Analysis of Louise Allen's Virgin Slave, Barbarian King

This was written as part of a multi-romance-blogger response to an article written by Julie Bindel for the Guardian, in which she described Mills & Boon romances as "misogynistic hate speech" and cited the back cover copy of three recent romances as proof. One of these was Louise Allen's Virgin Slave, Barbarian King [excerpt here]. Allen herself wrote an article in response, which was also printed in the Guardian, but some of us in the romance-reading community were of the opinion that it would be interesting to see what a large number of different romance-reading reviewers and academics would make of the book. This is my contribution.

My analysis of Louise Allen's Virgin Slave, Barbarian King is longer than the blog posts I usually write for Teach Me Tonight, so for the sake of convenience I've posted it here instead. It is not a review, nor is it written to the standards that would be required for publication in an academic journal.


The Literary and Cultural Context of a Historical Romance

As a romance, the novel is clearly focused on the love-story between Julia (the virgin slave of the title) and Wulfric (the barbarian). Yet as Allen says, "I write historical romance, setting stories within the framework of the values and standards of the period. This novel is set in AD410, when the Visigoths sacked Rome" ("My heroines"). I'd like to analyse the novel in the context of three of the myths/legends which transmitted some of the "values and standards of the period" and to which I think Allen subtly alludes. In a key scene in the novel, just after Wulfric and Julia have revealed their love for each other (albeit across a noisy, crowded battlefield), Wulfric sees that Julia is at risk and “He cut through the battlefield like a hero from the pages of the myths” (266). The myths/legends underpin the story of Wulfric and Julia, giving it extra resonance and providing the reader with a cultural context in which to assess the ways in which the protagonists of the various texts differ from or resemble each other.

Romulus, Remus, and the Sabine Women

The novel opens with a sound:

The sound was terror made real. It was heard through the ears, and felt through the bones. It was the sound that her ancestors had heard thousands of years before as they huddled in the dubious safety of a shallow cave with only the protection of the fire between them and the things that prowled in the dark. The things that growled. (7)

Modern readers will almost certainly think of ancestors living in caves as cavemen, and yet the paragraph may also recall other ancestors, namely Romulus and Remus. Then one of the “things that prowled […] that growled,” a wolf, offered not destruction but protection to Julia’s ancestors in the “safety of a shallow cave”, and in this first chapter a wolf once more comes to the aid of a Roman:

The smoke swirled and the animal padded out less than a dozen feet in front of them. It stopped, head lowered, watching them.

The slanting green eyes set close over the long grey muzzle studied them with an aloof indifference that was more chilling than overt aggression. The curled lip revealed one long white fang. (9)

The wolf, and Wulfric, protect Julia against “her own kind” (9), two Romans who have killed her slave and are threatening to rape Julia, and the wolf once more offers Julia its protection against “her own kind” in that battlefield scene (266), and this time she reciprocates, saving the wolf from certain death.

The wolf, then, can be seen both as a symbol of the Visigoth invaders, of whom the most prominent in the novel is the hero, “Wulfric, son of Athanagild, son of Thorismund. […] You would say King of the Wolves, perhaps” (13) and of Rome which, as perhaps recalled by the scene involving the Roman men who attack Julia, was thought to have begun with both violent death (Romulus, the founder of Rome, killed his brother Remus) and the abuse of women (as D'Ambra observes "The stories of the first marriages in Rome told of women abducted by their future husbands, acts that are not only incompatible with girls’ visions of romantic love but also criminal in most contemporary societies" (2)).

The myth of the rape of the Sabines also

demonstrates how relationships born in violence, such as those resulting from Rome’s confrontations with its neighbors, could develop into honorable unions. Even the non-Roman was convinced of the wisdom of merging with the empire, rather than resisting it. (D'Ambra 10)

Julia's abduction and eventual marriage to Wulfric, then, parallels the Roman rape of the Sabine Women, but Julia is given rather more choice than the Sabine women were, for the Visigoths are different in some ways from the Romans, though they are also rather more similar than Julia first supposes when she contrasts Wulfric, “as alien as the wolf that walked by his side” (14), with the Romans, “over-civilised men in togas or silk” (14):

She had expected blood to be running in the street, churches and palaces to be burning, savage men, painted with strange symbols, to be dragging women off by their hair for unspeakable purposes. This was more like a particularly forceful form of tax collecting. (24)

The Visigoths are, like the Romans, Christians (23), a fact which makes Wulfric think, in the face of a coming storm, that “Almost he could imagine the pagan gods of his forefathers riding in it on great black stallions, seeking retribution on their overcivilized descendants who had abandoned the old ways to follow a new faith” (180-81, emphasis added). Even in smaller details the Visigoths are not so very unlike the Romans: “these people might not have the sophistication of Roman citizens, but their objects were not crude” (41) and Wulfric’s style of public speaking “would not have disgraced a Roman orator” (81). These similarities are not accidental but are the result of a deliberate policy on the part of Alaric, of whom Wulfric says “He wants to make us new Romans, Romans with Visigoth honour. I want that too. I want for my children the good things of this Empire and the good things of their heritage” (147).

Thus although the supremacy of the Visigoths may initially seem to portend the total destruction of Roman civilisation, as symbolised by the burning building and the “pillar [that] fell and smashed across the roadway […] a world gone mad, when barbarians sacked the greatest city on earth” (7-8), the reader, along with Julia, is gradually brought to the realisation that such changes in fact symbolise nothing of the sort. Similarly, when Julia observes that the slaves “who made the Empire run” were a diverse mix of peoples, “Tall, sandy-haired, light-skinned Northeners, a few black faces, the wiry stature and deep olive skins of men from the Eastern Empire” (26) and concludes that “These barbarians have learned from us and now we reap what we have sown” (26), she is thinking only of her own enslaved condition, but the reader can interpret the sentence in a much more positive way as an indication of the mixing of races which occurred within the Empire and will continue to take place under the Visigoths. Wulfric “wants to find a way to blend our two worlds into something new and strong” (215) and he “would make you [the Visigoths] more like Romans – but where they settled they would make the Romans more like Goths” (227).

The Aeneid

The history of Rome itself is one of the joinings of peoples, in part through the addition of Sabine blood via the rape of the Sabine women, and also as a result of the merging of Trojans and Latins as described in book twelve of Virgil’s Aeneid:

[…] The people of Italy’s land

Shall keep the speech and the ways of their fathers still;

Their name shall remain as it is. As for the Trojans,

Only in blood shall they mingle their race with the Latins,

Then sink from view. Their sacred customs and laws –

These will I add, and make them all to be Latins,

One in speech. (294)

The myth of Romulus and Remus was the original Roman foundation myth, but as E. M. Forster wrote in his introduction to Michael Oakley’s translation of the Aeneid:

When Rome came into contact with the Greek world, she became somewhat dissatisfied with her own mythology. Romulus and the she-wolf, pleasant as they were, seemed a little rustic, and had no connection with the stately and radiant heroes of Greece. Romulus, no doubt, had founded Rome. He was accepted and revered. But could nothing be done for his ancestors? Gradually, and in the most artificial way, the poets and chronologists built up a legend which should connect their city with the best period of Heroism – the period of the Trojan war.

Aeneas, in the Iliad, is not an important character. He belongs to the younger branch of the royal family […]. Poseidon, however, prophesies that a great future awaits him: the house of Priam shall perish, but Aeneas, in time to come, shall rule the Trojans. This passage – though it obviously contemplates some settlement in the Troad – originated a whole body of new legends. Aeneas, after the fall of Troy, was made to emigrate to Thrace, to Arcadia, to Sicily. […]

The Latin poets Naevius (third century B. C.) and Ennius (239-169 B. C.) hammered the story into shape. Aeneas came to Latium and founded Lavinium, whence came Alba Longa, whence came Rome. (vii-viii)

Aeneas led his people, the Trojans, to Italy, but first

[…] for many a year did they wander on every sea,

Round and about, with destiny driving them onward:

So mighty the task was of founding the Roman race. (Virgil 2)

Similarly the “king-worthy” Wulfric, who is “wise in Council, fierce in battle, […] cunning in strategy, a law-giver and judge […] generous to his people” (28) is, like Aeneas, “a man born to lead” (81) a leader of his kin group, who are “a people, a nation, in search of a homeland” (28).

Before he reaches Italy Aeneas has a brief love affair with Dido, and if there are parallels between Wulfric and Aeneas, they also exist between Julia and Dido. Both women initially wish to protect their chastity (in Julia’s case because she is a virgin, and in Dido’s because she has sworn a vow of fidelity to her dead husband). In birth and training the two women are not unalike: Dido is a Queen, who “Laws and rulings she gave to her people” (15) and Julia is a senator’s daughter, with a good understanding of the subtleties of political manoeuvring (Wulfric once refers to her as “my Roman councillor” (216) when she gives him advice). They may also resemble each other in their respective status vis-à-vis their potential lovers. Certainly Dido’s pedigree is more elevated than Julia’s, but Aeneas is a prince and the son of a goddess, while Wulfric, no matter how “king-worthy,” is only the leader of a group of Visigoths.

Before she enters into a relationship with Wulfric, Julia has (what she thinks is a) dream which frightens her:

the dream came back to her. Julia fell back onto the straw-filled mattress with a groan of horror and forced herself to remember her lurid night-time fantasy. […] her treacherous imagination had brought him to her bed, virtually naked. She had dreamt he had held her in his arms, caressed her face and neck, and she had felt the heat of his naked body, the sensation of silk over iron that was his skin and muscle. She had fantasised that his body had grown hard as he held her and that she had wanted to caress him in her turn, feel his mouth on hers - on every part of her …

‘No!’ Julia rolled over on to her side, dragging the covers over her head as though her shameful thoughts could be blanked out. It did not work. How could she be so wanton as to dream like that? (51)

Dido, who has also fallen in love with a foreigner, the sight of whose body greatly pleases her senses, exclaims:

[…] What dreams are these that affright me

And give me no rest […]? Who is this stranger […]?

How noble he looks! How strong are his chest and his shoulders! […]

If I had not firmly and lastingly made up my mind

Never to couple myself in marriage again […]

To this one weakness I might, perchance, have surrendered. […]

[…] this man alone

Has swayed my will, has caused me to waver in mind. (66)

and Julia is similarly “beginning to fear that peace of mind was not what she truly craved and that what she wanted was to throw pride and duty and all the years of her upbringing to the winds to be with this man” (105). Both women become the lovers of the men they have dreamed of, and the men then plan to sail away from them. After Julia has discovered Wulfric’s plan

Her stomach was knotting with a terrifying sense of betrayal, even as she fought for poise. It was becoming very clear to her: Wulfric was going to leave her behind. […] The taste of Wulfric’s treachery was sharp on her tongue, like metal when one inadvertently bit into it. […] My love. The man I thought cared for me. (159)

Dido’s reaction is even more extreme:

But who can deceive one in love? The queen, who had feared

When fear there was none, got wind of his guile beforehand

And early learned of her lover’s intended departure.

[…] Her mind had nought to fall back on; all through the city

She stormed and raved, driven on by the fire in her breast (74)

One can hear faint echoes of Dido’s pleas to Aeneas in Julia’s reproaches and questioning of Wulfric:

1)    Julia says to Una that “When you all sail, I’ll be here, a disgraced woman” (Allen 160).

[…] for thee […]

Have I lost my chaste reputation and that which alone

Was securing my path to the stars – my former renown. (Virgil 75)

2)     “you pack me off to a man who will despise me, for he knows all too well what I have been to you” (Allen 163).

On thine account do the tribes of Libya hate me,

And the Nomad chieftains also; on thine account

My Tyrians turn against me (Virgil 75)

3)     “ ‘You plotted to deceive me,’ she gasped […]. ‘When would you have told me?’” (Allen 165)

[…] At last she found him, and thus burst forth into speech:

‘Didst thou hope to veil with pretence, my false-hearted lover,

So monstrous a wrong, and steal from my country in silence?

Cannot our love keep thee here (Virgil 75)

4)     “What would Wulfric’s child look like like? she wondered, feeling the knife twist in her breast as she thought it.1 What would our son look like? Could she seduce Wulfric before he left her, do it so well he lost control and was no longer careful? (Allen 171)

If only, before thy going, I had conceived

A child by thee, a little Aeneas to play

Here in my halls, whose face, although I had lost thee,

Might yet remind me of thine, I should not then

Seem to myself so utterly lost and forlorn. (Virgil 75)

Wulfric’s response is almost as little pleasing to Julia as Aeneas’s is to Dido: “I would have told you the day we sailed […] I did not want to upset you” (Allen 165). Aeneas replies that “I did not look to conceal my flight from this place / (Do not imagine that) by stealth and deceit (Virgil 76) and earlier he had planned that he “Would try to approach her, would seek the fittest occasion / For making his speech, the way most apt for his purpose (74). Both men ask that their lover stop trying to change their mind, though Wulfric is somewhat more forceful in his order to Julia, “You will not argue with me, you will not try to seduce me away from doing what is right” (Allen 192) than is Aeneas, who beseeches Dido “Torment me no more with reproaches, torment not thyself” (Virgil 76).

Aeneas is:

responsible not only for his own household, but for all past Trojan households and all future Roman ones as well. Aeneas is on a mission (from the gods) to found the greatest empire in the world: that's why his epithet is pius ("pious") and not polymetis ("resourceful"), like Odysseus. For a Roman, piety means responsibility towards the ancestors, towards one's extended family, and towards generations of unborn descendants. Aeneas is responsible for an entire empire of descendants, so he must stick to his mission and not get sidetracked by North African queens like Dido. (Besides, he needs an Italian wife to marry the genius of Troy to native Italian stock.) (Webster)

Wulfric resembles him in that he too is “a man ready to fight all his own desires in order to do what was right” (Allen 195-96), ready to place his duty to his family before the pleasures of romantic love:

It was going to tear his heart out to leave her behind. […] He loved his kin, his tribe, his king, his family, his God. But a woman? In his position a man married prudently […] The knowledge of how badly he had hurt her seared his conscience, yet he was a man who knew full well that not to do the right thing because of a personal consideration was wrong. He was a leader, leaders made hard choices. […] He […] had to stay strong, go through with his resolve, and he could sail away. (183-84)


true-souled Aeneas, though yearning to soften her grief

With comfort, and turn with his words her sorrow aside,

With many a sigh and unmanned by the might of his love,

Yet obeyed the bidding of heaven, went back to the fleet. (Virgil 77)

Like Aeneas, who must leave Dido and eventually marries Lavinia, daughter of the king of the Latins, Wulfric also has a “duty to marry well for his kin and his allies” (Allen 102). He makes no promise to marry Julia, only saying that “When we get where we are going, then I must do what I must, whatever that is. Until then, I will not marry, you have my oath upon it” (147). Aeneas retrospectively declares that he “never extended to thee a promise of marriage / Nor ever entered any such compact as that” (Virgil 76).

Dido then calls down a variety of curses upon Aeneas, including this one:

[…] I hope and pray, if the kindly powers can help me,

That, cast upon rocks in the midst of the ocean, there

Thou mayst drink to the dregs the cup of torment, and call

Aloud upon Dido, many and many a time.

From afar I will chase thee with darksome and fiery brands,

And when cold death shall sever my soul and my body,

My ghost shall everywhere haunt thee. (77)

The god Mercury, urging Aeneas to flee before Dido takes revenge on him, concludes that “Fickle and inconsistent – / So woman has always been, a changeable creature” (82). Whether or not this is a fair assessment of Dido, never mind all women, is highly debatable, but the heroine (if one can call her that) of another tale which echoes in Allen’s novel is rather more deserving of such condemnation.

Samson and Delilah

The story of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) is perhaps recalled by an incident in which Julia almost cuts off Wulfric’s long hair. Samson "loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah" (Judges 16:4) but she was bribed by the Philistines to discover and reveal to them the source of Samson's strength. Samson eventually tells her that

There hath not come a rasor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. [...] And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. (Judges 16: 17-19)

Julia is no Delilah, however. She decides to cut Wulfric’s hair because shorter hair “seemed eminently practical for a fighting man” (73). What she doesn’t know before she is prevented from taking the shears to it, is that Wulfric’s hair is not just long because it’s “the fashion” (74) but because it’s a matter of “life and death” (74):

‘They call us the people of the Long-Haired Kings […] No man whose hair is shorn can lead, let alone rule. His only role can be as an outcast or a priest.’

‘You might as well cut off his balls,’ Berig added. (74)

And just as Samson’s gift of the secret about his hair is an indication of his trust, so Julia realises that “by telling her, he [Wulfric] had handed her a weapon of awful power” (76), power over this hair which “spoke of virility and life. She could understand the potent symbolism of kingship it carried” (125).

A New Foundation Myth

Allen’s novel thus creates echoes of two foundation myths (the Aeneid; the myths concerning Romulus) and two tales about a pair of lovers which emphasise the fickleness and destructive power of women (Aeneas and Dido; Samson and Delilah). Pamela Regis has suggested that "Near the beginning" of all romances "the society that the heroine and hero will confront in their courtship is defined for the reader. This society is in some way flawed" (31) and the endings tend to demonstrate that "Society has reconstituted itself around the new couple(s)" (38). This novel takes that core element of romance a stage further, and can be read as a new foundation myth, and literally so, since Wulfric and Julia enter a “new world” (Allen 286 and 292) as they depart, with their family, for Gaul. In this foundation myth, however, the woman is, unlike Dido or Delilah, able to understand honour, loyalty and devotion to duty and, unlike the Sabine women, she is given many opportunties in which to change her mind should she not wish to continue her relationship with her captor.

Julia, brought up to be a dutiful Roman daughter and whose very name recalls that of Aeneas’s son Iulus, understands Wulfric’s duty, his obligation to his family, and the fact that “he needs the right wife who will bring him alliances” (137). She is therefore aware that what they have is only temporary: “How long he would be hers she did not know, but every second was precious” (149) and when she discovers his plan to abandon her, she is angry, but she neither lays all the blame at Wulfric’s door, nor curses him:

I trusted you and you have failed to live up to that, but it is my fault, for we had no agreement. I believe you have acted as you see best. You must forgive me if I hate you for it. […] You are an honourable man, I acknowledge it; I hope never to be in the power of another. (166-67)

Later, after she has had time for reflection, she states that she wants him “More than my life […] More than my honour. But not more than his.” (249). So because she understands that Wulfric, like Aeneas, must do what his honour demands, Julia does not betray Wulfric’s trust either by cutting his hair, as Delilah might have done, or by praying for his destruction, as Dido would have. The foundation myth written by Louise Allen, then, reassesses the role of women and gives us a different sort of heroine.

New Women in the New Foundation Myth

Bindel said that when, fifteen years ago, she read 20 Mills & Boon romances, every one contained "a scene where the heroine is 'broken in', both emotionally and physically, by the hero" and she argues that even if "the heroine has moved with the times," this simply means that the heroes have "become even more masculine and domineering in order to keep the heroine in line". It is certainly true that at one point Wulfric, though he has “no wish to break her spirit, [...] was beginning to wonder if that was what it would take to bend her to his will” (61) but Wulfric comes from a culture which includes “dignified women, having their say, fighting alongside their men” (271) and he never does break Julia or bend her to his will. As Allen has said, the novel contrasts "the restrictive and patriarchal Roman society which confined women and gave them no say in civic life" with Visigothic "society that gave women a status that was unheard of among Romans" ("My heroines").

Far from breaking her heroine, Allen has written her novel in a way which emphasises the similarities between the hero and heroine in a way which suggests that there is equality in their relationship. Wulfric is a warrior, and Julia has “the courage of a warrior” (150). Wulfric compares the possible loss of his hair to Julia’s possible loss of her virginity: “Like losing your virginity, it cannot be repaired” (75). And it is Julia’s choice to lose her virginity with him (124-29) just as it is Wulfric’s choice to cut his “sacred hair. The hair of a king” (284) so that he could rescue Julia from her parents, even if, as with Julia’s loss of virginity, it might mean him being rejected by his kin.

His behaviour mirrors hers at times. For example, she tends to his wounds (90) and he to hers:

‘I do not like to think I am hurting you.’ He made himself continue.

‘Then I have my revenge for you making me sew up your arm. How do you think I felt?’ (254)

And after the successful attack on Capua, when Wulfric is late in returning Julia is furious:

Behind her she heard Berig’s voice raised in mystified indignation. ‘What’s the matter with her? You’d think we had lost!’

Wulfric answered, ‘There is a great deal you must learn about women, Berig, not least that the more worried they are about you, the louder they shout at you and the harder they beat you when they know you are safe.’ (115)

And when Wulfric discovers that Julia is safe, after he’d feared for her safety:

He stalked across to the rock, took Julia by the upper arms and hauled her to her feet.

‘What the devil do you think you are doing?’ He found he was shaking her and made himself stop […].

She twisted in his grip. ‘Let me go, you oaf - and stop shouting at me!’

[…] He lowered his voice to a mere bellow and gave her another shake. ‘I thought you were lost, or that you had fallen down a ravine or that some peasant had raped you or - ’

[…] ‘You are angry,’ Julia observed at last, watching him from under her lashes.

‘Of course I am angry. I was worried about you.’

‘I thought only women got angry when they were worried. I thought that men simply took well-planned, decisive action and remained cool and in control.’ The minx was taunting him.

‘Well, this time I got angry.’ And let her make of that what she will; I have no idea what it means. (122-23)

And if Wulfric is like a wolf, then there is more than a little of the wolf in Julia herself, perhaps hinted at when we learn of her fight against her assailants, “ripping at their hands and faces, kicking at their shins, biting where she could” and the Roman “whose face she had clawed” calls her a “rich bitch.” (8). Wulfric recognises this quality in her when

Julia bared her teeth at Wulfric. Will she bite? […] It was like having an exotic animal, half-tame, half-wild. He had been mad to take her, he knew that. She was so far from what he needed – neither the wife he should acquire, nor the domesticated slave who would make life comfortable (33)

So when Julia observes, on parting with both Smoke, the wolf, and Wulfric, that “You do not tame a wolf … Nor can you understand one … They are with you on their own terms, always. I am not talking about this animal, her eyes told him” (198), the words are as true of Julia, who will return to Wulfric on her own terms, as they are of Wulfric himself and they are, in fact, only partly true. Certainly neither can tame the other: Julia cannot divert Wulfric from doing what he believes is right, but neither can he prevent Julia returning to him. But they do both understand each other, even when they are enemies. As Wulfric says, he stays alive by “being able to read my enemy’s mind” (26) and Julia knows that “to escape she needed knowledge, needed to understand her captor” (27) . Yet even as enemies, early in their relationship, Julia has “a trust in him and in his honour” (69) and

she could not imagine killing someone’s soul, their sense of themselves. It seemed Wulfric knew that about her, just as she knew, deep down, he would never force her, never harm her. […] Something passed between them, some flash of understanding. (76)

It is also made clear that, at least in some things,

Wulfric could read her thoughts quite easily.

‘Know your opponent, Julia Livia. It always pays to imagine what you would do yourself if you found yourself in their shoes’, he added […].

‘Really?’ she retorted. ‘Your imagination runs to being the female sex slave of a barbarian kidnapper, does it?’ (107)

Wulfric merely laughs, but there is a suggestion here that Wulfric truly does understand Julia, and that impression is further strengthened in the final scene, in which

She pressed against his side, letting her other hand rest on the flat plane of her stomach in a soft rustle of silk. Somehow she knew that tonight they had created the future, the child she craved so much. She would not tell Wulfric yet. […] Wulfric turned his head and she could sense his smile in the darkness. He took the reins in one hand and slipped the other to lie over hers. She had forgotten his incredible hearing. ‘I love you both,’ he whispered. (291-92).

And she understands him, too:

‘Do you not know me? […] You see me every day. Do you not know me at all?’

I see him every day. I see him leading, fighting, laughing. I see him heaving water and sharpening his sword. I see him teaching Berig and watching over Una when her man is not there. I see him playing with small children and disciplining unruly warriors. And what I see is what he is: a brave, honourable, tireless man carrying the burden of his own destiny and that of his kin. (144-45)

So despite the initial distance between the two in terms of power and culture that is suggested both in the title and in the back cover copy quoted by Bindel, this is not a relationship between oppressor and oppressed:

The big hands twisted in hers, the long fingers slid between her own and Julia found herself looking down, not at a capture, but a joining. […] Wulfric got to his feet, their hands still clasped, pulling her with him. […] ‘We are moving. Come.’

Come. Follow me. No, walk with me. Wulfric kept hold of her hand and they went together back up the track. (147-48).

The gesture and the words are echoed in the final scene: “‘Come.’ Wulfric held out a hand and pulled her to her feet to stand beside him.” (290) And so they go into the future together, side by side, as equals.2



1. Julia feels “the knife twist in her breast” (171) but only metaphorically. Dido literally takes Aeneas’s sword and “The blade, thrust deeply within her, rasped in the wound” (Virgil 85).

2. In the historical footnote which accompanies the print version of the Harlequin edition of this text, but which would appear to be missing from the ebook version, Allen adds that she thinks Wulfric and Julia's "villa lies [...] in the shadow of Mont Ventoux in southern France. Perhaps their descendants live there still" (294). She also notes that some time after the date on which the novel ends the Visigoths "settled in the part of Gaul we now call Aquitaine. Eventually they moved over the Pyrenees and founded the great Visigoth kingdom of Spain" (293-294). As noted in Stephen McKenna's Paganism and Pagan Survivals in Spain up to the Fall of the Visigothic Kingdom (printed in 1938 by the Catholic University of America Press and now available from LIBRO, the Library of Iberian Resources Online):

The Visigoths [...] had inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Alans in 416. They might easily have conquered the entire Peninsula, if the emperor Honorius had not secured their withdrawal by giving them Aquitania Secunda. The Goths established their capital at Toulouse. In 454 at the request of the emperor Avitus, they again invaded Spain and inflicted a decisive defeat upon the Bagaudae and two years later (456) upon the Sueves near Astorga. Under Euric (466-483), the ablest of the Visigothic leaders in the fifth century, the whole of Spain, with the exception of Galicia, came under Gothic control. In 507 the Franks under Clovis defeated the Visigothic forces at the battle of Vouglé, and the youthful ruler, Alaric II, was slain on the field of battle. The Visigoths were thus driven into Spain and of their former possessions in France only Septimania remained. (108)

The Visigothic Code (Forum Iudicum), edited and translated into English by S. P. Scott (printed in 1910 by the Boston Book Company) is also available online from LIBRO. In the preface Scott writes that from lawcodes

more impartially than from any other source, we derive information of the customs, virtues, vices, political ethics, faults, follies, and religious prejudices of a people. Especially is this true of the Visigothic Code. In it are depicted the traditions and history of a race which, originally nomadic, with unprecedented rapidity became stationary; and, from being for ages subject to institutions formed by the desultory acts of tumultuous assemblies, often dictated by caprice and enmity, in less than two generations acknowledged obedience to a government partly imperial, partly theocratic. In the annals of no people so recently barbarian, is to be found more marked and substantial progress, from the primitive surroundings of pastoral and predatory life, to the tastes, the laws, the refinements, and the social usages of civilization. (v)