ACTING THE PART: HISTORICAL RE-ENACTMENTS INFLUENCING WRITING

06 December 2012

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boudiccaAs far back as I can remember I’ve loved history, not the ‘Henry VII was the first King of England to die solvent: Discuss,’ history, but the Battle of Thermopylae, Boudicca, the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Hannibal and his elephants, Spartacus, Genghis Khan, the Battle of Bosworth Field, The War of the Roses, the Spanish Armada. Battles, really.

I think it may have grown out of my love of fantasy and mythology, a combination of the Battle of the Five Armies, Conan born on a battlefield, the Trojan Horse and Arthur and his knights (and let's not forget Blackadder) - and its carried on to this day. History and fantasy combined. Even now Saturday night is a deep-rooted ritual in my home, my family sitting down to watch Merlin, week in week out. We love it. And Arthur as a historical figure - don’t get me started on that one.

merlin

 My enjoyment of re-enactment has grown out of that love of history.

Myself and my family have been enthusiastic spectators of these medieval events for more years than I can remember and recently we took the plunge and joined a re-enactment society - the Medieval Siege Society.  We don’t manage to make it to as many events as we’d like, but the Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle is a regular every year, as well as trips to Battle Abbey, Bodiam Castle, Hever and Arundel. We like castles.

Of course, when you start to think about it, battles aren’t actually that great. There’s a lot of pain, death, heartache, and psychological trauma involved. Films like Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart made those points abundantly clear. Nevertheless there’s something of our childhood that comes out when you see warriors facing off across a field. Just think about The charge of the Rohirrim onto the Pelennor Fields, or Braveheart facing the English Cavalry at Stirling.

It’s something that stirs the emotions. 

There are a lot of battles in Malice, from duels to skirmishes to full on battlefield mash-ups. I found re-enactment and ancient history to be great places for finding inspiration, detail and flavour.

Whether you’re thinking about tactics and strategy: are those maneuvers you’re imagining actually physically possible? Or about the mechanics of dressing for combat? Or just what exactly does it feel like to block a sword blow aimed at your head? History and re-enactment are inspiring. A re-enactment of the Normans charging up the hill at a shield-wall of angry Saxons is educational - how did they manage to mount a horse in full chainmail, on marshy ground, then charge up a steep hill without falling off?

 Educational?

Hey, who am I trying to kid. The main point, of course, is that it’s fun.