It's always humbling—staggering, really—how creativity channels itself. Not only in our hearts and minds, but in that undeniable cogency oft known as the 'collective unconscious'. Things really do bide in the ether, surface for breath in the waters of the subconscious. And as of late, a certain Notorious Outlaw is making the rounds again.
Thankfully, that Notorious Outlaw makes those rounds on a regular basis. You can peer back through history and see nice, fat clusters of storytelling. It's brilliant, in every sense of the word. Because those of us who are fascinated by something, who study it and obsess over it, love, live, and breathe it, are always willing for more. People who crave a well-told story will visit—and revisit—that story again and again. Each incarnation gives us new cause for either shattering insight or groans of utter dismay, brings new adventures and causes... all with which we can ponder the outlaw Robin Hood.
And there is so much to ponder. So much to explore and discover. He's in the water, all right: a water horse, a kelpie who'll cozen you to back him then throw you in to drown. Or even better, a pwca, a trickster who'll give you that wild ride but perhaps relent, share some advice and goodwill to see you back home on wobbly legs.
You see, it was about thirty years ago when I wrote and nearly published my own first invocation and incarnation of Robin (or Robyn, even as the first book has always been called Greenwode). England's greatest archer was popping his wolfish head above the water then, too. Some amazing novels came from that particular surge—Parke Godwin's retelling being amongst my all-time favourites of any genre. There were also movies: one so-so, one not-so. A man who was to become my friend was, unknown to me and across the pond, working on a very magical Robin Hood at nearly the same time as I was working on mine. Both of these were (and are) akin in their mix of historical tradition, high romance, and old magic. His went on to be an award-winning (and breathtaking) television series; mine was not so fortunate, though it did nearly go to contract twice before ending up in a file drawer as the cycle waned.
Such are the hazards of publishing. Yet bad luck can hold its own share of fortune. Those books that almost were thirty years ago now are. I’m a better writer than I was, and Greenwode and Shirewode are better books than they were, now in release with DSP Publications, with a third in the series slated for Autumn of 2015. Even more gratifying, when I dusted off an old manuscript several years ago and decided upon a total rewrite and restructure, it seems Robin was also dusting off the old longbow and taking aim back into the collective mainstream. There’s even talk of a new movie—definite cause for hope and dread and even perhaps a gnash of one’s teeth. ;) It's happening again: new tales and retellings, little wildfires popping up here and there... quite apropos to a firebrand archer.
I'm sure the signs have been there for a while, but admittedly I've been spending more time larking my own 'swete greenwode'. Amidst my larking I've shaped a story which is garnering some critical acclaim; a satisfying debut for a world that has been poking at my back brain for... well, for much of my life, really. A strange thought, perhaps, to spend so much time in creation when our modern existence extols "hurry, put it out there, now!" But I don't find it strange, not at all, and it is my sincere hope many others will find my books, sit back... breathe... and enjoy the ride as much as I have.
Robin Hood (aka Robyn Hode), more than perhaps any other figure from myth or history, is discontent to merely bide in the depths of history. In a very real sense he challenges it, both flaunts and mirrors those changes history and society would choose to reveal. How fitting that a figure often connected with the Green Man would be so wrapped up in the spiral of the Eternal Return, both mythic and prosaic. For someone whose historical existence is ever in doubt, Robin has the ultimate extant power: he sparks stories in those of us who are compelled to tell them.
He's a pwca, all right.
Book One of The Wode
J Tullos Hennig
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Robin Hood
Publisher: DSP Publications
Date of Publication: Oct. 28, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-63216-437-7 Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-63216-438-4 eBook
Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 151,000
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu
The Hooded One. The one to breathe the dark and light and dusk between....
When an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also glimpses its future. A peasant from Loxley will wear the Hood and, with his sister, command a last, desperate bastion of Old Religion against New. Yet a devout nobleman's son could well be their destruction—Gamelyn Boundys, whom Rob and Marion have befriended. Such acquaintance challenges both duty and destiny. The old druid warns that Rob and Gamelyn will be cast as sworn enemies, locked in timeless and symbolic struggle for the greenwode's Maiden.
Instead, a defiant Rob dares his Horned God to reinterpret the ancient rites, allow Rob to take Gamelyn as lover instead of rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s Church, sodomy is unthinkable... and the old pagan magics are an evil that must be vanquished.
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/yA7dGnKlASs
Available at Amazon BN Kobo iTunes Audible OmniLit
Winner in the 2013 Rainbow Awards: First: Best LGBT Novel, Best B/T & LGBT Debut, Best B/T & LGBT Fantasy, Paranormal Romance & Sci-fi / Futuristic
“I loved this story for taking a legend and giving it a twist … I have to recommend this to those who love folklore, mystical legends, historicals, fighting for a love against insurmountable odds, danger, betrayal and an ending that is devastating while giving you faint hope.”
—MM Good Book Reviews
“This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works.”
“There is so much good about this book I'm not even sure where to start. … This one is a highly recommended read. Just read it. It blew me away.”
—Better Read Than Dead
“Greenwode is legend. It is epic storytelling. It is fantasy and history. It is religion and spirituality. It is a world in which faith is a weapon, faith is a tool, faith is the enemy, and faith is the last vestige of hope… when there seems nothing left to hope for. If you love epic fantasy, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.”
—The Novel Approach
“I can assure you the weaving of themes and legends in GREENWODE is mesmerizing. … This novel will always be the one against which I will judge all the others.”
—Christopher Hawthorne Moss
“…an interesting, spellbinding read.”
—Rainbow Book Reviews
“I highly recommend this any fan of an epic fantasy with historical settings. It is long but worth it. I can’t wait for the second book to come out.”
—Hearts on Fire Reviews
a Prelude b
In the Deeps of the Shire Wode
“Wind and water, stone and tree….”
Firelight flickered against rock, as if in time to the low melody. Both light and song wavered as they traveled into the depths. Not that the voice was not strong or the fire not warm—the caverns were that deep.
An old man, lean and crystal-eyed, stared into the fire. Every now and then the fire would jerk and start, as if some giant had spat upon it, but the cause was natural enough. Thunder rumbled in the forest above, sending puffs of wind through unknown entrances into the caverns. The old man could hear the stones embedded in the earth above him creak, almost in reply; he tuned his low voice as if in reverent time. Those rocks that formed the circle above him might be a tiny imitation of the ring stones on the plain of Salisbury far to the south, but no less eternal in their observance of the powers that he, too, had served for….
How long had it been? Stubble had scarce grown on his now leathern cheeks when he’d first taken up the mantle of the god. He had put aside his real name when, on a midsummer night not long after King Stephen had taken up another, more politic authority, a peasant gathering had crowned a young man with antlers and cried the god’s name:
Cernunnos. Horned One. Green-Father. Hunter.
Stephen had relinquished his crown to his nephew Henry even as Cernun had groomed his own successor, moving from Hunter to Hermit’s guise. It was the way of things. Shaking a twisted lock of silver from his eyes, Cernun grumbled to himself again, stirring at the fire with a long stick. He was old, but not infirm. The Sight was still strong in him, his body still hale and sound of limb; the forces of nature had rewarded him well for his service. Most men who had seen over fifty winters were bent and aged, senile from hard, miserable lives. The blood of the Barrow-lines ran strong. And he had been lucky.
He could only wish his successor such fortune.
The fire sparked. Cernun leaned closer, scrutinizing the writhing embers, watched them swell then flare white, reaching for the low limestone overhead. Yes? he asked, silent beneath the swell of power. You speak, Lord?
Images assaulted him. He saw what had been: the midsummer madness of dancing and singing, the rejoicing in rites, which, for a short, sweet time, took his people from the harsh reality of toil and hunger. Saw Horned Lord take Lady, clothed in Hunter and Maiden, horns and moon-crown.
Saw children born, Beltain-gotten, and the sweet green Wode prosper. As above, so below.
The fire damped, the vision strayed. Cernun spoke a low, guttural word, grabbed a handful of herbs from the cauldron at his side, and threw them onto the fire. The past was a given—to what future led this vision?
Scented smoke rose. It blossomed, damp cavern mists and heat writhing, tearing into wisps then coalescing.
A scream. The Mother’s face reflecting flames and terror, the woods aflame, and the Horned One on the Hunt. Downed in snow, horns broken, wolves with blooded jaws snapping and snarling….
“No!” Cernun hissed. He caught his breath as more shapes danced in the smoke, dissolving then coalescing….
A cowled figure draws a freakishly long bow, the arrow’s flight swift and sure, to split another arrow already in the black… a sister of the White Christ bends over a kneeling soldier… clad in the red and white of the Temple, he raises his fair head to let her make the sign of the Horns upon his brow… a booted foot stomps the long bow, shattering it….
Cernun blinked, shook his head. It made no sense, none of it. Smoke hissed, twisted into a pair of cowled figures locked in struggle….
One slams the other up against a tree, yanks his head back, and brings a drawn sword against the exposed artery, only to have the sword fall from his hands, to stagger back as if he has seen some demon… or ghost….
Another twist of smoke, and abruptly the flames flared high, gusting char against the old man’s face. He didn’t move, in fact bent forward.
A figure, crouching naked in the fire, a silhouette amidst burning ruins. The fire rises again, a spiral of sound and wind, and the figure rises with it, backlit, stepping barefoot over the coals and extending pale arms as if clothing itself in fire.
And, suddenly, it is. Flames whip, clad and cowl the figure in brilliant scarlet that ebbs to black… then gray-ash rags. Winter blows through, snow hissing in the coals and covering the figure. It walks back and forth, and in its footsteps ice crystals form. Green, sharp-edged leaves unfurl amidst the winter ice, revealing blood-red berries in their depths. The figure turns to him, eyes glowing within its cowl, still pacing, like to a wild animal caged.
Wolf, it says, but does not speak. Witch. Hawk.
Wind gusted through the cavern in a bank of noise and cold. The fire pitched down from copper into indigo, sparks flying, smoke rising.
Cernun did not bother to stir it. Instead he closed his eyes, tried to make sense of what he had seen.
Wolf. The most skilled of hunters, yet hunted throughout the land by another, even more treacherous predator. Or… outlaws were known as wolfshead. Perhaps? But not likely. Cernun would tolerate no outlaw within his covenant.
Witch. What the White Christ’s followers called those who followed the old ways of the heath and Barrow-lines, a calling turned to hatred by outside forces, even as the Romans had done with another naming: Pagani.
Hawk. Proud birds, another hunter/predator forced to perform beneath nobleman’s rule, barely tamed and kept from free flight, jessed, hooded.
“Hooded.” It came out in a soft rush of breath. Not only the hawk but wolf and witch—predators cornered—the struggling figures, the flame-gotten one… all cowled. By fire, by ash, by blood. “Great Lord who lies incarnate in us. Has it come to this?”
He stared at the dying embers, not wanting to believe. But the image persisted.
The one to walk all worlds, to breathe the fates of dark and light and dusk between, male and female; the Arrow of the goddess and the Horns of the god. The champion of the old ways—and the beginning of their ending.
The Hooded One.
About the Author:
J Tullos Hennig has maintained a few professions over a lifetime--artist, dancer, equestrian--but never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever. Since living on an island in Washington State merely encourages--nay, guarantees--already rampant hermetic and artistic tendencies, particularly in winter, Jen has become reconciled to never escaping this lifelong affliction. Comparisons have also been made to a bridge troll, one hopefully emulating the one under Fremont Bridge: moderately tolerant, but. You know. Bridge troll.
Jen is blessed with an understanding spouse, kids, and grandkids, as well as alternately plagued and blessed with a small herd of horses and a teenaged borzoi who alternates leaping over the furniture with lounging on it.
And, for the entirety of a lifetime, Jen has been possessed by a press gang of invisible ‘friends’ who Will. Not. S.T.F.U.