This post is the first in an occasional series on the research and inspiration for some of the characters in Sorrowline and Timemith. I wanted a lot of the things in my stories to feel real, as if they might have once existed, and I found inspiration in many myths, legends and folk tales. So let’s begin with Rouland – the menacing figure at the heart of Sorrowline.
Rouland was inspired by the Frankish military leader, Roland, immortalised in the historic French poem, The Song of Roland. The figure has been romanticised in many French texts in a similar way to how King Arthur has been treated in the UK; legend obscures fact until nothing else remains. I’ve always been fascinated by Arthurian legend, especially with the idea of his loyal Knights of the round Table. There are parallels between Arthurian legend and the French stories, collectively known as The Matter of France. Like Arthur, Rouland was also one of a group of powerful knights. The paladins, sometimes known as the Twelve Peers, were the foremost warriors of Charlemagne’s court.
I loved the idea of twelve knights fiercely loyal to their leader. So, with a lot of liberal creative licence and no regard for historical accuracy, I took Roland and the Paladins and turned them into Rouland de la Mare and his Paladin. Rouland became a great statesman and scientist who had uncovered many scientific secrets. His army of Paladin were hand-picked to be his loyal bodyguards. He chose their number from the dead, resurrecting them into a state between life and death – the OnceDead. And, in a deliberate change to the history of both Arthurian and French legends, I made them all women. The Paladin represent Rouland’s greatest work, a subtle mix of science and magic.
The Paladin’s individual names were also inspired by members of the historical Paladins. The outcast Eloise de Montauban took her name in part from the Paladin, Renaud de Montauban. Rouland’s closest ally, the Captain of the Paladin, Alda de Vienne, took her name from Olivier de Vienne, Roland’s closest friend, advisor, and confidant. Even Rouland’s sword, Durendal, which features heavily in Timesmith, is based on the legend.
There are other connections which I won’t mention here in case you’ve not read Sorrowline (WHY NOT??) but I’m sure those who are familiar with the source material might spot them.