The Cross of Lead is a book written in 2002 by an author that goes by the name of Avi and published in the United States of America. The story is set in 14th century England. It starts out in the small village of Stromford where Crispin’s mother, Asta, has just died. No one is there to mourn the death of Crispin’s mother except for Crispin and Father Quinel, the village priest. Crispin does not even know his own name. He is only known as Asta’s son, until Father Quinel tells him that his name is Crispin.
Crispin overhears something that he is not supposed to hear and is forced to flee Stromford. At thirteen years old Crispin is declared a wolves head by the steward, John Aycliffe and is on the run for his life. While Crispin is on the run, he encounters a man that goes by the name of Bear. Bear takes Crispin in and tries to help him on his journey to freedom. I believe this book has won awards because of its historical content. It helps the reader to see how different things were for people that came before them.
Avi did an accurate job of making the reader feel as if they were in the middle ages with Crispin and the many other peasants struggling to survive. It is interesting to see how much has changed over the years, because “the rules of life in the fourteenth centenary are so radically different from today that you have create a context that is understandable”(305). Things are much different for American children reading this book; they will most likely never have to endure the suffering and struggles that Crispin did. Crispin is the main character and the protagonist in the story.
In the beginning of the story Crispin does not expect much out of life. He is passive, unnamed, uneducated and takes what ever comes at him because he expects no different for his life. He is a peasant who even has no name. He is only known as Asta’s son. Crispin believes that there is nothing that he can do to change the course of his life because this is just how his life is, he “live(s) the life of the shunned, forever cast aside”(13). Crispin’s mother dies and he is left all alone. Crispin is an outcast and has felt different, even ashamed, all of his life.
Crispin feels that “it was as if [he] contained an unnamed sin that made [him] less than nothing” (2). Crispin does not know why he feels this way. This feeling that Crispin has is foreshadowing of the secret that he has noble blood running in his veins. Towards the end of the story Crispin finds out who he is and what he is meant to be. He knows that he is the illegitimate son of Lord Furnival. He is not a peasant but someone who has royal blood running through his body. Crispin knows that ‘“what ever noble blood there is in [him], is only … poison”’ (247). Crispin is a religious person.
He remembers to say his prayers no matter what is happening in his life. He obviously learned that from his mother who taught him what she felt would help him in his life. Crispin’s only friend after his mother dies is Father Quinel. Father Quinel is the only person that knows of Crispin’s name and true identity, which makes it so disturbing, although not shocking, that Crispin finds him lying on the ground with his throat slit open. Having Crispin’s only friend, a priest, found dead is a way of showing that Crispin feels, even for a moment, that Jesus has forsaken him.
At the end of the story Crispin knows that because of this royal blood that he has had to live a harsh life. He wants nothing to do with this way of life. This is the life that killed all the people that he cared about. He now knows that he can have freedom and a better way of life. “What’s more, [Crispin] knew that feeling to be [his] newfound soul, a soul that lived in freedom” (297). Crispin has found purpose and joy in his life from growing and understanding that he has a right to have happiness in his life.
He does not have to be a product of his environment. The author is trying to communicate that there is good and bad in all of human nature. As Bear recalls, “There is more than simple nature residing in my soul, there is bad and good” (111). There is no way to know what or who you will become. There are paths and choices that are made throughout life. In this story the author shows that one can find strength in places that are least expected. When Crispin first runs into Bear, they are not friends; Crispin is actually scared of Bear.
Bear makes Crispin swear to be his servant and then tells him “Now you are mine, or God will chew you up and spit you out like the living filth all wolf’s heads are” (82). As the relationship goes on, Bear and Crispin become friends. Crispin learns from Bear and becomes his equal. Another theme in the book is that it does not matter who you are at this moment in time, you can always change and be the person that you want to be. This is especially the case with Crispin and John Aycliffe. At the beginning of the book Crispin is scared of John Aycliffe and is unable to even look him in the eyes because he felt less than.
Crispin recalls, “It was always hard for me to look on others. To look on John Aycliffe was hardest of all” (3). The end of the book transforms Crispin into someone that has power in who he is. He no longer fells shame or less than. Crispin is able to stand up to John Aycliffe by “summoning all of [his] strength, [he] drew the blade against his neck” (277). Crispin has been changed by his own choices into someone who believes that he can make a difference in his own destiny. The author, Avi, is able to let the reader know the story’s setting by making “ENGLAND, A. D. 377” (1), the first line that is read at the top of page one. Another way that the author lets the reader know where and when the story is set is by the imagery and dialect that is used. Avi describes castles, lords, stewards and serfs. Crispin was not a free man and “the steward, John Aycliffe, never lost an opportunity to remind us of the fact that we were villeins – serfs – bound to Furnival, Lord of Stromford Village” (14). The story moves throughout England as Crispin and Bear make their way from village to village. The book is told from in the first person, from Crispin’s point of view.
Crispin has a lot of historical content in it. It is a captivating book. Avi is able to show the reader how different our lives are at this day in age, compared to 1377 in England. Times are not so harsh now as they were then, or maybe they are just harsh in different ways. It is important for children to read and see history through these types of stories. Avi did a good job of describing the scenes and show the reader what life might have been like for us if we had lived back in the time of Crispin. Work Cited Avi. Crispin: the Cross of Lead. New York: Hyperion For Children, 2002. Print.