January 21


Alexandria Rogers on The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights: My Witch’s Hope in this Arthurian Tale

I’ve always found stories that might have been true wondrously tantalizing. It’s the magic in plain sight. The history that became a legend, that morphed into a myth, that struts across the shared pages of our stories today. 

The Lochness Monster. Atlantis. And, the story that captivated me most of all, King Arthur. 

In many ways, I’ve been writing The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights my entire life, for there was never a moment when I wasn’t carving out space in my mind for Arthur, his knights, and the witches who surrounded him. To me, they were always real. A tad spectral, sure, but deserving of my attention. 

Many people have written about Arthur himself, but I wondered more about the legacy he created. The utopic Camelot, and what happened to his followers after his reign. What would have become of the world if he was not a wholesome king lodged neatly into a nursery rhyme, but a conqueror, with a realm as vast and brutal as the Roman Empire?

And what would have happened if, at the crux of Arthur’s downfall, three quarters of the world lost all memory of him whatsoever? In my story, just like our world’s Middle Ages, people blamed the witches. 

The difference is that the Arthurian witches had real magic. 

And girls today, 715 YATRDOC (Years After The Regretful Demise of Camelot, also known as 2019 AD), are still shunned for it.  

This was the origin of my book. 

But as I wrote, I found the heart of the story beating through the twelve-year-old characters of Ellie Bettlebump and Caedmon Tuggle. 

Ellie, my little witch, the girl of my heart, has lived her life without love or friends, in a society that deems her witchcraft evil. She’s brave and rebellious and just so desperately wants to prove herself, and show someone, just once, why she’s worthy. I’ve never lived through Ellie’s experiences, but I think people all over the world, no matter their age, have those moments where they wonder if they’re enough. If they’ll ever fit in, just as they are, without needing to squeeze and squish themselves into a mold the world will say looks and sounds and acts just right. 

Spoiler: Ellie will never fit in. (If we’re honest, none of us will—we’re all far too wonderfully unique). But Ellie can find people who love her, just as she is.

Pinpointing this truth in Ellie’s arc helped me find Caedmon Tuggle, the sweet Wisconsin boy partially inspired by my little brother (who, being 6”5 and Thor-like strong, would staunchly object to the term, ‘little brother’ but as every elder sibling knows, they will always be endearingly little to us). 

Growing up, my brother didn’t care for reading but loved fantasy adventures as much as I did. We would sword fight in forests and sail to unmapped stars on creeks. Every so often, a book would capture his attention, but it was rare. Determined to fix what I deemed a grave error, I got my crayons and some of my dad’s yellow legal pads, and started writing stories we both would love.  

I suppose I never stopped. 

Caedmon is, in a way, a response to that experience. 

At the start of Caedmon’s story, he has just lost his best friend. And with it, his happiness. 

While penning Caedmon’s arc, I was watching someone I love process raw grief. It was akin to witnessing a hero of some great fabled legend rising, sword in hand, to face monsters day after day. The ferocity it took. The courage. The indomitable human spirit. This isn’t something that belongs to adults alone. I was nine when I first felt the gaping absence of grief. Many are younger still. 

And in our grief, we’re rarely our best. 

Caedmon knows it about himself, too. 

He knows he’s meaner than he used to be. A worse listener. A worse friend. Which makes it absolutely ridiculous that Merlin would ever choose him to reforge the lost, shattered sword of Excalibur. And even more ridiculous that of all the people Ellie could choose as a friend, she’d pick him. Doesn’t she realize he doesn’t deserve it?

There’s a certain, rare kind of friendship where you truly see someone. Where you truly are seen. There’s no need to change, or explain, or hide. You feel so safe, you can show your full self, cracks and all. It’s like you’re suddenly gifted training wheels again, and you can wobble around like a clumsy fool, until you feel confident enough to show your real self to a few more people. And then a few more. Until one day, you realize you’re that full, authentic self with the world, and it was in part because that one true friend let you be yourself with them. 

This is the kind of friendship I found between Caedmon and Ellie. 

We all have to get up on our own two feet. Ellie and Caedmon can’t fix each other’s problems by waving their wands or challenging monsters to duels. But they can help each other. See and accept each other. For none of us need ever be alone.

In the book, starlight is called a witch’s hope, and as I reached the final round of revisions, I was finally able to see what had been simmering at the heart of the story all along: Ellie is Caedmon’s star. His bright spark of hope, offering light and laughter so he can find it within himself again. 

And to him, she has been, and always will be, enough just as she is. 

I hope the pirate adventures and knightly trials and tales of lost kingdoms delight readers—but my greatest wish, my own witch’s hope, is that readers young and old see themselves in Caedmon and Ellie. Flawed but worthy. Filled with their own unique magic that matters, even if the world doesn’t understand it yet. 

Enough, just as they are. 

Alexandria Rogers received her bachelor’s degree in creative writing and English literature from Miami University of Ohio and her master’s degree in narrative non-fiction from City, University of London. Originally from Wisconsin, she’s now based in Edinburgh with her husband and dog. You can find her on Twitter: @AlexandriaeR_.