blog History for Fantasy Writers: Bathhouse Keepers

Discussion in 'Research' started by Black Dragon, May 26, 2018.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    skip.knox submitted a new blog post:

    History for Fantasy Writers: Bathhouse Keepers
    by E.L. Skip Knox

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    This is another installment in my series, History for Fantasy Authors.

    There were scores of trades and crafts that organized into guilds. This is an essay about one of them, a guild that existed in Augsburg, Germany in the late Middle Ages. It's not typical, and that's part of why I think it's worth examining. I hope it will give you some ideas for new settings and new ideas about guilds in your own writing.

    Bathhouses had little to do with getting clean. A bath was more like a spa, a place in which to get healthy or to maintain health. It was also like a spa in that it was a place to hang out, to relax and have some casual fun.

    Bathhouses were a place for conversation. Business was transacted here, for most patrons of wealth and power came to the baths at least occasionally. It was the perfect place for making business deals and also for making social contacts so important to medieval town life. That father of the girl your son is so crazy about? You’ve probably met him at the baths.

    The bath house was also a prime place for gambling, prostitution, and just plain fooling around. It is no coincidence that the public bathhouse began a long...
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
     
  2. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

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    Hey, guess what, you get me again. I actually use the bath house setting several times. Sometimes following the tropes that come with them more in anime. Though one of them actually starts out as a spa day and actually get's a love story going on it. It was fairly romantic and relatively private (the joys of being able to get a private room and sauna).

    As a whole they are fairly common around Eld and given that with magic you can have regular water heated and pulled up with a bit of effort they stick around. Some of the richer sorts even have a wing of the house or manor with one and any of the schools (Zukal Magical Academy in particular) also have an entire ground floor wing dedicated to it. And there are even bath houses in the Rose Districts (Red Lights) for more entertaining sorts of bathing.
     
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  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    That's great! I welcome people using more than the usual fantasy settings.
     
  4. Corwynn

    Corwynn Lore Master

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    Bathhouses are something of an institution in my primary setting of Hualketh. However, Hualkai bathhouses owe more to the Japanese and Finnish sauna rather than Roman and Western European traditions.

    Although bathhouses do have an unseemly reputation (get lots of naked people together in one place and there’s bound to be trouble, and don’t even get me started on stolen bath salts), there thankfully hasn’t been the kind of moral backlash that shut down the tradition of social (and otherwise) bathing in our Western world. The bathhouse tradition has been further encouraged by an abundance of hotsprings and wood for fuel (Hualketh’s geography is largely inspired by the Pacific North-West). If anything kills the bathhouse, it will be the rise of indoor plumbing, but this is a recent invention, and is neither cheap nor widespread. For now at least, the bathhouse remains king.

    While the bathhouse is not THE place to meet and socialise, it is certainly one of the preferred venues. A bathhouse visit is often a component of courtship, since it provides the would-be partners a socially-acceptable opportunity to see what each other looks like under their clothes, without getting too involved. The Hualkai are also fond of tattoos, and these are something of a status symbol. The bathhouse is one of the few places where they can be freely shown off. Some bathhouses are sex-segregated, others are mixed gender, and others offer a choice of either.

    Even the smallest village has a bathhouse, and in cities one is usually within walking distance of one at any given time. Bathhouses provide a range of services. For a nominal fee (usually the lowest denomination of currency) you’ll get a rag, a bar of soap, a bucket of warm water, and directions to a big room full of fellow bathers and stools (hopefully one of which is vacant). If you pay more, you get access to pools, saunas, private rooms, fancy toiletries, refreshments, etc.

    Given their cultural importance, it is likely that bathhouses will figure in one or more of my stories.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Another bathhouse keeper. Preserver. Fan. Good to hear.

    Have you given any thought to rural bathhouses? They might be isolated, but they might also be attached to an inn. Or maybe a military post?
     
  6. Corwynn

    Corwynn Lore Master

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    Hualketh does have something called Mile Houses. Hualketh is large and mountainous, so getting around has often been difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming, even today with the help of railways, stagecoaches, steamboats and airships. In the old days, towns were often more than a day's travel apart. During the Protectorate Era, the imperial government established a series of inns located at the halfway mark (or third, or quarter way mark, depending on the distance) between towns to shelter travelers and soldiers. Often, a few farms and workshops set up nearby to help support the inn, and eventually grew into a settlement in its own right. Hence, there are a number of villages in Hualketh with names like Twenty-Three Mile House, Fifty-Four Mile House, etc. This didn't always happen though. Either way, the original Mile Houses remain in operation, and they all have a bathhouse attached or close by.

    Castles also had (and have) a bathhouse as part of the complex.
     
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Nice world-building there, Corwynn.
     
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  8. Corwynn

    Corwynn Lore Master

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    Thank you
     
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