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The Middle Ages as Fiction

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  • The Middle Ages as Fiction

    What is your favourite medieval fiction in any media? Books, movies, comics, buildings, etc.?

  • #2
    Yesterday I saw The King (2019), actually not that bad. I also liked Excalibur (1981) and Valhalla Rising (2009). Ingmar Bergman had made several medieval films, the best is probably The Seventh Seal (1957). I am also a big fan of Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966), and some of the old versions of Robin Hood. Peter Glenville's Becket (1964) is another favourite of mine, especially because of the terrific acting.

    Regarding books I am fond of The Once and Future King and Eco's crime mystery The Name of the Rose. But obviously a lot of fantasy fiction, and before that Gothic fiction, is inspired by the Middle Ages in terms of atmosphere, level of technology, language etc. I have always wondered about the fascination, in the 20th and 21st century, with the Medieval Period. Looking at Netflix and HBO productions today the obsession with all things medieval seems stronger than ever.


    • #3
      Excalibur! Love it.

      I'm still a sucker for Ivanhoe. I know it is completely inaccurate historically and culturally, but it engaged my adolescent brain the same way Disney's version of Robin Hood grabbed my younger mind (which is of course more a Rienhart the Fox story than a Robin Hood story-Hi Berry!)

      I also read Pillars of Earth years ago. I never cared about the intersection of architecture and religion until I read that. I knew Cathedrals were central to geography and politics in many ways, but never really thought about the politics (and art) in their construction. I've never appreciated the arch more.


      • #4
        My favourite movies set in the Middle Ages, have to be, The Decameron & The Canterbury Tales, directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. I saw the first when I was about 14, in the local fleapit & the second, at the old Scala, in North London, when it was a great indy movie theatre, back in the Eighties. They just glister with a crazy sort of good natured authenticity. You can almost smell it! What's even better is that they're not only the Middle Ages as fiction, they actually based on Mediæval fiction. 😉

        Then there's the movie version of, The Name of The Rose. That's good, it led me to the book, by Umberto Eco, which is even better. Recently, I've been reading about the philosophical teachings of (St) Thomas Aquinas, including articles by Eco (collected in, Travels in Hyper Reality {originally, Faith in Fakes}, a palimpsest for our times), which add even more depth to the philosophical & historical subtext. The movie and book also got me reading Ellis Peters' Father Cadfael books, which are great fun, if you like mediæval detectives. Derek Jacobi did a good job playing Cadfael in the TV series. But, the books are better, of course. 😉

        Then, there's, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, however outrageous, thanks to Terry Jones, who knew his Middle Ages, no more outrageous than some of the myths, legends, romances & realities of the times.

        Just to add, N°1 son saw the director's cut of Ridley Scott's, Kingdom of Heaven, recently & thought it was brilliant. I quite enjoyed the original version, one of the best movies about the Crusades.

        Which reminds me of Paul Verhoeven & Rutger Hauer's, Flesh+Blood, a bloody swashbuckling mediæval romp, par excellence!

        Finally, not forgetting another great swashbuckler, Prince of Foxes (1949), starring Tyrone Power & Orson Welles, as Cesare Borgia (although, that's really set in the Renaissance).
        Last edited by Pietro_Mercurios; 08-28-2020, 07:53 AM. Reason: Adding stuff & corrections, etc.


        • #5
          Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the best reference this thread will make.

          And I still need to read Eco. A giant hole in my reading.


          • #6
            Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millenium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages is pretty much why I have the username I do. The Cheese and the Worms: the Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller by Carlo Ginzburg helped cement the notion.

            In a less historic, less euro-centric but more fantasy vein, I enjoyed Aliette de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood trilogy and its medieval Aztec milieu.

            Tor Dot Com had/has a series of articles by a medieval scholar who examines fantasy stories with medieval settings: Medieval Matters.


            • #7
              Great recommendations, thanks guys!


              • #8
                I am reading Italo Calvino's early trilogy Our Ancestors, recommended by Heresiologist in another thread. Love it very much so far, its humorous, grotesque and surprisingly gloomy. All 3 novels, or fables is perhaps the proper term, are set in the Middle Ages, which is why I thought to mention it here. I need to read more of Calvino.