Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Hereward Leofricsson

Hereward Leofricsson, called Hereward the Wake, a handsome, bold, adventurous Saxon thane and outlaw; a high-spirited, rebellious, irreligious youth who later becomes a great knight and leader of the English against the Normans. After his marriage to Alftruda, he again becomes what he was before Torfrida inspired him to heroic stature: a toper and an idle boaster. Though he makes his peace with William, he has many Norman enemies who cause his imprisonment and finally bring about his murder.

Lady Godiva

Lady Godiva, his mother, who causes him to be declared an outlaw, an action for which she later asks his pardon.


Leofric, lord of Bourne, a Saxon nobleman, father of Hereward, whom he outlaws at Lady Godiva’s request.


Torfrida, Hereward’s blue-eyed, raven-haired first wife and mother of his daughter, also named Torfrida. She falsely declares herself a sorceress to gain annulment of her marriage to Hereward. Though he had betrayed her with Alftruda, Torfrida loyally claims his butchered body and buries it. She herself later is put in the same grave.


Alftruda, Hereward’s second wife, with whom he commits adultery before marrying her.

Martin Lightfoot

Martin Lightfoot, a faithful companion in Hereward’s wanderings. He goes mad with grief after Hereward’s murder.

William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy and king of England.

Gilbert of Ghent

Gilbert of Ghent, the stout, hearty guardian of Alftruda and sometime friend of Hereward; the leader of a group of men who arrest Hereward on various charges of enmity to William.


Harold, king of England, killed in the Battle of Hastings.

Abbot Brand

Abbot Brand, aged, infirm uncle of Hereward. He dies after warning Hereward of English drunkenness, French cleverness, and the doom of those who live by the sword.

Baldwin of Flanders

Baldwin of Flanders, a powerful ruler of the Lowlands of Western Europe for whom Hereward performs valiant services.

Sir Ascelin

Sir Ascelin, a knight who plots against Hereward and severs his head after his murder.

Ivo Taillebois

Ivo Taillebois and

Hugh of Evermue

Hugh of Evermue, two Normans who attack Hereward from behind and run him through with lances.