Monday, April 16, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #10

For my tenth “beginning,” I’ve chosen the opening passage of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom. This is the first novel in his excellent The Saxon Tales series about the conflict between the Vikings and the English during the reign of Alfred the Great. You can read my review of The Last Kingdom here. This is undoubtedly a great novel, but the question for today is whether it has a great beginning too?

My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred and his father was also called Uhtred. My father’s clerk, a priest called Beocca, spelt it Utred. I do not know if that was how my father would have written it, for he could neither read nor write, but I can do both and sometimes I take the old parchments from their wooden chest and I see the named spelled Uhtred or Utred or Ughtred or Ootred. I look at those parchments, which are deeds saying that Uhtred, son of Uhtred, is the lawful and sole owner of the lands that are carefully marked by stones and by dykes, by oaks and by ash, by marsh and by sea, and I dream of those lands, wave-beaten and wild beneath the wind-driven sky. I dream, and know that one day I will take back the land from those who stole it from me. 
– Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom

I’ve always liked this beginning. It ends with tension – the desire to take back stolen lands – and tells us quite a bit about the main character for an opening paragraph. It is also a clever way of dealing with a main character's name that may by hard to pronounce. But let me know what you think.


Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban said...

Agreed. I love the series and I love the beginning of this the first book in the series.

Joseph Finley said...

Carmen, thanks for the comment! It is a fantastic series about a fascinating period in English (and Danish) history.