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Head of Zeus
The Evolution of the Medieval Knight-ErrantBy Boyd and Beth Morrison
The Lawless Land

There’s something romantic about the idea of a wandering knight who arrives in a troubled village, vanquishes the dastardly villains and solves the townspeople’s problems, and then rides off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Instead of referring to a love story, the original meaning of a “romance” was a tale of any kind not written in Latin and springs from the French word for novel, or roman.

The wandering knight, or knight-errant, is a storytelling trope that has existed since at least the 1100s. We still see it in use today in completely different genres: the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns, the contemporary Jack Reacher novels, and the science fiction series The Mandalorian are all variations on tales of the knight-errant.

With experience in both storytelling (Boyd as a novelist) and medieval culture (Beth as an art historian) between us, we decided to go back to the origins of the knight-errant tale and set our series in the place where it all started: the Middle Ages. We wanted to see if we could put a new spin on the genre by setting it in the time when the knight-errant was an actual knight in shining armour.

Our creation is English knight Sir Gerard Fox, and THE LAWLESS LAND tells his origin story set in the fourteenth century. We wanted to know how someone born into wealth and status might become a lone man travelling the countryside to aid the downtrodden and dispense justice in a world where such a remedy was all too uncommon.

Fox has to live up to the lofty ideals handed down to him by a devoted mother taken from him at a young age, an older brother who is a better exemplar of the knightly tradition in every way, and a proud father who meets an untimely fate from the Black Death. With his lands and title stripped from him by a cruel overlord, Fox has no choice but to go on a mission to recover what was stolen from him.

It’s on this quest that he comes across someone who changes everything for him. His single-minded focus on his own problems is superseded by the desperate plight of Lady Isabel, a woman fleeing from both a brutal fiancé and a cardinal willing to do anything to obtain the priceless manuscript in her possession.

Even though Fox assumes the role of Isabel’s protector, we explore his dynamic with a woman who doesn’t neatly fall into the medieval notion of a damsel in distress. With her own mission and resourcefulness, she eventually comes to Fox’s rescue as much as he comes to hers. We do, however, indulge in many classical elements of the medieval tale, such as horse chases, swordfights, jousting tournaments, castles with secret passages, and duels to the death.

Although our novel begins with Fox as the typical knight-errant, he becomes much more as the story progresses. It develops into Isabel’s tale as much as Fox’s, and THE LAWLESS LAND ends up being something entirely new and unknown to romances of the Middle Ages: the adventures of a knight-and-lady-errant.

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