Brother Cadfael sprang to life suddenly and unexpectedly when he was already approaching sixty, mature, experienced, fully armed and seventeen years tonsured. He emerged as the necessary protagonist when I had the idea of deriving a plot for a murder mystery from the true history of Shrewsbury Abbey in the twelfth century, and needed the high mediaeval equivalent of a detective, an observer and agent of justice in the centre of the action. I had no idea then what I was launching on the world, nor to how demanding a mentor I was subjecting myself. Nor did I intend a series of books about him, indeed I went on immediately to write a modern detective novel, and returned to the twelfth century and Shrewsbury only when I could no longer resist the temptation to shape another book round the siege of Shrewsbury and the massacre of the garrison by King Stephen, which followed shortly after the prior’s expedition into Wales to bring back the relics of Saint Winifred for his Abbey. From then on Brother Cadfael was well into his stride, and there was no turning back.
Since the action in the first book was almost all in Wales, and even in succeeding ones went back and forth freely across the border, just as the history of Shrewsbury always has, Cadfael had to be Welsh, and very much at home there. His name was chosen as being so rare that I can fi