f you have never read a Brother Cadfael novel or seen a Brother Cadfael video, you have indeed missed one of life's true pleasures. The Brother Cadfael series of Medieval Mysteries written by Edith Pargeter under the pen name Ellis Peters are a sheer delight both to the imagination and to the serious historian. The novels, set in the early part of the 12th century, blend fictional characters and historical figures into a seamless fabric of historical fiction such that they can be truly said to be in a class all their own.
The delightful star of the series is Brother Cadfael, a Benedictine monk from the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, located in the town of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, nearly on the border between England and Wales. Brother Cadfael, a Welshman and the Abbey's Herbalist, spends his time tending his herb garden, and formulating the potions and ointments that he uses to ease the suffering of those poor unfortunates that may need his services. In the meantime, he is also a most talented and able amatuer detective, much to the dismay of the Abbey's Prior, Brother Robert, and is often called upon by Under Sheriff Hugh Beringar to aid the Sheriff in the investigation of some local death or unfortunate disapperance. Fortunately for Hugh and Cadfael, Father Abbot seems to always side with the amatuer sleuth and he and Hugh are off on another adventure.
Thus we have the basis for each of the Cadfael Chronicles. There are twenty one of them, written in chronological order, and they are listed below, in order of publication. The last, A Rare Benedictine, is actually a prequel to the series and explains how Brother Cadfael became a monk and how he ended up at the Abbey in Shrewsbury. I recommend that your reading begin with this volume and then progress to the others. In 1994, the BBC decided to create a Brother Cadfael video series, based on the novels. For the role of the intuitative Brother Cadfael they made the perfect choice of Sir Derek Jacobi. A gifted actor whose talent has brought Brother Cadfael to life and given him the personality and nuance that truly befits the character. No better choice could possibly have been made. Derek Jacobi "IS" Brother Cadfael. The casting of each of the video series was exceptional, with each bringing something solid to the potrayal of one of the Chronicles. There were thirteen of these produced. They too are indicated below by a video camera icon after the title of the book they are based upon with the number of the video series (1-4) that they were included in. The last of the series was filmed in 1998. I would truly love to see them all put on film, but alas, that will probably not happen. Those of the fourth and last series are probably the last there will be. But, one can only hope................. The series is now also available on DVD. There is even a complete DVD Box Set that has been recently released. The DVD logo below indicates which chronicle has been put on DVD.
In addition, there is a Brother Cadfael Series "Soundtrack" CD Album available as well, composed, arranged, and produced by Colin Towns. You might have to look for this one, as it is not widely available, but it is definately worth the effort. I have it and I can honestly say it did not disappoint me. The music is indeed direct from the movie series. I enjoy it so much I have it on my alarm clock and I awake each morning to the Brother Cadfael "Opening Theme". If you are a Cadfael fan, get this one. If not, get it anyway.
The Good Lady Gwynnevere and I did indeed travel to Shrewsbury and the world of Brother Cadfael in the summer of 2002. We spent two weeks visiting family and friends in Belgium and made many more in England and Wales. One of our major stops was of course, in Shrewsbury. I have wanted to visit this town for years and have finally gotten the opportunity. It is a delightful place, full of friendly people, and, well, more later........... We visited Wales as well, my ancestral homeland. I have placed pictures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul's Shrewsbery on the website and you can view them by clicking here. The Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, although small, was quite impressive. Now, however, we must be off with Brother Cadfael.
Set in the early 12th Century, during the tumultuous times of the English Civil War over the throne of England fought by Empress Maud and King Stephen, the Chronicles blend fiction and history into a tapestry of wonder. Blending the real and the fictionally accurate, the tales are historically based, historically accurate, and a true pleasure to read and to view. Unfortunately, the Good Lady Edith Pargeter, who penned these jewels is no longer with us, having passed away in 1995, but not before seeing the popularity of her work soar to new heights. So let us be off now, to Medieval England and the misty past, where Brother Cadfael is about to solve his first mystery, and launch us on a most wonderful journey with us at his side..................
*SPECIAL NOTE ON THE BROTHER CADFAEL SOUNDTRACK: Thanks to information sent to me by visitor Mark Ritchie, The Cadfael Soundtrack is again available to everyone. Believe me, it is well worth the purchase price, which incidently is comparable to most CD albums. The sound track is now available from ArkivMusic. You can order the soundtrack by clicking here, and can be purchased for the very reasonalbe price of $16.99. If you are true Cadfael fan, get this one. It is well worth the price, and I promise you will not be disappointed.