Thursday, 27 October 2016

So my children asked: 'Was there Halloween in the Middle Ages'?


So I finally have some time to breathe, relax, and get some blogging in. I apologize for the long bit of silence, but grad school and unexpected life difficulties! 

So it’s that time of year, harvest time, Halloween and all that craziness. My girls have been asking, was there Halloween in the Middle Ages? My answer was I am not totally sure. But let's look it up. Halloween according to some such as The New York Carver (2012) mentions, 'The festival of Samahain marked the Celtic New Year when dead souls were believed to walk the earth.’ That being said roots the tradition of Halloween deeply within Celtic culture and society.
Research indicates that the name 'Halloween' stemming from All Hollow’s even is purely a Christian tradition that began in the early Middle Ages. Reasons behind the survival of this strongly pagan holiday and its inner-connectedness with the Medieval Church, is something that bewilders many scholars and researchers today. But nonetheless, it aided its preservation.
Furthermore, the tradition behind Halloween or even it’s connotation with harvest time, ‘is a descendent of the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sah-een) or 'summer's end' in the original Scots Gaelic’ Carver (2012).
Traditionally, the celebration held on 1 November began the Celtic New Year when dead souls were believed to walk the earth. What we deem as treats once then called ‘Soul cakes’ were left out for good spirits and lanterns, and then they were turnips, was customarily lit. Today our lanterns a solely American tradition, now everywhere, is in the form of a carved pumpkin. The purpose of this lantern, as well as the lights of which we all love to carry, was ‘to ward off stray evil spirits that also happened to pierce the thin veil of the underworld during this time of year’. This necessity rooted in the medieval theory and thought of the unknown, resulted in these deep and also imbedded traditions such as the Samhain tradition, in the psyche of man that resulted in it’s survival for centuries, Carver (2012).
In the eighth century, the Church branded 1 November All Hallows Day (or the day of the holy ones) in honour of the saints. It was not until two centuries later, the Church followed the Samhain festival more closely by naming November 2 All Souls Day in honour of the dead.
Additionally, the medieval custom of beginning observances the night before, All Hallows Evening, or Halloween became a popular name for the 31 October, thus resulting in our modern term of Halloween. Collectively this holiday is still celebrated today.
So in terms of the questions my children asked, yes, there was Halloween in the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Those cute critters called sheep

So a lot has changed since my last post. I am half way across the world now and in grad school awaiting the start if my first year towards my PhD. Yes! Surreal it is, and I have missed my blog...and my horse.. whom is still stateside.. but that will change soon.

So besides doing things that I shouldn't... like breaking bones while climbing down walls... Whoops, I have been doing tons of research. My dissertation, which has been very very interesting, and also a gold mine as far as information of all sorts. Low and behold while working on my dissertation something well .... I should have expected is all over my research... Sheep 🐑
And I am quite impressed with the impact they had on fifteenth century English economy.

After a week of tracing and analyzing financial records of the fifteenth century in the records of the Calendar of Patent Records, and other valuable sources, making some lengthily databases; the trend of sheep and wool production likes to land in mass quantities where the money seems to drop. This also applies to the seemingly overly excessive amount of licences, chantry building etc., granted in the area as well. Meaning certain towns and areas, much more than say, some random little village in Norfolk. According to documentation, some of the receivers of large charitable gifts, managements of grants called frankalmoin and Mortmain, and others, the diocese and or parishes of these areas have a huge industry of both wool and sheep raising. Some areas such as Lincoln, and Wiltshire counties were hot spots for this form of economy. Some regions benefited from not only the export of wool but had cloth and textile centres. Now add the fact that some of the folks who sent off gifts to these areas was quite common and frequent  and for example the bishop of Salisbury had one of the most prolific bunch of sheep, this industry became a excellent source of income for the crown. This is very apparent during Edward IV's reign according to statistics discussed by Charles Ross, historian. Wool production and export increased by 72% during his second reign, according to figures.

So before I start rambling more numbers, it's apparent England had a very large love for the fluffy critters that more than dot the landscape today. And in the end if you follow the financial activity, and busy-ness of the area, via records, the likelihood that you will find a bishop with a very large herd of sheep and a nice production line to boot. More to come.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Historical Fiction: The Blue Door: Home and Then Back Again

She heard the footsteps in the hall. The clanking of chain mail against leather and hard armor breastplates made more racket than the footsteps, as the sound came nearer to the chamber door. It had been months since Rowan rode off for battle on his coal black warhorse. “Please come back to me.” She had said to him, as she kissed him on way to his departure. She didn’t want to let him go, her heart wanted to keep him safe out of harms reach. She was always like that with those she held most dear. He was one, he was her husband, and she didn’t want to share him.

Clarise loved that horse, so kind, so honest. It made her think of home, a place she more than likely would never see again. Did she miss it? Sometimes, other times she was too busy helping in the castle’s infirmary. Disease had struck recently, influenza. A handful still lay ill and two children died from the fever. Even her vet school training had not prepared her for the heaviness she felt in her heart that day when she lost the two small little children, a boy and a girl. She wanted to do more to help them, but the supplies she needed, she just couldn’t find. Her mind drifted else was, then back to focusing on the steps she heard coming down the stone floor of the halls.

She would have never thought she would have grown to love Rowan. He seemed so hard at times, so stern, so strong but at the same time kind. He was one of the best warriors the king had, and the village. She could see why he was a favorite among many of the local lords to choose and have as a commander. The few days she was able to get a way from her duties, she had watched him train. He danced with a sword like he was born with it. She loved looking at his back when he did. Sculpted, smooth, and strong. Then there were his eyes. They were the first thing she saw back in the house the night of the full moon. He looked at her for help after he flew through the stupid kitchen door. How it must have hurt. The blue depths just shone, deep into her heart. She had not been able to get him out of her head since.

Perhaps fate brought them together in a weird way. The house, the obviously magical door. She laughed to herself thinking of the night when she woke up to the stupid horse staring down at her in her bed.  God, did he give her a fright.  He almost looked like a demon.  He was asking for her to help. She was so glad she did.

The footsteps paused in the hall for a few minutes and she could hear soft whispers and some banter and chatter. She stared briefly at the ring on her finger it was beautiful. They had been barely been wed for a week before he left for battle. All she asked was that he came back to her alive. The door slowly pushed open, it was him. Rowan was home. Her heart skipped for joy, she loved him so much.

“Clairy, my love!” He said as he smiled and tossed the door closed behind him, dumping his sword belt, sword, and hilt on the floor and walked towards her.

“Rowan, I am so glad you are back. I cannot tell you how much I have missed you.” She started, eyes welling with tears of joy.

“Shush love, I am here now, and we can start where we left off.” He said now holding her hands kissing them softly.

She loved his smell, leather, horses, and spice. She could loose herself in it for days.  In her mind that’s all she wanted to do. Stay in with him and love him. It was something she never felt before with anyone. It was an odd bond that just kept drawing them close no matter what, and at the same time strangely familiar. He started to pull off his armor as he kissed her down her neck softly. Through the corner of her eye, she watched him pull off the chain mail and all of the layers he of clothing he had with it. He was as beautiful, as he was before he traveled to battle.  A scratch or two on his chest caught her eye, and she traced a finger down it.

He stood before her only trousers left, and pulled her to his arms. Her hair was soft and smelled like spring air. She loved the tightness of his embrace, she felt safe ridiculously safe. He gently pulled her chin up and kissed her softly on the lips.

“God, how I missed you.”  He kissed her long and hard again. Oh how she had missed him as he drew her to the bed that was waiting for them both.

***
Clarise awoke with a strange feeling. A sudden sense of worry and loneliness robbed her of her sleep. Her eyes fluttered open, as she realized she was alone. Clothes were scattered throughout the bedchamber she noticed as she grabbed her night shift and a woolen shawl.   Where was Rowen, she wondered, as she made her way to the large heavy oak door to their chambers.  Her mind still a bit scattered from the night before, but she remembered the most blissful parts of how they made love till the candles burned low.  Sweet, passionate, and wanting, she was for him and oh how he desired her the minute he walked in the door. Wanting for months her sweet embrace and warmth.  She smiled to herself as she began up the hall still lingering on her thoughts of the night before.

She heard a rumbling from the great hall.  It was Rowan’s father. Lord Mortimer and he did not sound pleased. Clarise had great respect for the man. Yet at first glance, he would make just about any person tremble, but he did have a kind heart.  Standing at almost six foot, to medieval standards Lord Mortimer was a giant.  His rusty beard and hair still bright despite his age, and piercing blue eyes like Rowan’s but his son’s had more warmth in their gaze than his fathers.  Lady Mortimer, Marie was fine boned and probably about the most beautiful woman Clarise had ever met. She looked like a fairy, at times she reminded her of what Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot might have looked like. Her presence was stunning yet peaceful at the same time. Both Lord and Lady were always in a state of harmony.  Even the peasants and household servants remarked as such. For they loved their Lord and Lady of the keep.  The first crusade mission that Rowan was first called to, was heart wrenching to his parents and even to Clarise.  Even back home her experience with seeing men off to war, was non-existent.  His mother worried nonstop and Lord Mortimer refused to leave his quarters for a day for he deeply feared the worst, and for his son to return on his shield.

Clarise pushed open the door to the great hall. The morning light flickered in through the wall of stain glass that lined the west wall, dancing on the smooth stone floor, making it look almost like water. She loved this room, so magical. Lord Mortimer was bent over the head table grasping a goblet of wine. Rowan was at his side, disheveled, and strangely quiet stressed.  Lady Mortimer saw Clarise and dashed to her side.

“My Dear! The Pope has called the men again to go on Crusade.  They say the King has been captured. They want Rowan to go assist them in freeing him from Saladin forces…” She wept. Wasn’t one mission enough, Clarise thought frustrated that her husband was again going to be taken away from her.  Frustrated, she put her arm around Rowan’s mother and made her way to Rowan and his father.  

“My Lord… Rowan, Do you have to go? Have you not served enough in his Holiness’s army?” She pleaded glancing at Rowan and then at his father. He took a long drink of his wine, something she still had not entirely grown accustomed to, even now after being here for a little more than a year or so.  Wine or medieval wine was very much an acquired taste and there was really no other options to it. Water had to be boiled as she was teaching the cooks so they could drink it. But it was something they still were not used to doing. 

“Lassie, it is the word from God. Yes. I am angry. I do not wish these crusades continue. My men leave, my workers, farmers, they all leave.. they don’t come back. I have people to get through the winter in the next months, and a crop supply to harvest.” He stressed as he looked to Rowan. His mother was whirling her hands and pacing. Rowan leaving was perhaps the hardest on her. She loved him dearly.  She had a daughter once, Rowan’s sister Eloise. She was 11 “when the angels took her” as Clarise was told. A fever. Since then any departure of any of the family from the castle always weighed greatly on her heart. Clarise always worried about her.

“Father, I will only take the men I need, I promise. I won’t let other’s follow this time. Just Brie, Fitz-Simmons and two more I know for certs can come.  Hunter’s wife wants him gone, as she is with child again, and Flynn has been so bored, he has been shooting squirrels with arrows again. We will all come back alive, I swear to it.” Rowan promised, as he grasped his father’s hand, ensuring him of his word.

Clarise was frustrated, but she knew her words and pleading wouldn’t work against the commands of the Pope. She had an idea. She had heard stories and had read back in her own time the adventures and stories about the Dowager Queen, Eleanore of Aquitaine King Richard’s mother. She was fearless, as the word was already across the land that confirmed that. She too had been on pilgrimage and well “crusade” but on her terms. She had even at one point in time been to Acre, where she over saw Richard’s marriage. If she could manage to survive a journey, and a person with no medical expertise, Clarise thought she might as well give it a try.   

“Rowan, my Lord... I wish to go with them.” She said asserting herself, staring straight at Lord Mortimer, searching his face for an answer. She heard a gasp from Lady Mortimer, Rowan dropped his goblet which was now and obviously empty.  It seemed that no one really knew what to say as you could hear a pin drop with the sudden veil of silence that fell across the hall.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Historical Fiction Fun: The Blue Door: Crusade

The Third Crusade 1191 A. D.

Outside Antioch

The sun shone down hard, and hot burning the sand in the mid-day sun. Rowan could feel the heat through his thick leather shoes and armor. For months, he had spent in this cruel place of desert, sand, and what some called the “Holy Land.” How could so many call it that when it was a barren wasteland now littered with death? He questioned his reasoning for taking up this crusade. For glory, for absolution of sins, and for God? The sea of death he had just experienced, was most overwhelming, a sight a few could stomach.

Rowan had started this adventure with a fairly large company. He was now left with a few scattered foot soldiers, and his five most trusted men. For a medieval knight of status was always assigned at least five soldiers for his well-being and safety. He was fortunate that they were also some of his best and most honored friends.

As he stumbled back wiping the sweat pouring off his brow, hair plastered against his already drenched head; he gazed across the sandy bright plain at the dead and dying. The sand in some places was blood red, soaked with blood littered with bodies, and then in other places dry as a bone. Men were putting horses out of their misery from arrow wounds, slitting their throats as they moved to check one after another. Their dying screams rang deep in to his soul. As he tried not to think about it, his hand tightened the reins of his steed, which cautiously followed closely behind him, sensing the unknown and fear that loomed in the air of uncertainty.

He saw a fellow knight across from six piled dead bodies, dead. Riddled with arrows.  He must have been in the first charge.  No protection from the first wave of onslaught.  He was lucky to not have taken an arrow in any vital organs during the battle, yet the graze wound on his shoulder was enough for him.  He could feel the blood ooze through his mail and thick tunic.  He needed to visit the camp medic. Wine should clean it up okay. 

“Fitz-Simmons, how many dead do you think?” He called to one of his men who was surveying the dead and assisting the peasants who had come out to move the bodies.

“My Lord, many dead…. I am afraid. Even the enemy has lost many men this day. I pray God is forgiving for this massacre.” He said wearily, as he peacefully closed the eyes of a dead foot soldier.

Fitz-Simmons could tell he was a young lad.  How and why he came on crusade, he didn’t know.  An orphan maybe? He could tell by the skin on his face, and the youth of his features. Maybe 17 or so. Too many died.

The moans of the wounded seem to follow him as Rowan made his way back to camp. How he wished to return home. The journey was loosing its luster. Tomorrow he would speak to the command and to the Holy Bishop himself.  How could God approve of this, he did not want to comprehend or even try to understand.  Rowan kept walking his men wearily following behind him. One complaining about an arrow to his arm, fearing he would loose it. His companion Fitz-Simmon’s was certain he would be okay, yet he really did not know. Only God would know how things would turn out.   The injured man, Brie, as he walked chanted the Lord’s Prayer over and over. Rowan was about ready to sock him in the jaw to get him to shut up. His head was pounding from the heat.

“Brie! We all grieve for the potential loss of your arm! We assure you that you will not loose it God willing, now please let the Lord’s Prayer rest, man?” Rowan barked.

Rowan liked Brie, but there were times when he just wanted to get as far away from his men as possible and just think. Decompress, to think about other things. Think about Clarise, his parents, home, and his future.

“I’ll be needing the medic before you Sir?” Brie stated, panting as the neared the tent.

“Not if I walk faster, than you Brie.” Rowan said with a grin as to taunt Brie for his unrelenting chanting. Rowan drew back the tent curtain. On the table surrounded, and covered in blood, was the commander, dead. His gut slashed open, an arrow deep in his chest, and his head split open. Unexpectedly, Rowan lunged to the side of the tent, sick.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Historical Fiction Fun: The Blue Door: 1191 A. D.


Did she really fall off the stupid horse? It felt like she had fallen off a rooftop.  Slowly, she got up off the ground.  It wasn’t the ground she was riding across a while ago. Something was different; the whole area was different. Thick trees, and lush grass surrounded her and it was dead quiet. 
 
“No. It couldn’t be…” She whispered to herself, as she slowly got up and brushed the grass and pine needles off her clothing.  She then remembered.  She had left the door open… and it was a full moon.  She spotted the warhorse a few yards over, happily grazing. She whistled to him and he came trotting up to her. 

“Well boy, where ever we are; we best go find someone who can find your master.” She said as she climbed up on him. She definitely wasn’t anywhere near home. Where, she did not know exactly yet. To her fascination, some how the stupid blue door still worked even with her just in her backyard. It bewildered her.

She found a path and diligently kept to it, yet the more they rode down it, the longer it seemed to go. Animals seemed to hop or leap out of nowhere as the trotted along. Her steed wasn’t even bothered. They came to a crossing in the road. There was a sign, she couldn’t read it. It was in a language very not familiar to her, she decided to go to the right, as the path looked more traveled that direction. Perhaps there was a town or something up above. She only hoped.


They rounded a bend in the road and she came upon a familiar sight.  A church. The church looked like the one in the village that she lived in or just moved to. But something about the little church was vaguely different. It was actually busy and it seemed a bit more new, or in much better keep. She rode the horse up to what looked like a hitching post and jumped off. She felt bad tying him by the reins, but that was all she had. She had always been told that was a no no in the back home in California… but she had nothing else to secure the horse with.  She hope he minded his manners. There were a few people tending the church garden, they all seemed to stop and do what they were doing once they saw her making her way towards the church. As she walked she studied their clothes and quiet quickly realized, this was not home, or time, or even close.  Most definitely the Middle Ages, actually quite early Middle Ages by looking at the gardeners clothes. There was nothing elaborate about their modest outfits and they actually seemed to look at her in fear. A thought raced across her mind, she soon dismissed it and kept walking to the big large wooden doors. 

She pushed open the doors, they were quiet heavy.  To her surprise there was a group of nun’s praying at the front of the church. She stopped in her footsteps in astonishment. One of the nuns stood up. Her clothing was a bit more regal than the rest. She spun around and dropped her rosary. 

“His Holiness, what have you brought to our church?” She looked Clarise up and down and gasped.
“A witch…” She gasped as she held her hand over her mouth in shock.

Clarise didn’t know what to say or do. She stood frozen in the isle. Just what she needed… to be called a witch and all she did was walk in to a church. But in modern clothing. This was going to be interesting. 

The head mistress or prioress swiftly grabbed Clarise by the arm and started to haul her out of the small church. Her grip was tight.

“Please, I am looking for someone…I am not a witch.” she said in slight panic, pleading with her accuser. 

“Witch or no witch dear, you are frightening my sisters and we must see to it. We have never seen the likes of you and it is quite out of the ordinary.” She said curtly.  Clarise wasn’t exactly thrilled.

“Where are you taking me? I am looking for someone; he left his horse at my cottage. Sir Mortimer... Ugh, let go of me!” Clarise stood her ground and pulled away from the prioress as hard as she could and fell backwards loosing her balance and falling to the hard stone floor.  The prioress stood still for a moment gazing down at her. 

“Sir Mortimer? How do you know him?  He is back from crusade?” She asked as Clarise slowly got up and faced her.

“Crusade? What crusade? Please don’t tell me… what year is it?” She asked out of curiosity.
“The year of our Lord 1191. The Pope has called crusade. Many have gone, many have not come back. This will be good news for his father. He has quite missed him. His dear wife died a few years back; he has been very lonely since.  Please follow me.” 

The prioress’s voice changed and was now more civil and a bit more welcoming. Clarise thought maybe she was in the clear and wasn’t going to be lynched, as she followed the prioress to the back of the church and down a small path, hidden from view from people passing by, to a small garden or courtyard. 

“Alright. I apologize for calling you a ‘witch.’ I had to get you out and away from the others as fast as I could. I know where you are from. There have been others like you, as well over time.  For at least as long as I can remember. There is magic in those woods you were in.  I am surprised Sir Mortimer, or as we all call him, Rowan found it. Otherwise, you would not be here. His parents always tried to keep him away from and out of those woods.  He would go there as a boy, I have always kept an eye out for him, as best as I could.  I know that is how he found you.  I know where you are from, as I came from your time as well.” She said softly as she sat down on a bench near by.
Clarise didn’t know what to say. She was in awe. 

“Your from my home, my time? How?” Clarise was taken by surprise.

“Your house has a portal. It has been around for as long as those stones have been laid on the foundation of your house.  It’s old Druid magic, dear.  I suggest you keep what I have told you to yourself. I have some peasant clothes that you can have, so you blend in or look more at home. Do not go to the village or the manor house like you are. Some will not take kindly to it. I also do not know how his lordship will act as well.” 

Clarise nodded her head and took the advice as a warning.  

“I need to take the horse back to Sir Mortimer. I am sure he misses him…” Clarise said as she turned towards the path wanting to go back and make sure her steed was still tied to the post. 

“I will help you take him back. Yet I am going to be honest with you; we might not be able to get you back home. Those that I have known, have ended up staying, as they can’t find the portal back or have nothing to take them back.” The prioress said as she placed her hand on Clarise’s shoulder.
Clarise put her hand in her pocket of her jeans. The key was there.

“But I have this? It’s the key to my door…” She said as she handed it to the prioress.

“Where did you get this? We all have heard tales that there was a key of sorts to the portal. But never have seen one until now.” The prioress studied the key that Clarise had with great interest. 

“This is a good thing. Keep it safe. This may eventually help you. How I do not know. But obviously you are closer to getting back to your home than the others.” Clarise wondered who “the others” were and how many had come to pass into this realm.

“The agent who sold me the house had it. It opens the door and locks it nothing else, but I think it is magic or something. It is not ordinary. Both times the portal worked was when it was a full moon and I used this key on the door. Even when Rowan left. I closed the door out of habit that night and he was gone the next morning. But the horse, stayed in my barn.”

“Poor steed was probably too far away for the magic to work and he got left behind.” The prioress followed.

“What did you do to go back to my time? Back home? I am a veterinarian for animals mainly horses. I am not sure what I am going to do here...” Clarise started, as panic and uncertainty started to seep in to her mind.

“Ah a doctor of sorts. I was a teacher. I used to help many in the village with schoolwork after school, as well as help run the school in the village.  Do you know if the school is still there? It would have been next to this church. It well looked many years older.” She asked, her eyes looking sad as she remembered her past life before, this one.

“I believe so… yes…” Clarise struggled to remember the town back in her time. She hadn’t lived there too long, maybe a few months before she bought the house.

“There are times, I miss where we are from, but then sometimes not. Things are simpler here you will see. Yet other times and most often, very harsh. Life is so much more fragile.” She continued.

Friday, 19 December 2014

What to watch: "Penny Dreadful"


The cast of "Penny Dreadful"
What began in the mid 1800’s as stories which were intended for young men at a price of a penny, evolved into a spectacular cinematic display of gothic horror, which is where, “Penny Dreadful got it’s start. Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” is a mind-sweeping and alluring tale of some pretty fascinating characters. Their stories delve into our imaginations, hearts, and souls as their lives unfold throughout the serious various episodes. 

The show takes the viewer back to Victorian London. The backdrop of the show evolves around the murders of Jack the Ripper, and other various tid bits of historical drama of the times. The center of the story evolves around Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and Sir Malcolm Murray (Sir Timothy Dalton). The underlining story is one of heart break, yet a reality for many during this time. Forbidden love affairs and the impact of mental illness and its influence on spirituality and the supernatural unknown. This first season revolves around Vanessa’s demons and how she overcomes them to help Sir Malcolm with his mission to find out what happened to his daughter Mina.  Interestingly Mina is also the name of one of the main love of the vampire Dracula in folklore.

Additionally, the show, historically does a very good job of depicting how mental illnesses was treated during this time, and also how it was so misunderstood, both the supernatural and medical aspect nature of treatment is shown. The show also explores how sexual trauma can impact ones view on reality and ones around them. For Vanessa, it is all too real for her and perhaps the source of her illness.

But what is the story, the genre that “Penny Dreadful” falls into? Gothic horror.  The history of Gothic horror or romance grew its roots deep before Victorian society emerged to the forefront. It began with the works of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, which combines genres of romanticism, fiction, and horror. It became the foundation of the literary genre that reached its height of popularity in the mid 18th and 19th centuries. Other authors such as Ann Radcliffe, the Bronte sisters, Mary Shelly, Edgar Alan Poe, and even Charles Dickens, were all gothic horror romance novelists who later help shape the genre to what we know of it today.

In examining Walpole’s 1764 novel in which the genre is attributed, it introduces into literary society something new. It held a host of new elements that were pleasing in sorts of terror, and held an extension of literary romance, which was relatively new to this period in which his novel was introduced. His novel also introduced parody and melodrama, also including self-parody. All are fundamental elements of all Gothic genres.

Most importantly, the term “Gothic” was applied to this new form of literature simply because these were the architectural style of the buildings in which the literature had its stories take place. They were the backdrops for these dramas to unfold.

After Walpole’s introduction of the genre in England, others followed. In France the genre was called “roman noir” and in Germany it was called “schauerroman.” Walpole’s overall intent was to combine elements of medieval literature, which in his mind it was too fanciful, and then with the modern novel. To him the modern novel was too strict and confining. The combination of the two is what he intended the story of The Castle of Otranto to be.

Walpole also introduced the basic structure for these novels. The basic plot introduced included a threatening mystery, an ancestral curse, many trappings or hidden passages (This is quite apparent in the later story of “Jane Eyre” by Emily Bronte.) and off fainting heroines. There also became a demand for romances with superstitious elements, that at times were void of “didactical intention.” Some argued that this had no place nor was it acceptable as a modern piece of literature.

Walpole’s novel is essential because even though named a forgery at one point, it was a story with history and fiction, that at times contradicted the main principles of the enlightenment. It also brought to light the relationship with “fake” documentation and folklore. Which were very recurrent themes in Gothic literature.
Eva Green as Vanessa Ives

Many influential authors helped shaped the genre. One was Ann Radcliffe. Her works introduced the basis of having a brooding gothic villain, whom later became the “Byronic hero.” Her stories also introduced a theme called “supernatural intrusion,” which eventually throughout the story, gets traced back to a natural cause, called “explained supernatural.” All her works became best-sellers despite the highly educated of society calling the works “sensational entertainment.”  She also provided an atheistic value for the genre with “On The Emphasis of Supernatural” which is poetic work. It examines the relationship and correlation between horror and terror in Gothic fiction.  Later, the genre was strengthened by many of the major romantic poets such as Poe, who made many contributions to the Gothic genre in terms of darkness and the unexplained.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Movie Review: "The Black Death"

When I first saw the previews for this flick, I was like... yeah this is dumb...according to my medieval expertise and nit-picky-ness.  But I evenutally ended up renting it off iTunes.  iTunes is awesome by the way for random stuff.. or Netflix.  Either way, not bad for the $6.99 I paid.  The show had some familiar faces: Sean Bean (Bordamir in LOTR and Ned Stark on Game of Thrones) and the actor who played Jack from "Pillars of the Earth" on Starz, Eddie Redmayne.

My opinion historically, to be honestly, some of the depiction seemed accurate, but I would have to review notes from past studies, to say wither it got a rotten tomato or not. But of course it is Hollywood, artistic license likes to be taken a lot. It was graphic.. kinda, but oh well. Costumes seem okay, not sure about the amour, it did seem a tad out of place. Remarkably though, the villages portrayed seemed very Anglo-Saxon. There is a historical reproduction of a settlement in East Anglia, that the villages reminded me of.

One thing that stood out were the masks worn by the individual's who buried the dead, and yes they did have the pointy nose bit on them. Historically speaking, why were they constructed like this? Reason behind it was that they wearer put herbs and posies in them to help filter out the smell and "protect" them from the pestilence.  The song "Ring around the rosey, pocket full of posies" has it's origin from a time when pestilence and plague were quite common in communities.  The idea though, pretty slick.. I guess for the medieval person yes.

Through out the film there are notations of witchcraft, necromancy etc.. Highlighting the still very strong pagan, or mystic belief systems of the medical era. Yet, when examining the education level of the average person back then, people believed what they saw, fact or not, real or unreal. For they had no other reason to not belief in the folk lore of the time. With the church and daily life painting many of times a dark picture, individuals turned to old beliefs to keep faith and hope in society going, a hope and will for survival, that the new gods could not bring.

My over all opinion: Redbox it and buy it when it gets cheap. It is a fun flick to watch, and if you are a history buff, perhaps buy.