Some Origins of Secrets of the Wyrde Woods

I recently ran into a few interesting articles during research into England in 1940 as it was bracing itself for nazi invasion. One was about a group of kids who planned to defend their common against Nazi Parachutists. They had worked out strongpoints, locations for ambush, avenues of escape and whatnot. More importantly they had armed themselves with longbows and arrows. Home made ones, but most kids knew how to fashion a decent bow back then. A second article involved a group of kids elsewhere, ‘ambushing’ army convoys Robin Hood style. Surrounding it, armed with longbows and refusing to let the bemused Allied soldiers go until they had handed over all their chocolate.

Would these juvenile gangs have carried out their plans in the worst case scenario? I think they might have. Kids are notoriously dismissive of danger.The first group reports, almost casually, that  they lost a few kids when they ‘excercised’ the Nazi invasion by racing accross the road as British army convoys passed. The ‘lost’ kids were run over and killed. A third group inadvertently wounded a Canadian soldier when they used an Allied convoy as target practice with their bows and arrows.

Moreover, we must remember that little known addition Winston Churchill added after his famous We Shall Fight on the Beaches speech: addressed to his neighbour in the House of Commons he muttered: “And we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody well all we’ve got!”

The early Home Guard, the Local Defense Volunteers, were actually better armed than that. The kids would have been surrounded by adults who were arming themselves with the boarding pikes from the HMS Victory, brass cannon from museums and ‘conveniently’ shaped pieces of lead piping. They could hardly have failed to be inspired by the grim resolution around them as those butt ends of broken beer bottles were surpassed by make-do creativity.

If all those gangs were united into one, it’d make an interesting story, I remembered thinking. I recalled that when I finished revising Lord of the Wyrde Woods and found that I wasn’t ready to relinguish the Wyrde Woods yet. As setting it was simply too fun a place to play around in. What if I were to set that fused gang in the Wyrde Woods in 1940?

There were two characters in Lord of the Wyrde Woods who were just about a decade too young to have been the right age back then  (Young enough to be kids, old enough to have the know-how to plan well organised misschief)

I decided that I was allowed the poetic license to conveniently ignore a decade, it would be much more fun revisiting some of the characters from Lord of the Wyrde Woods than invent new ones. Moreover, it allowed for connections, the essence of the Wyrd and therefore of the Wyrde Woods Chronicles, which will include at least four more novels.

It meant redrafting Lord of the Wyrd Woods to stick in references to new locations which play no part in that story and a few hints as to the events in the other books. It also meant I had to confer with the real “Joy Whitfield”, my friend Joyce whose words and actions I have often just blatantly copied to stick in my story, though her ‘past’ is one of my own invention based on my great-great-grandfather Adriaan Swank’s gallant rescue of an unfortunate house maid.

I met Joyce at a recent archery event where I was teamed up with her and confused matters greatly by calling her Joy half of the day. She was happy to feature in another adventure, and even happier to be taking on the Nazi foes: There were some old scores to settle there I think.

Anyhow, young Joy has an owl (of course) and Joyce chose the type of owl and the name: Another ‘scritch’ owl (barn owl) who will be called Thallie. I was pleased with her choice as barn owls have a varied ‘vocabulary’ which, as happens in Lord of the Wyrd Woods, allow for their occasional participation in conversations.

Looking into wartime Sussex I discovered exactly the type of circumstances which would suit the story well. Sticking to Wyrde Wood tradition I would also insert creatures from the old Anglo-Saxon lore, allowing me to unite two of England’s worst foes, a nightmarish alliance which Joy Whitfield and William Maskall will have to face and vanquish.

I had all I needed for a new adventure in the Wyrde Woods.

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