Crispin: The Cross of Lead Summary


Crispin: The Cross of Lead

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Crispin: The Cross of Lead Summary

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Crispin: The Cross of Lead is a 2003 children’s historical novel by American author Avi, the first in a trilogy. It was followed by Crispin: At the Edge of the World in 2006, and the trilogy concluded with Crispin: The End of Time in 2010. Crispin, young boy lives in England in the year 1337. Declared a fugitive by the village steward, he goes on the run and meets a friend named Bear on his travels. Together, they elude the steward and his men, as Crispin discovers the truth about his past and battles to win his freedom. Exploring themes of abandonment, fear, power, happiness, class struggle, poverty, and what it truly means to be free, Crispin: The Cross of Lead is among the most successful and critically acclaimed of Avi’s books. It was the winner of the 2003 Newbery Medal and remains a mainstay of middle school reading lists and school libraries.

When Crispin: The Cross of Lead begins, Crispin is thirteen and living in the village Stromford, ruled by Lord Furnival. Crispin has no father and is called “Asta’s son.” When his mother dies of illness, he is distraught and runs into the woods. There, he sees the village steward, John Aycliffe, in a conversation with a mysterious man. They are talking about a great danger, and when they see Crispin, they try to kill him. He runs to the village priest seeking sanctuary, and the priest tells him Aycliffe has declared him a “Wolf’s Head.” This means he is to be hunted as if he were a wild animal. The priest gives him a lead cross that had belonged to Crispin’s mother, telling him his mother was literate and wrote words on the cross. The priest tells Crispin to head to the city where he will meet him and give him more information about his parents. Crispin runs, but before he makes it out of the village, the kind priest is murdered. While on the run, Crispin comes to an abandoned village where he meets a man named Bear. Bear makes Crispin his servant; Crispin resents him at first, but soon warms to the man. Bear teaches Crispin how to play music, and they earn a living as performers. Soon, he is Bear’s apprentice rather than servant. As they travel, they find that Crispin has been accused of the murder of the priest in Stromford. They are also stalked by an odd, one-eyed man who stares at Crispin.

They reach the city of Great Wexly, where they stay at the Green Man Tavern, owned by the Widow Daventry, a friend of Bear. Bear tells Crispin to stay in his room, but Crispin sneaks out. Aycliffe finds him in the cathedral and chases him through the city. He manages to escape, and Bear brings him back to the tavern. They meet with John Ball, who discusses with them the possibility of a revolt against the elites such as Aycliffe. Crispin knows this is very dangerous. Bear attends a secret meeting of rebels the next day, and Crispin sees the one-eyed man follow him. He eavesdrops on the meeting, sees soldiers approaching, and runs in to warn them. The rebels escape, but Bear is captured and taken to Furnival palace by Aycliffe. Soldiers come looking for Crispin at the tavern, but Crispin hides. He shows Widow Daventry his cross; she reads it, telling him he is the son of Lord Furnival, and his mother was the daughter of Lord Douglas. He is of noble blood and could claim Furnival’s land. However, Lady Furnival, wanting to hold on to her husband’s money, has her relative John Aycliffe making sure the true heir never returns. They are planning to use Bear to lure Crispin to them.

Crispin goes to John Ball and tells him Bear was captured. The rebels think it is too dangerous, so Crispin plans to rescue Bear himself. He climbs the walls of Furnival Castle and gets inside. Finding a dagger, he searches for Bear. John Aycliffe corners him in the chapel, and Crispin tells Aycliffe that he will not claim his right as heir if he and Bear are allowed to leave safely. He shows Aycliffe his cross of lead to prove his claim, and Aycliffe agrees. Crispin is taken to the dungeon where he thinks he will get Bear out, but as they are led to the city gate, Aycliffe betrays them once again and orders the soldiers to kill Crispin. Aycliffe and Bear fight;  Bear throws Aycliffe onto the spears held by the soldiers, killing him. Bear intimidates the rest of the soldiers, who, seeing how he killed their leader, give up and let them pass. Crispin takes off his cross and throws it onto John Aycliffe’s body, rejecting his noble blood and his claim to the Furnival fortune. Instead, he chooses to leave the city to go with Bear on their next adventure. He is free and happy, and that is all he needs.

Edward Irving Wortis, better known as Avi, is an American writer of children’s and young adult novels. He has written more than seventy-five books over a thirty-year career and has been widely honored. He received Newbery Honors for 1991’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and 1992’s Nothing but the Truth, and won the Newbery Award for his medieval mystery Crispin: The Cross of Lead in 2003. Writing in a variety of genres, from ghost story to historical drama to political commentary, his books are popular in school libraries and are often taught in schools.