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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Medieval Sports

Depiction of the game Cambok
Picture Credit: http://junkyardsports.com/blog/2005/10/cambok.html

There are a few medieval sports we are all familiar with, such as jousting, tournaments, and archery. We like to picture knights in armor participating in tournaments that threaten their lives while the peasants watch.

What about everyone else? The desire to have fun and compete in sporting events is not a new idea, nor was it reserved for the wealthy.

Peasants also enjoyed sports. Even the most lowly of peasants had a chance to improve their standing with the the nobility if they excelled in the war-related sports (jousting, tournaments, and archery). With that as an incentive, these sports became important to learn--especially for any young man who showed promise.

However, these were not the only sports--not by a long shot. Most of the sports were for enjoyment, not war practice. Here is a sample of some of the other medieval sports played.

  • Bowls- A game where players roll grapefruit-sized balls toward a target ball. Points are gained for how close players can get without actually hitting the target. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Cambok-A field hockey game using bent sticks called camboks, used by shepherds. Not much is known about particular rules. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Camping or Camp Ball- One of the most dangerous ball games. The goal was to get a ball from the starting point to a specified ending point (often as distant as the other side of town) by throwing it back and forth among team members while the opposing team is doing anything they can to stop the progress. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Colf- The ancestor of golf. Sticks were used to hit rocks into holes. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Gameball- The ancestor of American football. There were two teams and two goals. The object was to get the ball into the opponent's net. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Hammer Throwing- Villagers would actually use anything from cartwheels to rocks, but it got its name from throwing sledge hammers. Participants would stand one at a time in a marked circle and spin to gain momentum before releasing the hammer. The goal was to get the hammer further than the opponents. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Hurling or Shimty- The ancestor of hockey. Two teams used sticks to get a small ball past the other team's goal. The ball was made of bronze, leather-bound wood, or hard-packed hair wrapped with twine. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Pitching Quoits- The ancestor of horseshoes. Players toss rings at a stake. The rings were usually made of iron, but could also be rope or rubber. Players win two points for encircling the stake, or one point for getting closer than the opponent. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Skittles- The ancestor of bowling. Players throw wooden balls at a row of pins (called skittles) to knock them over. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Stoolball- The ancestor of baseball. A stool or chair is placed to mark Home, and another one is placed to mark the Base. The pitcher stands near the Base and throws the ball with the intention of hitting the Home. The batter tries to prevent the pitcher by hitting the ball away. Once the batter hits the ball, he runs to the Base, circles around it one time, and runs back to Home. If he can do this before the pitcher gets the ball back and hits Home with the ball, he gets a point. Learn more about the sport here.
  • Wrestling- Medieval wrestling matches could take several hours. The goal was to throw one's opponent to the ground so that he lands with both hips and one shoulder, or both shoulders and one hip hitting the ground at once. No holds were permitted below the waist. Learn more about this sport here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Obstacles: What's the Big Deal?

Picture Credit: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/
We've talked before about the story problem (view the discussion here).

This time I'm going into more information about the obstacles characters will face. EVERY character should have his or her own agenda--remember, each character thinks he or she is the main character.

For each character, answer the following three questions:

  1. What does the character want?
  2. Why does the character want it?
  3. What is getting in the way?

Now, these questions will be answered differently depending on the precise situations the characters encounter, but within the story characters should have overlying goals (whether or not they know what their goals are).

Take time to really think over your answers to these questions. What do they REALLY want? What do they THINK they want? Peel back the layers on their goals--what is driving them at the core?

The plot and subplots will feel forced if people are trying to get things without much of a reason or if they like or hate each other without a reason. Even the villains don't see themselves as "bad guys". They consider themselves justified in what they are doing. If we could have an interview with Adolf Hitler--one of the most evil people in history--what would he say? Would he tell us that he went through life trying to be a "bad guy"? No. He'd give us justifications for everything he did and try to explain that he was really a "good guy".

Another thing to consider is it isn't just the "bad guy" who gets in the hero's way. Think about your own life. Do you agree 100% of the time with the people around you who you care about? Absolutely not. Contention and clashing of wants from multiple "good guys" can sometimes be more effective than "good guy" vs. "bad guy" because all contending groups have worthy goals.

When looking at what gets in the characters' way, there are internal and external obstacles.

Internal Obstacles

  • Prejudices
  • Misconceptions
  • Misunderstandings
  • Flaws and Weaknesses
  • Conflicting Desires
External Obstacles

  • Physical Objects in the Way (think of a rock they must climb over)
  • Circumstances
  • Interference From Others' Wants
  • Society Expectations and Rules

Monday, November 5, 2012

Medieval Farming Calendar

Picture Credit: http://jothelibrarian.tumblr.com/post/8686987791/

My main character grows up on a farm. The fantasy world where my story takes place is similar to our own medieval time, so I used it to make sure that any mention of farming was realistic. It was fascinating learning more about medieval farms.

One website that was particularly helpful gave much information about crops and livestock as well as a calendar of what the farmers were doing different times of the year. It is found at: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2001/20010212/agriculture.shtml.

One interesting note is that farmers generally had what they called winter crops and spring crops, named after the time of year they are planted. Winter wheat and corn were planted in the fall with the expectation that they would come up as soon as the temperatures warmed back up. If the spring was especially cold or stormy, though, the entire crop could fail.

To protect themselves, they planted more wheat and corn in the spring. These crops didn't generally do as well as the winter crops because their growing season was shorter, but they were less risky than the winter crops.

The following farming calendar is dependent on climate. It is an approximate for farmers who lived in central and northern Europe during the middle ages.

  • January: Clear the ditches, cut wood, spread manure
  • February: Mend any broken fences; kill moles; add lime, chalk, and manure to the soil
  • March: As soon as the ground is soft enough, plow and harrow; sow the spring wheat
  • April: Plant onions and leeks, the piglets will be born
  • May: Weed the winter corn, do any needed home repairs, sow pulses, plant the garden vegetables (except for turnips)
  • June: Start harvesting the hay
  • July: Finish harvesting the hay, begin harvesting the winter corn and wheat
  • August: Finish harvesting the winter crops, begin harvesting the spring wheat and corn, gather in the straw, plant turnips
  • September: Harvest the vegetable garden crops, plow the fields for the winter wheat and corn, sow the winter wheat, take the excess stock to market
  • October: Turn the pigs loose to forage on acorns and beechnuts, thresh the wheat
  • November: Take in firewood, continue threshing the wheat
  • December: Slaughter the hogs, begin spreading manure for next year's crops