Crispin: The Cross of Lead

by Avi
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After looking into the pouch given to him by Goodwife Peregrine, why was Crispin disappointed?    

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Crispin is in a tough spot. He has been falsely accused of stealing from the manor's money box and a price is out on his head. He is desperate for any help that he can get. Crispin has some hope though; Father Quinel has told him that Goodwife Peregrine will...

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Crispin is in a tough spot. He has been falsely accused of stealing from the manor's money box and a price is out on his head. He is desperate for any help that he can get. Crispin has some hope though; Father Quinel has told him that Goodwife Peregrine will offer him some protection. When he meets the old woman in chapter 9, Goodwife Peregrine gives Crispin a leather pouch and says some strange words over him. He imagines that this pouch is a charm or talisman and the words a blessing or incantation to keep him safe. Later when Crispin looks in the pouch and only finds a few seeds, he is disappointed because he thought it would contain something more powerful.

The author includes this episode with Goodwife Peregrine to highlight the belief in superstitious magic that was common in the Middle Ages. There was often a belief that the elderly, especially elderly women, had supernatural abilities. This was even more the case for healers, like Goodwife. During Crispin's time, medicine was considered a form of "natural magic." There were many "cures" that were derived from folk traditions in combination with special prayers. As an old healer, Goodwife was regarded by her community to have "a special wisdom for healing midwifery, and ancient magic."

The seeds in the pouch likely date back to some pre-Christian belief in their power that has since been forgotten. Crispin saw their uselessness to prevent him from falling into the trap that Cerdic leads him into. He is disappointed because he feels like he will need to do better than trust in a few seeds.

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In the story, Goodwife Peregrine is Stromford's village hag and is known for her midwifery, magic, and healing skills. She tells Crispin that many are hunting him because the steward has offered twenty shillings to anyone who can kill him.

On the run, Crispin stops by Goodwife Peregrine's house and is given a leather pouch by the old crone. He puts his cross of lead into the bag, eats the bowl of porridge he has been given, and takes to the road. Meanwhile, Goodwife Peregrine chants over Crispin's leather pouch and gives him a bag of bread to take on his journey.

Because Goodwife Peregrine had promised Father Quinel that she would provide Crispin with protection for his journey, Crispin likely expected to find something magical or noteworthy in the pouch. So, he is disappointed to find that it only contains three seeds (one each of wheat, barley, and oat). In despair, he throws the seeds away, believing that the seeds will be powerless to protect him against the many dangers he will have to face on his journey.

 

 

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