Where Fantasy Rules
Another summer, another Saturday of escape into a fantasy of the past. In the depths of winter my husband and I share a litany of future joys, as certain in our life as the rising sun. Part of our litany is always, “We’ll go back to the Faire.” The Bristol Renaissance Faire, midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, has never failed us yet.
Each year delights us with a blend of familiar and fresh. While our favorite porcupine wasn’t at this year’s petting zoo, we got to gape at a large horned zebu cow from Africa. We missed a couple of bands we enjoy and happened onto others that kept us smiling. I shot six arrows from a miniature crossbow. Only one hit the target.
What do you suppose time travelers from Elizabethan England would make of it all? Would they find anything familiar? Not the fairy wings, accordion music, or chocolate-coated bananas. It doesn’t matter. Historical accuracy matters a lot for nonfiction, quite a bit for historical fiction, and not at all for playing at the past. Getting to pick and choose makes the Faire a lot more fun—not to mention safer and more healthful—than if we could actually travel back in time.
The drive home took us through Wisconsin countryside devastated by flash floods. Roads and bridges were out, vehicles half under water, farm fields transformed into ponds. I’ll bet a flood disaster would make perfect sense to visitors from the Renaissance. In real life they, like the residents of this week’s flood-land, didn’t get to pick and choose.
7/17/2017 11:17:58 am
Ha, Sarah. Your comments remind me of one of the sessions I attended a week ago at the genealogy conference on German immigration. He showed a slide, and said, This was your ancestors. The image was of a painting by (I should know the artist), and it was a dark and dirty scene. Then he went to the next slide and it was a, shall we say, buxom young woman in ethnic dress holding up a tray of beer, and a quite handsome young man in similar ethnic garb, holding a beer stein, both smiling from ear to ear. He said, This was NOT your ancestors, while pointing to the woman's high heels. Still, I bet the clothes weren't far off otherwise? And who was having more fun, the first slide or the second?
Yes, Lisa, exactly! The fantasy is so much more fun than the reality must have been. I wonder what fantasy people 400 years from now will have of our lives.
7/17/2017 12:16:50 pm
So, musing here. Does fantasy kind of require a bit of knowledge of history? Mmmm. Maybe not. Is fantasizing a luxury that we have now? Do people who live so hand to mouth have the luxury? Or does it take over their whole minds? I'd like to think they could sit down now and then and go somewhere else, if only in their heads.
I'm sure living hand to mouth didn't preclude fantasy, though not necessarily historical. The more labor was physical rather than mental, the more freedom people may have had to let their minds go elsewhere. They wouldn't have to sit down to do it.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.