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19 February 2018

Heirloom Audio: Wulf the Saxon {Crew Review}

We were excited when we got the opportunity to review Wulf the Saxon, and audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions. We've had the chance to review In the Reign of Terror and Captain Bayley's Heir from them before, and found both of them to be excellent, so it was exciting to have a go at another of their titles.

I was particularly interested in hearing the Heirloom Audio version of Wulf the Saxon, because this is a story that we discovered about six months ago when Dragon(7) was learning about the Battle of Hastings, and we have listened to the Librivox version several times since then: it's become a favorite. I suspected that Heirloom Audio would bring something special to the story, and I was not disappointed. Although this version is much shorter - right about 2.5 hours, compared to just over 12 on Librivox - but the abridgement is done masterfully, and I found that all my favorite parts are included.

Much of the verbal descriptions and other narration in the original was done through sound effects in the audio drama; the story itself is told primarily in dialog. The combination means that they can communicate a lot, very efficiently. The shipwreck scene, for instance, is a gripping scene anyway, but listening to the men shout over the roar of waves as the ship with Harold and Wulf on it slams headlong into the coast of Normandy... this scene definitely did not suffer in the abridgement.

Heirloom Audio also offers a Live The Adventure Club, with extra educational resources, including study guides for the titles they produce, Old Time Radio shows, teacher resources, and a forum. 

One of my favorite things about this story is the gripping heroism of so many of the characters. As I study how to educate, again and again I come back to the idea of character being the true aim of education, and to the effectiveness of literature in teaching character.

As with companions so with books. We may choose those which will make us better, more intelligent, more appreciative of the good and the beautiful in the world, or we may choose the trashy, the vulgar, the obscene, which will make us feel as though we’ve been 'wallowing in the mire.'
-David O. McKay, quoted in Our Refined Heavenly Home

So many of the main characters in this story are really, truly heroic. Wulf, the young protagonist, quickly distinguishes himself for being intelligently bold at just the right time, yet able to take correction when it's needed. His friend Beorn demonstrates the virtue of giving credit where credit is due -- even though doing so places himself obviously in a secondary role behind a younger man, in the storming of the castle, he freely praises Wolf's quick thinking and bravery that lead to an unexpected and important victory. And of course, Harold himself is extremely admirable, but never more than when he and Edith give up personal comfort and happiness to save the people of England from death and danger. Even among the Norman invaders, you find heroes such as the Baron deBurg, who saves Wulf's life near the end of the book. All of them are beautiful examples of honesty, integrity, and virtue in the most trying of circumstances. These are lessons that I very much want to sink into my children's hearts -- and the fact that, as soon as we finished the story, Dragon(7) walked to the stereo and immediately started the disk over tells me that the things they are hearing are resonating with them.

Additionally, the story has inspired a number of independent projects. My oldest, all on his own, started searching out Saxon coloring sheets like this one to color, and after a few days, he had made a small collection of them. We also found that YouTube has sample of Anglo-Saxon lyres and those were fun to listen to as well. Impromptu extension from the literature is, I think, always a sign of success. The kids went and picked out a YouTube documentary, and we found some non-fiction at the library, which my oldest and I have enjoyed. When the kids choose to deepen the experience in their free time, you know that you have something good going on! And, as we've delved deeper, I've started to see how, while there is a lot that historians don't know, Henty has been really quite true to what is known, and Heirloom Audio has been true to what Henty wrote.

In our case, listening to Wulf the Saxon kicked off an intense interest for my oldest, who spent weeks gradually delving deeper into this period of English history. I can't think of a more successful outcome than that! As usual, Heirloom Audio has put out a great product.

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