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Brother Cadfael is the fictional main character in a series of historical murder mysteries written by the linguist-scholar Edith Pargeter under the name "Ellis Peters". The character of Cadfael himself is a Welsh Benedictine monk living at Shrewsbury Abbey, in western England, in the first half of the 12th century. The historically accurate stories[1] are set between about 1135 and about 1145, during "The Anarchy", the destructive contest for the crown of England between King Stephen and Empress Maud.

As a character, Cadfael "combines the curious mind of a scientist/pharmacist with a knight-errant", entering the cloister in his forties after being both a soldier and a sailor.[2] This experience gives him an array of talents and skills useful in monastic life. He is a skillful observer of human nature, a talented herbalist, which skill he learned in the Holy Lands and while a prisoner of the Muslims. He is also inquisitive by nature, energetic, and has an innate, although modern, sense of justice and fair-play. Abbots call upon him as a medical examiner, detective, doctor, and diplomat. His worldly knowledge, although useful, gets him in trouble with the more doctrinaire characters of the series, and the seeming contradiction between the secular and the spiritual worlds forms a central and continuing theme of the stories.


Name origin and pronunciation

A traditional Welsh name, it derives from the words cad ("battle") and mael ("prince").[3] Peters wrote that she found the name "Cadfael" only once in the records, given as the baptismal name of Saint Cadog, who later abandoned it.[4] There are differing pronunciations of the name Cadfael. Ellis Peters intended the "f" to be pronounced as an English "v", and suggests it be pronounced "CAD-vel".[5] Normal Welsh pronunciation would be [ˈkadvaɨl] (close to "CAD-vile"), however.[6] Nevertheless, the name is commonly pronounced /ˈkædfaɪl/ "CAD-file" in English, and Peters once remarked that she should have included a guide for this and other names in the series that have uncommon pronunciations.[5]

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