My copy of The Cadfael Companion by Robin Whiteman finally arrived from the UK (I’m in the States)!
Basically, it’s a really awesome encyclopedic reference of all kinds of things from the Cadfael books and is probably something I would do if I had the time and energy (and support from Ellis Peters herself, who wrote the introduction to this volume).
It starts off with maps of medieval England and Wales, and the main body of the book is made up of alphabetical entries of people and places — both fictional and historical. But a word of warning: HERE BE SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the book in which a particular character or place appears, be careful because Whiteman can give away the ending in his detailed descriptions of them!
Oh, and I can’t go without mentioning the insanely useful appendices. There, you’ve got:
- a list of the plants and herbs mentioned in the books and their uses
- a list of all the (named) monks at Shrewsbury, plus their position in the abbey if they have one
- a list of monarchs and popes from all over Europe, going back a few decades before the Cadfael series is set in order to provide context… and
- a glossary of terms describing medieval clothing, property terminology, and more.
What’s even cooler is that Whiteman includes where in the book(s) a particular entry is mentioned, as you can see in the entry for “Aachen” in the picture above. However, he doesn’t do this in the glossary.
So, basically, this is a labor of love and exceedingly thorough — I believe it took Whiteman two years to put it together, and that kind of effort shows. I do wish he had included a bit more information on monastic life (maybe an appendix listing the hours of the Divine Office or something), and I since The Cadfael Companion was released before the ITV series aired, it would be nice to have an updated edition that includes information about the show.
But all in all, this is an indispensable guide to the books. I highly recommend it for any Cadfael enthusiast.