blog History for Fantasy Writers: Medieval Childhood

Discussion in 'Research' started by Black Dragon, Feb 18, 2018.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Skip Knox submitted a new blog post:

    History for Fantasy Writers: Medieval Childhood
    by E.L. Skip Knox

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    A common understanding about the Middle Ages goes something like this: people didn't love their children the way we do today, because so many died in infancy or childhood. Sometimes parents didn't even name or baptize their children until they were three years old because they didn't want to become too attached. Childhood was brief, as can be seen in old paintings where children of a very young age are already dressed as adults. Noble children were sent off as a page at age seven and common children were apprenticed out by age ten, so children many times were not even raised by their own parents. The legal age of marriage was fourteen for boys and twelve for girls, so obviously childhood was pretty much over by then. Boy golly, weren’t those Middle Ages a drag?

    You may be guessing that this is wrong, pretty much start to finish. Good guess! So, what do we know about childhood in the Middle Ages, and in what ways might this prove useful to the fantasy writer?

    Babies

    Infancy was defined much the same way all across Europe: it lasted until the kid got teeth and could walk. The child had already survived its first big challenge, childbirth. With luck, so had the mother. Babies were fussed over and coddled (and swaddled) much the same as they are today.

    What about, I hear someone...
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
     
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  2. rktho

    rktho Master

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    In my book, my characters are ALL dragons. Teenage years begin at twenty-five and last until age forty. My main protagonists are around thirty-two (one of them is thirty-four.) They're questing without the adult supervision they were supposed to recruit because the person they had in mind was acting out of character and tried to destroy the thing they were trying to return in the first place. What would be some ramifications of four adolescents travelling unchaperoned on the wing?

    My protagonists' assets:

    -Three of my characters are experienced game hunters.
    -One of my characters knows the best lodgings.
    -That same character speaks two foreign languages and one dead one, which comes in handy with expatriates of other dragon species they occasionally cross.
    -My central character occasionally has dreams he doesn't realize are visions of the distant past-- or sometimes recent-- past.

    What they're up against:

    -For starters, the crystal they're trying to return is also sought after by pretty much the entire realm, due to the heavy reward attached to it the protagonists are trying to claim.
    -The dragon who put out the reward in the first place, the emperor, is secretly a dark wizard, and is chasing the protagonists, trying to kill them. He also has a pet snake with dragonlike intelligence.
    -The Chief Inquisitor of the highest level of law enforcement is after the crystal on the emperor's orders.
    -His right hand man is looking for the crystal and is also secretly a wizard, working against the emperor. (He's also trying to find a traitor in the secret police, except he IS that person.)
    -The police are also searching for a dangerous terrorist who disappeared ten years ago and recently resurfaced. He is ALSO a wizard, and he's trying to kill the emperor. And to do that, he needs the crystal. He's not afraid to display his powers in public or kill bystanders as long as the evil emperor is killed. He's the only wizard who's not trying to hide the fact that magic is real and he can use it. He can't fly, but he can teleport.
    -One experienced bounty hunter with several kills under his belt has been commissioned by a powerful crime lord, who has ordered his best hunters to search for the crystal at the Inquisitor's request.
    -That hunter has a rival in the form of another hunting duo with something to prove.
    -That adult help they rejected earlier? He's in disguise, following them, trying to steal the crystal. He's working with the Inquisitor's right hand, and he's also a wizard. Both he and the Inquisitor's henchman have sons in wizard and police training who are helping them.
    -And, for good measure, the emperor's master's secret apprentice, who has been sent to eliminate him as he has become a liability. And to do that, he needs the crystal.

    Congratulations to anyone who can keep track of all that, by the way.
     
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  3. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

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    I'll throw my elves in here, as they have an extended adolescence and even that varies between the varieties among them. At one hundred years of age, they are generally considered fully adult and as of the writing, most of my elf characters are in their sixties and seventies, the equivalent of sixteen and seventeen. At least mentally as they are fully mature by twenty.

    And more often then not, most of them are or have been what amounts to child soldiers. They can live up to seven hundred years, though most are lucky to see three or four hundred. The orcs and trolls are about the same, maturing quicker if only out of necessity. Things start slowing down once everyone stops trying to kill everyone else, but it is the worlds standard for the longest while.
     
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  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Wow, lots of long-lived folk in your world. Cool. I have to ask: what about school? Or maybe apprenticeship? Can they marry before age one hundred? I guess if they are soldiers, all those questions get put to the side, but I'm curious if there are other aspects of traditional human childhood that you've worked into your elf youth.

    Thanks for the response!
     
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  5. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

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    All right, I'll roll right down the list.

    1. There are schools, though the most likely to actually see any use out of them are the High, Drow and Sea elves, who are more used to mass education, instead of for the rich and nobility in general. Several of my characters are illiterate and don't really care.

    2. There are plenty of trade apprenticeships around, though I guess I should have specified that the soldier/knightly class consists heavily of Wood Elves. Though every race usually keeps a strong supply of them as war happens often.

    3. They can marry before hundred and often are. The royal pedigree's tend to hold off until after one hundred and have had a few wars under their belt and can hold their own in single combat. Again, this is more specific to wood elves then the other types, though they tend to follow it.

    As for other stuff, there's always the usual sort of play, fist fights are often encouraged and cheered on even by the adults. They are generally allowed a fair bit of freedom. Even if going to the outskirts of civilization for adventure can be life threatening. Though several of the royal families often start training their children for the duties of war and soldiery as young as ten. The ruling part can be learned after they can handle weapons properly. Though as time goes on, they can start actually being fairly normal children, including playing among the other races once that particular divide is taken down.
     
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    1. So, how many years of middle school. Ten? <g> One of the reasons why human kids get twelve years of school is to keep them out of the work force. It's not like it takes that long to teach the three Rs. So it raises the question of what an elf, whether or not she's High, needs by way of education, and how long that would take. BTW, mass education is a pretty late development in human society. So is compulsory ed.

    2. Sort of the same goes for apprenticeship. Among humans with their seventy years, it's a few years of apprenticeship followed by a few to several years as a journeyman. If elves live ten times that long, does that mean an apprenticeship is also seven times as long? Or is it more or less the same as for humans?

    Combat's different. You can learn it, but you actually have to stay in constant practice. In a sense, school never ends for the warrior. Your comments about handling weapons makes me think of another angle: physical maturity. Is an elf of, say, 40 years still not fully formed? Or do they reach full size and strength around twenty, same as humans? And at the other end, when does old age set in? Put another way, is it the case that an elf is at full maturity, essentially middle age, for like five centuries? Or is it more the case of a slow growth and a slow decline? I'm picturing having your elderly grandparents around the house for like 150 years.
     
  7. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

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    I may not have fully satisfying answers, but I will try.

    1. I do understand compulsory and mass education is relatively new to human society. The world is still a fantasy world at heart and one that plays on the tropes and cliches that comes with it. A lot of the schooling for the upper echelons ends around ten years and then going into university level and magical school training. I suppose a bit better explanation for the mass and compulsory education is more the nobs getting the good tutors and teachers and putting their kids in what amounts to a private school. It is still very much an upper echelon thing, as they have to have all the skills necessary to go into the world's politics, trades and arts. Middle classes are more reliant on individual tutors and governor/ess sorts. So, it can be upwards of ten years or as few as five.

    2. Again more or less the same as humans. There's always demand for those skilled in trades to ply it. As of recent times (in the world itself, within the last two hundred to three hundred years), the demand for engineers and architects has been high across all societies, not for a recent upsurge in cathedral's or huge bastions of architectural masterpieces, but to simply create buildings able to withstand attacks of powerful of characters who make messes of fortifications and castles without the need of siege machines.

    3. They are fully physically mature around twenty years old,which I guess I should have mentioned with the above. Or made it clearer. Old age usually sets in around five hundred, though as I said, most have been lucky to see their three hundredth. I suppose it would be slow growth to a hypothetical slow decline, should they reach that age. It is a very rare to see true elders among the elves. Those that live to see such age are usually extremely powerful and dangerous. Or just really lucky. Though the ages they live to is long enough that most humans that live under them feel like they live forever and don't change.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
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