Join author Ellen Hawley and I as we go digging for treasure and getting into lots of trouble in Anglo-Saxon England!
Willow Croft: If you unearthed a treasure chest on your property, what would you hope would be in it, and why?
Ellen Hawley: Instructions on how to fix the structural problem in the novel I’m working on. I mean, why be greedy in a fantasy?
Willow Croft: Sometimes I see mention of historically based foodstuffs on your blog (like cake!). What would be your favourite recipe of yore (either mentioned on your blog, or not)?
Ellen Hawley: I can’t help wanting to be around when oat cakes were first made. I want to watch over some woman’s shoulder as she makes them over an open fire in the middle of a stone-walled house with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.
Then I want to run outside to get a few lungfuls of smokeless air.
Willow Croft: Imagine you’re getting together with friends or family on a weekend—what’s the board game you most love to hate?
Ellen Hawley: All of them. I grew up playing board games with my brother, who was (and oddly enough, still is) a couple of years older, so I always lost. It left me with a lasting dislike of them all. I’m the person who’d curl up in the corner with a book and try not to look too grumpy.
Willow Croft: If you created a fictional city of your own, and had to design a tourism brochure, what would be the main selling points of your city (and what would you call it)?
Ellen Hawley: Hang on. I create the city, right? So who gets to tell me I have to design a tourism brochure? I’m designing a city that doesn’t need a tourism brochure. Cancel the brochure. Let’s go out and eat cake.
Willow Croft: Some of your blogs takes a closer look at Anglo-Saxon law (Example: https://notesfromtheuk.com/2021/08/13/law-in-anglo-saxon-england/). What would you have done back then that might have gotten you outlawed or punished?
Ellen Hawley: That’s a tough one, since Anglo-Saxon England was–well, basically, it was a mess. It was one kingdom, it was five kingdoms, it was seven kingdoms, it was probably more kingdoms than that but I lost track somewhere in there. And part of the time large parts of it were run by Vikings, so it stopped being Anglo-Saxon and became Norse. And if that doesn’t confuse the picture enough, part of the time it was Christian and part of the time it was what Christians like to call pagan, which as far as I can make out is a Christian word for not-Christian, not something any group ever called itself. Let’s say it was pre-Christian, although that’s also a problematic label, since it uses a different religion as the reference point.
That’s a long-winded way of saying that the laws changed from one period to the next and from one kingdom or king to the next. But I’m sure I’d have found a way to get in trouble.
In Christian Anglo-Saxiana, it could easily have been for not being a Christian. I’m not sure that was illegal, but it wouldn’t have made me popular.
In any Anglo-Saxon period, although free women were way freer than they were under the Normans, I doubt I’d have kept within the bounds.
Slavery was widespread. I don’t imagine myself as the Harriet Tubman of Anglo-Saxon England–I’m too old to kid myself about having her courage–but whether I was free or enslaved, I’d have had a few problems with it.
And then there’s that awkward business of being attracted to women instead of men. I’ve never read anything about how they felt about same-sex relationships–there may not be any record of it–but again, I doubt it would’ve made me popular.
So many ways to get in trouble, and gee it’s hard to choose.
Free cake at Ellen Hawley’s blog! (I’m kidding. I made that up. But there are blog posts over there that are just as delicious as cake, I promise!) https://notesfromtheuk.com/.
Want more than just cake? Glad you asked!
Ellen Hawley is an American novelist and blogger living in Britain. Her current novel, Other People Manage, was just released by Swift Press: https://www.waterstones.com/book/other-people-manage/ellen-hawley/9781800750975.