While reading the trilogy, have you ever wondered why two villages and, in the final volume, a monumental castle are the settings of The Northumbria Trilogy? Find out how it came about and what fascinated me about these locations.
How it all began
I had the original idea for the book from which developed The Northumbria Trilogy when I came across a call for Fantasy short stories with the theme "Devilish Beasts – Beastly Devils". However, when I developed the idea, it soon became clear that I would set the story against a historical backdrop, and that is how it started.
As a medievalist, I have been studying the language and literature of the Middle Ages extensively, with a focus on England and France. So instead of plunging into the creation of new, unknown fantasy worlds, I preferred to fall back on old, familiar ones and hence set my story in medieval England. Why medieval France missed out as a setting and how I came to choose the 11th century as the time period, I no longer know, but I remember that it didn't take me long to make this decision.
Why northern England and two little-known villages?
The paths of writers are sometimes unfathomable. The 11th century is a fascinating time because it is so important to English history. England had only been a single, united empire for a few generations, when it was completely turned upside down by the Norman conquest in the second half – politically, socially, culturally, linguistically.
This upheaval was particularly tough in the North of England, which resisted the Normans for a long time and bitterly regretted it. Decades later, the North was still suffering from the consequences of King William's revenge, even though the new king and his successor had long since had to deal with other problems.
It is those exciting thirty years after the Norman conquest of England that provide the historical setting of The Northumbria Trilogy.
The village of Wilberfoss near York popped up during research as the ideal central setting for The Northumbria Trilogy. I needed a place with a manor and a monastery that both existed towards the end of the 11th century – which narrowed down the choice quite a lot.
Wilberfoss had both and was inconspicuous enough that I was able to bend history ever so slightly. The Benedictine monastery there did not actually exist until the beginning of the 12th century, but I have predated it a little for the purposes of my story. You can read why I needed a monastery and a manor in The second son of the Norman (English title tbc) – Volume 2 of the Northumbria Trilogy (German version).
If you want to know more about present-day Wilberfoss, check out the parish page by clicking here.
Just like Wilberfoss, Leavening owes its position as one of the main settings of The Northumbria Trilogy to a historical peculiarity.
In fact, it was one of the few places that was not completely destroyed during the so-called Harrying of the North – an extensive campaign of destruction by William the Conqueror in the winter of 1069/70 with devastating consequences for the entire North of England that lasted for decades.
Find out what may have saved Leavening from this fate in The King's Warrior (English title tbc) – Volume 1 of the Northumbria Trilogy (German version).
Leavening used to have a website, but unfortunately it no longer works. There is, however, more information about the village in Wikipedia.
First two tiny villages and then a castle?
For Volume 3 of The Northumbria Trilogy, I needed something more mundane than a small village, because the protagonist is a jongleur, a special, very versatile type of minstrel – and, like most other entertainers of the Middle Ages (blog post available on my German website), they preferred to work at the courts of nobility. They were often permanently employed there to tell traditional, old stories and sing about the exploits of their masters, under whose roof they lived until either they died or their master got tired of them.
Why Bamburgh (Bebbanburh) as the third setting of The Northumbria Trilogy?
Some wealthier noble household it had to be – fair enough, but why Bamburgh Castle, high up north, not far from the Scottish border and opposite the holy island of Lindisfarne? After all, there were plenty of other rich manors in the York area and especially south of it.
That is true, but Volume 3 continues both the story of The Northumbria Trilogy and the history of northern England. So I chose the mighty castle on the volcanic hill directly on the northeastern coast not only for historical reasons.
Insights into, and views of, Bamburgh Castle can be found on the Castle website. Further links to the surrounding places, which also play a role in the third volume, can be found here .
If you want to find out why it had to be Bamburgh Castle for plot reasons, you can check in The Juggler's Song (English title tbc) – Volume 3 of the Northumbria Trilogy (German version) if your speculations after the first two volumes were correct.