Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) had the right idea when she came up with the Brother Cadfael character. She chose to base this series on a twelfth century Benedictine monk who had a “past life.” This past life enabled him to have empathy for people…. both of noble lineage and the very poor. Peters included many actual historical events throughout the series
Brother Cadfael had been a crusader in his “previous life” so he had experienced the agony of killing, and he had also experienced romantic liaisons. Sir Derek Jacobi was able to, in my opinion, become Brother Cadfael. Jacobi seems to be an actor who, when he takes on a roll, makes it very difficult for any other actor to ever attempt that roll in the future…. Jacobi is simply that good at every character he portrays.
Brother Cadfael is a monk who is in charge of the abbey’s gardens…. which meant that he is knowledgeable in herbs, and their medicinal purposes. Also, he is knowledgeable about the very same herbs poisonous effects. Cadfael is truly a medieval monk of all trades…. herbalist, healer/doctor, embalmer/mortician, forensic pathologist, detective/sleuth, confessor, and true protector/champion for victims’ rights.
The location is so incredibly believable as twelfth century Britain, that it is interesting to note that the producers filmed the series in Hungary, because they wanted the setting to be as true to medieval Britain as possible. Hungary happened to fill the bill better than any place they could find in England. Thank goodness they did……. because the ITV productions’ locations are wonderful. (ITV is one of the BBC’s competitors.)
While Ellis Peters wrote twenty books, the British Cadfael: the Complete Collection series only includes thirteen of the possible twenty titles. What a shame! They are truly excellent productions. My husband and I enjoyed seeing them when they originally aired a little over a decade ago, but we have since added all thirteen of the shows to our library of “must see TV” for our children, who enjoy the shows as much as we do.
Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael Mystery Series is a terrific series. Peters is actually one of my favorite authors. Here is a list of all twenty of the Brother Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters.
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*****I wrote this review way back in 2006, but we still think it’s a terrific series. If you are a member of Netflix, they have the DVDs. Also, your library might just carry the DVDs. It truly is an exceptional British television mystery series. April 2014