Study Guide

Crispin: Cross of Lead Fear

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As judge, jury, and willing executioner, Aycliffe had but to give the word, and the offender's life was forfeit. We all lived in fear of him. (1.13)

There are a lot of ways to get people to follow you, but Aycliffe chooses fear. Stromford is a place entirely governed by fear, which explains why Crispin is so afraid all the time: He's never known anything different.

Transfixed by fear, I stood rooted to the spot. Not until he came close to me did I turn and flee. (2.27)

As Aycliffe approaches, Crispin finds he can't move. Is Aycliffe's power over Crispin based simply on his power to kill, or does he have some other hold over him?

I did try to accept my life, but unlike our perfect Jesus, I was filled with caution and suspicion, always expecting to be set upon or mocked. In short, I lived the life of the shunned, forever cast aside, yet looking on, curious as to how others lived. (3.7)

Poor Crispin. It's hard to make friends when all your experience tells you you'll be attacked.

Only then did I creep toward the church, alone, uncertain, and very full of fear. (7.23)

Considering that John Aycliffe has had people out searching for Crispin to kill him all day, all of these feelings sound completely reasonable, if not that big of a leap from where Crispin's been since page one.

Startled, I stopped. Then I became afraid. After what I had witnessed in the village, I could not believe I was hearing a living voice. (16.1)

If this were an episode of Scooby-Doo, it would definitely be a ghost voice coming from the abandoned amusement park instead of a living voice coming from an abandoned village. Lucky for Crispin, this is not Scooby-Doo.

I was in such a fright I could hardly breathe. Tears were coming hard. "I… I swear," I choked out. (18.15)

Crispin spends most of the book terribly afraid, and now Bear's holding him down and making him swear service. This kid cannot catch a break.

He shrugged. "I never fear for myself."


"I make my own choices."

"Then do you fear for me there?"

"Perhaps." (29.35-39)

Well, that's interesting. Why would the ability to make his own choices make Bear not feel afraid, especially when many of his choices are the kind that tend to lead to nasty deaths in 1377?

Bear put a hand on my shoulder. "Crispin," he said softly, "try to show less worry. The worst disguise is fear." (34.1)

While they are trying to sneak past guards who are looking for Crispin, we get the feeling that Bear uses the word "disguise" both literally and figuratively. What might he mean?

Frantic, but hardly knowing what to do—go to the aid of Bear or take care of myself—I hesitated. Guilt and fear engulfed me equally. (46.19)

Just when Crispin was starting to feel less constantly afraid, he gets caught with Bear's group of treasonous political cronies, and he feels it's his fault they've been caught, adding guilt to his list of fun emotions.

"Your connection gives no honor. No position. What someone fears is not you, but that you will be used. Can't you see it? Your noble blood is the warrant for your death. It will remain so till it flows no more." (49.46)

Finally, the revelation that gives Crispin some power and leverage: John Aycliffe and Lady Furnival are afraid of him. And that means he actually has some power over them.

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