Lancelot, the Wondrous Damsel

The Knights of the Round Table aren’t all serious chivalry—there are a few pranksters in the lot. Sir Dinadan is noted by the other characters to be a joker. In “The Fyrste and the Secunde Boke of Syr Trystrams de Lyones,” Sir Dinadan fights disguised in a tournament. He faces the High Prince Galehault, but when he sees that he cannot beat him, he begs Galehault to leave him and fight someone else. When another knight tells Galehault that he just let Dinadan go, Galehault exclaims “I am hevy that he is so ascaped fro me, for with his mokkis and his japys (mockery and jesting) now shall I never have done with hym.” [1] Galehault doesn’t catch up with Dinadan that day, but Dinadan’s past taunts make him want to get even.

Later on, Galehault asks Lancelot to please kick Dinadan’s ass for him, the text describing Dinadan as a “scoffer and a japer.” [2] Lancelot lays the smackdown on him, so everyone makes fun of Dinadan that night at dinner. Dinadan finds an opportunity for revenge. He notices at a later meal that Galehault is unhappy because he’s been served fish (Galehault hates fish). Dinadan finds a fish with an enormous head, serves it to him, then tells Galehault that he must be a wolf because wolves also hate fish. Galehault thinks this is pretty funny. [3] Lancelot must be enjoying the pranks—Galehault doesn’t request an additional shaming, but Lancelot decides one is in order.

I’ve been building up to this part. This is the funny part.

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Movie Review: Kingdom of Heaven

Those wiser and more experienced than I have already noted the merits and the problems with Kingdom of Heaven, but I felt I should get around to mentioning it on Made of Ƿ. Kingdom of Heaven is not entirely a travesty of history, but it has some serious problems.

The Pilgrim’s Guide

First, I should acknowledge that the end goal was to make an entertaining action movie. This will necessitate some changes and glosses so that the movie doesn’t become a documentary. I appreciate that the DVD comes with a feature called “The Pilgrim’s Guide,” which gives historical notes and explains why some liberties were taken. The notes on linguistics are usually excellent. The notes explaining various weapons and their uses are usually excellent.

Some of the notes are summarized to the point of leading the reader astray, and some of them are plain wrong. For example, the notes on the development of medieval medicine and influence of Arab medicine are technically accurate, but some are so brief that they will lead the reader to the conclusion that Western doctors were idiots and the only worthwhile skills they learned were stolen from others. The situation is far more complex than that. I see from a quote given at the end that Runciman was one of the primary sources of research for this movie, which probably accounts for many of the problems. (Thomas Madden has already explained the failings of Runciman’s research.)

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Misuse of the Word “Medieval”: Women Are Baby Machines

This article’s title requires immediate explanation. I once read a statement that most medieval women never experienced a period because they were pregnant from the first moment possible, and what with pregnancies, miscarriages, and breastfeeding, they were pretty much doing the baby thing until menopause set in. This post is not about whether or not women were supposed to have making babies as their sole purpose in life (I think that’s adequately addressed in Misuse of the Word Medieval Part 4: Women). This post simply asks the question “How many pregnancies did the average woman bear in the course of her life?”

The Method

Taking the same women used in Part 13: Most Girls Married Old Guys, I looked at the number of pregnancies borne by each one, disregarding spouses since I’m not interested in the number of pregnancies per marriage, but the number per woman. Thus, miscarriages or stillbirths are still counted, and twins are counted as 1. 65 women were included.

In dividing the data, I looked at what would be considered normal by modern standards. In American society, I see 1-5 as being the number of children one can have without being considered too “strange,” though someone with 5 likely hears the comment “Wow! You must love children!” (or a less polite version of that) on a regular basis. I also calculated the number who had 1-3 children, since that would probably be considered “average.” I looked at the number who had more than 5, then finally, at the number who had more than 10.

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Misuse of the Word “Medieval”: Most Girls Married Old Guys

In school, I was taught that the most common form of upper-class marriage in the Middle Ages was for 12-year-old girls to be married to men in their 40s. Perhaps the biggest reason this bothers us is the suggestion of a sexual relationship between a 12-year-old and a 40-year-old. This stereotype bears no resemblance to anything I’ve yet read in medieval literature, so I’ve gathered some data to take a look.

The Method

I have examined 66 medieval marriages from 1180–1423 to look at the age of both spouses upon marriage and the amount of time it took them to have their first child. I’ve looked only at the aristocracy, primarily the ruling families and their offspring, and primarily from France and England. I limited the study in this way because information outside of this range was difficult for me to identify.

The main question for this study is “according to modern sensibilities, were most medieval marriages creepy?” When I asked for an acceptable age range for marriages, readers responded that 0–5 years is normal, while 10–15 years is the upper limit of acceptability (in the context of a Western European culture). For purposes of the study, I’ll set the maximum upper limit of “not creepy” at 15.

Why 66 marriages? I made it through 66 before I got sick of entering data. I also threw out any marriages in which the marriage date or either spouse’s birth date could not be verified down to the exact year. I’m not trained in how to make meaningful use of less clear evidence, so I stuck to a smaller range.

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Phrases for International Talk Like a Pirate Day

1. Why is the rum gone?
Quare plus rhōmium non est?
Forhwȳ is þis rom ȝegān?

2. I’ve got a jar of dirt!
Cadum spurcaminis teneō!
Ic hæbbe croccan of meoxe!

3. Bring me the horizon!
Horizonum mē fer!
Bring mē se lyftedor!

4. I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request.
Rogaminī tibi acquiescere nolens sum.

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Shakespeare in the Park

I’m sorry there hasn’t been much research on Made of Ƿ for the last few months. I’ve spent the summer learning French, which has taken nearly all of my time, and now it’s time to make those fall syllabi. I was going to put Made of Ƿ on hiatus for the next month, but I might as well give you something mildly entertaining. The next month will be dedicated to clips from The Avengers (badly) translated into dead languages. Considering what I know of my audience, I think most of you will be okay with that.

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