Hild (novel)

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Cover of the first UK edition of Hild
AuthorNicola Griffith
CountryUnited States
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux (US)
Blackfriars Books (UK)
Publication date
November 12, 2013 (US)
October 4, 2014 (UK)
Media typePrint (Hardcover, Trade Paperback)
Pages560 pp
LC ClassPS3557.R48935

Hild is a 2013 historical novel and the sixth novel by British author Nicola Griffith. Hild is a fictionalized telling of the life of Hilda of Whitby, also known as Hild of Streoneshalh, a significant figure in Anglo-Saxon Britain. The book includes a map, a glossary of terms, and a pronunciation guide.

The novel was first published in the United States by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on November 12, 2013 and in the United Kingdom on October 4, 2014 through Blackfriars Books. Griffith has stated that the book will be the first in a trilogy and that the second book will be titled Menewood.[1]

Novel summary[edit]

In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become the king of all the Angles through force, bribery, and religious coercion. The king's niece Hild grows up bright, curious, and willful in this world of violence and mysticism. She learns to fight with staff and sword and to speak several languages. Although her father has been assassinated, Hild survives to become an advisor to the king and ultimately to other major figures determining England's course in the Early Middle Ages.


Prior to writing Hild, Griffith began researching Hild and seventh-century Britain, upon which she realized that not much was known about Hild as a historical person.[2] Griffith documented her research on her blog Gemæcce and during this process she began wondering about aspects of Hild's life not recorded historically, such as her likes, dislikes, and reasons for choosing specific actions.[2][3] While writing the character Griffith posited that she had two types of close personal relationship with women outside of her immediate family: her sexual partner and her gemæcce. Griffith created the grammatically feminine term gemæcce from the Old English masculine word gemæcca meaning "mate, equal, one of a pair, comrade, companion" and "husband or wife", which she repurposed to refer to a female friend and work partner.[4]

As Hild was female and held a position in her uncle's court, Griffith realized that it would be possible for Hild to have sexual partners of either sex. Women of Hild's station would have to worry primarily about being discreet and careful about whom they selected.[5] However Griffith also stated that:

Hild isn’t lesbian/homosexual. She’s bisexual. I doubt they had such terms back then, though. I’ve seen no evidence that who you did or did not have sex with defined how women thought of themselves. Actually, there’s no evidence for anything, sexually, in early seventh-century northern Britain. Nothing. No material culture and no text.

The way I see it, at the time, before widespread conversion to Roman Christianity, no one much cared who you did and didn’t have sex with. Sex wasn’t a moral issue. All royal women before the founding of nunneries [...] got married, and that if they then wanted to have sex with other women no one would much care as long as they were discreet. After all, the point of marriage was alliance, household management, and the provision of heirs. Married girls loving other married girls wouldn’t have any impact on any of these points.[5]

Griffith also stated that she wanted to write the book in an immersive style in order to let the reader "experience the seventh century, to see, smell, hear, taste and feel what Hild does; to gradually adopt her mindset and worldview; to think as she does, to learn her lessons, feel her joys—to be her, just for a little while."[6]


Critical reception for Hild has been positive and many compared the work to Dame Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.[7][8] American historical novelist Cecelia Holland wrote in Locus Magazine that "Griffith’s description of how the little girl Hild foretells some events is deftly done [...] In dealing with the history the book is less effective, and for an interesting reason. Contrast this novel with Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which also treats a huge political landscape from the perspective of one character." Mantel could take advantage of the popularity of Tudor history and "never had to describe the ins and outs of Tudor politics; she could incorporate whole masses of data by a simple reference. ... Griffith has nothing like this. Very few people know anything at all" about fifth-century politics, historical figures, and linguistics. "So all this data falls on Hild to divulge, the whole tangle of little kingdoms, the people with names like Coelfrith... and Eadfrith..., the family feuds and the religious undercurrents..."[9]

In contrast a reviewer for the Chicago Tribune wrote that the book had more in common with T. H. White's The Once and Future King and George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones than with Wolf Hall.[10] Amal El-Mohtar gave the work high praise in an NPR article, writing "Hild is a book as loving as it is fierce, brilliant and accomplished. To read it felt like a privilege and a gift."[11]

The work also received praise from Publishers Weekly, who named it one of their "Books of the Week" for November 11, 2013, and the Seattle Times, who named it one of the "best titles of 2013".[12][13]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ Nicola, Griffith (19 November 2019). "A writing update: Hild, Aud, Ammonite and more". Nicola Griffith. Retrieved 8 February 2020. Most of you have been very patient about the second Hild novel. Yes, Menewood is taking a long time...
  2. ^ a b Griffith, Nicola (27 March 2012). "Origins of Hild, part I". Ask Nicola. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  3. ^ Griffith, Nicola. "Gemaecce blog". Gemaecce. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  4. ^ Griffith, Nicola (20 June 2012). "HILD AND HER GEMÆCCE". Nicola Griffith. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  5. ^ a b Griffith, Nicola (16 July 2014). "HILD'S SEXUALITY, REDUX". Nicola Griffith. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  6. ^ Griffith, Nicola (20 November 2014). "Immersive storytelling: are books better than film?". Ask Nicola. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  7. ^ Davidson, Jenny. "Conversion Starter". Bookforum. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  8. ^ Parks, Cara (13 November 2013). "Why Is Pop Culture So Obsessed With the Middle Ages?". New Republic. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  9. ^ Holland, Cecelia (December 2013). "Hild: A Novel (review)". Locus Magazine. 71–6 (635): 22. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  10. ^ Robbins, Michael (21 November 2013). "Review: 'Hild' by Nicola Griffith". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  11. ^ El-Mohtar, Amal (14 November 2013). "With Nuanced Beauty, 'Hild' Destroys Myths Of Medieval Womanhood". NPR. NPR. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  12. ^ Habash, Gabe. "PW Picks: Books of the Week, November 11, 2013". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  13. ^ "31 of the best titles of 2013". Seattle Times. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Nicola Griffith: The Body & the World". Locus Magazine. 14 September 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  15. ^ "2013 Nebulas". SFWA. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  16. ^ "WASHINGTON STATE BOOK AWARD WINNERS". Seattle Public Library. Archived from the original on 14 May 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  17. ^ "2014 Over the Rainbow List: 71 LGBT Books for Adult Readers". ALA. 26 January 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  18. ^ "RUSA Notable Books, 2014". ALA. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  19. ^ "26th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists and Winners". Lambda Literary Award. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  20. ^ "John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalists". SF Center. Archived from the original on 30 August 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  21. ^ "Bi Writers Association announces finalists for Bisexual Book Awards". GLAAD. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  22. ^ "Not the Booker prize: vote for the shortlist". The Guardian. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2015.

External links[edit]