Study Guide

Minor Characters in Crispin: Cross of Lead

By Avi

Minor Characters

Asta

Already dead in the first sentence, Asta is Crispin's beloved mother, the only family he knows. Then, after her death, when it's too late to ask questions, Crispin realizes he didn't know her at all, which robs him of any sense of self he had to begin with, which wasn't much:

Mostly, however, I kept marveling at the priest's revelations about my mother. That she had given me a name… Crispin. It did not seem to be me. If true, why had she held it secret? As for her being able to read and write, surely that could not be true. But if true, why would she have kept such skills from me? In the darkness where I lay I held her cross before my eyes. Of course I could make out nothing. In any case I could not read.

If there was one person I thought I knew, depended on, and trusted utterly, it was my mother. Yet I had been told things that said I did not know her. (8.94-95)

It turns out that Asta was the youngest daughter of Lord Douglas. Unfortunately she caught the eye of Lord Furnival, though, and when she became pregnant with his child, he hid her and the child away in one of his least significant manors, Stromford.

Asta seems to have been really conflicted about whether knowing his true parentage would help or harm her son. She writes "Crispin—son of Furnival" on the cross of lead, but she doesn't tell her son what it says. Father Quinel knows the truth—and so do a lot of other people in Stromford, we'd bet—but she doesn't trust her son with even knowing his own name. Sigh.

Cerdic

Cerdic is a Stromford boy a couple of years older than Crispin. When Crispin is being hunted, it initially appears that Cerdic's trying to help him get out of Stromford alive, but then he runs Crispin straight into a trap. Did he mean to? Did he want to? Was he being forced to help the steward? It's hard to say, but it's clear that Crispin can't trust anyone.

Goodwife Peregrine

Goodwife Peregrine is the oldest woman in Stromford and the closest thing they have to an Employee Health Plan, which means she delivers babies and treats illnesses and injuries with a variety of herbs and superstitions:

Peregrine was not just the oldest person in our village, she had a special wisdom for healing midwifery, and ancient magic. The village hag, she was a tiny, stooped woman with a dull red mark on her right cheek and wayward hairs upon her chin. It was she, no doubt, who had delivered me into this world. Like others, I looked upon her with fear and fascination. (9.26)

She agrees to help Crispin get away, but when Father Quinel fails to meet Crispin at her house as promised, she can't wait to get rid of Crispin. She sends him on his way with a leather pouch containing three seeds, which sadly do not grow a magical beanstalk, but at least now he has somewhere to keep his cross.

John Ball

As the only character in this book based on a real historic figure, John Ball occupies a special spot as the novel's representative of new political ideas about freedom. He's the leader of the group Bear meets in Great Wexly and appears to have no problem with treasonous talk… until the guards show up. Then he's tripping over his sandals to get out of the way while letting others, like Bear, get caught.

The Widow Daventry is not a fan of John Ball's, believing he'll only get Bear into trouble. We can't say she's wrong. Widow Daventry warns Crispin about Ball, "Beware all men who confuse their righteousness with the will of God" (48.24). And sure enough, when push comes to shove, Ball bounces.

Lady Furnival

We see Lady Furnival only once in the novel, but she's the person who sets everything in motion by giving John Aycliffe, her relative, the order to kill Crispin, thus eliminating a potential threat to her inheritance.

While this is definitely a classic evil queen move, let's remember that this is a dog-eat-dog world, and with her husband dead, she's vulnerable. Yep, Medieval England is a very sexist place, and she may not see that she has any choice if she wants to maintain her position. Crispin observes:

As for her face of elder years, it was pale and haughty, and did not—or so it seemed—take in the world about her. Yet as she went by, she pressed a silken cloth to her nose as if to block the offending stench. Her nose knew where she was. (37.9)

In other words, Lady Furnival is aware of the world and its dangers, and she plans to keep every advantage she has.

Lord Furnival

It's hard to see much good in this guy—and in fact, no one does. While there's a big outward show of mourning and God-save-our-dear-lord when he dies, is anyone really sad to see him go? We know that he's no good to his people, that he cheated on his wife at least once and probably more than that, and that he impregnated and abandoned Asta after imprisoning her in Stromford. Maybe he was a good knight to his king, but we don't know. Overall, he just seems selfish. He has all the power, so it's hard to imagine any motivation but his own selfishness. Bear says:

"I suppose the Devil has as many faces as there are sins. At the moment however, I think of him as Lord Furnival […] So much of the land we've passed through—and the misery—belongs to him. He treats his people badly." (32.34, 36)

That's right: Lord Furnival is pretty much on par with the devil. And in a book in which everyone thinks God decides their fate, that's not an insult to be tossed around lightly.

Luke and Matthew

Luke and Matthew are Stromford villagers who help hunt for Asta's son early in the book. Asta's son overhears a conversation they have as they're searching for him. Through this conversation, Asta's son learns that he is accused of theft. None of the villagers really believe he did it, but they are afraid to stand up to the steward, John Aycliffe:

Then they spoke bitterly of the things the steward had done: how he had increased their labors, imposed countless fines, taken many taxes, increased punishments, and, all in all, limited their ancient freedoms in the name of Lord Furnival. (7.14)

Through these characters, we see that John Aycliffe is awful to everyone—it's not something he reserves for Asta and her son.

Odo Langland

Odo Langland is the reeve of Stromford and one of the men who pulls down Asta's son's cottage.

One-Eyed Man

When Bear and Crispin perform at Lodgecot, Bear teases a man with one eye who does not find it amusing:

Though others roared at Bear's antics, this young man took offense at Bear's gambols and, with growing anger, made three attempts to snatch his mazer back. (30.25)

Crispin is afraid he suspects either him or Bear since neither is exactly on the right side of the law. And indeed, he keeps turning up, so though it's never clear exactly who he's after, he's clearly spying for someone. Our guess is John Aycliffe. The steward seems like the type to employ spies.

Priest at Lodgecot

The Lodgecot village priest gives Bear and Crispin permission to perform there and tells them to watch out for a wolf's head who stole from a manor house and killed a priest. Um, sure. They'll get right on that.

Roger Kinsworthy

Roger Kinsworthy is the bailiff of Stromford and the other man who pulls down Asta's son's cottage.

Sir Richard du Brey

Largely a lackey for John Aycliffe and Lady Furnival, Sir Richard du Brey carries messages between them. He's the one who brings the fatal news of Lord Furnival's approaching death to Stromford and clarifies that yes, Lady Furnival's message does mean to kill Asta's son sooner rather than later.

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