I’m happy to introduce MM readers to Eliza Redgold. Eliza and I met many years ago at a one-day writing conference and have kept in touch ever since. Her historical fiction novel, NAKED, is a retelling of the story of Lady Godiva, and it is beautifully written and so well-researched.
Into the Woods: Arden, the Magical Realm of Lovers
About Eliza: Eliza Redgold is an author, academic and unashamed romantic. Her new novel Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva was released by St Martin’s Press on Bastille Day (July 14 2015).
Magic sparkled in the sunlight, falling on the leaves as we reached the edge of the Forest of Arden.
Leofric stroked Wyrd’s neck as we tethered our horses. “This is a sacred place.”
“How did you know?” Arden was the home of our ancient spirits but it wasn’t common knowledge beyond our borders. Many still came to worship in Arden on holy days, but only those who lived in the Middle Lands.
A shrug was his only reply as we went deeper into the forest by foot, the oaks, elms and poplars whispering their mysterious welcome. Yet I swore he bowed as we entered the deep green grove.
The legend of Lady Godiva and her famous ride has travelled through time. Though the legend has lasted for centuries, being revived periodically, there’s dispute over exactly what if anything Godiva wore on her famous ride, or even if it occurred. Historical fact and a good story don’t always go hand in hand. Some historians certainly call it a myth. Yet there’s no doubt that Lady Godiva was a real person who lived in 11th century Anglo-Saxon Engla-lond. Whatever the facts, she has remained captivating.
Lady Godiva or Countess Godgyfu in the Anglo-Saxon version of her name spent some of her life in what is now called the British Midlands. The area surrounding Coventry is heavily industrialized and bears little resemblance to the largely rural land of her time when it would have been interspersed with villages huddled around common pasture land. Close by, the Forest of Arden would have stretched for many more miles than it does today, though it’s still possible to walk through what remains of the woods. Once upon a time, there was an ancient wayside stone cross to mark its entrance. In the Middle Ages the Knights Templar built a temple deep in the forest. As it was to William Shakespeare, Arden would have been well known to Godiva.
I was intrigued by the idea that Lady Godiva lived near Arden, for the woods were made legendary by Shakespeare in his play ‘As You Like It’. Shakespeare’s invented Arden may have been based upon the real forest Godiva knew, but it also has its own mythical elements. It’s been likened to the sub-conscious, and has been explored in a multitude of ways, in real life and literature. Salvador Dali painted it, as did the Pre-Raphaelites. Writers and readers re-invent it. Theatre directors and actors continue to interpret it on stage. It’s a forest of dreams, a fantasy world, and a realm of lovers.
In some older versions of Godiva’s story, the tax on her people she rides to prevent is a tax of collecting free firewood from the forest. The forest might well have been Arden.
The Forest of Arden was also the perfect place for Godiva to explore with Leofric. Their visit is a turning point for their relationship. I was delighted when a reviewer recently listed it as one of her favorite scenes in the book.
Discover the magic. Come to Arden!