A gender neutral marriage law was recently affirmed in the Finnish parliament. This aroused some attention and controversy. There were arguments for and against it being presented. They were much the same as in this issue around the globe where ever it has become into focus. I do not even try to repeat them all here. There are a couple of concerns I would like to address about this discussion.

“Born this way.” The question wether, or not, homosexuality is a trait a person has from birth is not and should not be brought up in the entire discussion about marriage. It is totally irrelevant. Even the question, if someone chooses, or not, to be a homosexual is irrelevant to the question of marriage. We do not really know, if people are genetically caused to be homosexuals or wether it is a trait that developes onto the person. We do know that a lot of homosexuals would choose not to be homosexuals, if they possibly could. The reason to that is, that the society around them has trouble accepting them as they are and in respect to that some of them even learn to have similar cultural reasons of having trouble of accepting themselves as they are.

The real question is not what causes homosexuality, but wether we have any actually rational and sane reasons to think it is wrong on any level. We do not. The “reasons” presented to make the claim, that there is something wrong about homosexuality are presented as follows and often the path from one claim to a nother are presented on this line of thought:

Is it a sin? Now, sin is something determined to be some sort of violation of the will of some particular gods. Freedom of religion however dictates necessarily for a peacefull and mutually respectfull society to exist, that the beliefs about the divinities, or the supernatural in general, may not decide legal processes, or be used to step on the rights of a nother individual. Not even within a religious group that has accepted one doctrine or a nother. That is, even if the Catholic church and all the victims of rape by Catholic priests thought it was not really a crime, by the secular mutual standards of the modern soceity, they still are and should be treated as such. Therefore even if the majority of religions in any given country thought, that eating shellfish or being homosexual was a sin, they could not ethically make it illegal based on that imaginary guess on what their god supposedly thought was a sin.

Because the entire issue of marriage equality has been raised mostly in secular countries (and not in the Vatican or Iran), the question wether it is a sin is irrelevant. In modern democracies religions are a private matter and sin is something you discuss privately with your particular god, if you wish, who then redeems you from it, or judges you from it. Or you do not bring this or any other subjects to your god, if you even have one in the first place. This is why the people whose dislike of something like homosexuality often is derived from religious prejudices, often move to the camp of inventing seemingly secular “reasons” to justify their feelings about the issue.

Is it unnatural? There are people who try to frame sexuality into this tight box of reproduction. They have the right to do so in the privacy of their own homes, but not force the idea on others. No doubt that this line of argumentation appeals to all sorts of simpletons, as it seems simple. However, human sexuality is far from simple. I could discuss how a lot of animal species have homosexual behaviour, but from experience I know that this tends to lead down the rabbit hole of humans not being animals. Wich strangely often leads us back to the idea of sin. No, humans are not the same animals as those other animals that also engage in homosexual behaviour. That is there just to show you, that it is natural in the sense that it happens in the nature. But wether or not any animals engaged in homosexual behaviour does not in any way address wether it is right or wrong. Animals do not drive cars, but we do not try to ban driving a car because we see it as unnatural. Sex is as much just a form of reproduction and should be as much limited to that, as human transportation is all about walking and should be limited to walking. If you do not want to run or ride a bike, fine then don’t. But do not try to make running illegal. OK?

Gods are by definition unnatural. They are not part of nature, if they even exist beyond our natural brains. Should we ban gods because they are unnatural? Everything that happens in nature is natural. Salt is natural. Polio is natural. Homosexuality is natural. The only relevant question about homosexuality regarding laws is wether it is harmfull or not and if then to what extent. The entire question wether it is unnatural is ridiculous.

Is it harmfull? People see a lot of harm done to the homosexuals by people who feel justified in disliking, or even hating them for the “reasons” they give, that I listed abowe. There are also people who have been harmed by homosexuals. This works much the same way as with racism. When people are harmed by the representative of this, or that group of people, they make the connection between the group and the deed. Despite wether or not the group identity, or what ever makes the purpetrator of the harm part of that group – even skin colour, or sexual orientation –  was actually the motive for the deed. If a homosexual rapes a child, it is not the homosexuality that caused the deed. Any more than, if a white man shoots a black man, him being white was his motive for the act. The rape of a child is the result of the rapist being a) rapist and b) pedophile not being homosexual. If the rapist was not a homosexual, he would simply have chosen his target differently. The white man shooting the black man may have been motivated by any number of reasons from theft to racism. But even if it was racism, the motive was not him being white.

As for the marriage equality, there have been a number of more, or less comic attempts to stop the change, that has now finally taken place. There is this notion, that a family unit ideally consists of a father, a mother and some children. The idea has been, that the reason why the society recognizes a marriage as a special status between two people is because they are able to reproduce and should be given social support to be better able to do this. It is a ridiculous notion, in that even if that could be proven to be some form of ideal family unit, it does not mean all families need to reach such an ideal. Especially not those families who do not find the arrangement ideal in any way. By the same token, people who can not have children should not be allowed to get married and old people whose children have grown to adulthood should divorce.

There is this claim, that there is some sort of harm done to adopted children in same sex marriages. This claim has not been confirmed in any scientific arena. But even if it could ever be proven that the children have it better in a heterosexual family than in a same sex family, that would be a moot point. It is like saying that since the rich families can better nourish the needs of their kids, than the poor ones we should ban the poor people from getting married, and/or from having children.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle aito avioliitto mielenosoitus

The picture abowe is from a “Genuine Marriage” demonstration at 24. september 2016 , that gathered almost a hundred demonstrators (wich is pretty few even in Finnish terms) in Helsinki to protest against the gender neutral marriage law. It seems they had more balloons than demonstrators.

Last but not least the most stupid argument against the gender neutral marriage must be the slippery slope argument. Wich is that if this is allowed, what next? Shall we allow polygamy, marriages with children and marriages with house pets? It shows the level of stupid from the political side that opposed the gender neutral marriage, that they themselves did not laugh at the representative who presented this ridiculous argument. Was it not the same as arguing that if we allow people to drive cars, we may have to allow people to drive tanks next? If you do not understand the difference between two consenting adults havign sex and sex with a child or an animal, never get any children or pets. As for the polygamy, where in any holy books ever does it even hint that, that was a sin? It is a separate discussion we may have in the future, but it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the gender neutral marriage law.

Advertisements

The reconstruction of a historical artefact is typically a project, that is easily affected by our modern cultural norms and standards. Standards, that we are often blisfully unaware of. Sadly, having such standards and norms makes us easily blind to the wider world and makes us less than objective about reality.

As my example I have chosen a silly little mistake, that I see all too often and probably (hopefully) I am the only person (or one among a very small minority) who is even irritated by such. I guess, there are far more people who get irritated even by my calling this out as a mistake and I would first like to appologize to people who might get offended by me revealing their misunderstanding. In my experience people are more likely to get agitated by their mistakes being pointed out, than they are happy, that they get a chance to repair any such mistakes they might have otherwise overlooked. Why is that?

Anyway, the waistline, especially the concept of male waistline has changed according to fashion lately, but long enough time ago for us to have become unaware of this radical change. It shows us, how what we may easily percieve as conservative, may actually be quite modern and how often we are blind to the changes in our culture. One of the most radical changes on thinking on what is proper attire for men has happened after the industrial clothing markets have totally taken over with their ready made garments. That change has really pulled the pants down for men. Up until the mid 20th century male waistline was typically considered to be at the level of the navel. At the point where the human body twists the most – largely because of this and because that is where a healthy human individual (healthy enough to do close combat with spear and shield, at least) is the most narrow, so it is only natural to tighten the belt there. Yes, men just like women are at their narrowest at the navel, not at the hips, where the waistline in western culture today is percieved and where fashionable pants today reach. But I am actually pulling far back in time when the westerners did not even use pants yet.

I have seen several attempts to recreate medieval armour and (as in my example) armour from antiquity, in wich the modern reconstructionist makes ridiculously large chest piece, to fit the armour to reach all the way down to the modern low waistline. This causes the armour to not turn with the body easily, along the shoulder line, but causes an irritating at best, restricting at worst twist because it now both hangs from the shoulders, but also rests on the hip. One person who had made this mistake, described it themselves as “chafing on their nipples”, or something to that effect.

I could post several pictures, that people themselves have published, in wich they wear a ludicurously tall chest piece, but because my point is not to shame any individual who has made a common (as is my case) mistake, I shall not. If you are interrested, and do not recognize what I am talking about, I recommend you make a search for this and I promise you shall find plenty of examples of both reconstructions fitting the mistake I call out here, and of very good reconstructions, that have not made this error.

In any case, even if my example was hypothetical and nobody had made the particular mistake I present as an example, I hope you get my meaning. Further more, I do not believe in presenting the wrong example, but presenting the right example and especially in historical research a good source material of the orginal, as the better pedagogical example.

The picture below is from a Greek vase from the antiquity and it shows us how the so called linothorax armour plate is worn. Now, one could make the mistake to think that the waistline of this armour is lower than the navel, because of how it is painted here, and that is part of the problem. Our sources are not always accurate, or so obvious to us, that they would set us straight from our own cultural assumptions and biases. Yet, if we examine the picture closely, we see that the crotch of the man in the picture is just a bit lower than where the pteruges (the flaps hanging from the edge of his chest armour) even reach. If we compare them to the width of his hand, we are perfectly justified in thinking that the pteruges must be at least two widths of hand long. Even given the fact, that the hand width is not an accurate measurement, this leaves very little for us to assume otherwise, than that the lower edge of his chest piece is at the level of his navel and it is certainly not resting on his hip. This will not only allow a greater freedom of movement and wearer comfortability. It also explains why there are only two connection points to close the armour (not only in this particular picture, but uniformly nearly all pictures of such an armour), as if the chest piece was any taller, the twisting motion at the level of the navel would open it when the wearer made any radical movements. That would hardly be very convinient in a battle?

Kuvahaun tulos haulle pteruges

Once more, this is just an example of how easily we jump to conclusions about cultural concepts foreign to us, even in seemingly trivial things. In this case the false notion of historical concept of waistline based on modern fashion, makes the armour reconstruction next to unusable and certainly paints a picture of the ancient people having been idiots for using such clumsy military gear for generations after generations. Think about how a more taboo concept may make us see a foreign culture, we come to contact today, in a completely false and twisted light. This is the very same point, where our ignorance, preassumptions and biases makes some of us see all Muslims as potential terrorists.

Boys wear blue and girls wear pink. Right? Think again.

Are the knights in pink and red girls?

Are the knights in pink and red girls?

Who decided what colours define our sexual identity? In past centuries pink and red were percieved as strong aggressive colours and were favoured by the military types. I just read a short article (in Finnish, so I wont link it here) by a psychologist, who wondered how very young children are subjected to building of sexual identity. To me it seems somewhat perverse, that we even try to impose sexual identity to someone under 1m tall. Children are not and should not be percieved as sexual entities by adults. Correct?

When ever gender is raised as an issue, there allways are people who claim that since we have two distinct biological sexes, their social roles should also be distinctly different. That people who do not act according to what ever the society and cultural heritage expects from their physical gender are somehow “confused about their sexual identity”. It is my personal experience, as an indipendent observer, not a professional in this field, that people who are “confused of their sexual identty” are infact people who have had the most rigorous fitting into a box of one particular and limited vision of a gender. And when I speak about people who are “confused”, I am not talking about transgender people, but people who do the strangest stuff, because they think their gender demands them to.

For example, let us take “honour murders”. A Finnish enterpeneuer father, who has suffered a bankropsy feels his gender role as the provider for the family as such a burden, that when he is no longer able to, he kills his wife, and little children. One could say, that he is simply acting out of manic self centered world view, in wich he thinks his honour is more valuable, than his very own children. However, we may ask how he got this world view? Howcome, this tragedy is a repeating phenomenon in our society? Mothers also kill their children, but because of completely different reasons. To me the bankrupt father is the product of his cultural indoctrination to certain kind of view of manhood. Not a very healthy one, I expect you would agree. His extreme actions are just the peak of an iceberg. That is what comes out in the yellow press, but other symptoms of the same psychological indoctrination problem are the numerous and instead of listing them, I ask you what problems, crisis and symptoms gender roles imposed on us cause? There are many things in our society that cause harm, but are defended just for the sake of cultural tradition. Well, I think it is time to recognize the harm, and abandon harmfull and unethical practices.

As a nother example I could offer you the alcoholics who have ended to their current miserable position, because they themselves percieved to have lost their honour in some way or a nother.  Who ever was a young man or a woman and thought to themselves, that when I grow up I become a derelict? No one. Honour is a valuable thing and a person should hold on to it, but it is typical that the culture imposes different honour concepts to different genders. How are those in any way relevant to our respective re-productive organs? Why is it that in so many cultures a woman loses her honour and virtue, if she is raped? If our physical difference is in, that it is easier for a man to rape a woman, how should it result in, that it is the woman who should lose her honour in the act?

All the pictures of Jesus depict him as a long haired fellow, wich kind of suits his role as a hippie sort of character from our modern perspective, as what he told to people (not just to apostoles, but everyone) was to abandon their jobs, property and give all of their money to the poor. All of it. But apostole Paul, who never met him, writes in the Bible, that it is unnatural for a man to have long hair. Are these beloved pieces of art arguing against the divine word of the creator of the universe? Have the Christians for centuries not percieved the son of their god not to be a man at all? That his gender was not an issue, or that he had none? Or is it simply, that they have not read their holy book and noticed the awkward contradiction between traditional art and the Roman cultural heritage of apostole Paul? Perhaps the latter is the most likeliest explanation, since I have never met a Christian who had given all their property to the poor as Jesus told them to do.  Paul himself is traditionally depicted as balding guy, so perhaps he had a personal thing going on in this, but that would mean that the Bible was infact written by some dudes in the antiquity and the divine inspiration was as much influental to the finished product as most hollywood films are loyal to the books by wich they were inspired by…

I personally think, that if you cannot define from an adult man wether he is a man or a woman by other means than the length of his/her hair you should not try to make that guess. You simply are not mature enough to come to any physical terms of sexuality of any other person. If you can not define what gender a child is by other means than by the colour of the overalls, why should you?

We often see castles as the architectual epitome of romantic ideals. They are often pictured as having tall narrow towers with high pinnacles and a maiden waiting for her lost love in the upper most window. What could be more romantic than ever enduring love? Even the nasty sides of castles are seen as romantic. The idea that castles have narrow passageways and that they are cold and damp is a source of romanticising the building type. The fact that they are defendable fortresses is a nother source of romantic thinking. Set aside the symbolism of a maiden defending her virtue like a fortress. Think about it how romantically many men see war and everything connected. The heroic ideals of knights and sieges are some of the most strongly romantisized images.

One of the reasons medieval times are seen as a particularly romantic era, is the imagery people connect with romantic ideals. It is true, that in medieval times the leading elements of society had a lot of romantic ideals presented as realistic goals for their lives. As the aristocracy lost political power, long after the medieval times as a result of the great French revolution and during the industrial revolution, the romantic imagery of medieval times was emphasised even more.

A few weeks ago there was a newspaper article about a number of the Polish castles being renovated. The reactions of the web version of the article had a very interresting continuation of conversation. Some castles were seen as the romantic pictoresque “real castles” and others were not. The article was in a Finnish newspaper and so the discussion was about Finnish castles. We have several, but only one was recognized by some of the conversants as an actual castle. The St Olofsborg (Olavinlinna) with its tall round towers, seemed to fit perfectly with the romantic image of a medieval castle. It was originally built in the late 15th century and it is a medieval castle, though the youngest one in Finland. The three surviving tall round towers are medieval. The fourth tower has fallen in a fire. The tops of the towers are easily recognisable and are not at all medieval. They were built in the 18th century to house big guns on top of the towers. Much of the medieval castle is in fact hidden within the 18th century fortifications. So why is this particular castle seen as the foremost representative of medieval castle architecture in Finland?

Olofsborg

We have other castles that were centuries old when the constructions for St Olofsborg (Olavinlinna) begun. The oldest of the great castles is Åbo slott (Turun linna) that was originally built on a small island at the mouth of river Aura in the late 13th century. It is also the largest of the castles, as it was the political center of Finland through the middle ages and renneissance up until the 17th century. It has suffered several sieges and modifications during the centuries. Most of it still remaining is medieval, though one more level was erected on top of the main castle during mid 16th century to act as a palace residence of the Swedish crown prince. The former medieval palace was seen as old fashioned by them days. They also built a large round tower for cannons in one of the corners of the forecastle. Why is it, modern people would not see this mighty castle as fitting to the romantic ideals? Is it the bulky form. It certainly has tall towers, but since the castle itself is so big, the towers do not protrude high into the sky more than a couple of floors higher than the main castle. Is it just that the towers are square, so that round towers would be more expected from a “real castle”.

Åbo Slott

A nother of our great castles is Tafvastehus (Hämeen linna) wich was erected during early 14th century on a tall  island along one of the main inland waterways. The main castle is of the square baltic type, with small towers in corners and a mighty main tower as a gate house. the forecastle is built as a ring around the main, and they were originally only connected by a narrow wooden bridge.  A nother baltic characteristic about it is that it is mainly built from bricks not from stones like all the other castles in Finland. Today it also houses two tall corner towers and a round gunnery tower from the 16th century. The top most level built during the 18th century has absorbed the main tower and two of the lower corner towers. It has very pictoresque courtyard, but obviously the remaining square towers though as tall as the round ones at St Olovsborg are not seen as romantic, possibly because they are not much higher than the main building.

Tavastehus

Some of the castles have been greatly renovated after medieval times for military purposes, for use as prisons, or for storaging grain like the Kastelholm (Kastelholma) in Åland/Ahvenanmaa archipelago from late 14th century. They have also been renovated for museums during the last century. Sometimes after they had all but fallen into ruin. Perhaps, it is the fact that the St Olofsborg has been in use as an opera stage, accumulates some additional romantic appeal to it.

Ruins are often also seen as romantic, but since none of the ruins of finnish castles have tall round towers they seem to be not romantic enough.  We do have a plenty of them though. The Raseborg (Raasepori) erected on a shore side clif in the 14th century has a tall round tower, but again not much taller than the resto of the building. Then there is the Kustö (Kuusisto) bishops castle also from 14th century, which is in total ruins, though one may witness that it used to be a mighty castle by the sheer vastnes of the ruin.  And these are just to name the big ones.

We also have several smaller castles around Finland. Many of wich were not military bases of the realm as all the aforementioned castles, but more like personal family strongholds, like the Qvidja (Kuitia) from the late 15th century and the Krytzeborg (Korsholma) from the late 14th century, just for examples. The former is still standing and the latter is no more. Neither has tall towers. Many of the older minor castles are down to rubble and there is not even much historical knowledge about them in written sources.

One of the great castles that stood in the eastern border of Sweden in the medieval times was Viborg (Viipuri/Vyborg). Nowadays it is in modern Russia as a result of the WWII. It was originally built in late 13th century, when Sweden established its eastern border towards the Principality of Novgorod. In medieval times it was a famous castle for witholding several sieges, and rumour had it in European courts, that this particular castle had such a complex network of towers and walls that it could never be taken. In deed it had several minor towers in the surrounding wall along the shoreline of the island it was built on, and the mihgty square  tower of St Olof in the middle. Well, it was not taken during medieval times but once, by the very man Erik Akselsson (Tott) who built the St Olofsborg castle as a personal family residence. Erik took Viborg castle from the former garrison by a surprice attack, as they would not let him enter, though he was the appointed new commander of the castle. The former garrison claimed he had no right as he was of Danish origin to rule over a Swedish castle. This was in deed the law, but the Danish king ruled also Sweden at the time and he obviously had given the command of this important and indipendend fortification to an able man. Erik did not only built a nother castle for himself, he also supervised the building of a city wall around the town next to the castle. The silhouette of Viborg castle is known to finns, but it is not seen as a romantic castle other than romantisizing the WWII. The tall central tower was totally rendered during the 16th century, when the two top most levels were demolished and replaced by even taller eight corner guntower.

Viborg

Why do we not see these ancient castles of ours as part of the romantic idea of medieval castles? Is it because the romantic idea of a “real castle” is something more derived from Disney images, rather than from the very real castles in our own neighbourhood? Is it simply because there are so many of them, and we are so used to them, we do not see them as anything particularly romantic? Is it a good or a bad thing we do not? Do we see them for what they really are, as magnificent pieces of history, or only as some old houses and ruins with no especial value?

The outlaw hero who defended the helpless, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. It is interresting, how in our time, his image has been both idolised and questioned. He is only one of the many peoples heroes seen as myths. Many wery similar men could be named from European cultural tradition alone, like Wilhelm Tell, Adam Bell and many others. Common to these heroes is that they, or at least their deeds, are disputable as unhistorical or even mythical. They were common men, whose efforts were not praised by court minstrells,  monks or other men of the cloth. Not in a positive sense to be sure at least. Not while their enemies, the mighty lords drew breath at least. Their stories are often recorded from folktales only hundreds of years after their time. When all that actually happened has allready been soaked by mythical measure and the persons behind the events have formed into stereotypes.

It has been even claimed that such a man as Robin Hood could not have existed, because a robber who shares his loot with the weak and poor of the land is an inconsievable proposition. That an able man helps himself and no other. Do you think so? Why should we all be selfinterrested arseholes? If someone claims that the tale of Robin Hood could not be true because, he did morally and ethically right things, then you might ask what is wrong with this person. In my mind this is a claim by a psychopat. Maybe that psychopat is being honest to himself, but I would like to think that most of us have a consience. That a working man is ready to even take arms when he is pushed to the limit. It is noteworthy that all these heroes of the common man have used the “dishonourable” weapons of the commoner like bows.

John Bellamy researched the oldest known written source “The Gest of Robyn Hode” written in the late 14th century. Bellamy found several actual people from historical books of office that shared the names of the heroes in the commonly known heroics of Robin Hood. These people lived in the early 14th century. He claimed that Robin Hood was actual historical person, only that he actually did not live in the times of  Richard “The Lionheart” and John “Lackland”, but centuries later. This could of course also be true.

In my opinion, it is not really a significant point to these stories wether the men lived in 12th century or 14th century. Wether we can actually show that such men known by the name of Robin Hood, Robert Hode, Robin of Loxley or of Sherwood. Wether the merry men lived in Sherwood, Barnsdale or Nottingham.

What is important about Robin Hood is that his stories could have been told about Wilhelm Tell or Adam Bell just as well. They are the commoner heroes, who in their own time preferred to remain anonymous. To hide their identity under such names as Jacques Bonhomme during the peasant revolt of Jacqeries in France. For the common man, who has once risen against tyranny, even if it was by “force majeur”, has no peace from his “betters” ever again. Unless he wears a “hood” to hide himself.

As you expected I will also write about the Robin Hood films. Every film about Robin tells us more about the era of their filming than they do about medieval England.

The Erroll Flyn epic was one of the worst movies in terms of authenticity of its own time among those set in medieval times. It set an example, that when a movie tells a tale of medieval times the costumer for one, does not have to worry about historical accurasy. Many of the early Hollywood movies set in medieval times have actually wery good costuming and general view of the era, but later moviemakers have ended up copying the older movies rather than making the research themselves. It seems that to some moviemakers medieval is synonumous to fantasy. There are of course exeptions to this rule.

I have enjoyed  some film intepretations of the Robin Hood legend. It is a legend and therefore the events and characters are rather free game to the scriptwriter. Considering how many films have been made of the same basic storyline, it is surprising how the film makers can find new angles to the myth. Some have been better than others. I will name my three favourites: #3 Robin Hood (released in 1991, but not the stoopid “Prince of Thieves”) Directed by John Irvin and starring superb Uma Thurman as Maid Marian. This movie was simply beatifull in the sense of late autumn when it is not easy living in Sherwood forest. It presents Robin as a saxon nobleman fighting for his lost rights against norman opressors. A plausible setting, but even though it has been (for some reason) popular among movie makers, is an element added to the Robin Hood stories only as late as 19th century during the romantic revival. #2 Robin and Marian, wich tels the heros end as a living legend. It has the feeling of hot late summer days in it. #1 TV-series “Robin of Sherwood” (also published as a movie “Robin Hood and the Sorcerer”) written by Richard Carpenter, as it really joins the myths of the British Isles to the harsh reality the english commoner lived during  feudal reign. It is the story about the peoples hero. “You are like a may morning…”

The bad movies and TV-series are such a multitude that most of them do not even deserve being mentioned. I will however write something about the latest movie by Ridley Scott. He knows how to entertain the public. I however was just as disappointed coming out of the movie theatre as I was when I’d just seen Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven is in my opinion a superbly fine movie. The long version that is. The one shown in theatres aroun the world was a terrible torso. For some reason the production company had extracted plot-characters and important scenes. For some reason the “directors cut” was seen as too long to be commercially profitable.  I do not see how the new Robin Hood film could be remedied quite the same way.

I had decided beforehand, that I would not let flaws in costuming, of the new Robin Hood movie, distract or bother me. I wanted to enjoy an epic adventure made by a tallented crew. In that respect the movie started fine. The actors were terrific. They had obviously found some new angle to the story. However the preparation and staging of the story seemed to take for ever and lead nowhere.  At certain point the costuming started to look like everything believable was surplus from the Kingdom of Heaven and everything that was made especially for this movie seemed cheap crap.

The final battle was, in my humble opinion, totally like from a nother movie. It did not really fit in with the historical backround or the storyline of the movie. Now, Ridley Scott has made some marvellous battle scenes, like in aforementioned Kingdom of heaven and in the Gladiator, but this was nowhere close.  At the point when the surplus landing vessels from the Saving private Ryan appeared, my immersion to the story melted like butter in the sun. All my symphaties for maid Marion (who by the way is not a maid, but a widow in the movie – a bit illogically) were lost as she did the most irresponsible act ever by a hero character in any movies I can remember. She brought a bunch of little kids straight to the middle of the battle. It was never even explained why she did this abomination. Before the battle was over, with too much of waving of the camera to make anything of it, I was ready to leave the theatre. I decided to stay however, but that was it.

Maybe there was a point behind the movie and maybe the makers had found a new aspect to the old story, but still as a movie, as an adventure epic it was spoiled by one scene and spoiled totally. As a historical movie it sets somewhere in middleground as far as believability is concerned. This is mainly due to the fact, that most historical movies are no very accurate at all.

Story of Robin Hood could have started like this. Why not? Exept that the french did not try to invade England. The englishmen have feared the attack from mainland for generations. Castles and fortifications have been erected to protect the island from invasion, but the french have never tried it since they achieved it once in 1066. Maybe they have seen that the poor island is not worth trying. Basing a movie about a legendary peoples hero on a historical event that did not happen, but committing real historical characters to play it out eats at the legend. It is one thing to say there could have been this brigand or guerilla warrior in England called Robin Hood at a given time, than to claim the kingdoms of France and England engaged in a battle, that we know, historically never happened. First occasion sets within the limits of believability the second is pure fable. Sure, king John Softsword did fight a war against the french, but it all happened on french soil.

Robin Hood is such a strong image in peoples minds that it will not be changed by just one more movie. Wether he actually existed is irrelevant. Such everyday heroes did exist in the middle ages. Europe was full of powerhungry feodal rulers, who set laws in their own accordance and did not respect the common mans rights. But when people are opressed they start to fight their rulers, and among these common men sometimes a hero arises. Some of them end up in the pages of history, like Wat Tyler or Che Guevara, others are the stuff of legends.

Romance as a word refers to the romans, who actually as a people were more known for their pragmatism, than by romantic dreaming. It means dreaming of a lost age. To the late medieval people Romans represented a golden age lost to history during the dark centuries after the fall of western part of the Roman empire. The most fabulous and popular myths derived from the age of the fall. The stories of king Arthur and his knights especially so. But there were also legendary stories about king Charlemagne and his knights set in a later era. They were the lights in the darknes that rose to set the new world order of feudalism and continue the imperial legacy of Rome.

What is common to the most favored stories in medieval times is that they emphesise the glory of the knightly elite. Even though, if king Arthur was an actual person and his celtic warriors were not knights as such, they represented a wery cimilar social class of horse riding warrior elite. Same elite had existed in Rome, who were called equites for their horses. The medieval latin name for knights was however miles, meaning just soldier.

To re-enact the and play those past heroes the knights of later medieval times would organise great tournaments, in wich they would assume roles from myths and re-fight the most famous battles of ancient times with blunt weapons. They would have great round tables to sit in the evenings to feast upon and to commemorate king Arthurs famous round table. They would even abandon their own heraldic devices (wich were ever so important to them in tournaments) to assume the imagined devices of those long gone heroes of the past.

The heroes idoliszed by later medieval knights were of course christians and if possible fighting the “good fight” against pagans and monstrosities representing the devil. The fact that the warrior elite ethos is in terrible contradiction with what Jesus taught never even crossed their minds. They were the protectors of holy mother the church by their knightly wov, and it was the natural order of the world that they would rule by birthright and violence. So often it was even easier for them to relate themselves (unknowingly) even to myths derived from pagan age that had the cimilar ethos to theirs.

The church did tried to condemn the tournament festivities. It was basically because the early tournaments were quite violent and often led to injuries and death. The church was not worried about any humane factors. It was more about sufficient quantaties of knights to join the crusades. The pope declared that any man who would die in the tournament, would go straight to hell. This bann had little effect, exept some irritated letters to the pope to withdraw in this matter. One French knight wrote to the pope, that how can the young men be expected to protect the kingdom and their lords domains if they have not felt their teeth crack and members go of joints in a tournament field. He argued that this ban was rising a generation of cowards. The ban was not lifted and the tournaments carried on whitout the formal approval of the papacy. Most priests however came from the same social class and were sons and brothers of knights. So they had no disdain of tournament games and would give their blessing to the knights entering tournament. One reason for church to condemn the tournament games had also been the fact that they were the wery few medieval non religious festivities. Eccelsial control over peoples lives does not necessarily make people more religious, but it certainly grants political power. And since the church was full of men who had not entered it because of personal faith, but rather to give their noble family political power inside this mighty and prosperous organisation, it fed itself to become ever more powerfull and richer.

The early tournaments were violent and took place in wide tracks of land. Whole villages might be burnt down in the course and the weapons were first the actual weapons. So the early tournaments resembled more actual wars. Only with the exeption, that they were agreed and only knights could attend. The knights would team up according to their feudal alliances and were led by their actual wartime commanders and liegelords. The aim was to take enemies as prisoners, who would then be ransomed by their relatives, just like in an actual war. There are stories of black knights entering these tournaments only to get money from richer knights by ransom. For the name black knight refers to younger sons of noblemen who would not inherit anything other their weapons and horse, and thus were at constant need of money. Later on the combat became more ritualized. Weapons were regulated and standarded into safer forms. The armour used became more and more like sportsecuipment ment just for a particular type of combat. The main styles of combat were the joust and the melee.

In joust two knights would charge eachother from opposite sides of the field armed with lances, in order to dismount the other. Points were granted also for breaking a lance against opponents shield or helmet. This lead to a development of special jousting helmets and armourpieces to be added to the left side of the jouster.

The melee was a great gathering of knights who would organize into two teams, that would fight eachother in a fenced field. They were armed with either wooden clubs or blunted swords. The aim was to strike the opposing knights helmet decoration. The decoration usually repeated the knights heraldic arms and was made of leather, cloth and even paper. As knights they were of course mounted. The rules were however wery strict. You were not allowed to strike your opponet (the shamefull punishmet would be sitting in your armour at the fence for the rest of the game). You were not allowed to strike your opponents horse (punisment for this was the same as saying something shamefull of a lady, that is being bashed by all the other attendants). The combatants would wear special sport armour made for the melee that was lighter and often better “airconditioned” than the actual battle harness. Even whole suits of leather were made for this, alltough otherwise no leather armour was used during the middle ages. In the melee a knight was accompanied by his armiger or sergeant bearing his standard. The sergeant had no other job than to show with the flag to the ladies and noblesse following the event as audience where in the combat his lord was presently riding. Even the lowly foot soldiers were sometimes allowed to take part in this tournament. Armed with long stafs they would try to help their lord from outside the fenced area.

During the many days of a tournament the more important events took place first. The fights where the mightiest lords would attend were during the first days and the lesser nobility had their fights after. As the last events the behourds of the armigers and sons of the knights were often fought on foot. Some of these fights could take elaborate forms like a group of armigers and sergeants attacking a fortress of love specially built for the event while the knights would defend it. The ladies would be placed in the higher levels of the fort and the knights (usually a considerably bigger bunch than the attackers) would give “a good bashing” to the armigers attacking the fortress. The fortress itself could be mounted on a hill specially built for it from wood. This kind of event was often named after a famous, legendary or mythical battle and/or the attendants (especially the ladies and the knights) would take personalities from legends. Sometimes the roles were wersed so that the knights would be attacking and armigers and sergeants defending, but allways with the same result of knights winning the ladies.

Tournaments survived the medieval times and were a great hobby of many a renessance kings. They declined from fashion during the late 16th century even though the armoured cavalryman kept his place as the peak of the elite among soldiery.

During the 19th century the nobility of Europe was declining political power to the bourgeiose class. The nobless made a last attempt to remind themselves of  their great knghtly and hereditary right to rule. The romaticism was once more reborn and the good old days of the medieval times re-enacted by the lords themselves. They donned their ancestrall armour and organized great tournaments.