During my undergraduate degree in environmental studies, a particular course in the history department caught my eye.
This course was called History of Africa South of the Sahara.
I first I discovered this course during my first year while thumbing through the course catalogue planning for my upper years.
Ooh, this would be an interesting elective, I thought upon reading the course description:
King John hunting deer
Hunting, in the medieval times, was a way of life.
This is the case in more ways than one. On the one hand, hunting was an essential task for generating food for a noble household. According to Joseph and Frances Gies, authors of Life in a Medieval Castle,
The deer and other quarry supplied a substantial share of the meat for the castle table, and the forest supplemented game with nuts, berries, mushrooms, and other edibles. It also furnished the principal construction material and fuel for all classes. (p. 134)
Fewer elements of medieval culture capture the modern imagination like the tournament.
Pictured as it often appears in period movies and shows, the medieval tournament calls to mind any number of the following images:
- Scores of knights clad in the colours of their family crests with their horses caparisoned to match
- Ladies in flowing gowns bestowing their scarves and other such fripperies upon their favourite competitors
- Numerous contests of skill, honour, and sportsmanship, like the medieval version of the Olympic Games, of which the joust is most anticipated activity of all
And most importantly, a refined air of chivalry permeating the entire event.
The historical fiction shelf you won’t find in most bookstores and libraries
The problem with historical fiction is that it’s not actually genre.
Not the way romance or mystery or thriller are genres.
There are no defining characteristics – no genre conventions – of historical fiction other than the story taking place in a non-contemporary time period in which the manners, social conditions, and other details of the era are clearly depicted.
Medieval piggyback wrestling
People knew how to have fun in the Middle Ages.
In truth, in any age of history, people sought to amuse themselves during whatever moments they could spare from their workdays, however brief these moments of respite might be.
The medieval times was actually rather unique in this regard. During the 13th century, people had more holidays and days off work than are granted in the modern western world.
Marriage is tough; this is the case no matter what period in history one considers.
Medieval marriages, though, as discussed in my three previous posts on this topic, were all the more difficult for the numerous challenges that arose at every stage of their formation.
Yet another difficulty of medieval marriage was hard it was to go about ending one. This was neither easily nor readily done given that, according to Eileen Power, author of Women in the Middle Ages, “Divorce in the modern sense did not exist in the Middle Ages.” (p. 33).
And just like that, I’m nearly two-thirds of the way through the rewrite of my WIP.
I should rephrase that: I’m two-thirds through the second draft of my WIP, with an as-yet-undetermined number more to go after that.
And it’s not exactly “just like that” either, for I’ve been hard at work on this draft since January. This has involved, in addition to multiple rewrites of chapters one through three, a first crack at the additional 15 chapters I’ve completed to date some of which were in much better shape than others.