This article takes as its starting-point the responsiveness of children's literature to socio-political events, considering how contemporary anxieties about relationships between Muslim and Christian individuals and cultures inform three historical novels set in the period of the Third Crusade (1189-92): Karleen Bradford's Lionheart's Scribe (1999), K. M. Grant's Blood Red Horse (2004), and Elizabeth Laird's Crusade (2008). In these novels, encounters between young Christian and Muslim protagonists are represented through language and representational modes which owe a good deal to the habits of thought and expression which typify orientalist discourses in Western fiction. In effect, the novels produce two versions of medievalism: a Muslim medieval world which is irretrievably pre-modern, locked into rigid pracices and beliefs against which individuals are powerless; and a Christian medieval world which offers individuals the possibility of progressing to an enhanced state of personal fulfilment. The article argues that the narratives of all three novels incorporate particularly telling moments when Christian protagonists return to England, regretfully leaving Muslim friends. The impossibility of enduring friendships between Muslims and Christians is based on the novels' assumptions about the incommensurability of cultures and religions; specifically, that there exists an unbridgeable gulf between Islam and Christianity.
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