Update on Hild, plus Where do they sleep?

illustration of 10th century (I think) sleeping arrangements

I’ve been working on my Hild novel for a year now. She is twelve. I have 75,000 words. (To put that in context, most novels are around 100,000.) If you believe Bede’s suspicious symmetry, she lived to the ripe old age of 66–so this is turning into a huge project, much, much bigger than I’d anticipated. I’m enjoying it enormously.

Right now in the narrative Hild is about to witness the assassination attempt by Cwichelm’s man (yes, I know his name, but don’t want to give it away to my primary–non-historian–reader, who reads this blog). She’s met Paulinus, and heard James the Deacon lead his first group of half-trained choristers in plain chant (the only suitable venue was the ruined basilica at York, stripped of all furnishings to improve the acoustics). Æthelburh is pregnant. I’ve gone against received wisdom and have already married Hereswith off to Æthelric (also known, it seems, as Egric to his North Folk, where he rules as prince while Eorpwald is king proper of the East Angles).

One thing that I find I’m fudging, though, is the issue of where Hild sleeps. She’s with Edwin, so she travels from vill to vill: York, Bebbanburh, Sancton, Goodmanham, Barton perhaps, somewhere near the Derwent perhaps–I’m positing a new vill built upon some Roman remains near Stamford Bridge–and so on. I’ve done a little reading on the archaeology of as many of these places as I can and, well, it’s not helpful.

If Hild were a warrior-type, a gesith, no problem: she’d bed down in the mead hall with all her fellow sword swingers. But where does a royal relative, a 12-year-old girl, sleep? Looking at the Yeavering evidence I’m tempted to say there was a family hall, or women’s hall, not far from the main hall, and Hild could sleep there safely. At other places I’ve imagined a women’s quarters screened off from the main hall but in the same building. I’ve pictured her with a real bed, which comes to pieces, in a pinch, for travel. But I’m aware that I’ve taken this notion from funerary practice and it may be inaccurate for daily life.

Anyway, I’m punting here. I’d love to hear some educated opinions (or total guesswork; it’s all welcome) on the matter. Are there good sources anyone can recommend? (Preferably online, but I’ll take print if that’s all there is.)

As always, thanks in advance for your help. I know I’m always asking for stuff, so…is there anything I can do for you in return? Anything of my process/progress you’re curious about?

8 thoughts on “Update on Hild, plus Where do they sleep?

  1. There’s a bit in Beowulf that’s teasing me–about Wealhtheow retiring separately with her women, I think. It’s on the first night after Beo arrives. There are some decent diagrams of a village and homes in the Dorling-Kindersley kid’s book “Life In Anglo-Saxon” England or Village, I forget. I think there’s a diagram in Klaber too, of the general distribution of living/sleeping space.

  2. I’m not sure that Hild would have traveled with Edwin. His queen might, maybe his daughter occasionally, but I doubt many more women would have traveled. I always imagine the main royal vill/fortress is inhabited by women most of the year. The king and his retinue make the rounds but the women mainly stay home with children – unless there is a specific reason for them to go (like shopping her around as a future bride). I would look in two books: Stephen Pollington: The Feasting Tradition in Anglo-Saxon EnglandSally Crawford: Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England. So working on at least a trilogy?

  3. <>lisa<>, yes, Hrothgar leaving the hall to lie with Wealhtheow (at the beginning) and then, later, the king returning with the queen and her women to the hall, indicate to me separate quarters.I’m having trouble figuring out what books you’re referring to. More info, please, when you have the time/inclination.<>michelle<>, the way I’ve envisaged the world, the king’s immediate household–king, counsellors, gesiths, queen, her women, his ward (Hild) and competitors who need close watching–travel with him. In this fictional narrative, Hild occasionally parlays her special status (a kind of mascot/good luck charm/child seer–cf Breguswith’s dream of her being light of the world) into travelling in circumstances not usual for a well-born girl child. Historically accurate? Uh, well, probably not (tho’ not specifically contradicted as far as I know), but it gives the poor author more to work with in terms of Great Events.I think I have the Crawford. And I know I’ve at least skimmed Pollington, but I’ll reinvestigate. Thank you.As for a trilogy: aaargh!! I hate the notion. I want this to be a single volume. A sweeping story, start to finish–but I’m sadly puzzled as to how to pull that off. So I honestly don’t know how I’m going to end up structuring it. It may well be that it’s one huge book that gets split into three volumes, like <>Lord of the Rings<>. But it wouldn’t be a trilogy in the usual sense.

  4. Please ignore previous message. Stop. New message reads: Here’s my question, is there a quest involed in this story that is connected to their movement from place to place?

  5. <>michelle<> yes, in terms of life cycle 🙂 Fictionally, though, it’ll be more difficult. The marriage-with-kids part is the thinnest bit for me, imaginatively. But perhaps that’s because I haven’t thought about it much. Yet.<>rhbee1<>, historically (I couldn’t speak to prehistorically), royalty live peripatetic lives. To maintain power, to manage resources, the court moved from royal centre (in 7th C terms ‘vill’) to royal centre according to season. At each place they used resources (hunted the forest and stream, ate the honey, killed the fatted calf), gave judgements, possibly recruited people (warrior ‘gesiths’, smiths, whatever), and then moved on. The royals would also confer with local dignatories, give and receive gifts etc. A combination of taxation and political grip-and-grin. At least that’s how I see it.So, no, no quest, per se.

  6. Regarding Lisa’s references, I love a puzzle, so here goes …“Klaber” probably refers to Beowulf and The Fight at Finnsburg by Friedrich Klaeber (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/2591622).I don’t believe that DK has a book on life in Anglo-Saxon England. I couldn’t find it at the DK site (http://www.dk.com) and I did a search at the Library of Congress (http://catalog.loc.gov) and only a few books have “life” and “anglo-saxon” in the title. The most probable one is Life in Anglo-Saxon England by R.I. Page (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/135981). Another less likely match is Everyday Life in Anglo-Saxon Times by Marjorie Quennell (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/14772257 — but she seems to have written the same book over and over again over several decades).There’s also a new book coming out this month: Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England by Sally Crawford (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/180753812) which from the description might be a lot of help to you.If you follow any of the WorldCat links I’ve included, you can type in your zip code and it will tell you the closest libraries that have the book.

  7. Graeme, that’s extremely helpful, thank you. (I checked the DK site, too, and amazon.com and came up blank.)The zip code trick will be v. useful. My local library won’t do interlibrary loans on books less than a year old–so the Crawford isn’t available to me that way. (I certainly can’t buy it new–the prices of these things! I wish they’d make them available on Google, or at least via Kindle.)

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