beautiful, with a bright countenance, the wisest woman, indeed, that one could hope to find anywhere. There was the king in great glory, rejoicing in his victory and in his marriage to the woman to whom he had pledged his troth.”

  45. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    Thanks for the speedy reply, Sharon :-)

    I recently had the pleasure of catching up on one of your earlier novels: When Christ And His Saints Slept. I enjoyed it intensely. Though I have read several novels depicting the Stephen-Maude conflict, or set during the period, your treatment is by far the most compelling and I think probably comes closest to the mark, showing the antagonists very much as they likely were. The insertion of your character of Ranulf fitzRoy was well executed, and felt as real as any of the historical figures in the novel. After Justin de Quincy, he is my favourite of your invented characters (so far).

  46. Valerie L. Says:

    My son describes the newest Robin Hood film as Gladiator set in Sherwood Forest. So, if Gladiator didn’t offend your historical senses, this one probably won’t either. But if it did, beware!

  47. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks, Blair. Have you read Elizabeth Chadwick’s A Place Beyond Courage? It tells the story of William Marshal’s father, John, and so it deals with many of the events I tackle in Saints. I tease EC that she was a bit kinder to her John than I was, but this is a good example of two writers taking the same facts and interpreting them somewhat differently. I really enjoyed it, and think my readers would, too.
    That is a good way to describe Robin Hood, Val. I liked Gladiator, but then I never saw it as history, just a fun film–aside from the cruel Roman custom of having families suffer when one of their members ran afoul of the powers-that-be. Anybody remember those horrific scenes in I, Claudius?

  48. Koby Says:

    That was blatant cheating Sharon, seeing as I had a Final in Physics today and you had recently written about that event.

  49. Sharon K Penman Says:

    You’re right, Koby. I was very sneaky, posting it after midnight, my time! How’d you do on the physics exam?

  50. Mike Says:

    Regarding the new Robin Hood movie…

    Admittedly, I’ve only seen the trailer, but there are some ships in it that look suspiciously like medieval wooden versions of the troop carriers used in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The flat sided ones, with the flat section in the front that is lowered and used as a ramp.

    Does anyone know if that time period (even within a hundred years either side of Richard/John) had ships like those, or are they one of Ridley Scott’s “inventions?”

  51. james watson Says:

    Yeah, If Prince or King John, would Have Had Those Troop-Carriers ?”..He wouldn;t…Have Lost His Treasure…….

  52. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I haven’t seen that clip, Mike, so can’t comment on it. But when Richard’s fleet sailed for the Holy Land, it was vast by medieval standards; it is estimated that over 17,000 people were on board, sailors as well as soldiers. Many were galleys, of course, but some were transport ships they called busses, among other names; it is really confusing at times for the chroniclers sometimes used different names for the same ships. They did have horse transport ships with ramps permitting them to unload the horses on beaches. They were separated by wooden hurdles that functioned as stalls and each horse had a sling under its belly to help keep it upright. It must have been horrible for the poor creatures, and when they did reach land, the horses took several days to fully recover. In one of Richard’s skirimishes on Cyprus, they had to break off pursuit because their horses were still too stiff and sore to run full-out. The galleys were their war ships; Richard’s was red and called Sea-Cleaver. They looked much like the Viking long ships and so there was no need for ramps to unload men.

  53. Koby Says:

    Happy Jerusalem Day!
    I feel I did excellently on my Physics exam, thank you.
    Regarding Jerusalem: While walking the walls there today, we saw two remnants of towers. One is called Tancred’s Tower, for Tancred Prince of the Galilee and Regent of Antioch who conquered that part of the wall. And the Stork Tower, presumably named for Godfrey of Bouillon, who’s symbol was spposdebly a swan, and who had conquered that part of the wall. In Arabic, the words for swan and stork are the same.

  54. Sharon K Penman Says:

    It must be amazing, Koby, to walk the streets of one of the most historic cities in the world. Have you seen the covered medieval street?

  55. Koby Says:

    Yes, I have. Not yesterday, of course, but on previous visits. It is an inspiring city. If I’m not mistaken, it’s number nine on cities with oldest continuous habitation, which makes it really full of history. It’s too bad you can’t actually see most of that, though, unlike Megiddo, which has 26 layers of the ruins of ancient cities, and you can actually see some of them.

  56. Koby Says:

    And today, the Battle of Lewes took place, where Simon de Montfort defeated and captured Henry III, and forced him to sign the Mise of Lewes.

  57. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I am forging ahead with my plan to bring us all to the brink of banruptcy by recommending books to buy. Mitchell James Kaplan has a novel, By Fire, By Water, coming out on 5/18, set in 15th century Spain. It is definitely on my own To Read List, which is approaching truly alarming proportions.

  58. skip sceery Says:

    HI Sharon,

    I lost my 13 year old collie last month and have yet to decide if there is another dog in my aged life. I have thought about rescue dogs and your comments help. I suspect though, if push comes to shove, I’ll be heading back to the collie breeder hoping to find another Patrick.

    I loved your Angevin trilogy, the Welsh princes trilogy, and The Sunne and the Splendor. I’m looking forward to the book on Richard.

  59. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Skip, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Patrick. I think you’ll know when it is time to bring another dog into your heart and home. I’ve had Shadow two weeks now and I feel blessed to have found this sweet boy. It is such a joy to see him learning to trust, learning to play, learning to love. (I call him my love-sponge, since he seems determined to make up for those three years of starvation.) There are collie rescue groups if you decide to pursue that course; you might want to check out, which is a fantastic site. It is more of a challenge, though, to find a breed like collies, as opposed to the more “popular” breeds like shepherds and labs.

  60. Sharon K Penman Says:

    I started reading Elizabeth Chadwick’s To Defy a King, always a dangerous thing to do for anyone laboring under a deadline. I am already rehearsing my excuses for when my editor wants to know why Lionheart won’t be in on time. “It is all Elizabeth’s fault,” I will whine; “Her books are addictive.”

  61. valerie Says:

    i had the misfortune to see robin hood and spent most of the time doing nothing so delicate as muttering in my popcorn - it was more an uninhibited snorting! robin drinking out of a glass glass crossing the channel…and eleanor not understanding french…moaned and groaned throughout to my husband’s great amusement.
    sharon, mazal tov on your adoption, may the two of you experience great happiness together. my dogs are also rescue dogs, both black and both mostly husky and oddly enough they love the israeli sunshine (crazy dogs!) and refuse to come in even in the summer.
    i went to arsuf the other day and it is the most expensive and exclusive enclave in the entire country. the only battles there are over property lines! i am sure that i will prefer your depiction to today’s reality.

  62. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Valerie, Eleanor didn’t understand French? Yikes. I saw the History Channel’s The Real Robin Hood last night and Russell Crowe’s interview didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. He is a fine actor, not such a great historian. He stated as fact Richard’s joke that to raise money for the crusade, he’d have sold London if he could have found a buyer. He also called R. “an assassin for the Pope” because he’d taken the cross. And who knew Robin Hood was the moving force behind the Magna Charta?
    I’d heard that Arsuf was now a posh residential enclave; in Richard’s time, it had been reduced to rubble by Saladin, of course. I found some interesting film of the Arsuf cliffs on YouTube–amazing the stuff you find there.
    What are your dogs names, Valerie? I think it is great that you adopted them. Shadow’s joy is all the more touching because I know he had so little of it in his past. After his obedience class yesterday, I took him to meet a friend and we had lunch at an outdoor cafe, where Shadow was the star. The waitresses doted on him, pedestrians stopped to admire him, and he discovered that he really, really likes breakfast sausage. I was used to Cody stopping traffice because of his size–slightly smaller than an SUV. Shadow is proving to be an attention magnet, too, probably because so few people have ever seen a white shepherd. It is very heartening that so many people have told me they adopted their pets,too. May hee become the poster-dog for rescue dogs everywhere!

  63. valerie Says:

    sharon, my dogs’ names are shanti (which means laid back in the extreme, think lying on the beach drinking something cold and colourful!) and zulu. shanti is afraid of everyone and everything. her original owner thought a dog had to be beaten into behaving. as you can imagine this has made her very shy and damaged her emotionally for which she is all the sweeter. after 10 years of good living with us she loves all children and still mistrusts all men (but not women). she is dumber than a doorknob but so gentle and loving. zulu, i say this with some shame, is a food whore…sucks up to one and all in the hopes of being fed. two opposites that can’t live without each other and i cannot live without them. shadow sounds just lovely and what fun for you that you can take him out in public. send me that poster!

    the cliffs along most of the coast of the plain of the sharon are slowly crumbling into the sea. breakwaters were built further south and have stopped the natural deposits of sand so the beaches are narrower and stony (and less sandy) and the erosion is rapid. they are trying to halt this damage but as with all things here nobody can agree on anything!

  64. Koby Says:

    You’re wrong, Valerie! People here in Israel can agree on stuff!
    Joking aside, though, Shanti is actually Inner Peace in Sanskrit. In Israeli slang, it has become a term meaning laid-back, as you’ve said. Why did you call the other Zulu? Anything to do with Zula (זולה)?

  65. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    Hi Sharon:

    I went and saw RH on the weekend… As far as history goes, well… this sure wasn’t it.

    Yes, the glass drinking vessels were more plentiful in the movie than I think they were in England of 1199. And as the observer above noted, I don’t think I would recommend rare and expensive glassware for a bumpy medieval channel crossing. I would disagree that Eleanor did not understand French, but I was sure surprised that she understood English! And did you know that Prince John and Isabella of Angouleme were, um, …dating… before he became king? How about that the chroniclers got Richard’s death all wrong… seems it wasn’t a lingering gangrene death at all, just a quick arrow and a one-line quip before expiration.

    And did you know that England went from Richard’s death to the eve of Magna Carta in what looks like about three days in movie time? Or that the French invaded England really soon after John became king? Or that Philip Augustus crossed the channel with the invasion (heh, heh… lambs become lions indeed!) I could go on… and on, and on, and on in fact.

    In other words, it’s about as historically accurate as, well, Gladiator. Or Kingdom Of Heaven.

    As Robin Hood movies go, it’s great. A visual stunner. New ideas contributed to the legend. As history: not so good.

    What I do recommend it for from a history perspective is just the sheer joy of seeing realistic medieval armour and castles, more or less period-accurate (with about a fifty year give or take). And it was nice to see William Hurt as William Marshal, shown in his real heraldic colours and emblems.

    It is gorgeous in the same way Kingdom Of Heaven was, and frustrating in the same ways as well.

    If someone buys up the option to film one of your novels, I guess I hope it is not Ridley Scott, unless his scriptwriter stays close to your novel :-)

  66. Sharon K Penman Says:

    LOL, Blair, what a wonderful review you gave! It does sound as if the film has some unexpected historical revelations for us. Who knew Robin was one of the moving forces behind the Magna Charta? But like you, I can take the Robin Hood films as sheer entertainment and I don’t go nuts over their anachronisms or oddities the way I do over most medieval films. (After Kingdom of Heaven, I was warned by my near and dear ones that henceforth I’d have to go see medieval movies by myself!) But I see Robin Hood films as pure fun, just the way I reacted to Gladiator, which was certainly total fiction, too. I’m guessing Russell Crowe is a better Robin than Keven Costner.

  67. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Me again, Blair. I hope you don’t mind my spreading your fame around, but I liked your review so much I posted the link to it on my Facebook page. I think you beat Roger Ebert by a country mile!

  68. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    Thanks, Sharon :-)

    And yes, Crowe makes a solemn but enjoyable Robin… he sure takes it all with good grace when Lady Marian takes over the battlefield by tactfully riding into the middle of the battleground to steal his scene!

  69. Lauren Says:

    Congratulations, Ms. Penman, on your adoption!

    And Blair, I completely agree with your assessment of RH. I had the chance to see it over the weekend, and overall, I really enjoyed it. Like you said, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous, and it does contain entertaining battle scenes. I also liked Eileen Atkins as Eleanor, and thought that she stole the show in most of the scenes she was in (particularly the “fight” scene with John where she sets him straight!).

    Oh, and I had to laugh at your comment about John and Isabella “dating” before he became king..that was putting it nicely! ;)

  70. Koby Says:

    And I do believe that today Edmund, Earl of Rutland and brother to Edward IV and Richard III was born.

  71. Geri Clouston Says:

    RH was a great “fun” movie! Historically, not even close but it did get our family into quite a discussion of the characters which was really wonderful. I too thought Eleanor stool the show. I just finished a great book on the often maligned Isabella as queen by Alison Weir. Can’t wait for you next book-

  72. judith Says:

    Just getting to the end of The Sunne in Splendour (always behind the times), and looking forward to reading of Henry II, Eleanor and the Devil’s Brood. Very pleased to have discovered your books, Sharon, if belatedly. I do hope the others are as long as your first. 931 pages is pure luxury!

    How lovely that you have a new dog. It never gets easier to say goodbye to an aged one.

    Have not yet seen RH; reviews very mixed, but I plan to see it, at least for the cinematography, which appears to be exceptional. Am rather a fan of the BBC Robin Hood series, (anachronisms and all - just good fun. The same of BBC The Tudors - just go along for the ride!) . The BBC RH introduced me to Sharon Kaye Penman, in an indirect way.

  73. Maxine Reed Says:

    I went to see Robin Hood too. I have two holy grails in my life, the perfect handbag and the perfect historical film. I always go to see historical films with the hope that it will both historically accurate and entertaining. Robin Hood disappointed me I’m sorry to say. I really wanted to like it. I liked it that they had proper ridge and furrow field strips and not enclosed fields. The great hall at Loxley looked just like the tht eekkig eeh

  74. Maxine Reed Says:

    Ooops! Don’t know what happened up above. My computer has just had a massive hissy fit and posted before I was finished. Anyway as I was saying the great hall looks like the great hall at Stokesay Castle near Ludlow. So far so good, the film looks medival. I also thought there was too much glass, an expensive luxury in those days. I also thought considering Loxley was cash strapped they were burning far too many candles. I can remember reading some royal household accounts and candle stumps were passed down to servants as a perk of the job. The higher the servant the bigger and better the candle stumps. I just don’t think a house such as Loxley would have used candles like they were going out of fashion when there wasn’t a special event happening. I did wonder at Lady Marian’s uncovered hair too. I thought only virgins and queens kept their hair uncovered and loose, but perhaps someone can correct me on this one. I did notice these errors, but was prepared to go with it. However, I started to get irritated when a character died and they cremated him. What a howler. They simply did not cremate bodies during this period unless they died of plague, or there were too many bodies after a battle. Then when they had the Saving Private Ryan style beach invasion my husband and I started laughing. When Lady Marion rode onto the beach in full armour with a gang of ninja style teenage outlaws it was at this point I decided I was done with the film. I really wanted to enjoy, but once it started getting downright silly I really had had enough.

    I do wonder why Hollywood simply cannot make an historically accurate ad entertaining film these days. Authors such as SKP and Elizabeth Chadwick go to great lengths to ensure accuracy in their novels and their stories are still very entertaining. My search goes on to find the prefect historical film.

    And I still have yet to find the perfect handbag!

  75. judith Says:

    Ah, Maxine - the last good historical films I saw were The Lion in Winter and Becket! Must re-watch the dvds to catch any glaring inaccuraries! It would be lovely to see a truly good film of medieval or Tudor times.

    I’m certain you are correct about Marian’s hair; married women covered their hair, and widows, I believe, also wore a wimple. Perhaps, in this latest incarnation of the period, the uncovered hair was intended to emphasize Marian’s independence? But I don’t think that dog would have hunted in those times….

  76. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Maxine, all of your misgivings about Robin Hood are dead-on. You ought to have been the one writing the script! It certainly would have been a lot more accurate. Women definitely did not go about with their hair uncovered, except very young girls, virgin brides, and queens.

    Many of you have told me how much you enjoyed my interview with Mary Sharatt, author of the excellent Daughters of the Witching Hill. I thought you’d like to know she has an interesting interview on Blog Radio at this link.–daughters-of-witching-hill–voices-

  77. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Me again. I hope to have a new blog up tomorrow, a very interesting interview with C. W. Gortner. I know so many of you told me how much you enjoyed his novel, The Last Queen. He has a new one coming out next week about Catherine de Medici, which is equally compelling.

    In the meantime, this is an important date in Angevin history. On May 18, 1152, Henry, then Duke of Normandy, wed Eleanor, former Queen of France and always Duchess of Aquitaine, in Poitiers.

  78. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    A last word or two on Robin Hood, the film. Did anyone else think it odd that the fully armoured Marian arrived at the head of a troop of teenage archers, but decided to cross the beach uselessly instead of joining the other archers up on the cliff (where there was some point to having them) instead of putting them in harm’s way of the cavalry riders on the beach?

    Thanks for the comment above, Lauren :-)

    I did think that one of the best lines in the film was when John responded to Eleanor’s metaphoric tax advice about yanking a dry udder getting one kicked from the milking stool: “Spare me your farmyard memories, Mother; you don’t have any, and I don’t understand them.” I have to admit that gave me a laugh-out-loud in the cinema.

    As for Judith’s comments: I agree completely about The Lion In Winter (1968 version) and Becket. Both wonderful films, but a review of the history in Becket will show that entertaining as it is, there are a lot of historical fallacies there, mostly to do with the film’s insistence that the very Norman archbishop was a Saxon!

  79. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Another interesting post, Blair, thanks. As you all probably know by now, since I mention it often, Lion in Winter is not historically accurate in a lot of ways (no love affair between Richard and Philippe, for one), but it is still one of my all-time favorite films because it is so much fun. Now, Becket…that is a godawful mishmash historically. It basically gets EVERYTHING wrong, from Becket being a Saxon to his carousing with Henry before becoming archbishop to the ages of Henry’s children to the portrayals of the major characters, etc. Oh, yes, and having Henry’s mother around several years after she’d actually died! It does have two redeeming features, though, which are Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. You cannot call two such talented actors “eye-candy,” but they definitely brightened up the scenery for me.

  80. Britta B. Says:

    Sharon, thanx for the plug of our Greyhound Rescue group above.

    On my recent trip to Germany I bought my mother one of EC’s novels in German translation; I lament that your books have not been translated!

    The Kevin Costner RH had the BEST Sheriff of Nottingham in it, Alan Rickman, he looks like he had so much fun being bad!

  81. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    O’Toole and Burton are definitely wonderful to watch together in that movie. LOL… it’s a treat just for their snappy dialogue.

    “I’d forgotten you were a deacon, Thomas.” “So had I, my prince.”

    I must admit, just as it is hard to forget O’Toole and Hepburn when visualizing Henry and Eleanor, I can’t help seeing John Gielgud as he appeared in Becket as poor King Louis of France.

  82. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    I’m curious, Sharon…. As a fan of Goldman’s Lion In Winter, and myself being a Robin Hood enthusiast, I wondered if you had ever seen Robin And Marian?

    It happens to be my favourite of all Robin Hood films… like Lion, it is not historically accurate, telescoping events of King John’s reign into a very short time (i.e. Richard dies, and it seems that England is immediately thrust into the papal interdict and John’s conflict with the archbishop Stephen Langton), but despite all that it is in many ways the most realistic of Robin Hood stories, not least for its recognition of Robin’s mortality.

    Of course, Richard Harris’ campy take on a degenerating and corrupting King Richard in his death throes is a treat of it’s own to watch. (”Never really gave a damn for England; never really there. But even as a corpse, they’re planting me in France… by my father…. I killed my father and he felt resentment. He’d have loved all this. My mother, she’ll be eighty soon, the b—-… I’ve sent for her, do you think she’ll come? John’s the next king. John Lackland they used to call him. Now he’ll have all the land. Christ, why did I have no children?”) And then there’s Ian Holm’s King John. We are introduced to him as he threatens a papal emissary that he’ll cut off the archbishop’s head if he sets one foot in England.

    A great movie despite its historical shortcomings, and one that inspired many of the developments in Ridley Scott’s film to be sure.

    This might be a little premature as a question, Sharon, since you are still writing Lionheart, but since you have gone on record on occasion suggesting that Timothy Dalton would have made an excellent Llewellyn Fawr, I wondered if you had an actor in mind that you could easily envision as Richard Lionheart, or any of your other characters, including Justin de Quincy?

  83. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Blair, we really are the on the same page. Robin and Marian is my favorite Robin Hood film by a country mile and one of my all-time favorite medieval films, too. The acting, the dialogue, the ambiance, for want of a better word–loved it all. Some of my favorite scenes–when Marian chides Robin for not writing once in 20 years and he says, looking bewildered, “But Marian, you know I do not know how to write! Or when she confesses that he still claims her heart, saying “I love you more than God.” And of course the ending. For anyone who hasn’t seen this gem, buy or rent it! I had no problems with the scrambled time line, etc, since I consider Robin Hood films to be pure fiction. But–and it’s a big one–one of my readers told me he exited the theatre after seeing the new Robin Hood and heard a woman say to her companion, “But it must be true; it was in the film.” Yikes. As he pointed out, by that measurement, Ironman is real.
    Britta, you are so right–Alan Rickman was a wonderfully bad sheriff. I love him in anything he does, of course. The only one of my books to be translated into German is The Queen’s Man. And of the historicals, only Sunne and Time and Chance, the former recently into Spanish and the latter into Czechoslovakian. A Russian publisher was going to translate all of my historicals, but then they went bankrupt…sigh. It is a great disappointment to me that so few of my books have been translated into other languages. I’ve been told their great length is the major obstacle, for cost reasons. Publishers are willing to take the gamble for long books only with a guaranteed bestseller like Diana Gabaldon’s books.

  84. Britta B. Says:

    It’s all very fickle I guess. I remember my niece reading the first Harry Potter in German when the book hadn’t even been published here in the U.S. Who knew back then what a powerhouse that would become.

  85. Julie N. Says:

    Congrats on the new edition to your family, Sharon. I hope you and Shadow have many happy years together! I truly believe that animals bring so much good to the human race. This morning I was watching a popular news program that was reporting stories ranging from the plunge in the stock market, the oil spill ( which infuriates me to the point of blasphemy) to a teen that stomped another teen almost to death over a text message! Just when I was about to tear my hair out they told the story of a reunion between a man and a gorilla. I believe it is on youtube and I highly recommend it when you have had enough doom and gloom. I have really enjoyed everyones comments on the book suggestions. (at least I won’t be alone in debtors prison when I’m bankrupted by books) I think that the real problem for me is storage and I may have to break down and buy a Kindle. I must say that Blair, Koby, and Elizabeth Chadwick’s comments are a real treat! Very interesting about the horses, and the reviews on Robin Hood. My sister and I went to the movies and the bookstore last night for some much needed bonding over our favorite subject, the middle ages.(she’s raising three grandchildren under the age of five, and I’m in summer school.) So about Robin Longstride….the movie was entertaining, and the historical liberties were very well discussed in the above comments. To add anything would be to say that Eleanor bursting into John’s bedchamber while he was making love was disgusting as was his wife peeking through the keyhole! The ringlets on King Richard were distracting, and my sister was outraged when they gave Robin credit for deeds done by Will Marshall! We did enjoy the scene when Maid Marion is awakened in the night by a band of teenaged thieves set upon stealing her seed corn. She rushes down the stairs with her barking wolf hounds, cuffs a servant into action, who is asleep in the straw floor rushes and…well, then that was about all of the authenticity. With that being said, I do not want Hollywood to give up on making historical movies. I do believe that some things that occurred in history should be kept in the privacy of our own imagination, and that is why books are so wonderful. We are our own directors, casting agents, set designers, and so on. Author’s are our screenplay and script writers. Being a women I am not much of a war monger, but to see battle scenes on the big screen, complete with pitched tar and flying arrows is something that I can appreciate in a big budget movie. I have to say it is not just historical films falling by the way side though, the previews for upcoming movies were dismal to say the least. Which is just a well, because I have a lot of books to read between semesters! Keep writing and sharing all of your wonderful knowledge my friend!

  86. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Thanks for the review of Robin Hood, Julie. I’ll get around to seeing it eventually and can probably deal with the many inaccuracies simply because I see the Robin Hood genre as pure fiction. Elizabeth Chadwick will not be happy, though, to hear Robin is stealing credit due to William Marshal! But then who knew Robin was a prime mover behind Magna Charta…sigh. My favorite Robin Hood film, and one of my all-time favorite medieval films, is Robin and Marian with the dream cast of Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. I suspect neither Russell nor Cate (fine actors, both) can hold a patch to Sean and Audrey.
    You’ve probably seen the amazing reunion of Christian, the lion raised by two young men in swinging 60’s London and then set free in Africa agaisnt all odds? In case you haven’t, film clip is on You-tube and is one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen.

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  89. Wanda Says:

    Dear Sharon, I just read your post about your weekend adoption. Our family just did the same thing - we adopted a Border Terrier mix from our local humane league. Every Saturday, this one-woman operation sets up her table and animals through free space provided by PetSmart. We had spied Scruffy last Saturday and had to wait to speak with my husband (currently stationed in Iraq with the U.S. Army). After receiving his “permission,” we returned this Saturday and adopted our little guy. What a joy he is! He is loving, attentive, and spectacular. Best of Luck to you!

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    I was very interested in what you wrote about Shadow. I also adopted a rescue Westie when he was six years old. I have had him for almost two years now and love him to death. He is desperate for that attention and follows me, sits with me, and gives me all the love I could possibly imagaine.

    What caught my attention was when you said Shadow is startled easily. Brady is the same way. I know a bit about his history and while not as abused as Shadow he was neglected and around little children. The rescue person said the dog was not treated well by those children. That’s probably why he is so jumpy and probably also was disciplined wrongly.

    In any event I have him now and we are one happy family.

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