Books, letters and maternal feelings

"You cannot open a book without learning something."

(Confucius, 551 - 479 BC)


I am here, looking at the computer screen trying to understand why I am writing this post. Thinking "Am I being selfish or silly?". There is always a maybe for every question we ask ourselves. There is always a thought nourishing a mother's heart. So please, once again, excuse my deviations.

As I read Dhuoda's handbook for her son William, I keep thinking about my own book of letters. An attempt. That one for Estela. Thoughts of failure that like fog keep me away from doing things that I like to do. And the motherhood routine that takes me in many directions.

My great concern, my son William, is to offer you helpful words. My burning, watchful heart especially desires that you may have in this little volume what I have longed to be written down for you, about you were born through God's grace.

When I started writing the little book, my grandmother was still alive and so were my hopes. When Dhuoda started writing her guide, her son William was also alive. A mother's desire is atemporal and universal.

Unfortunately and because life is a never ending circle, my grandmother passed away. And the letter was discontinued. Period.

The Carolingian scene doesn't go any further than mine. Dhuoda's husband was executed by Charles the Bald, and her son William was killed in an attempt to avange his father. A much worse conclusion.

Hers, was a lonely text.

Sometimes I believe that our noblewoman was fortunate. Fortunate and providential not to have known about her son's loss while she was writing the book as, in my modest opinion, it was a form of redemption, a lament for her personal circumstances. The only way she could probably express her most secret feelings, fears, love and beliefs. It is hard to imagine how life was for a woman of the ninth century whose lineage - "cutting throats, but endowing churches" - was the ideal example of the Frankish aristocratic values. It is even harder to conceive the life of a mother who was separated from her children.

My curiosity and knowledge regarding the Middle Ages tend to be very romantic, fed by folk & fairy tales, picture books and movies such as The Name of the Rose. So reading the Handbook for William is helping me to expand my repertoire, my point of view and my admiration for those brave women from the past.

Her handbook throws welcome light on women's history, the history of childhood, and the self-perception of the Frankish nobility. The Carolingian Renaissance (...) left many literary remains that testify to the liveliness of its intellectual life, but the overwhelming majority of ninth-century books are the works of male clerics. Dhuoda's work, a married woman's book, makes at least a partial break with that monopoly.

Below, two of the Dhuoda's basic and precious advices on conduct:

(From Book 8)

11. For those who were truly good:

For those who were truly good, we offer thanks.

12. For those who were not truly good:

For those who were not truly good, propitiation.

Listening "In heaven (lady in the Radiator Song) everything is fine." Pixies

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