Crusade of Tears
Based on the so-called “Children’s Crusade” of 1212, a historical event long debated by historians, Baker takes us on a medieval pilgrimage with a poor band of roving children accompanied by Pieter, a rebel priest, from North Germany to Genoa. The characters experience never-ending hardship, starvation, disease, and death as they trek through feudal villages and the extremes of the Alps, headstrong in their goal to reach the Holy Land. The children’s miserable initial circumstances allow them to easily embrace the dubious sermons preached throughout Northern France and Germany about a Crusade in which children would march to Jerusalem and free the holy city from “infidels,” not by swords but by their innocence.
Baker captures the bleakness of a journey doomed from the start. Hardly a chapter goes by when one of the characters is not killed off due to disease, murder, or starvation, making it very hard to become attached to any of them. Even the Priest who accompanies the children knows the Crusade is little more than a scam but sticks with the children through thick and thin. Why continue? Baker’s underlying message throughout this work is that it is not the end result that matters but the journey along the way. The young Crusaders’ faith is tested as they ponder why God would allow them to suffer so in his service. The nonstop misery of this band of children, chapter after chapter, eventually becomes quite wearisome and predictable. Baker, however, provides interesting historical details about the period and touches on an interesting topic in the history of the Crusades.