In Praise of the Middle Volume in a Trilogy.

Here is a plea on behalf of that sometimes overlooked member of the trilogy, the middle book. Seen by some to be the filler between the scene setting first volume and the dramatic conclusion of the tale in volume three, the second volume is in fact vital to the story. Apart from the obvious fact that the story usually follows on directly from its ending, the second book is a vital part of the author’s attempts, not only at story telling, but in character development.

Using my Sword of Woden trilogy as an example Beowulf moves from adolescence into Wræcca_Pb-ebadulthood as the second book unfolds. This allowed me, as an author, to not only complete the transition of the youthful warrior from his first experience of battle to the leader of men which he clearly became, but also slowly introduce and develop the men who would become his closest companions in the ultimate trial in Denmark, his personal hearth warriors, his comitatus.

Contained within the poem Beowulf there are many references to the wars between the Swedes and the Geats which raged across what is now southern Sweden during the course of the early sixth century. Wraecca allowed me to introduce and develop such major historical figures as Ongentheow, Ohthere and Onela, probably the three kings which are buried beneath the mounds at Old Uppsala to this day.

The second book also allowed me to introduce tales which would deal with other events mentioned in the poem. For example one of Beowulf’s boasts in Heorot is that he raided a nest of trolls. The episode in Wraecca which takes place in northern Sweden is a direct result of this.

Finally the poem informs us that Beowulf travelled to Denmark to confront the Grendel with fourteen companions. The second volume in the trilogy helped me to introduce characters in such a way that readers became familiar with their names and personalities before they met them again towards the end of the story. This was especially helpful considering there were many personal names which are unfamiliar to a modern reader, Ealhstan, Hondscio etc.

Although it can be tempting to skip to the end of a tale the middle book in a trilogy is vital to the tale as a whole. Where would The Lord of the Rings be without The Two Towers?

About cliff

Historical Novelist
This entry was posted in blog. Bookmark the permalink.