This is a spoiler! If you don't want to know what happens in "Born of the Sun," then don't read this.

411 on the Book:

Born of the Sun, by Joan Wolf, 1989. Penguin Books Canada Limited, ISBN-0-453-00666-3

407 pages


Niniane- Princess of the Celts.

Coinmail- Niniane’s brother, Prince of the Celts.

Kerwyn- Niniane’s harper

Ahern- Niniane’s father, King of the Celts

Cynric- King of the West Saxons

Edwin- Prince of the West Saxons, rival of Ceawlin

Guthfrid- Queen of the West Saxons

Fara- Cynric’s friedlehe

Ceawlin- Fara and Cynric’s bastard son

Cutha- Cynric’s cousin, friend of Ceawlin

Sigurd- Cutha’s son

Cuthwulf- Cutha’s brother

Aethelbert- Guthfrid's brother

England, from 555 A.D. to 575 A.D. (9th century). After the death of King Arthur.


This tale from the 9th century, is about a young woman who is captured when her small town, Bryn Atha, is taken by the West Saxons. She is left at home by her brother, Coinmail, who tells her to go into hiding in a near-by town. He also tells her that if a Saxon should come near her to commit suicide. She, however, waits by the side of her harper, Kerwyn, who is dying from old age. The Saxons soon come into the house, taking things that they don’t have the technology to make. They tell her that she will be useful to them, so they won’t kill her or make her a slave. Niniane thinks that she will be ransomed by her father, but she is very wrong.

The Saxons take her back to their home town, Winchester, and she is led to the woman’s hall. There she meets King Cynric’s friedlehe, or secondary wife, Fara. Fara and the bower girls take her in and help her a lot. Most of them had been captured from around where Niniane lived so they could speak Saxon and British.

Guthfrid asks Cynric what he plans to do with Niniane, and he says that he is going to wed her to Ceawlin. Guthfrid, of course is furious, so she begs him to wed her to her son, and not the “bastard.” So, he exclaims to Winchester that Niniane is to be wed to Edwin.

While Cynric decided to go to a near by town, Ceawlin kills Edwin in a duel. Guthfrid wants revenge against Ceawlin. She becomes pregnant with a child that isn't Cynric's, but he takes him in as his son to avenge the death of Edwin. Guthfrid and her lover, Edric, plans to kill Ceawlin, but Niniane over hears and tells Cutha. Cutha decides that it is best for Ceawlin to leave Winchester, and to have a reason he could say that he wanted to marry Niniane.

They made it successfully to Bryn Atha, where they found that Niniane’s brother was no longer living there. They go to the neighbors for info and live stock. They live very well at Bryn Atha, and soon Niniane is pregnant with Ceawlin’s first son. Ceawlin knew that he’d have to become king of Winchester, so he brings a war band from Winchester to Bryn Atha. Ceawlin teaches the thanes to fight. The first battle against Edric was easily won by Ceawlin, but it wasn’t over yet. Ceawlin leads Edric on chases throughout the country, except in the north where Niniane and his son are. Edric gives up playing cat-and-mouse with the young prince and goes back home to Winchester. Guthfrid finally realizes that Ceawlin was staying away from the north. Edric realizes the same and goes to Bryn Atha the next day to find nothing at all. Ceawlin had already moved Niniane and the others out of Bryn Atha.

Ceawlin was soon joined by Cutha, who’d escaped from Winchester and raised his own war band. They finally lead attacks on Edric, and won all of them. It still wasn’t over. Edric retrieved back to the safety of Winchester and closed the gates, Ceawlin and his war band waited outside the gates, starving the people within, until Edric finally gives up. Guthfrid, Edric, and their son have to go and live with Guthfrid's father in East Anglia.

Guthfrid’s brother Aethelbert takes the throne in East Anglia. He plans to get revenge on Ceawlin for killing Edwin. He gathers a war band, along with one from the people on his mother’s side, the Kents. The Kents are to attack Ceawlin, while he is busy with the Kents, Aethelbert is also to launch his war band on Ceawlin.

Ceawlin gathers all of his eorls and their war bands together to deal with Aethelbert. Ceawlin knows what Aethelbert's plan is and gets one of his eorls to take care of the Kents. Aethelbert has many men and Cealwin's forces are beginning to get tired, when Sigurd comes to the rescue with his own war band. They defeat Athelbert, and Ceawlin returns home the King of Winchester once more. Aethelbert has to return home and tell his sister that Edric died in battle and her son will not be the king.

All is well at Winchester until Sigurd leaves Winchester. Cutha thinks that Sigurd is leaving because Ceawlin didn't give him more for his help in the war against Aethelbert. Cutha blames Ceawlin. Cutha gathers a war band at his manor with the help of Guthfrid, Aethelbert, and a king named Witgar, who was Cynric's nephew. Cutha feels that Witgar should be king being that Ceawlin was Cynric's bastard child. One of Ceawlin's thanes sends him word that Winchester is being held captive by Cutha. Soon after that they see Sigurd coming up the road to capture Ceawlin. Niniane tells Ceawlin that he has to escape before Sigurd comes, so some of the British boys agree to take him into hiding.

Ceawlin offers Witgar his son's marriage to his granddaughter if he would leave Aethelbert and Cutha alone, and Witgar accepts. Ceawlin also offers Cutha and Aethelbert their lives and Sigurd forgiveness, but they don't except. They have a battle, Sigurd, Aethelbert, and Cutha are killed. Ceawlin goes back to Winchester and a couple years later his son marries Witgar's granddaughter, and Guthfrid also dies.

Coinmail is upset with a proposal of marriage to a Saxon from a Brit, and challenges Ceawlin. Coinmail takes Niniane captive, and Ceawlin comes to the rescue with a victory in the war that he and Coinmail have. Coinmail dies, and Niniane and Ceawlin return home, Ceawlin being the new Bretwalda of Britian.

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