Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The games people played

As you can see in the side bar I am currently reading Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. It is a really good read, although a bit difficult at times because there is so much information. I thought I'd share some of the more interesting bits as I came across them. Here is something that really stood out as a bit strange:
In village games, players with hands tied behind them competed to kill a cat nailed to a post by battering it to death with their heads, at the risk of cheeks ripped open or eyes scratched out by the frantic animal's claws. Trumpets enhanced the excitement. Or a pig enclosed in a wide pen was chased by men with clubs to the laughter of spectators as he ran squealing from the blows until beaten lifeless. Accustomed in their own lives to physical hardship and injury, medieval men and women were not necessarily repelled by the spectacle of pain, but rather enjoyed it. The citizens of Mons bought a condemned criminal from a neighboring town so that they should have the pleasure of seeing him quartered. It may be that the untender medieval infancy produced adults who valued others no more than they had been valued in their own formative years.
Wow! And people think Grand Theft Auto is morally degrading!

That last part about the "untender medieval infancy" refers to something mentioned previously in the book about how children were of little concern to medieval society. I'll talk about that some other time.

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