On September 26, 2013, the British Library’s medieval manuscripts blog put up this intriguing article on knights fighting snails. I don’t remember when my friends and I found it, but we turned to each other and declared “we must go to the renfaire as knights fighting snails!”
However, this costume has been long in the making because I couldn’t figure out how to make the snail shell. All of the instructions I found were for babies or for tiny shells, and that’s not what I wanted. After years of searching, I finally found someone who makes snail shell helmets, and the rest came together.
(faces covered by manuscript images for privacy)
We were very short on time for Sir Christoph’s costume (meaning I had 1 day to take it from fabric to finished product). His cyclas is…well…as rudimentary as it gets. We got the right color, at least. Neither of us had ever made one before, so we ended up cutting a neck hole in a rectangle and putting ties on the sides for adjustability since we weren’t sure what he might wear under it. The cyclas is made from 100% cotton bottomweight fabric, our only choice apart from broadcloth in that color. Sir Christoph’s belt is a perfect match for the ms image (yay!) and since you can’t see the knight’s sword in the ms, I can confidently say that this one is also a perfect match.
Sir Christoph’s tunic and trousers were both renfaire purchases—not really historically accurate, but standard faire wear. Sir Christoph and I plan to eventually supply him with a shield, mace, and mail, but those are expenses neither of us can afford right now, so look for improved representations in the distant future.
Lady Muricidaea of Cochlearium
This dress is the T-Tunic pattern from Lady Muireann ingen Eoghain ua Maoil Mheaghna. I would’ve liked to use linen, but in that color, I could only get “linen-look” fabric that’s mostly rayon. The belt and pouch are made from the same fabric to give an uninterrupted color scheme since the snail’s body is a single color. Underneath the helmet, I have an arming cap/coif made of the same red fabric, mostly to keep the helmet from pulling my hair. The helmet is surprisingly cool and comfortable, and the front edge made a very nice visor to keep the sun out of my eyes. The eyestalks were a last-minute decision—squishy glow-in-the-dark eyeballs with slits snipped in so I could shove them on my fingers. They freaked people out. It was awesome.
I didn’t actually get a chance to tell anyone my name at the faire. “Muricidae” is a class of carnivorous snails, and according to my Latin dictionary, a “cochlearium” is a pen for raising snails.
Sister Dymphna, the scribe who recorded the adventures of Knight and Snail (and let people at the faire know what the heck we were doing), will be writing her own blog post about her costume. Look for Made of Ƿ‘s first guest post soon!
Reactions to this costume were spectacular. Two people understood the costume without an explanation, and I was thrilled to hear cries of “Battle snail!” coming from a shop. Everyone else was at least charmed by the snail helmet and appreciated the creativity after an explanation. Within five minutes of entering the faire, the queen (official faire performer) declared “You’ve won. You won the faire. You are fantastic!” After leaving my mark on the chalk graffiti wall, we decided the day was a success.