Author Archives: A Toast to Dragons--2

Fantasy Literature: Mail and Armor

Did you know that ring mail never existed (according to Wikipedia)? It’s a myth fabricated by gamers or someone. Actually, I think I read once that it was a result of misinterpretation of artists’ renderings of chain mail from the Middle Ages. Actually, to be very precise, I’ve also heard it said that chain mail really shouldn’t be called chain mail, just mail, because that’s all there was. Of course, us AD&D players of yesteryear all “know” that armor comes in many varieties: There’s leather, studded leather, ring mail, scale mail, chain mail, splint mail, banded mail, and plate mail, not to mention field plate and full plate. Apparently, a good number of those never really existed: ring mail and possibly banded mail … or are just names for the same basic thing: splint mail and plate mail. For myself, I never quite understood the difference between field plate and full plate … I mean, aren’t they both basically a full suit of armor? I was also kind of unclear on splint mail and banded mail. Fortunately, since banded mail might not even really exist (Wikipedia) and splint mail is the same as plate mail, I don’t have much to worry about.

 

But is that true? Why shouldn’t I worry? All those armors listed above are common fare in most roleplaying games and many fantasy stories. I could write a story in which most everyone was decked out in chain mail or plate, but, at a certain point, wouldn’t that be kind of boring. Ring mail never existed. So what? I’m a writer of fantasy literature, high fantasy if you will. My story world is richer because I opt to include ring mail and all the other types of armor listed. I also read somewhere that the weight of armor is reasonably well-distributed across the body so it’s not as heavy as many people make it out to be. A knight really doesn’t need a winch or whatever to mount his horse. He probably can’t go swimming in it still, but he can move around a battlefield with relative ease. He can even run in it. I think that bit of detail I will keep for the armor in my worlds. It’s good to remember and know. But I feel I have free license to add in ring mail and banded mail and even, if I desire, to create some entirely original armor of my own design. That could be cool. It’s fantasy, after all. There are no limits except the ones you impose.

 

So, what do you think? Should a writer limit him/herself to just the types of armor that actually existed? Or should he/she exercise some poetic license?

Old Movie Review: The Monk (2011)

My friend and I rented “The Monk” (rated R) because it sounded kind of intriguing: A mix of medieval monks, mystery, and sin. The basic plot is that the main character, Ambrosio, is abandoned at the doorstep of a monastery as a child and raised as a strict Capuchin monk. He grows up into a fervent disciple of Christ, renowned for his splendid, inspiring sermons and his great faith. Then, he gets involved with a woman and everything goes to pot (That’s putting it mildly). It is quite a spectacular fall from grace. The most holy monk of his order goes on to commit a whole litany of sins: fornication, incest, and finally murder.

 

Overall, the movie was interesting; it kept me engaged even though it was a foreign film and all in subtitles. I’m not sure if I should be annoyed at the portrayal of the religious here (I was raised Catholic). It’s set in the 17th century and the church did do some nasty things (like the Inquisition) in medieval times. Still, I don’t know if they would have starved a nun to death for getting pregnant. Maybe they would have. I don’t know (They certainly wouldn’t do that today!). Anyway, they are portrayed as very strict and sometimes, as in the above example, cruel and heartless. That was the backdrop of the movie, and it makes Ambrosio’s ultimate hypocrisy all the more profound. Satan makes a couple of appearances in the film. There’s dark magic, ghostly apparitions, and profound vice. All the elements of a twisted tale, and a twisted tale it was.

 

Strengths: the acting was good, the script, although twisted, was coherent and logically sound (assuming you accept the premise of Satan, Satanic witches, and what have you). The downfall of the Monk was portrayed quite well. Weaknesses: I think I saw every one of the twists in the movie coming. I mean, they were good twists, it’s just that they were kind of predictable. Again, I remain ambivalent about the portrayal of the church, but since I’m really not up on the history, I can’t really formalize a complaint. Also, the special effects were kind of lacking. I’ve said it before, special effects alone will not make a movie, but they can add to it. Here, they were obviously low budget and not very impressive. Finally, the ending was a little unclear to me. Part of me (most of me) is convinced that Satan wins, but there is a last fleeting image before the credits that made me wonder.

 

Anyway, I’ll give “The Monk” three and a half, or maybe four, out of five stars.