In Love With The Fantastic Middle Ages

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What is it about the European Middle Ages (and their Japanese counterpart) that fascinates us so?

Is it a longing for a simpler time, a Golden Age?

Perhaps we want to live our lives under the code of Chivalry and Courtly Love?

Maybe it is the idea of living in a castle overlooking a forlorn moor?

Or the thought of faeries, witches and dragons lurking in dark forests and distant mountains?

Whatever the reason(s) today media is suffused with the imagery of those ancient times: magical swords, knights in plate armor, dragons breathing fire and wizards casting spells. So much so that we find medieval themes in contemporary settings (Urban Fantasy) and science-fiction (Feudal Future). Of course, the love affair started in the middle ages, with the sagas such as Beowulf and Romances. And while Cervantes tried his damnedest to mock them, they survived to this day with the help of none other than the Romantics.

But our love affair doesn’t extent to the real Dark Ages. We like the castles but loathe the idea of Barons lording over serfs and keeping women chained to the needle and thread. Or while swords may seem far more honorable than guns, I doubt anyone would really want to run hundreds of yards to  hack their way through enemy ranks in a dank and bloodstained field of battle. Even the dark fantasy writing of George R.R.  Martin, while highlighting the brutality of the age still have enough magic and romantic elements to keep our interest.

I think the answer lies in the idealized nature of the stories, the penchant for great heroes and magical powers as an escape from our modern world just as they serve as an escape for Don Quijano.




2 comments on “In Love With The Fantastic Middle Ages

  1. That is an intriguing question. I think part of it for men is the lure of being warriors. War games have largely been relegated to sports fields in our day, and very few get to play. For women it could have to do with the fabulous dresses 😉 Face it, fashion today is pretty utilitarian. The only time we dress up is for weddings and funerals, and even then less than we did 20 years ago. Yes, it’s all idealized and romanticized. Life was damn hard (and often mercifully short) in them thar days. We want the good parts without the risk and all the suffering, and lack of sanitation and hygiene and medical care…etc.


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