Hi, everyone! This is Elisabeth Wheatley, newest addition to the collective that is The Runaway Pen. I am very excited to join the group and I thought I'd debut with a post that appeared on my personal blog awhile back. Enjoy!
The beauty of true fantasy is that there are about three rules. You
need magic, you need a magical world, and you need a bad guy. Beyond
that, there really isn’t a whole lot to restrict the story. But…(yes,
the dreaded “but”)…there are three things that are the equivalent of
talons on the chalkboard for me.
Okay, okay, so I admit that technically I can’t take off
points if a fantasy book isn’t historically accurate, but these are
things to do with the weaponry and lifestyle. So they count, right?
1. Knights being hoisted onto horse’s back via a pulley system
I haven’t seen this one in awhile (I think the last time I saw it was in The Once and Future King),
but I will mention it anyway. In reality, a knight’s armor was heavy
and uncomfortable, but it wasn’t so heavy that they couldn’t mount their
horses. If it had been that heavy, ground combat for knights would have
been a death-sentence, particularly if they were going up against
lighter footsoldiers. There was the problem of knights easily
expiring from heatstroke because metal, of course, doesn’t breathe, but
that’s a topic for another time.
2. Boiling oil poured from castle during siege
I’m sure we’ve all seen this one, right? The bubbling-hot,
pitch-black goo sent raining down on the heads of screaming invaders and
then set on fire with a flaming arrow. I think this one was in
Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance, though I’d have to check.
Boiling oil looks really intense and scary and, let’s face it, morbidly
cool. But I’ve found mixed reports on this one. Some say that it was
used while others say that oil was too expensive for it to be literally
thrown out the window. Boiling water was sometimes used, as well as
animal fat, heated sand, resin, pitch, and they would have a similar
effect. But oil was something that needed to be saved, especially if you
were in a siege and didn’t know when you would be able to resupply.
3. “Fired” an arrow
This one bugs me the most and I can thank my former-Marine, Naval
Academy-graduate father for ruining this term for me. A number of
writers use this term. Heck, The Lord of the Rings movies used
this term a number of times. But I started thinking about it one day and
asked my father if it was accurate. He confirmed my suspicions that the
term “fire” in reference to volleys, did not come into use until the
advent of firearms. Up until that point they said “loose,” which
makes more sense, right? I think they did sometimes use fiery arrows,
but not enough to make the term “fire” stick.
Any writer could get away with any one or all of these things.
They’re all subjective to how “accurate” the writer wants his/her
fantasy story to be. But they still drive me bonkers! Now the question
is: Are they going to bug you?