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I’m nervous about my post in English Historical Fiction Authors. In an eighth-century German community, a young disabled beggar killed her newborn, to the horror of the villagers and a group of missionary nuns from Britain.

More than a millennium later, I’m as appalled as they are, yet I try to explain why the girl would do such a thing. It would be easier for me to paint the teenager as a fiend and not speculate on her motives. But I’m a novelist, and my job is to put myself inside the heads of other people, even those whose actions disgust me.

When I think of the young mother, I don’t see a monster. Rather I see an outcast with no friends or family or even a midwife, someone who might have been so deep in the throes of depression that she truly believed her baby better off dead. Her deed is still heinous, but trying to understand her makes her human.

For more, see my post on EHFA about the baby in the river.

Studies of Beggars and Vagrants

Studies of Beggars and Vagrants, between 1465 and 1559, by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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