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Wulfhere –


Sunday , 10, September 2023 Leave a comment

7th Century Britain is not your normal setting for an historical novel. A. B. Higginson’s Wulfhere is the only one I can think of. Wulfhere was a five part serial in the pulp magazine Adventure in mid-1920.

Higginson was a Canadian with a military background. Wulfhere was his only published work. Sort of like Arthur A. Nelson, another writer who had one novel in Adventure, the sublime lost Viking city in Africa Wings of Danger.

Wulfhere begins with three men in a snowstorm coming across a hut inhabited by an old man. He is Edbert, of the royal family of East Anglia. He tells the travelers his tale while they are snowed in.

Edbert encounters the future King Penda of Mercia when both are children. An act of kindness from Edbert to a hungry Penda and his mother who are on the run is an act of fate. Later, Edbert and his sister flee their half-brother who becomes king of East Anglia. They find refuge in Mercia with Penda now a king. Penda is a psychopath. He is constantly on the warpath and massacring whole populations around Britain. Edbert saves Penda’s new born son marked for death taking Wulfhere as his own son by exchanging a dead infant for him to examine.

Penda has suspicions regarding teenage Wulfere who escapes and lives with a man who communicates with bears. Later they travel to the Welsh principality of Hwicce where Wulfhere kills the king and becomes advisor/regent to the new teenage king.

There are lots of battles with Wulfhere taking the men of Hwicce along with Cadwallo the Briton and Penda to fight the Northumbrians. There are lots of family stuff with lost cousins, unremitted infatuation, broken friendships along the way. The novel reminded me of parts of Tolkien’s Silmarillion, specifically the portion with Turin Turambar. There are some elements that border on the fantastic.

If you are a fan of H. Rider Haggard’s Eric Bright-Eyes, E. R. Eddison’s Styrbiorn the Strong, and Poul Anderson’s Hrolf-Kraki’s Saga, check out Wulfhere. DMR Books reprinted Wulfhere for the first time. I had long wanted to read the whole novel having only read one part of the serial in an old issue of Adventure lent to me by a friend. 1920 issues of Adventure are not easy to come by. Why I am still waiting for more Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur to be reprinted.

You can get Wulfhere directly from DMR Books. Check out some of the their other titles like Manly Wade Wellman’s Cahena.

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