Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cast of Characters: Alys



Today my series on the fictional characters in my Balian trilogy continues with Alys. 

Like Godwin Olafsen, Alys was an unintended character. I never intended to write about her, but once she had sung her first notes in Envoy of Jerusalem it was impossible to ignore her. When Alys steps into the tavern in Tyre to sing for her supper to avoid selling her body, she has a song to sing, but defeat and poverty have robbed her of her dreams -- indeed of her ability to dream at all.  She is tottering on a precipice. A innocent victim of defeat and poverty. 

No, I had not envisaged Alys when I wrote the outline for Envoy of Jerusalem because she isn't part of "history." How can the daughter of an obscure (and dead) saddler compete with the likes of Richard the Lionheart and Saladin? But Alys does have a song to sing -- for all her sisters trapped in a hopeless situation after a lost war. Alys sings for the Syrian refugees, and those from the South Sudan and Somalia, as well. She represents the millions of women who have lost their homes, their families, their livelihoods, and have nothing left to sell but a song -- or their bodies. 

Envoy of Jerusalem is as much about Alys as it is about Richard the Lionheart because a central theme is the role of women in society. In powerful women like Maria Comnena, the Queens Sibylla and Isabella the novel examines the various ways in which women were active and influential even in a world at war, but it must also expose the helplessness and vulnerabilities of those women without status, titles and wealth. Envoy of Jerusalem seeks to show the strengths and determination of "ordinary" women -- and that is Alys' role. Altogether, the novel seeks to encourage the reader to think about how women shape society itself and what the position of women tells us about the society in which they live.

In Envoy of Jerusalem, a queen and a prostitute sit side-by-side in a church and find common ground. 

Oh, and Alys gives us the best love story of this novel.... 


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2 comments:

  1. Rebeca versus Rowena: Different positions in life, different outlooks, hopes, dreams and ambitions.

    Two completely different view points . . . both from women. Very interesting.

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  2. Helena, I must add a constructive suggestion to your book cover---at the time, the Dome of the Rock did not have a gold-inlaid dome nor the blue tile-work on the walls. Those features made their appearance in the Ottoman era.

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