Archive for the ‘Social Customs’ Category

Today was the last day for the Lucky Leprechaun Blog Hop Giveaway, and the winner has just been drawn, and the notice sent out.  Please check your e-mail!

The last couple of weeks, have been busy with Night Writers and Gabriel’s Horn events, including putting together a writing class that will be held this August in Maple Grove, MN, and attending the Minnesota Book Awards in March, where we heard from some wonderful authors.

My continued research has taken me from the greatest hits of the 1200′s to standing stones to the world of medieval hair dye and on to re-reading sections of John Barbour’s The Brus, in search of medieval vocabulary and rhymes. 


And quhen he a lang qhile had bene thar

He herknyt and herd as it war

A hundis questyng on fer

That ay come till him ner and ner.


And in modern English, it goes something like this:

When he had stayed there a long while,

He listened and heard what sounded

Like a hound’s baying in the distance,

Always coming nearer and nearer to him.

Apart from the arts, I acquired some practical knowledge, such as that long, black hair can be achieved by removing the head and tail of a lizard, boiling it in oil, and anointing my head with that oil.  I’m guessing several of my boys would be more than happy to catch a lizard for me if it were warm enough outside.  Luckily for me, it isn’t.  So I’m going to settle for mostly-long hair that isn’t really black at all, in lieu of boiling headless lizards.

More about standing stones and medieval music later.  They’re both fascinating subjects.  I’m sure I’ll have an easier time selling standing stones as fascinating, but trust me, polyphony and neumes are exciting stuff!  The real challenge is writing about them in small enough bites for a blog post.

Keep an eye open on Wednesday for a link to my post at the lit blog, Yamina Today, an article springing from a discussion with Yamina about researching in person.  On April 9, I will be guest blogging for Kati Lear, and still in the works are guest blogs with Dr. Sarah Woodbury and J. R. Tomlin.  Wrapping up tonight was the Dynamic Story Writing Contest at Pia Bernardino’s blog, with 39 entries telling the story of Bill and Kate, and the mysterious Giovanni. 


Today, I am guest blogging on crossing genres at The Book Boost.  Please stop by and say hello!  Leave a question or comment for a chance to win a free, signed copy of Blue Bells of Scotland.

Literature in Medieval Scotland

Medieval literature, the kind Niall and Allene, in Blue Bells of Scotland, would have known, would have involved religious writings, folk stories, allegories, and tales of adventure and romance.  They lived more than a century before the Gutenberg press, when books were produced by monks, copying by hand, and education was not as widespread as it is today.  Most stories would have been passed on by traveling bards, or told in the great hall during meals.

Among the stories Niall and Allene, living in the early 14th Century Highlands, might have known, would be that of King Herla, the king who disappeared into the earth to spend three days at a Dwarf King’s wedding, and emerged three hundred years later, or the true story of Thomas the Rhymer, a thirteenth century Scottish laird from Earlston, then known as Erceldoune, in Berwickshire.  Like King Herla, Thomas the Rhymer is said to have disappeared, in his case with the Fairy Queen whom he kissed and followed to Fairyland for seven years.  In some versions of the story, he claims to have been gone only days.

It is possible Niall and Allene were familiar with Arthurian legends.  The Roman de Fergus, believed to be written in the early 13th century, tells of the battles and romance of Fergus, a farmer who sees Arthur and his knights hunting a stag, and is inspired to follow them and become a knight.  Some believe it was written in the Scottish court of William I, and it features a number of Scottish locations. 

Along the same lines of adventure, larger than life characters and great romances, the Fenian Cycle was popular.  These were tales of the great Celtic heroes, Fionn mac Cumhaill and his warriors, the  Fianna Éireann. 

They may also have been well-versed in religious literature, such as the Vita Columbae,which tells the stories of one of Scotland’s great saints, Columba; the Elegy for Columba by Dallan Forgaill in the 6th century; or In Praise of St. Columba by Beccan mac Luigdech of Rum in the 7th century.  Tales of the Bible would have been re-told, especially on feast days, and The Dream of the Rood, an example of a unique genre called dream poetry, was centuries old by Niall’s time.  It is the story of a man speaking to the Cross on which Christ was crucified, learning Christian truths.

Compared to our millions of books in multitudes of genres and cross-genres, this may seem like a small world, but these stories were told, loved, and embellished perhaps, and re-told, over and over.