Nothing breaks up miles of highway on our loooooooooong drive days better than a ukulele concert in the backseat or a new adventure to listen to from Heirloom Audio Productions. The most recent “extraordinary adventure of G.A. Henty” that ticked the miles away is Heirloom’s newest production, Wulf the Saxon.
Someone I love for his or her honesty told me I “talk” too much in my reviews, so I’m going to keep this brief. (You know I’m not, but at least I can pretend that was my intention.)
Let’s chat about Heirloom Audio Productions.
We’ve written about Heirloom Audio Productions before, and perhaps we gush a little bit too much over them. Here’s why:
First, Heirloom’s productions are super professional. The music, the story adaptation, the incredible voice actors, the sound production and mixing–everything is perfectly polished and comes off beautifully.
Second, the stories are always educational without being in-your-face educational. I mean, it’s not like the kids are sitting down memorizing battle dates and names, although if they walk away from Wulf the Saxon without knowing the Battle of Hastings and 1066, I’m going to have to roll my eyes a little. Just a little. Don’t judge–you probably do that little meaningful sigh thing, don’t you?
Third, the characters are always relatable…because, you know, you had to escape from captivity after a shipwreck, too, didn’t you? Okay, so they’re relatable in that they have something to overcome–a growth to endure. In this case, the main character is a teen named Wulf who has to lasso his free tongue and hasty temper and prove his loyalty and honor through unimaginable trials and losses. Who doesn’t need a little more help with self-control and loyalty?!
Fourth, the character traits represented in the stories are traits I want my kids to take on. All the stories are taken from G.A. Henty’s historical fiction and promote “virtue and valor, daring and determination, character and courage.” Um, yes, please!
Fifth, if you want to get a little politically correct, which I don’t, but I am anyway, there are almost always two male and one female heroine and they almost always come from at least two different walks of life. Regardless of class or rank, they rise up in the end to show virtuous character.
Let’s chat about Wulf the Saxon.
This section contains possible spoilers…depending on your knowledge of history and your imagination.
Wulf the Saxon carries the listener back to the early 11th-century England. The reigning king is Edward the Confessor, to be succeeded by his brother Harold, the Earl, when the former hangs up his crown, so to speak. If you’re not up on British titles, never fear–Henty (voiced by Brian Blessed) will give you a crash course.
The main character, Wulf, serves Harold while he awaits his title of thane, indicating he will become a landowner with many families under his protection. Another young thane who stands by Wulf is Beorn. As we are members of the Supporting Characters Fan Club, we like Osgood, Wulf’s paige. Also making an appearance is Clarified Butter…I mean Ghee.
Whether alone or with his friends, Wulf lands in many predicaments that will have your kids sitting at the edge of their seats. Here are some examples:
- temporary “banishment” for his quick tongue and fiery temper
- forced servitude to a Norman enemy (a rather disgusting master–gag me with a spoon, to borrow from the 80s)
- daring escape
- battle after battle (if you’ve read Henty, you know what I mean–this is one of his more battle-heavy stories)
- capturing a castle in Wales
- squelching the rebellion of a nation (totally relatable, right? wink wink)
- enemy invasion–hello Normandy!
- death of a king–no, two kings!
- escape and protection
- romance and marriage–nothing inappropriate, mind you!
If you know anything about history and the Battle of Hastings, this isn’t a spoiler. You know about the Norman Conquest and the defeat of the Saxons. You know about the deaths of Edward and Harold and how William the Conqueror came to the throne. That’s all in the story–that’s all history. Your kids will remember that.
Throughout the threads of history, however, Henty weaves Wulf’s fictional story, how Harold sent him home to learn self-control, how Wulf rose to the ranks of being one of Harold’s most trusted advisors and friends, how Wulf supported the cause of his leaders at great personal peril, how his leaders are killed but he overcomes the pain of loss, and how…well…I don’t want to give away the love story.
And throughout that story, the virtues I mentioned earlier are growing and exhibiting themselves in a way that will hopefully make your young men and women want to be a little kinder, a little more self-controlled, a little braver, and a little more loyal despite the cost.
Sidetrack alert! May I ask a personal question here? Am I the only one who gets a sucker punch to the gut when a main character like the king dies? I mean, I know it’s going to happen, because it’s historical fiction, but still….
There is a happy ending…sort of. You have to listen yourself to learn what it is, but I will tell you this:
“Fortunate are the few who marry for love.”
Let’s chat about roadschooling with Heirloom Audio Productions.
We listened to Wulf the Saxon in the van. I cannot stay awake for anything in the van, and some of the younger listeners (12 and under) didn’t catch what was going on the first time through. For that reason, I also listened a second time with my younger crew with the story broken up more–like one track at a time. (And a third time by myself, but nobody else knows that because I was in hiding. Don’t you dare tell!) You can listen to the whole 2.5 hours all at once if you like–that’s what my driver likes to do, since, you know, he’s driving instead of sleeping.
One thing that caught my eye, or ear, is that the Henty character is telling the story to two boys (they all seem to start this way) via the Bayeux Tapestry, which weaves the story of the Battle of Hastings. I definitely feel this is something worth looking up and sharing with your children before and as you listen, because this image I included below is totally not going to cut it.
Let’s chat about understanding the story.
I personally like to have my kids read a Henty book before listening. We only managed to do that together with a couple of the books, however, since they are very long and some of them are very battle- and name-heavy. The two we read first and listened to later were our favorite productions to hear. I think that is because we already had a connection with the characters and understood the story more easily.
You absolutely do not need to read the book first to get a lot out of the story! Absolutely! It will help with the understanding of Wulf the Saxon, since it is a somewhat complex tale, but it is not a necessity. Did I mention it’s not a necessity?
To help with your understanding and study, Heirloom Audio Adventure offers the [cue dramatic theme music]
Live the Adventure Club members have access to the site’s bonus content, which includes online access to the recording, the ebook, the script, posters and printables, and the one I’ve used and love for other recordings, the study guide (still being written for Wulf).
I have found past study guides to be excellent for using the program at a slower pace and more thoroughly studying the time period. Sometimes we lean heavily on the study guides, sometimes we don’t touch them at all aside from hunting for recipes. We like food. Ahem.
Becoming a member of the club has other perks as well, such as an active forum of somewhat like-minded people and other activities. My son has been nudging me to let him at it.
Let’s chat about age recommendations.
If you’re like us, sorry. But also, if you study history together like we do, then you’re wondering about ages. That does baffle me a bit. From my understanding, the productions are designed for ages 6-16. Here are my thoughts on that. I’m not 16, and I get super happy every time one of these babies is in the mail heading our way. I would not put an upper cap on that age group.
Also, while the younger set can definitely enjoy the productions, more sensitive kiddos will be a little over-the-top over the realistic sounding (I’ve never been in war, so maybe it’s not realistic) battle scenes and certain happenings like death and amputation. Those events are a bit…intense. Your call.
It may also be more difficult for the younger students to understand what is going on, but, the study guide or pacing yourself will help with that. Doing a little historical research before or during the study will help as well. Otherwise, you might not catch every battle, but really that is no problemo.
For Wulf the Saxon, I would recommend it for ages 8 to 128. If you’re 129, you may sit in, too. We all listened together, all the folks and felines in this picture:
Let’s keep this balanced and chat about the negative (mostly) straight from the mouths of my kids.
This is the first Heirloom production where we felt some of the casting could have been better. The cast did a terrific job of acting–nobody ever sounds fakey fake or like they just came off a Barney or Goosebumps episode. Everyone is beyond talented, which is a land I’ve heard exists but never visited.
What I mean is that we were a bit surprised that some of the voices sounded older than we were led to believe the characters were. Still high quality, just not what we expected.
Also, my kids said, “Do all British voices sound the same to you, too?” Having formerly lived in Britain, I’d answer no to that. But in this case, if there wasn’t enough difference in the voices, we got a little confused. I don’t remember that happening in the other Heirloom productions we listened to, but, then again, I do get a little spacey. I wonder if people say that about us–all you Americans sound the same. Ha! (How many people did I just offend?)
Finally, my kids will also tell you that all of G.A. Henty’s plots are the same! They’re not, but there is a general outline that most of his adventures follow–boy hero with a noble sidekick, character flaws to overcome, battles and challenges, overcomes the flaws, gets the girl. That’s pretty accurate, although Wulf the Saxon included more characters and followed a less independent course than other of Henty’s main characters, since battles determined much of his plans, like in Henty’s In Freedom’s Cause.
Do I recommend Heirloom Audio Productions and Wulf the Saxon?
Absolutely, wholeheartedly, 100% without hesitation. I especially recommend Heirloom Audio to my roadschooling or roadtripping friends!
I’ll let you in on a little secret. After my first year on the Homeschool Review Crew, I signed on for another year and then another year in large part because of the potential to review more Heirloom Audio Productions. Don’t tell, okay? Stuff a cookie in your mouth.
If you want to learn more about Wulf or Heirloom, click any of the links below:
- Wulf the Saxon
- Heirloom Audio Productions
- Live the Adventure Club
- Heirloom Audio on social media: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+.
- Our previous Heirloom reviews:Captain Bayley’s Heir, and In the Reign of Terror reviewed here on The Travel Bags, and The Dragon and the Raven, Beric the Britain (our fave), and The Cat of Bubastes (our other fave) reviewd on my blog The Simple Homemaker.
Take a gander at the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read what other reviewers have to say. (Hopefully, they listened to their “honest someone” and kept their reviews succinct.) You can also click on the image below, if images are your thing.
Hey, thanks for hanging in there! What do you listen to on long drives?