Study Guide

Crispin: Cross of Lead Summary

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Crispin: Cross of Lead Summary

We open in Anno Domini 1377. Anno Domini is Latin for "the year of Our Lord," and get used to telling time by your church watch because every unit of time in Medieval England, from hours to days to weeks to years, is measured by the church calendar.

Asta's son, a poor peasant boy in Lord Furnival's village of Stromford, is in trouble because Asta has just died and he has to use his only ox to pay the death tax, which means he won't be able to work, which means he will probably starve. It's a bad deal.

Things are about to get a lot worse, though, because the cruel steward, John Aycliffe, who could understudy for the Sheriff of Nottingham, decides Asta's son needs to follow his mother to the grave a little bit faster than starvation will take him there, so he accuses the boy of theft—a hanging offense.

With the help of a kind old priest, Father Quinel, who tells him his true name is Crispin, Asta's son—um, Crispin—gets out of Dodge (er, Stromford). When he circles back to get some key intel from Father Quinel, Crispin discovers the priest is dead. Bummer.

Chased out of town and forced to hide from the search parties that are out to kill him, Crispin strikes out on his own to try to lose himself in a city. Along the way, though, he's captured by—um, apprenticed to—a wandering performer named Bear (not his real name) who has some rather interesting (a.k.a. treasonous) political ideas.

Bear and Crispin make their way to the city of Great Wexly, which turns out to be Lord Furnival's main hangout. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on where you're standing—Lord Furnival has just died, so things are a bit out of order. Bear meets up with some of his political buddies and manages to get himself taken prisoner by Lord Furnival's men. Except it turns out Bear and his ideas aren't their true target: John Aycliffe is still hunting Crispin, and he uses Bear as bait.

Crispin discovers that the words written on the cross of lead, the only thing his mother left him, say, "Crispin—son of Furnival." It's a real "Luke, I am your father" moment because Lord Furnival is definitely the Darth Vader of this story.

Crispin uses his newfound knowledge as leverage with John Aycliffe, who wants him dead because he could make a claim to Lord Furnival's property now that Furnival is six feet under. This allows Crispin to free Bear, but of course Aycliffe isn't going to let them go that easily. Aycliffe tries to stop them, and in classic villain fashion, ends up dead through his own evil ways. Bear and Crispin go free to sing and dance and preach new political ideology throughout the land. Crispin rejects all other aspects of his father, but decides to keep the name "Crispin."

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