|The wheel of Fortune, a prominent|
symbol in the mediaeval period
...Yes, I said quasi-mediaeval. It's actually that quasi-mediaeval setting I'm most sick of, and I really wish people would do something different.
But why? A setting based off mediaeval Europe seems to work well for a lot of plots and worlds, after all - it's foreign enough to make people feel like they're transported into another land and you don't have to worry about all those little things like historical accuracy.
|Sumer is icumen in, a 13th|
century English rota and
possibly the oldest
surviving example of
Now, I'm not saying that high fantasy stories should never, ever be set in the Middle Ages ever - though it would be nice to see more set in, say, an alternate version of the 21st century. What I am saying is that I'm sick of the generic "Middle Ages" setting.
This isn't because I don't like the mediaeval period, or history in general. Now, I'm not a history student anymore - I dropped it after taking my GCSEs - but I like to learn about the past and how people lived, and I know a little about the mediaeval period through my own research. And knowing the little I know about the mediaeval period is exactly why I'm so tired of the generic high fantasy setting.
|Alleluia nativitas of|
Because the Middle Ages lasted about a thousand years it's difficult to generalise about society and culture - but they were different back then. It seems obvious to say, but the fact that people would have had different and often slightly alien outlooks on life gets ignored quite a bit in the media; for example, senses of humour would have been different, sometimes much more physical and rude - take the Canterbury Tales, for instance, which veers between erudition and vulgarity. People in 14th-century England gesticulated in different ways and could sometimes be much more physical; they could often be violent and cruel, too, at the same time placing high importance on manners. People weren't necessarily stupid - in the mediaeval period, people did enquire, even if their inquiry did get mixed up a lot with theology (just take Dante's Divine Comedy - parts of the Paradiso are actually huge expositions of what was then cutting-edge science, theology and philosophy) - but at the same time, if three different churches claimed to have John the Baptist's head, they would be perfectly capable of believing that John the Baptist had three heads because theirs was a world of magic and superstition and a world in which fortune could lift you up or cast you down. It is not for nothing that Fortune's wheel was a prominent symbol.
manuscript of the Divine
This is a very quick whistlestop tour of about a millennium, and it's not a definitive guide, but please...if someone wants to set their film or book or game in the mediaeval period, I just wish they'd do their research. The Middle Ages are fascinatingly alien and it doesn't do them justice to pretend that they're a world of funny costumes and no computers.
I'm not saying that you should never ever take liberty with the Middle Ages in a fantasy setting, because that's no fun. What I am saying is that if you're going to set your fantasy story in the equivalent of mediaeval Europe, it's an absolute waste not to research the society and culture to give the setting a bit more depth and interest. The Middle Ages are a foreign land, almost, full of riches and landscapes to be explored.
It's a shame that we don't explore them nearly enough in fiction.