"My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms. But for you perhaps, if as I hope and wish you will live long after me, there will follow a better age. This sleep of forgetfulness will not last for ever. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance."A time of anarchy and chaos (roughly 500 - 1500 AD), when people were disease-ridden and covered with filth, unless one happened to be king... at least, if you believe what Hollywood says about them — according to real modern historians this is a load of cobblers based purely on the fact that we don't have many documents from that time. In Hollywood Land, however, this was a time of muck and more muck. The cleanest—and most well-known—figure of this period generally ends up being Arthur, King (...ish) of the Britons, who had a round table, around which sat his band of noble and chivalrous
Popular tropes for works set in this time period are:
- After the End
- An Axe to Grind: Axes were probably the most frequent non-spear weapon of the era, as an axe is fairly easy for a relatively unskilled smith to make, and peasants tended to have these around anyway for firewood.
- Ancestral Weapon: Often Truth in Television, as the difficulties of making steel and pattern welding made high-quality blades expensive,not to mention the shortage of metals, and they tended to get passed down, some eventually receiving a name and a legendary Back Story.
- Anachronism Stew: It's fairly common to see things that invented in the High and Late Middle Ages such plate armor to pop up in fiction during this period. King Arthur is a particularly bad offender in this.
- Barbarian Hero
- Blade on a Stick: What most fighters actually had to settle for, when they weren't stuck with farming implements or just the stick.
- Carry a Big Stick
- Droit du Seigneur
- Drop the Hammer
- The Dung Ages
- Feudal Overlord
- Golden Age:
- A localized one in Ireland which saw a huge cultural, religious and artistic flowering thanks to the arrival of monasticism (this is where the 'Saints' from an 'Island of Saints and Scholars' comes in).
- The Carolingian dynasty of Mayors of the Palace, Kings, and finally Emperors helped another one explode on the mainland towards the end of this period, capping off with Charlemagne reconstructing the largest empire in continental Europe since Rome. This was just the first of three different such renaissance periods in Europe prior to the Italian Renaissance that is generally known by that name.
- Here There Were Dragons
- Heroes Prefer Swords: The history behind this is: after the fall of Rome (which had made swords standard for its soldiers), later swords would be expensive, prestigious weapons in many parts of Europe at least and legendary heroes would usually those rich enough to own swords, or alternatively those honored to be given them by their chief or liege.
- Additionally, the western Roman Empire wasn't quite dead during the dark ages, and the feudal states hadn't actually developed their own war-craft to a competitive degree yet. So swords were a characteristic weapon of the only people who were fully trained in the craft of the professional soldier, with formal training in tactics etc. If a band of mercenaries showed up and they were mostly equipped with swords, chances were that it was a legion remnant and you were about to have your own untrained peasant levies shoved up our arse sideways.
- Heroic Fantasy
- Horny Vikings
- The Time of Myths: Can overlap, depending on the degree of realism.
- Vestigial Empire: The Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century, leaving crumbling roads and aqueducts to lace Europe-but only the Western half. The Eastern Roman Empire continued on until the fifteenth century: advanced infrastructure, a literate culture, and a higher standard of living, but in an increasingly smaller territory.
Public Domain Characters & Public Domain Artifacts of this era:
- King Arthur
Works set in this time period are:
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Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- All movie and literary versions of King Arthur...although their aesthetic is almost certainly that of The Middle Ages, or even The Late Middle Ages.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Pythons admit that Anachronism Stew is at work: It is said to be set in Dark Ages Britain – the early 9th century – but the costumes are based on fashions from the 1300s. Yet it is still one of the most accurate depictions of the era ever put on film, due largely to the influence of Terry Jones (himself something of a medieval scholar).
- The 13th Warrior
- Beowulf and Grendel (2005)
- Outlander (2008), i.e., Beowulf, the Sci-Fi Remix.
- Valhalla Rising
- Kaamelott is theoretically set in the 5th century, but deliberately and gleefully uses Anachronism Stew such as Renaissance-era full plate armor coexisting with Roman iorica segmenta, the Roman Empire is on its last legs but Gladiator Games are still going strong, the Egyptians still have architects capable of building pyramids while the Pope is sending Inquisitors around to sniff out heresy and witchcraft, etc.
- The Last Kingdom