By Sir Guillaume de la Belgique
There's a story I heard about last year's Pennsic that may or may not be true, but it bears repeating anyway. There was a knight, so the story goes, who was in the thick of the fighting during the last day's battle. As the combat neared it's close, the knight found himself hard pressed on every side, stabbing furiously with his pike. Enemies went down by the dozens, and at last one of the opposing fighters got close enough to strike this knight. Finally defeated, the knight hurled his weapon at the fighter who'd killed him and said, "My lord, I am inspired by your valor! Please take my lance in commemoration of this moment of skill and honor."
Then one of the nearby fighters said, "Sir knight, that was one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen!"
And the knight replied quietly, "Well, I'm flying home, and I can't take the spear with me, so I had to get rid of it. Why not make someone's day in the process?"
By the twilight of the Middle Ages, the knights of Europe, desperately seeking to establish their credentials as divine rulers in the face of a merchant class that was rapidly gaining the ability to buy and sell noble titles like PokŽmon cards, began to look back to a "golden age of chivalry" that might never have really existed. For some, this refurbished version of the knightly code was a license to commit all sorts of atrocities; for others it was an inspiration for truly great and worthy accomplishments.
As we reach the final days of the Pennsic War, we find ourselves in much the same position: Our version of the Middle Ages may be better in re-creation than it was in its original inception. We all admire tales of honor and glory from days past (whether they're real or not). Yet it's what happens when the costumes come off and the pavilions come down that really defines the success of our efforts at Pennsic.
For a week we get the privilege of living in a world where the conflicts are imaginary, where courtesy is applauded and where honor can be measured in coronets and award medallions. If only the real world was so simple - outside the gate of Pennsic is a place where real people may be called upon to put their reputations, fortunes and lives on the line to defend what's right with the firm knowledge that they may never rewarded or even recognized for what they do.
To paraphrase the author C.S. Lewis, what we do here at Pennsic -the make-believe battles and the leisure-time activities -does not require real chivalry, but we may practice real chivalry here if we choose to. We can judge how effective that practice is only by assessing how much of our chivalry remains when the Pennsic-party is over and we all go back to the real world of conflict, strife, grief and complacency.
As the people of Europe turned outward to explore the globe at the end of the Middle Ages, the ideals of chivalry provided a moral compass that they could use to navigate the rough waters ahead. May the golden days of Pennsic do the same for us as we prepare to launch our own voyages of exploration into that world beyond the gates of Cooper's Lake.
The full line of Guillaume's books and audio CDs, including "Here Comes the Reign, Sir Guillaume!" and "Bringing Chivalry to Life" are available in Ceridwen's Closet, space #74 in merchants row. Readers who have enjoyed Guillaume's columns in the Pennsic Independent may also want to visit his websties: