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I had a really nice Labor Day weekend. Marilyn and I went to the Renaissance Festival on Monday, and it was pretty much what one would expect from a Renaissance Festival. It was a beautiful clear day with a fairly strong breeze - a welcome respite from days of rain and humidity. The aforementioned rains resulted in muddy lanes and avenues, just like the real Renaissance. All we needed was sewage in the middle of the street!

My complaints were few: aside from the mud, there wasn't as wide a variety in food types available as I remember there being in the Devore Ren Faire, and apparently pottery is extremely popular out here. I would have preferred a few less pottery booths selling nearly the same wares and a few more papermakers, but what are you going to do?

On the plus side, there was the weather, there were the mostly beautiful permanent buildings; aside from a slum of food servers that looked like they'd been salvaged from Disneyland, nearly every one made me wish I'd gotten a digital camera from school for the weekend. There were fewer "girls in chainmail bikinis" than one encounters in Devore, though the mostly atrocious drawings for sale in many booths strove to fill the pervert gap. I suspected there may have been a fair amount of tiresome double-entendre-ing in the performances going on, but we rarely stuck around in one spot long enough to hear much of anyone's show. I can tell you that they did have microphones and speakers, which for me was just one more cheesy cheat.

This brings me to a subject I recently read about in two essays for my Brothers Grimm class. As much as I enjoy Renaissance Faire (and the idea of Renaissance Faire), everyone knows it bears as much resemblance to the historical Renaissance as Xaria bears to medieval Europe. Well, everyone who's familiar with Campaign, anyway. There are performers and artisans, all striving to give their audiences the notion that what they produce are part of a rich and ancient tradition, the Arte of Olden Tymes - when, in fact, they are almost entirely modern fabrications designed to appear Old Tymey to people who don't know any better; they are meant to look like what modern day consumers *think of* as Old Tymey. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for debate - the author of the essay seemed to take a low view of it, but admitted that others believed such contamination was all a part of the transmission of old traditions - adaptation, change, renewal, and continuance.

This is basically what the Brothers Grimm did. They gathered these stories - not by going to peasant huts and listen to them tell stories, as I had originally pictured, but by getting them from older story collections and from the tales of middle-class women, who had originally heard them from their nannies. So, they *may* have come from the peasantry... In any case, they took these stories, cleaned them up by removing crass humor and sexual references while giving them more dramatic literary structure (making them palatable to a literate Protestant middle class readership), and then presented them to the public as the literature of the common people (the landvolk ). The Brothers Grimm had strong political motivations as well; they wanted to inspire unity through nationalism among the otherwise disjointed German principalities, pointing out the commonality of their values as seen in the tales of their peasantry. They seemed to have wanted said tales also to provide moral instruction for the young (though many of these stories were not originally intended for children - indeed, the notion of sheltering children from "adult matters" was a concept that had not existed for the entirety of the Medieval era)...

There was another note in the essay speaking about Walt Disney, and how he essentially was doing the same thing with the fairy tales; only that his emphases were different. There was some discussion in class on that point, as one or two people seemed unable (or unwilling) to believe that the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney (or, more correctly in their minds, the [evil] Disney Corporation) were doing essentially the same thing.

Anyway, my point is...well, I'm not sure I have a point, except to say that this was all swimming around in my mind when we were at the Ren Faire, er, Festival. Not that it dampened my enjoyment of it - it's goofy, cheesy fun, and on those occasions when I have access to it, an excuse to go out into the world dressed in fantasy costume and roleplay for a while - but it made me more aware of the whole process.

It also made $35 for a leather mug seem all the more ridiculous. I hope we can find an SCA War somewhere in the area...

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 at Wednesday, September 08, 2004 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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