We have a guest post today on Writing With Labradors, an interview with Tovi from the Sons of the Wolf Saga, who has travelled all the way from the eleventh century to join us, with the help of author Paula Lofting.
Tovi is one of the younger sons of Wulfhere and his story, along with that of his family is told in Sons of the Wolf, Paula’s series of novels set in the years leading up to the Battle of Hastings. I’ve read and reviewed both books previously, so it’s a great honour to have a chat with Tovi himself…
Good afternoon, Tovi, how are you?
Hello Lynn, thank you for being willing to talk with me.
I know that recently you had an interview with Stephanie, which my readers can find here. I read it and it was really interesting. I’ve got some different questions for you, but because some of my readers won’t know who you are, could you just tell me a little bit about yourself and your family, just to introduce yourself?
Of course. So I have just entered into my fourteenth winter and it is 1059. I am the son of Wulfhere who is the thegn of Horstede, a village in the land of the South Saxons. We have a large family – I have three younger sisters and one older. I also have two older brothers – twins – and they are terrible. I also have another half sister. But we don’t talk about her. Not all of my siblings are still alive but I won’t say which, for my scop (author) said I should not give too much of my story away.
No, we must not spoil the story for those who have not read the first books.
My father works for the king but he is also commended to Earl Harold. He spends 2 months at a time at court. And whilst he is away things can go very awry
Yes, I have read about some of the things that have gone wrong. Have you met the King. Can you tell me something about him and his relationship with your family?
My father never spoke much about King Edward, but I remember when I was very young, that there was a time when my father had to make a choice between supporting Earl Godwin – who was my Lord Harold’s father and lord before Harold in Sussex – and the king. I remember listening when I should have been asleep, to my father and his friends talking about the situation where King Edward and Earl Godwin had fallen out. My father and his friends had ridden to a meeting with the Godwinsons, and the king had demanded that Earl Godwin hand over all of the king’s thegns who had been commended to him, which was the king’s right to do. My Father and his friends did not want to abandon the Earl but in the end, Earl Godwin told them to go, because it was their duty to serve the king before him and my father was quite angry and upset about this, because from what I could make out, the trouble had not been of Godwin’s making.
So I don’t think that Father liked the king very much, but we must keep this quiet, because my father would lose his land and possibly his life if anyone were to find out. My father holds his land from the King and so therefore he is a king’s thegn and owes military service to the king in return.
I have met the Earl Harold who everyone thinks is more important than the King.
I was going to come on to Earl Harold next.
Earl Harold and my father used to be good friends and grew up together. But lately, my father is not happy with him
Tell me more about Earl Harold, then. What is he like and why has your father fallen out with him?
I first met Earl Harold when I was just ten summers old and he came to my father’s homestead with his family and I thought he was magnificent. He looked like a god, tall and handsome. I was in awe. Around this time my eldest sister Freya’s started sneaking off to meet Edgar who was the son of Helghi, my father’s enemy. We children knew that it was forbidden to speak with any of that family, but we did not know why. Freyda didn’t care. She has fallen in love with Edgar and one night the pair of them hid in Helghi’s barn and caused a fire to start that burned almost all of their buildings! There was hell to pay and Lord Harold insisted that the in order for the feud to end between our families, Freyda and Edgar should be allowed to marry. Well Father was forced to agree, but eventually he found another suitor for Freyda and married her elsewhere. The feud had started long ago but until now had been quiet. This just made it begin all over again and Lord Harold was not best pleased and made my father promise to give my other sister in marriage to Helghi’s son when she is old enough. So my father is no longer happy with the Earl.
I can see why.
Aye. My mother was furious
Is it usual for a lord such as Harold to intervene in the marriage plans of his thegns families?
He is the king’s representative as the Earl of Wessex and therefore he has the right. I think it’s common for blood feuds to spill out into the wider communities- you only have to look to the northern provinces of England to see what turmoil they have caused there. So I suppose he wanted to stop that from happening.
Did Harold hope the marriage would end the feud then? I can see why he might have wanted that. Do you have any idea why the feud began?
Yes that’s exactly why, and marriage alliances are a god way of doing this. And no, we children don’t know, but we think it started with my father’s father and Helghi’s father. And there has also been mention of what happened to Edgar’s leg.
What happened to Edgar’s leg? Was this all part of the feud?
Edgar has a limp. I thought he fell out of a tree, but I heard some people talking and they said my father sold Helghi a badly shod horse for Edgar when he was a child and he fell off the horse and my father got the blame. But I know my father would never do that. He is an honest man. Then because my Father refused to pay compensation, Helghi burnt his stables and killed some of his horses! I also think there was a woman involved but I don’t know the full story
That’s how feuds continue, sometimes for generations. Do you think the marriage between your eldest sister and Edgar might have put an end to it? Did they love each other?
I think Edgar did. Freyda obviously didn’t love him enough because although she refused at first, she grew to like Aemund and soon forgot Edgar. I think she just wanted to rebel against our mother and father. Poor Edgar. I really liked him. He was kind to me. He was always at the homestead and would do anything for anyone. I think it was my mother who bullied father into finding a way out of the oath. They hate Helghi because he is a ceorl and therefore of lower status. Mother was furious that father gave in to the Earl. Edgar was heartbroken. He actually set a trap for a Freyda and kidnapped her.
What about the sister who is now supposed to marry into that family, how does she feel about it?
Well I’m not sure because I’m not at home at the moment. I was banished from home by my parents so I’m not sure what’s going on there. But I think that if I know Winflaed she will want to make things all right. So she might just agree to it.
Where are you living at present, Tovi?
I’m in a collegiate in Waltham. It’s where Earl Harold resides with his wife Eadgyth. He started a school to train boys to become priests for his new church. I hate it. It’s quite a long way from home in the lands of the East Saxons
Are you homesick?
Yes I am homesick. I didn’t want to go but they made me. I miss my sister Winflaed. I miss my father even and Father Paul our priest, and Aelfstan the blacksmith and Sigfrith our maid.
Do you miss your brothers, the twins? And what about your mother?
I hate my brothers. And I love my mother but in hate her too. It’s the same with my father too. I will never forgive them for making me go away
Why do they want you to become a priest? What would you rather be, if not a priest?
I always thought I was destined to be a warrior like my father. But my mother- it’s hard to speak of…. She wanted me to go because she was scared I would tell my father something she did and she couldn’t bear to look at me. I tried to tell her I wouldn’t tell, but she made him send me away anyway and Father did not fight for me.
Do you think that might change one day? That your father will want you back?
I hope so.
What are you learning at Waltham? What kind of education are you getting?
Greek, Latin, Frankish. Mathematics, and I am learning to read and write and to recite mass amongst a number of things.
Can all of your family read and write?
My sisters can read but they never learned to write. Father can also read and write. The twins know to read and write also. My youngest sister is simple so she hasn’t learned. Oh and my mother speaks French and she and my oldest sister Freyda can recite poetry
So quite a well educated family then.
Most of our social class can at least read and write
Tovi, I don’t know much about how things work among your people, and probably my readers don’t either. As a younger son, would you have inherited any of your father’s property? Or would you have been expected to go out into service with another lord and make your own way in the world? As a warrior, perhaps?
Yes I can. But it depends on what he puts in his will. It’s always up to one’s father at the end of the day. If he doesn’t like you, he may not leave you anything. And there’s no law of primogeniture here yet. Many young men go into service for a lord or someone if they are landless. In the hope that their lord will be good to them and reward them.
Do you think that’s something you might still be able to do when you are older, if you don’t wish to become a priest?
Oh I’m not going to be a priest.
I had a feeling you might say that…
I’ll kill myself before I do that. I will run away. I’ve done that before when I was younger and they kept bringing me back and beat me till I stopped doing it. But I’m older now. If I have to run away I will make sure they don’t find me again.
How long have you been at Waltham now?
Two and a half years
Have you been home during that time?
No never, but I have a feeling I will soon
Who would you say you are more like, in your family, your mother or your father? And who would you wish to be like? What do you admire about them, and what do you dislike?
Apparently I look more like my mother. But I don’t think I’m like either of them. Father lost his back bone and can’t stand up for himself with her. I think I do stand up for myself. And I’m not like mother, because I don’t think I am selfish like she is. If I had to be like anyone, I’d be like Earl Harold. No matter how hard I try not to show it, I think I have a boy crush on the man
That was going to be one of my next questions – who is your hero? But I think you’ve answered that for me. What do you admire about Earl Harold?
I’m not certain but I think there is something that draws people to him. He makes you feel good about yourself. He is very self effacing. He is kind, fair and he takes notice of you. And people love him. Who doesn’t want to be loved? I suppose it’s his confidence I like as well.
If you could make your dreams for the future come true, would they include being in service to Earl Harold?
Absolutely. But we have a saying. “Wyrd bid araed.”
Wyrd bid araed? What does that mean?
It means fate is inexorable…you cannot escape your destiny. You never know what threads the spinners will spin for you. I find it hard now to wish for anything because it is too painful if it doesn’t happen.
You must have dreams though? A hall of your own one day? A wife and children, maybe? Have you met a girl you like yet, Tovi, or have you not had a chance among the priests?
I do have dreams of one day being a great warrior. And as for girls or having a wife and children I’ve not really seen anything that makes me think having all that is a great idea. My mother and father hate each other and they hurt their children. Why would I want to do that myself?
Maybe you’ll do it differently, Tovi. Maybe you’ll learn from your parents’ mistakes and create a happy family. I hope so.
Perhaps I will. There is a girl I like.
Can you tell me about her?
Well you have to promise not to tell anyone.
I won’t mention it to anybody you know…
Because the priests tell me her father would cut my balls off if he found out
Oh my goodness, we can’t have that. Who is she?
Her name is Gytha. She is the Earl’s daughter
Earl Harold’s daughter?
Aye! She has been really kind to me whilst I’ve been here. We sometimes meet secretly, but just to talk. Nothing else, she is only eleven. She reminds me of my sister Winflaed and it feels nice
Being friends is a very good start and it has probably helped with your homesickness
Yes indeed. She was there for me.
Tovi, it’s been really good to talk to you today, and I feel as though I’ve got to know you a lot better. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series. I have asked your author to send me some information about herself and the books for my readers, but I would also like to ask you – if you were talking to my readers about your books, what would you say to make them want to read them?
Tovi pauses to think very carefully.
I would say that the era in which I lived is of great importance to our country. What happened in 1066 was a huge turning point for us English. It wasn’t just a case of out with the old and in with the new. Our people suffered greatly by the take over. The flower of our English youth – it has been said – was lost that day in battle. They were fighting for their families, their homes, their lands, their customs and the right to be free. The enemy was fighting to take that away from us. Our nobility was virtually decimated, and thousands of people died through famine and slaughter.
Very often our ancestors, the ordinary people, not the great and powerful are forgotten and what my people lost and how they suffered should be remembered. People I often speak with don’t understand what happened before that day in 1066 and my story – not just mine but that of my family and friends, explains the whys, the wherefores, and the whats. It was no simple case of a crown being promised to a man and then taken by a usurper. It was far more complex than that, and our story reflects that through the eyes of a wide range of classes of English folk.
The story is told in such a way that you will laugh, cry, and fight with us. You will want the good to succeed and the bad to fall foul. You will live among us, eat, feast, and love with us. You will know what it was like to smell the smoky halls and fill your belly with stew from the huge cooking pot as it hangs from the rafters. You’ll hear the wolves howling at night as we listen to tales of times gone by during hearth time, feeling the fire warm you, as you experience all the good and bad life has to give. And when all is said and done, you will know the joy of winning and the horror of losing just as we will.
Sons of the Wolf is an epic tale that will touch you like no other.
Paula Lofting started her writing career much later than she would have liked to. As a little girl, she had dreams of being an author but had to wait until she was in her forties to publish her first book Sons of the Wolf, which she first did in 2012 with Silverwoods books. In 2016 she rereleased it herself with Longship and then shortly after the second book in the series was published, The Wolf Banner.
She is now working on the third in the series which is set in the Eleventh Century in the years leading up to the Norman Conquest of England and promises to be an epic saga that will cover the Battle if Hastings and the rebellions after.
You can find out more about Paula and her work here:
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook – Paula Lofting Facebook Page
Blogger – paulaperuses.blogspot.com
Twitter – http://twitter.com/paulalofting
The first two books in the series are available here: