Why do I have hope for the medieval and what does that mean? Allow me to talk about some things in strange ways you might not have heard before.
Whether it’s observing video games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance in the news or seeing adults play LARP with swords in the park, I try to smile when I notice the medieval flickering in the modern daylight. Over the past few centuries the medieval has found itself cascading through the mainstream in more and more mediums of scholarship and entertainment. Both the dead romantic of the Gothic Revival who became a fairy tale writer and the living Dungeons & Dragons nerd who became a medieval studies professor have earned a livelihood from the medieval. Exploding with brilliant light in every sector of day-to-day life is the medieval. She dictates the shape of our books, the way we notate music, the bad-ass pope in Rome. The medieval is everywhere.
The movie Outlaw King, although it’s not perfect, has tried to show the medieval in a slightly more realistic fashion, much like Mordhau and Game of Thrones have done compared to popular entertainment of previous decades, which notes an upward trend. And there have been many trends. Medieval entertainment from 2019 is a lot different than medieval entertainment from 1974, let alone 1877. All I’m really saying here is that there’s something important about the Middle Ages that many people unknowingly gravitate toward, and everyone accesses the medieval in trivial things every moment of the day without knowing it. It’s almost as if the medieval is an intelligent entity calling for us to come back. Dinner is ready. Now if you’ll let me I’d love to explain why I think the medieval is so important as a tool for mankind.
Why do I have hope for the medieval?
I have hope that the medieval in all her radiant glory will be here for mankind in a time when technology is threatening humanity, when science is threatening the beauty of nature, because the medieval reminds us of what it means to be human, or you could say it reminds us of how it feels to be a human. Studying the medieval world helps us understand why everything is the way it is today, why some people like working with their hands, the smell of the sea, the sight of flowers. It helps us to understand why our music is notated, why we wear strange hats when we graduate from school. The medieval teaches us why Germany is the shape of Germany and why Italy is the shape of Italy. It reminds us of why we still study Aristotle, and so much more. But it doesn’t end with us.
In 2,000 years from now when other people are floating around in spaceships a curious little boy will see an image of a medieval sword. He’ll want to play with a real one but his parents won’t let him because blades are sharp. Instead, his parents will sit beside his bed and tell the story of where we all come from. “Yes, little Timmy. People on Earth once grew vegetables and plucked them with their own hands. They rode horses and lived in castles made of stone.”
Like I often say, Columbus lived in the 15th century. He was a medieval thinker. He invited a bunch of people to his party and now we’re all wondering where in Dante’s Inferno we came from. For many people, things like Mordhau and Game of Thrones fulfill that service of telling us where we came from, even if unintentionally. The entire world as we know it with all its mountains and rivers existed in the Middle Ages. From Chang’an to Baghdad and Rome to London, the medieval world is vast and full of unfinished stories. Now goodbye I have to use the garderobe.
For more on this topic, check out my post about incorporating HEMA into Hollywood movies. Thanks for visiting!