Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#21
Morning,

Quote:(This is done largely from memory, so historical stuff is all IIRC.) [etc]

Yeah, almost full agreement.

Only the part with the weapons, armour and its's cost...
Even if we assume, the peasants are even allowed to own real wepaons - and in most places in continental Europe, they were not - buying stuff would bankrupt any family for generations.
Full plate was expensive. Very expensive. Imagine, buying a new upper middle-class car today from uneployed subsistence (or how the money is called the state hands out). Without anyone giving you credit. 
Even chain mail was expensive, no peasant would be able to buy it. 
Something like a brigandine, or more likely simle reinforced cloth armour may have been affordable by the wealthier peasantry, but I doubt they would afford the cost, unless they were a family of mercenaries or such.

Up to the late 17th century (probably later) - when armour was already made on an "industrial" scale and not on "made on order", only the nobles could afford any kind of "real" armour. They may have provided stuff to their retainers, but it was not "theirs" but the nobles. Meaning, after the campaign, they most likely had to hand it back to the owner.  Later, the armour was the property of the state, and the soldiers only used it, and could not keep it afterwards. 

As for swords. They were a "noble" weapon, no peasant (or merchant or such) could be normally own or buy one off the shelf. Even if someone found a smith who was willing to forge one, it would be expensive - look at the few sword-forgers today and imagine buying one from unempolyed subsitence - and he would probably would have to face some pointed questions from the nobles/city guard.
Medieval armies made quite a little use of swords, by the way. I mean the part of the army that was not nobles. What they used were polearms, bows and some kind of short sword/long dagger/knife for self defence. 
Even later, 15-16th centuries, if a non-noble had a sword, it was either captured during campaingnes or given to him by his lord/employer/the state.

However, all this changed a LOT during the centuries. It makes a HUGE difference, if we talk about the early medieval times after Rome fell, the Gothic times, the Renessaince or later. And from kingdom to kingdom. 

A nice article, worth reading:
Read this

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#22
Mr Wrote: Even if we assume, the peasants are even allowed to own real wepaons - and in most places in continental Europe, they were not - buying stuff would bankrupt any family for generations.

I'm pretty confident, at least for the years 1200 to pre-plague, in England, that this wasn't the case.  I had to look it up - source is this book, through this medieval price page. While good armor was expensive, it was feasible for peasants to have a basic weapon and armor.  A few other googles show that weapons and base armor were required of many peasant households in parts of 'Germany' and 'France' during certain periods.  But there are clear periods where it wasn't allowed either (so a whole range of required to not allowed), and the price of certain things (like swords) did dramatically increase in price after the plague. 

Knight level armor (mail+) was absolutely out of reach though.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#23
Quote:so a whole range of required to not allowed
yeah, that's one dimension of the problem - it changed from time to time. I would assume, after certain peasant uprising, the authorities cracked down on owning weapons by the lower classes.
The other problem is what we consider "peasants". Do we include the serf too? Or the lower nobility, that were in, for all purposes, peasants but for name?
And another dimension is the required levy of cities and nobles. For example, city X has to send Y soldiers to the main army - however, was the soldier's gear their own or was it provided by the city?

Just for a "realistic feel" I would nonetheless - and in reflection on the often changing weapon laws - lean towards a peasantry that does not have anything other than a polearm, a bow and a long dagger and maybe some thicker cloth armour. At least for a "classical medieval" setting up to the renessaince and in a country without current anarchy, war or peasant uprising.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#25
If you're looking for some relatively reliable sources on medieval weapons and armor, I would recommend youtube channels shadiversity, skallagrim, or lindybeige. the channel Insider has some battle tactics/siege and other movie criticism that may help

Mr Wrote: Since the forest belonged to the lord (and not necessarily your lord), you would have to ask him for a permit. Or buy the wood outright. Loam, bricks and stone came into use relatively late for village houses - since it was expensive and you needed a whole other skill-set. Which the average villager lacked. I'm speaking here about central and eastern Europe, that's what I know, but would be surprised if it was much different in the West.
What villagers could do was to get a few thicker trees (a dozen or so), build the frame of the house, fix a few stakes in-between, braid thinner branches in-between and cover the whole thing with mud.

Again good point. Don't forget the use of thatch in many areas, or dried grass, reeds and other. It was used to cover the roof and fill up the walls. It was pretty good insulation considering available materials. The availability of materials also depended on the time period. Not every area was as strict with cutting trees.

There's also the thing often forgotten in feudal life. Again, I blame it on having stuff being mismanaged making for a better story. Villages had rights. Not all of them had the same rights, but foraging rights and firewood rights were fairly common, for example.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#26
Oskatat Wrote: Okay, so a lot of stereotypes got thrown around. Not all peasantry lived in hovels, people did know how to build solid wood houses. Yes, serfs were piss poor, mistreated and all that. Not all villagers and farmers were serfs. Kepe in mind that a lot of the literature and documentation we have from that time was written either by nobles or clergy, who tended to have their own preconceptions about the 'unwashed masses'

The biggest problem with statements about medieval times is that they were so long and Europe being a big a place that what is true at one time and place was not true at another time or place.

Oskatat Wrote: As has been mentioned, peasants probably didn't have swords They did have knifes, staves, axes, slings, staff-slings, lots of sharp and/or heavy farming implements like the billhook (used for pruning trees and cutting through underbrush) and bows and spears if they were allowed to. Swords are pretty bad if you're dealing with the average animal or beast. They don't do fencing, there's no chance to do a parry and riposte, they just charge straight at you. You can't parry a boar or a wolf. The idea is to keep them far enough away that they can't hurt you in return. You want a heavy and long weapon like a long axe (axeheads are relatively small, don't believe anime or d&d), spear or staff.

People had tools. Tools are not weapons. One of the main points of feudalism is providing military power and giving power to those that provide it so that they can provide it. Having a weapon is either a defining property of your place in your society or you do not have any.

Though at the end things got a lot more complex...

Oskatat Wrote: If you're using a feudal system, keep in mind that in a stratified society it's not 'nobles and everything else'. There are nobles and serfs, sure, but there are also freemen. People who owned or rented their own farm, villagers, craftsmen, artisans, shopkeepers and merchants. Most people were not serfs and could live a pretty decent life, barring the usual misfortune.

There were also quite the shift over the times and places here. While newly settled areas had freemen, everything outside cities in older areas usually became serfs over the generations and of the kind that is a slave in all but name only (and well, the defining difference that you could not sell a serf without also selling a piece of land however small).

In early medieval times villages would also own some lands for all the villages to feed their animals on, some forest to get wood from and so on. Until the local lord found some old documents showing that those had always been his personal property.

Shops are also more a city thing, and even there the usual thing were markets, where people got once a week to sell their wares. (And one of the most valuable things to be granted to a city (which every big city usually had) was the obligation for every passing merchant it to enter the market to offer all their goods there).

Artists and most crafters relevant to villages (repairing metal implements and sharpening them for example) did not live at any place. They were travelers, traveling from place to place.  (Defining travelers by ethnic origin was a much later concept, and every artist was a traveler by definition and would usually treated the same even if they later had their own home. One of the reason some famous composers were so vocal racists later as that allowed them to shift the stigmata away from their vocation).

A very big difference also was how time was experienced. Forget partitioning the day (educated people might know that a day consists of 12 hours, the first hour starting at sun up and the last ending with sun-down), even dates were hardly common. And those little dates around there were the religious names of the sundays (every sunday in the year has a name in catholicism, relatively to Easter and Christmas) or the days the saints were venerated. So people knew the names of the saints where it might freeze for the last time in their region. Knowing your birth day is mostly a protestant invention to replace your naming day (the day the saint you are named after is venerated), before that people simply did not care. (They might know the day of the week they were born, though likely only if it was special as sunday and perhaps the season, anying else no one cared for).

Oskatat Wrote: Whew, this turned out a bit longer than I first imagined

I guess the topic just demands it.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#27
Morning,

Actually, I just remembered this little video from aeons past:
Building a house
It's technically for a lakeside house from the stone age, but the basic principles were used till... a few hundred years ago.
Quote:The availability of materials also depended on the time period. Not every area was as strict with cutting trees.

There's also the thing often forgotten in feudal life. Again, I blame it on having stuff being mismanaged making for a better story. Villages had rights. Not all of them had the same rights, but foraging rights and firewood rights were fairly common, for example.

Not everywhere and not in every time. I think the farther West and North you went, the more liberal the rights were, but the further East, it was strickter. 
The real problem (at least in Hungary) was the totaly chaotic mess of what belonged to whom. A village and surroundings could have had a lot of feudal lords, plus "freemen" plus the serf, who may had obligation to different lords. 
It was possible that one lord owned the village proper and a piece of arable land, another owning a manor and some arable land, and a third owning the forest while there were "freemen" with their own little piece of land and half a dozen other people having a plot or two.
Example:
You are a serf of the Archbishop of Esztergom (who owns only two plots of land in your village X), but the village itself is owned by Baron X, and the surrounding forest belongs directly to the King. Who do you ask for permission to gather firewood or a few trees to repair your house?
I do know that it looked like this till the 16th Century in my country.

Quote:People had tools. Tools are not weapons. One of the main points of feudalism is providing military power and giving power to those that provide it so that they can provide it. Having a weapon is either a defining property of your place in your society or you do not have any.
The big problem with this is that besides the nobles themselves there were contingents each noble, city, guild and so on had to provide for the defence of the country (attacking another one had different rules, it was mostly voluntary or voluntold). Not the individual had the right to weapons, but the city, guild, whatever. They were the ones who provided the gear, not the individual - who probably wasn't allowed to bear arms in peacetime. 
Except for this and that and whatnot.

Quote:A very big difference also was how time was experienced.
Yeah. They knew what day of the week it was, and what the major religious days were (in relation to each other, not the exact date), everything else was not interesting.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#30
WritingfromtheVoid Wrote: Finally there's economics. Capitalism does not exist yet, and its antecedents are treated with deep suspicion in this time. There is a fundamental idea that the only meaningful economic activity is that which directly produces something tangible. Merchants, who simply move goods around, are seen as parasites as a result. This zero-sum way of thinking is also what medieval guilds ran on. Guilds, contrary to how they're depicted in fantasy, are not corporations, they're cartels. They're an aspect of Medieval life that I think are needlessly glamorized, given how much evidence there is that they probably retarded the economies of cities that allowed guilds to flourish.

I always wonder how much blaming the guilds is ideology. While every organization that exists long enough will finally be twisted into a tool to keep the powerful in power, I suspect the bad reputation they got might just be due to the winner writing history. After all the guild were a representation of the craftsmen, those that actually produced something. They would ensure everyone of a craft would be held to the same standards, every buyer could expect a consistent quality. They ensured a sustainable environment where producers could produce quality they could be proud of and expect a steady income to live from. Every known new technology would have to be taught to all the disciples of the craft. They would ensure hard had the craftsmen were in power and not the economists. They would regulate the 'necessary' out of 'necessary evil'. No advertisement (unlike today where no company can survives that puts more money in R&D than in advertisement), no price undercutting (where you force other producers out of the market by having more money available), no market segmentation (where you reduce quality without lowering the production cost, so you can sell it cheap to some while still getting a bigger price out of people with the money), no defrauding customers of any kind (no sales, no "50% off (after increasing 300%)", ...).

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#32
SchroedingersBand Wrote: I come back weeks later and this thread is still somehow alive and chock full of useful info and debate.

The worst part is I have way too little motivation to write and barely have the first chapter done :(

Oh well, it's probably helpful for other writers too.

At the risk of sounding rude. You write it. Make a cover, set a word limit and start writing your medieval fantasy story. 

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#33
Teach Youtube that you want to learn about medieval and colonial history.  For my setting, learning about farmers/peasants in China and Japan is also useful and I just remembered that I need to get some more ancient Rome in there because not a lot of people cook in the summer and instead there are people whose job it is.

I agree that the sword doesn't make sense for a farmer and you should look into hunting or shepherd weapons.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#34
Medieval armies were not large. 

The 100,000 soldier armies you see in medieval fantasies aren't European, but were typically fielded by more powerful and sophisticated empires that ruled China and the Middle East.. Most European medieval forces were composed of a few hundred to a few thousand soldiers.

Similarly, peasants were rarely mass conscripted into armies. Conscription is something that requires a strong centralized state to do, the idea that people were just taken from their homes, given a spear and sent to die is wrong.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#35
Quote:The 100,000 soldier armies you see in medieval fantasies aren't European, but were typically fielded by more powerful and sophisticated empires that ruled China and the Middle East.. Most European medieval forces were composed of a few hundred to a few thousand soldiers.
A few ten thousand would be nearer to reality for a mid-range power.
For example in 1526 Hungary fielded 26.000 soldiers (with around the same number still walking up or still assembling), against about 60.000 Turks. 
That was about the maximum BOTH sides could scrape together for a campaign. 

In earlier times it was indeed less, but for a "main effort" even in the 12th-15th centuries ten thousand could be fielded by a mid-range power. That would be England, France, Spain, the Holy German Empire, Poland, Hungary, Russian principalities (but those were nearer the Asian/Middle East lines). Maybe Czechia and the Italian States. 

Quote:Similarly, peasants were rarely mass conscripted into armies. Conscription is something that requires a strong centralized state to do, the idea that people were just taken from their homes, given a spear and sent to die is wrong.

Well, peasants were needed to till the fields and feed the Army, not fight in the Army.
There WERE instances, when peasants were "conscripted" or "volunteered" into an Army - the Crusades come to mind - but those were rare and far between. After all, peasants in sufficient mass and armed often had ideas. See the different peasant uprisings. Nobles were VERY wary to put weapons into the hands of massed peasantry...