January 14, 2008

Past Lives

Maryland Medieval Mercenary Militia

O.K. If you thought the role-playing in Dungeons and Dragons was a little weird, get a load of this! Yes, that is a real newspaper and a real photograph. Check out the date in the top right corner. Jan. 30,1977, almost exactly 31 years ago. Now check out the dude with the green propane tank on his head. Guess Who? If you guessed maybe a 20 year old Svin, go to the head of the line. Yes indeed loyal and long suffering readers, not content with fantasy feudalism, we actually joined up for the live version. I guess you could say I started practicing for the anti-jihad a long time ago.
Now, a few words about medievalism, then and now. This was before Lord of The Rings was a movie, even before Monty Python first put two coconuts together(IIRC). You could not go on-line and order up a complete Aragorn outfit or a chain-mail bikini (don't even think about it) or a complete King Arthur kit. We had to make all our own stuff by hand. Chain-mail was laboriously "Knit" together link by individual link. The aforementioned propane tank "Great-Helms" were cut and welded, padded and painted, used and abused under extremely realistic conditions. Small arms(daggers and knives) were often made by hand. Axe heads and sword blades were rare and coveted items. Cheap junk from Spain or elsewhere would not hold up for a minute. Unfinished leather was good as gold. The red "Heater" shield I am holding in the picture was made of 3/4 inch plywood with bolted on arm strap and handle in the back. The "armourer" for this piece was none other than our own Basil Riverdale. You can see from the condition of the front of it that it has seen many campaigns. The padded "Mace" wielded by another old friend(went skiing with him a few weeks ago) is an aberration. This photo was taken during our annual "Fratricidal War" where only padded weapons were allowed. For practice and shows, we used only real weapons and armor. If the armor you had built was authentic enough, it would protect you very well from the actual weapons of the day. Thus, with training, some choreography, and that fearless abandon which is the very definition of youth, we fought, died, were resurrected and well lubricated by nightfall and feast-time.
What does all this have to do with anything? Only that it is such a stark contrast to what fantasy role-playing is today. I would wager that the average "World of Warcraft" player has never cooked his own dinner, much less built his own suit of armour. Never actually set hammer to anvil. Never brewed their own beer. Never learned how to actually fight with real weapons instead of a game controller. Never really got to rescue the Damsel in Distress. Never played "Toss the Mail", never jumped a fire, never wrestled in the mud or snow, never passed out from heat prostration wearing seventy pounds of armor and padding in July. Never climbed tall buildings to play at "Gargoyle".
Never the less, it is from this same young generation that our new warrior class has risen. Brave volunteers all. Fighting and sometimes perishing in strange and foreign lands. No games. No resurrection in time for dinner. I think that when this cohort begins to return and take up it's place in our society, things will begin to change for the better. Contrast these young lions with those game boys whose "failure to launch" has become iconic of a generation. We will be a better nation when these Boots, forged and tempered in the heat of desert battle, begin to re-define and re-direct our nation. God I hope to live to see it so.


Anonymous said...

Basil says,

Svin, old friend, the good news is that boys are still boys. I resurrected the medieval militia where I teach high school, and our yearly ren-fair is always the high point of the year. Take four dozen adolescent boys, add sticks, shields, helmets and gloves, turn loose with instructions to pummel the opponent until he surrenders. The rest will take care of itself. Boys will do what boys do, all day if you let them. I guess I'm lucky that my prinicipal regards it as all good fun. How un-PC is that? Violence on campus! Sponsored by a faculty member no less! Aye. I stand guilty as charged.

You might recall that I was once known as "Basil the well-sewn" aka "Basil the seamy". Ten stitches to the head for charging a shield wall with no helmet. Broken pinky finger for a sword parry that landed on my paw. Additional stitches on the same finger because some fool actually put an edge on his axe. Whereupon a former Nam vet taught me the medicinal uses of rum 151 while he sewed me up on his kitchen table. And a fine job he did. I made it back to the feast that night in time to get really drunk.

I have my share of scars. Life happens. Live and learn. And maybe have some fun getting harmlessly outrageous. I have my third suit of mail hanging in the closet. Preparation for the spring offensive on campus. Young men fight, old men plan campaigns. I used to be a foot soldier (and a damn good one). Today I have my own army. And a genuine opponent from the SCA to lead the other side. What could be better?

Aethelred said...

Ah, them were the days ... my armor and a few fading scars are all that remain from those days. That and a few good friends.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Svin.

instinct said...

Ah, I too remember those days but mine were different.

I was in a traditional martial arts school so we battled with weapons quite often and it wasn't for points. We found till our opponent was down or conceded the fight.

Guess the only reason I wasn't part of the Medieval Militia was because we didn't have it where I lived.

We did have our all night D&D games and I guess the martial arts took care of the rest

anglocelt said...

Please come to Britain and flush out the stinlking capitulating Socialisy hound pack that daily surrenders to the enemies of Freedom.
What facinating adventures.
Did you ever play live air-pistol fights as kids? I wish we had discovered home made armour then.