What I’m writing about this week, #8: The Saxon Wolf

This week, after a nice quiet Christmas break, I began writing the second book in my Fire Born series, which has a working title of The Saxon Wolf. The book is about the struggle between Widukind of Westphalia, who led the resistance against the 8th-century conquest of Saxony by Charlemagne.

The novel follows straight on from The Last Berserker (Fire Born, volume 1), which will be published in just over a month’s time by Canelo. Berserker will be available as an eBook or paperback and the best place to buy it – or pre-order it, if you like – is from Amazon by clicking this link here.

Widukind is a fascinating character: he appears only peripherally in The Last Berserker as the eldest son of Duke Theodoric of Saxony, but in truth very little is known about the real man. Even his name is something of a mystery. Widukind means “Child of the Woods” which is a kenning (Norse euphemism) for a wolf – hence the title of the novel The Saxon Wolf.

The German Robin Hood

Widukind is, in fact, rather like a Germanic Robin Hood, which is probably what attracted me to him in the first place. He’s an elusive figure, who hides out in the deep Saxon woods and attacks the mighty forces of law and order embodied by Charlemagne, King of the Franks, and his brutal legions. He is a resistance fighter, a fearless guerrilla, a man of the forests – and some people think he may even have battled his enemies with a bow and arrows.

However, he is generally described as nobleman of the Westphalians (one for the four main 8th-century Saxon tribes, along with Angrains, Nordalbians and Eastphalians) who railed resistance against the Christian Franks among his countrymen. Even though Widukind was probably of noble blood, possible even a Duke, the people who flocked to his banner were the ordinary folk of Saxony, when their proud, aristocratic leaders had submitted to the Franks and accepted baptism on the understanding that they could keep their lands and titles under the new Christian regime.

Defeating Charlemagne, who later became the first Holy Roman Emperor, was an obviously impossible task for one Saxon outlaw rebel – see map above of the territory that Charlemagne ruled over. But Widukind must have had enormous charisma and grit to continue the fight, repeatedly raising his people against their oppressors, for more than twenty years.

Widukind is someone I greatly admire – I’m a sucker for the underdog, as you may know – and I’m looking forward to telling his extraordinary story. He is rather overlooked these days because he had the misfortune to be championed by the Nazis in WWII as an “Aryan” leader of the “Volk”. Not his fault, obviously, but it explains why people are wary of celebrating him.

Statue of Widukind in the town of Herford, North Germany

I’ve only just started telling his story and to be honest I don’t yet know how I am going to paint Widukind over the next few books. Not as a Nazi – I can guarantee you that. But as more of a Messianic, rather gentle, natural leader of men. And a kick-ass warrior, too. I’m hoping I can make his as interesting as my version of Robin Hood. However, the heroes of the Fire Born saga will continue to be Bjarki Bloodhand and Tor Hildarsdottir, but they will be fighting alongside Widukind in this most unequal struggle for freedom.

As I have said, The Last Berserker, the first book in this new Viking series, is out this February. And you can buy it here. But I have also recently published a brand new Robin Hood novel called Robin Hood and the Castle of Bones, which you can buy here. And which follows right on from Robin Hood and the Caliph’s Gold, available here.

As always, if you read one of my novels and enjoy it, please feel free to contact me to chat about any aspect of it, and if you want to be extra kind, leave a nice review on Amazon or elsewhere. That’s all for now and I wish you all a very Happy (and healthy) New Year!

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Tony Payne
3 years ago

Sounds very interesting Angus.

I have always been interested in this period, King Alfred give or take 200 years and have in the last few years read quite a few books (mostly historical novels but with a lot of factual material nevertheless).

While these mostly cover the period around and after Alfred and up to about 1100AD, I haven’t seen anything on what is now France, Germany etc. What I have learned has come from reading about Hereward The Wake and watching Vikings, so a lot of inaccuracies for a start.

So definitely this sounds interesting. Will check out your books as Robin Hood was also a childhood hero of me and I had books about him when I was younger. I enjoy learning the fact behind the myths.