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A Note On Equal-Opportunity Mediaevalism


Uh. I feel kind of ridiculous, writing this, but for some reason, Inception fandom makes me utterly unable to do anything without Thinking About It. Sorry, everyone.

I wish I could say that the (logical) catalyst for this was [livejournal.com profile] cactus_rabbit trying to place the story in a set timeframe in order to draw her lovely art, but it's really something I've been turning over in my head all along.

I am kind of sad this way.

I guess the overarching idea here is: I am an equal-opportunity mediaevalist. I love early mediaeval customs, and later mediaeval romance; I love the raw, oftentimes familial links between eorl and thane, but I also love books, and resent imagining worlds where they were not readily available.

Merlin makes equal-opportunity mediaevalism easy because it is itself set in the sort of mash-up mediaeval world that perfectly captures my imagination. A Fool From Any Direction does not have that advantage, and so I thought I would do some blathering on this issue, for those interested (ha! ha! ha!):



So. I roughly placed the story about early- to mid-1300s in my head while I was writing, mostly because some very exciting things were happening in Britain at that time, but there are several not inconsiderable problems with this:

i) There is a (disputed) theory that 'commercial' production of books by lay scribes might have begun as early as the 1320s-40s, but it is extremely unlikely that Eames' uncle, unless he had been an extremely rich man, would have had books to spare around the household, or that his nephew would have had books to loan the stablehand. Also, many books would have been extremely unwieldy, making their back-and-forth-waving difficult. Most non-royal-household books would have most likely contained a practical combination of religious texts, poetry, almanac-related or other informative texts, and maybe some spaces of blank parchment in which someone would have no doubt done their accounts, or taught a child to write. (Parchment was expensive.) It is very unlikely that Eames could have offered Arthur books with different text in them with any sort of regularity.

Though the son of a cobbler might have, if he were very bright and very enterprising, become literate in the 1340s, it is also extremely unlikely that he would read with any sort of regularity, or that he could have linguistically kept up with a nobleman who had had access to education (Arthur's mad bantering skills aside), though a nobleman would have been equally hard-pressed to keep up linguistically in the dialects and cadences of the towns.

ii) Yes, Algernon would have had to be a huge fucking horse to carry two grown men around. I don't know; Maybe Eames has bad taste in tunics, but good taste in horses? And the likelihood that Arthur's parents house would have had any sort of hedge in a dirty, dusty mediaeval village is really... not a likelihood at all.

iii) Though mediaeval birth dynamics were complex things of beauty, and though kings' bastard children were often titled (men, at least) and welcome at court (as, indeed, were the bastard sons (and sometimes daughters) of noblemen), it would be extremely odd, again, for someone of Eames' standing to enjoy the sort of privileges he does here, particularly if his familial connection to a powerful family was through a woman. I think in my head the backstory here is that it was Eames' father who was Eames' uncle's brother, but that he died, leaving Eames' warm and wonderful mother, and her child born out of wedlock, behind. Eames' uncle is cool.

iv) Mediaeval attitudes towards dreams were wonderful (wonderful wonderful wonderful), but attitudes towards magic or the unknown, though also varied, were less flexible. It would have been extremely rare for a noble household to openly welcome practitioners of some unknown art in their home, particularly in front of the Earl of Norfolk's family.

v) Peterborough, Lincoln, Doncaster and York are just not that far away from each other. Fact. The British summer does not last for four months. Fact.

vi) Words like "caustic" did not make their way into English until a time later than the quasi-setting of this story. Fact.

vii) And, most importantly and most seriously, I have shamelessly skirted some important and complex issues regarding the agency of women and the presence of, and attitudes towards, foreign individuals such as Saito or Yusuf in mediaeval English society. I also feel there is a serious lack of powerful women characters in this, noble-family-abandoning Ariadne aside (in my head, both she and Mal have ridiculously arse-kicking backstories, though).

While this is ultimately a ridiculous ridiculous kinkmeme fill about hay and armour and flirtation, I don't want it to appear as if I did not stop to think on this, or as if I do not recognise the severe limitations of this story (and of me (hey grammar!)) in choosing not to engage with these issues.

That, I think, is all.

(Oh. Except for the fact (I realise only upon re-reading this, which says more than a little about me, I suppose), that Eames and Arthur live happily ever after in mediaeval England (possibly after a binding ceremony officiated by Cobb standing atop a bright purple-covered cart). I like to think of this not as problematic, but more as... hopeful? Because, say it with me: Love, love, love. Nothing you can do that can't be done?)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-31 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zephre.livejournal.com
I love this.
It's awesome to see the rules being broken by someone who knows what she's doing. :)
And I'm glad I'm not the only one to obsess over small details in seemingly simple stories.

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