Brutality and Disney at Children’s Fete


HRM Tindal of Æthelmearc faces his deadliest opponent yet at the Childrens’ Fete
Photo by Wanda Ostojowna

By Emily of Gee

“This is the ring of a thousand deaths!” says Godai Katsunaga. He sits ringside in leather armor as several of his knightly comrades — some on their knees, some lying on the ground — beg for mercy as they’re brutally pummeled. But their opponents are all out of mercy. One, in a frenzy, continues to hack at a fallen knight long after he’s stopped moving. “Jessie!” The warrior turns. “I think that one’s dead, sweetie! You can stop now! Come on out!”

The tiny boy, who looks like he’s about four years old, gives the prone knight a final chop with his foam sword, then runs past several other duels in progress to his mother, thrilled at his victory. The knight peeks his head up off the ground, then hauls himself up and back to the row of seats around the ring, taking a breather before facing the next of an endless line of kids at the Children’s Fete Wednesday afternoon.

“It's all about the death,” says Katsunaga as he takes a brief rest on a bench between bouts. A good death, he says, “has to include a lot of flopping around on the ground, because the kids love it. The more dramatic the death, the more fun they have.”

“It’s exhausting — this is worse than fighting a battle,” Katsunaga says. Still, he volunteers to get beat on by children every year. “A couple years ago, Atlantia put out a call for fighters for the Whack-A-Knight, as they call it. I volunteered, and it was the most fun I had at that whole Pennsic. I love the fighting, I love the shooting of the archery — but this is the most fun.”

“They get to kill you once... sometimes they'll kill you twice, just because they want to.” Katsunaga laughs. Sometimes, he says, a kid will fixate on one particular fighter and wait in line several times in a row to get another shot at him. A giggling blond girl who looks about seven approaches, holding out her foam sword to Katsunaga in challenge. Asks why she wants to fight this knight in particular, she pauses to think about it. “Because… I LIKE FIGHTING!” she screams. Katsunaga nods in approval, rises, and takes a fighting stance.

Across the room, red-haired Aneleda Falconbridge is dressed all in green, holding a bow and wearing a nametag that says “Hi, my name is MERIDA!” Falconbridge and her husband have a 7-year-old son, Jesse, who’s had a great time at the Children’s Fete for years, and she wanted to help out. “So there was a notice online looking for Disney princesses to come and be at the Children's Fete, and while I'm not overwhelmingly princessy in general, there is one that I somewhat resemble." She laughs, touching her curly hair.

“We have a handful — Tinkerbell, Megara from Hercules, and Rapunzel — we hear that Snow White is going to show up too.” Falconbridge says the kids have been super into it, and that she hopes more princesses show up to volunteer next year. Because she knows they’re out there: “Atlantia had a ‘period Disney princess’ garb challenge a while ago, so there are a number of people who have these spectacular Disney princess outfits in period. Some people do have an interest in that kind of fun, and what better place to play that out than at the Children’s Fete?” Falconbridge laughs. “It’s kind of hilarious, cosplaying here — like a box in a box. Yes, I’m coming to my medieval event to pretend to be a different medieval person.”

Lady Aine of Eldenwood, the coordinator of the Children’s Fete, says the princesses are all part of a larger effort “to entertain the kids and parents in line so it's not quite such an arduous task to wait. There's always lines and we can't change that, but we've added roaming bards and the Disney princesses, some of them in period garb.” She adds that she’d especially love to get more fools, maybe even the whole fool school, involved in the same way next year.

A woman in line had remarked earlier to this reporter that she thought Scadian kids were extra fun because they’re true beneficiaries of the “it takes a village” mindset. Lady Aine says she agrees that SCA kids are special. “We're teaching them early to be responsible in an environment that they can safely be responsible in. In the regular world, there's so much out there that we have to guard them against. Here, you still have to watch, but there’s encampments where you know that if you're in that encampment, you're fine, you're OK, and the kids can explore and be kids and learn that way. I think that's a benefit a lot of people don't have.”

Atlantia primarily plans the Fete, but she says other kingdoms are welcome: “Anybody that could pack that little square in the truck that will help, we'll squeeze ‘em in wherever we can put ‘em.” She says her volunteers tell her that this is one of the most fun jobs at the war. “They all have fun seeing the looks on the kids' faces — when you make a kid smile it makes all the things you've done worth it.”