First Day of Fall, 2013
Posted on September 22, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 34 Comments
So far, so good. Crisp, cloudless, gorgeous. If we could have it just like this for the next three months, I would not mind.
And to celebrate, we’re off to a Renaissance fair. Or something. Hey, I don’t know, I just go where I am told. See you later.
In the meantime, contemplate and discuss: Why do they call them Renaissance fairs when most of the time they seem focused on medieval times? There should be some honesty in labeling, I think.
Well, “Medieval Times” the theme restaurant is less anachronistic in its name, anyway…
Even worse than you think, John. Most such “faires” are set in something vaguely English, and England wasn’t really part of the Renaissance. (As one friend — and employee of a Renaissance fair told me — by the time it got to England, it was over.) Presumably it should be more an Italian gathering with lots of city-state infighting and lots of artist-scientists running around instead of ironclad fighters beating each other with sticks. Just sayin’.
Ask any two historians where the dividing line is and you’ll get three answers, and that’s not even getting into the centuries it took for “renaissance” thinking to move from country to country. I think more Renaissance Faires edge over into the early 17th century than do much with the early medieval period.
Overlap. The High Medieval period overlaps with the early Renaissance.
I suspect they are more about the “tavern wench” clothes and the armor than actual authenticity.
The modern Renaissance Faire has had about 50 years to develop. (If you trace it back to the Patterson faire in 1963 and not to the various earlier college and university fairs.) I think the faires have moved more towards faux medieval as they’ve become more popular. Given a choice between a stately dance and wenches, ale, and armor, most people aren’t going to pick the pavane.
I love Ren Faires, but I always saw them as a Victorian ideal of the middle ages, as seen through the lens of the 1960s. As such, I don’t have high expectations for truth in advertising. :)
I am totally off-topic here, but I thought of Scalzi when I saw this and thought ‘what I way to start autumn’:
now serving “DON’T GO BACON MY HEART,” our special Roots n Blues MAPLE BACON ice cream
And why are there so many Imperial Storm Troopers at the Colorado Ren Fest? I can kinda understand the Captain Jack’s…
None the Less, we like it so much we had our wedding there last year.
The Renaissance Faire around here now has weekends dedicated to pirates, a chocolate festival, and highland games (among other things), none of which are particularly period-appropriate.
The two main Renaissance Faire’s in my state seem to be roughly aimed at Elizabethan/late Tudor England.
It’s irrational on my part, buy my biggest peeve is the abundance of New World foods for sale (turkey legs, potatoes, tomatoes, etc).
Most people are pretty vague about the difference between Renaissance and Medieval in my experience. I have a group that specializes in Renaissance music, and when we play at picnics, people are always commenting on the nice “medieval” music.
If you insist on truth in advertising in the name, you’d probably be attending the “Idealized Vision of the Medieval Period, with Lots of Anachronisms, Faire” and that’s just unwieldy.
A couple of centuries from now they’ll have 20th Century Mall faires where you get to eat Cinnabons and buy antiques from the Sunglass Hut.
Isn’t that the subtitle for Pennsic?
From some friends who happen to be very involved in planning and preparing for ‘ren faires,’ the use of ‘medieval’ of, in that community, a reference to creative anachronism. Which is to say, ‘renaissance’ means more culture and crafts, and ‘medieval’ means more yarr’ing and skull banging. Not that medieval people were yarr’ing much, but you know what I mean.
I forgot about all the comforts of Ren Living… Pox, Plague, Fleas, Lice, Syph, Typhus, and everyone’s favorite random warfare… Oh yeah, and a lack of refrigerators or health inspectors.
Most Renfaires use a setup of Elizabethan times, which even in England was Renaissance rather than Medieval. What they do within that framework is entirely up to them and varies considerably from ‘faire to ‘faire.
The labeling doesn’t bother me, because at the end of the day, I get to go home to my indoor plumbing and fridge.
I assume it’s just marketing, and assonance. The whole “Medieval / evil” echo, plus the Dark Ages, makes that notion a lot less fun than the Renaissance.
You’re away way too much on the weekends. It’s not good for us. And by us I mean… my friend who is like really into your blog.
If you’d like a little more truth in advertising, I’d direct you to the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) http://sca.org
Although to be honest, they have the opposite problem. They say they’re middle ages (from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance specifically), but the fencers usually have Renaissance personas and the Romans have, well, pre-fall Roman personas.
How selfless of you & your neighbors to send all the clouds to Cleveland & not keep any for yourselves. …
Glad you’ve got nice weather for the faire, authentic or no. :-)
The Ren-faires I’ve gone to do tend toward English, but they tend toward Elizabethan England, what with the ruffled collars and the rather severe looking Queen.
To annoy medieval re-enactors…
The original Renaissance Pleasure Faire back in the 70’s was set in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, and she and her court were prominent at the Faire.
meanwhile there’s a huge typhoon where I live…..oh the contrast
I was at a Renfaire in South Carolina with a viking boat. The vikings were wondering why they were there, also. (Renfaire time frame: late 16th century. Viking time frame, 9th – 11th century.) Same Renfaire had vegan hand pies with cheese, so I think they had an overall problem with definitions.
I have often wondered what the hell the Renfairs in Minnesota did to so annoy the MST3K writers. Especially the leather mug makers.
The Minnesota Renaissance Festival also annoyed Neil Gaiman enough that he incorporated it (or something like it) into a Sandman story: Sandman #73 with Hob Gadling.
I think in general the successful “Renaissance” festivals/fairs combine medieval and Elizabethan. Because: armor & swordplay for the guys, extremely fancy and all-figures-flattering clothes for the girls. I don’t think any festival/fair organizer who wanted to make a profit would try to be historically authentic to either period. It’s a miracle more people don’t drop dead of heat stroke as it is.
p.s. noted the Tweet re Susan Cooper. “The Dark is Rising” Susan Cooper? I gotta check that out. :-)
Technically, turkey legs, potatoes, tomatoes, and maize were all present in Europe before 1600. The jarring element I recently observed at the MD Ren Fair was steampunk.
The local one where I grew up, in Tuxedo NY, has the whole Elizabethan court, and jousting
….and Robin Hood and his Merrye Men, lord only knows why. And the past ten years or so an increasing number of samurai, but they’re not part of the show.
Last time I went to that RenFest (Waynesville, OH), there were Klingons walking around. Klingons!