A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Many erroneously believe that Humberto Eco invented the medieval monk sleuth in his 1980 Il nombre della rosa. The fact is that Brother Cadfael appeared in Ellis Peters's 1978 A Morbid Taste for Bones. I have enjoyed all of the books of this series and even met the writer Ellis Peters when I traveled to Shropshire in the late 80s.

Now in a week I will be meeting up with my ex-religion and theology teacher Brother Edwin Reggio C.S.C. at St Edward's University in Austin, Texas. I figured that a man with an artistic bent might enjoy one of my rose giclées (French pseudo art speak for a high quality ink jet print). Of all my roses which one would have a connection (even a tenuous one) with him? I though of the English Rose, St. Swithun could be a possibility. I finally settled on English Rose Rosa 'Brother Cadfael' (left). I never met St Swithun but after reading all of the Brother Cadfael novels I can see a bit of Brother Edwin. Brother Edwin was compact and powerful. Before becoming a monk Cadfael was a knight in the crusades. I have seen Brother Edwin pick up, with one hand, Byron Todd, the largest fellow student in my class, , push him into a wall (I remember Todd's feet dangling over the floor) and then calmly tell him, "You behave or you are going to be in trouble with me!" I am sure Brother Edwin could have handled a broad sword with ease.

I am particularly excited that Rebecca is going to meet Brother Edwin so I was trying to find another tenuous connection. This was easy. One of Rosemary's favourite perennials is the handsome Aconitum napillus with its brilliant blue flowers that resemble a monk's hood and the reason this plant is commonly called Monkshood. Every part of this plant is deadly poison so from the beginning we realized we had to grow these tall plants (to 6 ft) in the back of the border where they would be far away from Rebecca who started running around in our garden as soon as she could walk. Monkshood also reminds me of the third installment of the Cadfael mysteries which is called Monk's-Hood!

My copy of The Cadfael Companion - The World of Brother Cadfael by Robin Whiteman has this to say of the plant:

Monk's-Hood (also Wolfsbane or Aconite)(Aconitum Napellus). Poisonous. Novels. Ground root of the plant, mixed with oils, used for rubbing deep into aching joints to relieve pain. Annointing oil of monk's-hood stored in a great jar. Extremely poisonous if swallowed. A small dose killed Gervase Bonel. Reference Monk's-Hood(1-6-9)


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