Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lady Accuracy's Lessons in 12th Century English History: I

As many of you know, I’m currently working on the fourth revision of Forest of Lies. During this, I have found that I really have learned something in the last two or so years that I have been studying 12th century England. I am keeping a running list of historical things to fix while I work on revising the story aspect.Here are the bit more Robin Hood-specific ones, and other things my story touches will be in the next post.

12th Century Marriages
I believed I learned this from 1215 (which would actually be 13th century marriages, but that’s close enough for me). Basically, what I learned is that the marriage ceremony, when done in correspondence with the church (which it didn’t have to be, actually), took place at the church’s doorstep. Not inside the church, as every single Alan-a-dale tale I’ve ever read has proclaimed. After the ceremony, the new couple would go inside for Mass. Because I, too, have told the Alan-a-dale story, I will have to re-work it to suit my historically accurate obsession.

(Really, Nai, really?)
Yeah, really. During my trip to Nottingham, I learned that it’s not only known as that Robin Hood town, but also as the “City of Caves.” And why? Because there is so much sandstone in the region--you could carve out caves with minimal difficulty. As such, there are lots and lots of caves. I didn’t get to visit the city’s caves on my trip, but I did make it into some of Nottingham’s castle’s (historical novelist side: SQUEEEEE!), so I have a picture (or two):

You should know that I am very proud of my discovery of these caves *before* trips to England that allowed me to use them as a plot point. VICTORYYYY.
Because of this discovery, I have decided to revamp my outlaw’s small cave into a sandstone one. Because that just makes sense.

(I’m waaaay too excited about the cave thing, aren’t I? Sigh.)

Nottingham Castle Dungeon
I’m sorry. Yes, my visit into the caves included a visit to the dungeon, where I DID take pictures despite the fact that my camera’s batteries were doing horrible by this point. And I have a morbid enough (read: author-ly enough) reason to actually really need to study this dungeon.

Let’s just say: it was smaller than I thought and I have quite a bit of editing to do because of that. There are other things I learned that will add cool (is that too nice of a word?) details and accuracy, but we’ll leave that for my book.

Friar Anselm
Don’t believe anything Robin Hood books tell you. (Except mine, of course.) Why? They’re so rife with inaccuracies it’s just laughable. Here’s another common inaccuracy, like the portrayal of weddings: in the time period most books are set (roughly 1191-1193), though a prominent character is Friar Tuck, there weren’t actually friars at this point. Hermits and monks, yes, but they would not have gone by the name “friar.” My take (destroyed/improved) on Friar Tuck, Friar Anselm, will thus get an overhaul of some kind. I’ll have to double-check, but I think if my characters referred to him as Brother Anselm, voila, they would be historically accurate.Let's ignore for now the fact that they'd be speaking Anglo-Saxon, not modern English.

And that is all from Lady Accuracy: until next time!

Note on sources:

I have been working on becoming proficient in this time period for so long that I rarely remember where I pick up things. However, the first claim or re-assertion to these revelations most likely go to the following:
1215 by Danny Danziger & John Gillingham
The High Middle Ages, Professor Daileader
The Medieval World, Dorsey Armstrong

All are recommended for the historical enthusiast or Lady Accuracy in you.

P.S. If you want more pictures or more specifics on these things, say so. You can be assured I'll be more than happy to oblige. I'm crazy, remember?


Farjag said...

Awesome history for the win! And while I've known about the actual size of real-life dungeons for a while, and remember from somewhere that medieval weddings took place on the doorstep, the sandstone caves and issue with calling Tuck a friar are news to me! I must remember... if I ever were to write historical fiction :)

Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

That post was actually quite enjoyable to read, since I've read FOL. Plus England is SO FUN to learn about in any way, shape, or form *badly wants to visit there*

I'm dabbling a little in England myself, as my next book is influenced loosely by late 18th-19th c. England. I know your focus is an earlier period...but might you have any suggestions of where to find info on late 18th-19th c. ?



Krystina said...

Although we haven't "met" yet, I must say I have been reading your blog with admiration at your quest to be as historically accurate as possible. It cheers my soul immensely. I am similar, although I don't really write novels aside from the occasional one for NaNoWriMo. However, I love history with a passion, so it is very important to me to get things accurate. As such, I enjoy your blog. :D


Leah Good said...

The sandstone caves are awesome, Nai! I'd be super excited if I found something like that for one of my stories.

Nairam said...

@Farjag: If you ever write historical fiction, AND if you ever write in this time period. Move forward a hundred years and you generally have a whole 'nother ball game. @.@ (Reason why the lack of books in my *specific* time period has driven me bananas.)

@Pippin: You're right...I focus a ton on an earlier period, and as such don't have any specific suggestions off the top of my head. :-/ One thing I would suggest is not to jump into researching a ton before you get a rough draft out. I think Mr. S. suggests looking through children's books, and I think that works to just get an idea so you can get the story out. It's AFTER I rough drafted FoL that I have done so much in-depth research.

Also: bibliographies. I have recently discovered the awesomeness of them. If you find a good book in the right period with good information, go and request all of the books in the bibliography. You might know this already, but I am so much in awe of how helpful this is, currently! :)

Sorry I don't have specific title on that.

@Kyrstina: Welcome to my blog! I have always loved history and am a perfectionist to boot, so searching to be as historically accurate as possible is kinda a given. I'm glad you enjoy it. :)

@Leah: Though the sandstone bit wasn't quite a breakthrough, just a fun detail, the caves definitely were! I was *very* excited.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, this was really useful. thanks!

Anonymous said...

@Nai - That's all right. I just figured I'd ask. :)

(although I just got a bunch of books...) I was not looking forward to sifting through all that info.
And I can certainly see the wisdom in Mr S' suggestion. I may still do a little, because it's helping to fill some writing gaps in my outline, but now I know not to get hung up on the research. Thank you!

And thanks for the bibliography suggestion as well!


Nairam said...

@Anonymous: You're welcome! Glad to hear it.

@Pippin: Sure, do a little, especially if you have specific questions about ways to fill out a plot and so you can have somewhere to build from. Just don't tackle 600-word books yet. I've also found research very helpful for my imagination--it's pretty cool! The stuff I know now has really helped FoL along.

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