Monday, August 22, 2011

QuasiMiddleAges, or What year is this Court thing supposed to be?

In case you're a new guest to my little corner of the blogosphere, I should mention that I have this medieval sort of fantasy story I've been working on for years, and a majority of my dolls are characters belonging to that story. Specifically they belong to the Court of Dun Elisedd, the group of people who are the movers and shakers of a castle in a small northern kingdom.

It draws inspiration from many, many sources, not the least of which are things like The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Prydain, Beowulf, the Arthurian mythos, and histories of many actual kingdoms. It is a fantasy story, but like Tolkien and other authors, I have something of a passion for world-building and cultural anthropology, so I have done a lot of thinking about the cultures in this world and how they interact, and what their clashing or melding means for their society.

I have trouble sometimes with keeping my historical & locational influences to one period or place. I am madly in love with the Arthurian era of war-torn, Saxon-invaded Britain, with kings and chieftains and warriors, and the simpler architecture and gorgeous celtic artistic forms they had. I also like the "Ivanhoe" period of Post-Hastings England with the Saxons and Normans uncomfortably mixing, and all the cultural awkwardness there. There are lots of things in fashion and clothing, however, that I like from as late as the High Middle Ages, 1300 or so. I try to keep my main influences in fashion, art and architecture somewhere between the Roman British era and theNorman Invasion, just for the sake of clarity and some vague unity in the whole mess.

It is well worth pointing out that I have only barely begun a dabbling study of British and European history compared to many authors and illustrators, and there's a lot more to study. It's one of the things that makes this story a work in progress.

Why base a fantasy novel on history, you might ask? Because I've seen what happens when you don't, and it looks like Dungeons and Dragons. *twitch* Not that I have anything against High Fantasy, as it's known, but it doesn't feel as real to me. The appeal of Fantasy is that you can imagine somewhere, somehow, once upon a time, it was real. My story is about real people, even if there is a bit of magic involved and they use swords and horses instead of iPhones and Toyotas. These people live and love and bleed and die, and I can't cheapen that by making everything up and having it not make sense. Their world needs to be solid, and have real weather, real troubles and real life in it.
My fantasy world cannot have everyone on the continent under just one king, they can't all speak a Common Speech with no good reason for it, and they can't have an economy based on unrealistic amounts of gold pieces everyone has and everyone values exactly the same, and they can't all have conveniently enlightened modern views on property, citizenship, women, and slavery. That's how it is in many Fantasy settings, but not in mine.

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