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It’s the first Friday of the month, and usually a guest post by physics professor (and my dad) Dean Zollman highlights the history of atom theory. Today through Monday, this space will be dedicated to the Heroes and Villains blog hop. Enjoy the post about the hero of The Cross and the Dragon below and check out the giveaway and other bloggers. Then come back to Outtakes on Tuesday for another installment on the history of how we came to understand atoms.

Heroes and Villains banner1-3Any portrayal of Roland, whom I call Hruodland in The Cross and the Dragon, is going to be fictitious. The only thing we know about the historical eighth-century governor of the March of Brittany is where and when he died.

The Hruodland of The Cross and the Dragon is a product of my imagination, as Roland is a product of the imaginations of the people who created The Song of Roland, Orlando Inamorato, Orlando Furioso, and the legend behind the origin of Rolandsbogen.

Roland at Roncesvalles

Roland at Roncesvalles, Odilon Redon, c.1869 (public domain image via Wikipaintings)

So do I make him the hero who bravely faces overwhelming odds at the Pass of Roncevaux and stubbornly refused to call for aid? Do I make him the bridegroom grieving over the separation from his beloved?

Those questions pale compared to the greatest challenge for anyone writing historical fiction set in the Middle Ages: a hero who is true to his times yet whom modern readers will like and root for.

Unless their protagonist is an antihero, all fiction writers must balance making a character virtuous enough to be sympathetic but flawed enough to be realistic. Medieval times present other obstacles such as:

  • Medieval folk likely favored harsh justice for criminals, such as putting out an eye, slitting nostrils, or letting bandits, often accused of murder and rape, strangle slowly on the hangman’s noose.
  • Carolingian Franks were intolerant of pagan religions.
  • Wife-beating was a right.
  • Men thought women enjoyed sex and wondered if their wives would restrain themselves when they were away. A man knew whose blood his sister had, which is why his relationship with nephews and nieces was special; he had to take his wife’s word that her children were his.

Given all that, what kind of hero did I create? Hruodland has a common medieval attitude toward women and therefore doesn’t completely trust his wife, so he is prone to fits of jealousy. But he values her intelligence, compassion, and cleverness. He will stop at nothing to get her back when they are separated, and he is willing to pay any price to protect her.

This post about Hruodland and my process for creating him is part of the Heroes and Villains blog hop, May 3-6, in which more than 20 authors of fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction discuss our heroes or our villains. And we all have giveaways.

Mine is an e-book of The Cross and the Dragon. To enter, leave a comment in this space only, with an e-mail address so that I can contact the winner. If you’d like to get an extra entry, thus increasing your odds, mention that you would like to receive an e-mail (note the singular) announcing the publication of my second book, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, which features am eighth-century Continental Saxon peasant who will do anything to protect her children.

The winner will be chosen at random and announced in an update to this post after the hop. In the meantime, please check out the posts and the giveaways of the authors below.

Update (May 7, 2013): And the e-book goes to Sandi, chosen by Random.org. Sandi, I will contact you by e-mail. Many thanks to all who entered and contributed to our interesting discussion.

  1. Nyki Blatchley
  2. Martin Bolton
  3. Adrian Chamberlin
  4. Mike Cooley
  5. Karin Cox
  6. Rhiannon Douglas
  7. Joanne Hall
  8. Jolea M Harrison
  9. Tinney Sue Heath
  10. Eleni Konstanine
  11. K. Scott Lewis
  12. Paula Lofting
  13. Liz Long
  14. Peter Lukes
  15. Mark McClelland
  16. M. Edward McNally
  17. Sue Millard
  18. Ginger Myrick
  19. David Pilling
  20. Kim Rendfeld
  21. Terry L Smith
  22. Tara West
  23. Keith Yatsuhashi