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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 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foxxcub.livejournal.com
Oh man, I might be seriously creepy here, but UGH, can I just say I have mad hearts for all the thought you put into this? Seriously, I kept refreshing your thread like a CRAZY PERSON for last, like, four days.

(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.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-31 03:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cactus-rabbit.livejournal.com
AAARG history. It's so awesome yet so very problematic.

I've got to admit, I picked the 1470s for the drawing partly because of the enormous amount of detailed artwork from the time period (including Da Vinci, who's paintings I would never pass up an opportunity to stare at) and, honestly, the fashion. Oh my god the fashion. The HATS! The pointy shoes! The doublets!

What you could say about your story is that it takes place in a world where Christianity either A) never took as big of a hold over Europe as it did (I don't remember any references to the Church in the story but I could be completely off base) or B) Rather than staunch Catholic values, Christianity took a looser, more liberal form. IDK.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-31 03:19 am (UTC)
ext_3167: Happiness is a dragon in formaldehyde  (Imagination <3s Intelligence)
From: [identity profile] puckling.livejournal.com
OH MY GOD THESE ARE MY FAVORITE AUTHOR'S NOTES EVER. EVER. IN THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING. I HAVE LOST MY LOWERCASE AS YOU HAVE FILLED ME WITH SUCH GLEE.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-31 05:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dorsetnaga.livejournal.com
I have enjoyed this story's unwinding more than I can say. Your handle on the characters and pacing and oh the dialogue is all so skillful, and although this is well out of my period, I'm delighted all the way to my toes by your obvious care -- and for your sharp choices on when and how to deviate from the record.

Just fucking stunning. Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-31 11:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apagon.livejournal.com
wow, really love how much thought you put into these author notes and the story... you do amazing research and are meticulous in your writing... hm, and I am very much approve of this binding ceremony you speak of... apparently there were homosexual civil unions back in medieval france (http://www.science20.com/news/homosexual_civil_unions_an_old_tradition) and maybe arthur and eames could have gotten that taken care of when they visited mal's family...

anyway, thanks for sharing all this :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-01 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] post-script3.livejournal.com
How about we pretend that this is all a dream then anything can happen (and Arthur and Eames can have their handbinding ceremony and maybe adopt a few babies or puppies along the way :). Remember Darling, You musnt be afraid to dream a little bigger! (and you went and did just that of course).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-03 03:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deepsix.livejournal.com
I forgot to comment on this when I first read the story, but you know, I think my favourite part about the story (other than the total awesomeness! and sweetness! and like, everything) is the clear attention to detail. I could tell as I was reading it on the kink meme that this was written by someone who knew from medievalism, so that even what was wrong was still so right. I love that what could have been just a frivolous story was so thoughtfully done. Seriously, so awesome. I love this story. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-03 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moonfoot-gamgee.livejournal.com
Omg. You are so awesome for putting this much thought into this. I do this with all a lot of my artwork. It's so much fun! And this is so interesting, thank you. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-05 12:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furius.livejournal.com
This is the first Inception fic that I've read and really liked. It's the setting. Artistic license aside, it's just so..reminiscent of the better retellings of Robin Hood. Oh, the lovely details about wax tablets and simple arithmetic and bones and mulberries. It's idyllic without being sappy, and Eames/Arthur were sweet but you put courting in ♥

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-06 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alasse.livejournal.com
So, yeah. I love your medieval brain. I'd gladly get an icon of that. "SOFIA LOVES M'S MEDIEVAL BRAIN... ON ICE."

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