Synopses by Chapter


Poet and author, Geoffrey Craig, is reluctant to offer spoilers, but as a father, he understands the desire to know what kind of book parents might be giving their children to read. As you will see, this story is dominated by a female character, and strong females are good role models for any reader, regardless of gender. This is a great book, for both young readers and adults.

The Brave Maiden is the story of a young woman who – in a quest for revenge – prevails against greed, treachery and brutality in medieval England. She is destined to bring peace and justice to the country; but first, she must discover her inner strength and nurture the qualities required of a leader.



The epic poem opens with crime, poverty and venality flourishing under King John’s corrupt rule. He is indifferent to the suffering his people endure at the hands of powerful nobles. Justice does not exist – or rather it is for sale.



Coming home from a morning ride, the Maiden finds her entire family slaughtered by the vicious Count Gerard. She searches the blood-soaked ground in vain for her father’s crested dagger – identical to the one she wears. The dagger is awarded to family members who have mastered the skills of a knight (which her father, in contrast to tradition, had taught her). She flees to the nearby forest where, on her chesnut mare, Flame, she wanders cold, tired and hungry. She sleeps on a bed of leaves. In the earth, she finds a magic coin that protects her from a vicious, wild boar.



Having sworn to revenge her family, she continues to wander alone and hungry through the forest until she encounters a young man wielding a cudgel against three knaves. The villains scurry from her slashing sword. William, an illiterate son of a Welsh yeoman, becomes her first adherent. A highly skilled archer, he teaches her to shoot a bow and arrow while she teaches him to read. William’s skill relieves her hunger.



Traveling through the forest with William, she talks about her father and his desire to bring justice to the forsaken land. Her father had sent Ormond, his close advisor, to the Welsh lords to drum up support; but Ormond had not been heard from again. In a clearing, they come upon Jonah, a Jewish tinker who loves to brawl, feast and wench. Jonah is all the more valuable as her next adherent since he can sharpen and manufacture swords. Before they set out, Jonah asks the Maiden her name, which she refuses to tell them.



The three have need of a camp where they can rest and be safe from brigands. Traversing a dense wood, she feels a soft breeze which seems to speak to her. She sees a fox disappear into a thicket as if into thin air. The breeze moves the branches, and she finds a passage into a large clearing with a crystal spring. In the clearing, the elusive fox seems to smile before trotting off. They work all day to build a shelter; and at supper, the Maiden talks of her background and, no shy innocent, includes her introduction, through observing the activities of sheep and dogs, to the laws of nature. She also tells them of the scholar her father brought to the castle to tutor her and how he was sent packing when caught, half-naked, wooing in the village.



Flame worries how they’re going to fulfill the vow of the revenge with only one horse to ride. The Maiden continues her archery practice, accidentally nicking Jonah with one shot. The next morning, they leave the camp on an exploratory trip and see the fox who winks at her. They come across a set of identival twins, Selwyn and Egbert, cursing and fighting each other with wooden swords. They apparently love to duel. She adds them to her band, promising swords of steel rether than wood.



Riding forth on a beautiful Spring morning, the little band sees smoke against the sky. They race across a meadow dotted with sheep to find four of Gerard’s knights pillaging and burning a village. The Maiden puts an arrow through one of the knights’ throat. The other three are captured and sent back, without their horses, to inform Gerard that justice, order and peace would before long prevail in the country.



Recruits flock in as she revives justice in the region: punishing robbers and hanging an infamous murderer who killed for a fee paid by Phiip the Cruel. Annabelle, an artist of humble birth, leaves a Duchess’s portrait unfinished and rides for days to bring the Maiden news of the Duke’s boast that heads will roll to teach the Maiden not to meddle where she doesn’t belong.



Needing solitude to think and plan, the Maiden rides from camp and finds a quiet stream. Sitting on a rock, she feels the mysterious breeze muss her hair and turns to see a snarling, monstrous-sized wolf about to attack. She pulls the magical coin from her purse, and the wolf’s character instantly changes. Naming the wolf, Sarah, she heads towards camp with Sarah and Flame who is unsure that a hungry wolf is an apt companion.



Coming across a tousled knight facing six men, she joins the fray. Two of the men, all six of whom are Gerard’s lackeys, aim lances at the Maiden. They freeze upon hearing Sarah’s deep-throated growl. One dies instantly as Sarah leaps for his throat and splices an artery. Leaving four dead, two of the varlets flee. The knight was fighting to recapture gold stolen by Gerard. He shares the treasure with the Maiden who rides to camp with gold for the cause, two more horses and thoughts of the tousled knight.



Sir Percival, a pompous ass of a knight, joins the band and tries telling everyone what to do and is roundly laughed at. The twins, on a foray, meet a French traveler, dressed like a popinjay and seeking the Maiden. Back at camp, the Frenchman is confronted by three of the Maiden’s toughest men and shows his mettle with the sword, defeating all three. His name is Pierre, and he tells the Maiden news from France where Ormond has safely arrived to raise a force on her behalf.



Riding through a small village, Philip the Cruel took a fancy to a beautiful young woman and sent his Reeve to demand her services. The woman’s husband punched the Reeve, and Philip had both husband and wife arrested, planning on executing them in the morning. Hearing of this from a serf who was the woman’s brother, the Maiden undertakes a rescue mission. Disguised in worn, filthy  clothing the Maiden and her troops enter the village. As the executioner raised his axe, an arrow pierced his heart. The Maiden’s troops drew their swords from their ragged smocks, and a fierce battle ensued.



Alarmed at her growing power, King John plots with his cronies to crush her and sets a trap, which will be sprung using the services of a brazen slave girl, Sarafina, who wishes to obtain her freedom. In a plot within a plot, the High Constable of England plans to kill both John and the Maiden.



Ormond arrives from France with his knights. In Ormond’s wake; woodland sprites and elves – led by a spirit Queen – feast, dance and revel. Near the camp, the French troops are confronted by Annabelle, her archers and Egbert’s fighters. A battle is on the verge of breaking out when the Maiden, recognizing Ormond, rides forward and orders everyone to cease and desist.



A feast is held for the visitors. The Maiden and Ormond walk apart from the rest and talk. She tells him about the awful day of the slaughter, her vow of revenge and her cause to rid the country of injustice. Ormond brings forth a scroll embossed with an oak and tells her it is a document under which freedom can flourish, the monarchy be limited and the rights and duties of each estate be delineated. The document also sets out a form of government that includes a Parliament. The Charter will establish a government based on law, not the monarch’s whim, and will lead to peace and prosperity. Ormond indicates that he will tell her followers who she is. She begs a few hours indulgence. William declares his love which she must decline.

Sarafina arrives in the camp and, to set the trap, tells the Maiden of King John and Gerard’s plan to burn her village and sell the peasants to the Turks for galley slaves. The Maiden determines to march to the rescue. Ormond smells a trap in Sarafina’s story and confides his suspicions to the Maiden who then has a word with Jonah.



Ormond reveals to the army the Maiden’s true identity: Gwendolyn, royal princess and heir to the throne. The stage is set for the decisive battle as Gwendolyn leads her army to the rescue of her native village. The tousled knight brings a force of twenty to join her. King John’s knights surprise them as he had planned; and a fierce battle ensues, which begins badly for Gwendolyn’s forces. They face a disasterous defeat until, having prepared for the trap, Jonah attacks from the flank. The two sides halt for the day and make camp.

Gwendolyn talks to her senior officers about the morrow’s renewal of battle and mingles with her troops as they huddle by the evening fires. The elfin Queen hovers near, and Gwendolyn asks her Father and Mother for their help. At the first light of morning, a hundred Welsh knights arrive to fight with Gwendolyn. King John’s knights charge across a meadow. Stunned at first by the sight of the foam-flecked horses, her army hesitates until Gwendolyn cries, “Charge” and rushes headlong into battle.

Exhausted from fighting and leaning against an oak tree, Annabelle does not see Philip the Cruel’s attack. Raising his sword, he hears a savage growl and turns. His last sight is of Sarah springing for his throat. The tide of battle turns, and the King’s forces fall back. Victory is Gwendolyn’s.

Evil and contemptuous to the end, Gerard attacks Gwendolyn. They face each other in mortal combat. The touseled knight is about to intervene when Ormond stops him. Gwendolyn is on the ground with Gerard towering above her. He is about to bring down his sword when she kicks him smartly in the nether parts and drives her sword under his breastplate from his stomach to his chest. Gwendolyn recites the names of her slaughtered family and pulls her father’s dagger from the dead Count’s belt. Her vow is fulfilled and her revenge complete.



She requires John to sign the Charter and to acknowledge her as his heir. The High Constable sees his schemes frustrated – for the time being. The faithful William dies from wounds received in the battle but not before Gwendolyn knights him. The twin Egbert also died in the battle. Both Annabelle and Gwendolyn are betrothed, and the story ends with the mysterious breeze (the spirit of her father) gently touching her cheek.