William Wallace – Brave Heart

by Frank Muller

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I must admit, that one of my favorite movies is Mel Gibson’s Brave Heart. This is a gripping tale of the rise of man, later a legend, who confronts his own demons in order to exorcise and free the Scottish people from English oppression.

Above is a link to a sober and more historically accurate biography of the real William Wallace though to Mr. Gibson’s credit the major events of his life are somewhat accurately portrayed. Having travelled to Scotland and seen first-hand the locations of these battles and even the rumored long sword of William Wallace it gives a visceral perspective on his accomplishments.

The Scottish people rightly praise and celebrate this martyr for Scottish freedom but what stands out even more is that William Wallace has come to represent the icon of an average person rising to great heights against insurmountable odds.

In some ways William Wallace mirrors David and his battle against not only Goliath but entrenched power structures that opposed the good. In the most gripping way, his execution appears rightly so as a bloody sacrifice on the rack that sought to redeem Scotland and within a generation did indeed free her.

The history of this legend is interesting, and this book certainly takes a historian’s tract. This book is not a fictionized retelling of the saga but rather a historian’s critical look at the written evidence created at or shortly after his death. Most notably there is the long poem written by Wyntoun and the saga written by Blind Harry the Minstrel both of which were written when the people who knew William Wallace were alive to either verify or refute.

With a keen eye, these contemporary accounts are then matched against other documents from the English record, the Catholic Church’s records and of course Scottish oral tradition. What remains is a more realistic and sobering look at the man and his legend but what does not change is the accomplishment. In fact, the real story in my view is a much more relatable and imperfect hero struggling against forces well beyond his and his compatriots capabilities.

What we can learn from this story is the power of a people motivated by a desire for freedom can mobilize and organize a disciplined army that takes the field against the most lethal and effective fighting force on the planet in the 13th Century – the English Army. This was no rag tag enemy and its’ General was no buffoon but rather an illustrious general who had a lifetime of military victories and success.

Are there not some distant echoes as we consider the Ukrainian Army which was overlooked by its’ foes and its’ supposed allies. A patriotic and sacrificial character combined with a leadership team that could instill fighting discipline into peasant farmers seems to parallel this current story in 2022.

It is also fair to see the truth that this hero is far from perfect and even considering the overall barbarity of the 13th Century it is clear that William Wallace and his army were not an army of saints, and their tactics and exploits should not be considered as such. Nonetheless, war is a terrible thing and men do what they think they need to do to survive.

So often I think, we can use commercial entertainment to motivate us to pursue more of the truth and not to be satisfied with a caricature but attempt to draw closer to the Truth. Thus, entertainment if properly channeled into a search for that context and that Truth.

Each of us have been given free will to search for the Truth. This book might represent a small step in that search if the legend of William Wallace has even spoken to us.

May Peace be with us all.

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4 thoughts on “William Wallace – Brave Heart

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    Liked by 1 person

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