Over the last few years I’ve seen a lot of art inspired by my novel—collected here—but the image below was made by Elena M.P. Cajal, a Spanish photographer, based not on the novel itself but on my blog posts about the novel.* Elena has kindly given me permission to use it here.
It’s part of an exhibition, Mujeres Poderosas, “Powerful Women: Forgotten by history and religion,” a series of large historical photomontages currently on display at the Palacio de la Isla (Cáceres, western Spain), with images of women like Hild, Hatshepsut, Wu Zetian and Sappho.
This image of Hild, of course, owes a great deal to later legends (that ammonite, for example, is based on the later medieval story of Hild turning all the local snakes to stone). The background image of Whitby shows the ruins of the stone abbey rebuilt in the 13th century, and the harbour, improved many times over the centuries—the first stone pier went up in the 17th century, and its final form took shape towards the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. One image I would like to have seen added to the montage is a seagull soaring over the abbey: an acknowledgement of another legend that seagulls dip their wings in honour of Hild whenever they fly over the cliffs. There again there’s the quill pen, so perhaps that’s close enough.
Whitby is one of the few spots in Britain where you can watch the sun both rise and set over the sea (the cliff faces north) but that is not its only magic. If you ever get the chance to visit, do; perhaps you’ll feel the same rush of history fisting up through the turf that I did, a feeling so strong it drove me write about the woman who made the place famous.
*Why? Because Hild does not have a Spanish translation. Why? Because it’s very long, and as well as having to turn modern English into Spanish, the translator would also have to tackle Latin, Old English, Brythonic (that is, my approximation of same based on Old Welsh and bits of Cumbric) and Old Irish. And so far no Spanish publisher has considered it worth the risk.