like to lump all of the Middle Ages into one indistinct era, but a study of real history will show that the period of the fall of Western Rome and the rise of Monasticism in Europe was more of a prelude to the true Middle Ages
. It began with an alleged dark age
, when people were supposedly too busy staying alive to write histories, had a few peaceful years in the middle, and ended with Vikings ravaging the coasts, and horsemen storming out of the east. In reality, there were substantial intellectual and cultural advancements during the alleged "Dark Ages," and modern historians universally reject classifying the Early Middle Ages as being an "age of darkness."
Most Hollywood monks are pious men with tonsures, clad in long black robes. They frequently spend all their days dipping feathered pens into inkwells and scribbling strange uncials into large books by candlelight. If they're being played by Derek Jacobi
, they may take time out of their busy schedule of scribbling, praying, singing, and rejecting all of their worldly goods to mill about the town and solve a murder mystery or two
If not a monk, the Hollywood European of this time is generally either a cruel warlord
pursuing his droit-de-seigneur
or an oppressed peasant
Or he is a barbarian invader. For this is also the time of the Vikings
, hearty sailors in horned helmets who loved burning down monasteries and carrying off struggling peasant women, while Alfred The Great
Other vaguely remembered names from this period are Canute, trying to turn back the tide, and Charlemagne.
The arrival of the Normans in 1066 is as good a cut-off point as any, especially since they were the ones who really started building castles with a vengeance. After that, see The High Middle Ages
WARNING: Do not confuse with the French "Bas Moyen Age", which is a phrase literally meaning the same thing as "Low Middle Ages" but actually refers to The Late Middle Ages
Tropes Associated with this era include
- An Axe to Grind: probably the most frequent non-spear weapon, as an axe is fairly easy for a relatively unskilled smith to make, and peasants tended to have these around anyway for firewood.
- In a case of Reality Is Unrealistic, battleaxes were generally lighter than wood-working axes (especially felling axes) on the basis that it takes a lot less axe to bring down a man than a tree, and being able to swing it around very quickly is very important especially if you don't have a shield. Lindybeige explains on YouTube.
- Ancestral Weapon: often Truth in Television, as the difficulties of making steel and pattern welding made high-quality blades expensive, and they tended to get passed down, some eventually receiving a name and a legendary Back Story.
- 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.
- Drop the Hammer
- The Dung Ages
- Here There Were Dragons
- Heroic Fantasy
- Historical-Domain Character: Though, except for King Arthur (and possibly Attila the Hun , Charlemagne, and Alfred The Great), most people will never have heard of them. (Gunthaharius of Burgundy is not exactly a household name.)
- Horny Vikings
- Just Before the End, for Rome
- King Arthur
- Kievan Rus: its early period, including the pagan princes, Olga and Vladimir the Saint.
- Knight in Shining Armor: historically inaccurate though it is - "warlord in overpriced chainmail" was the best they had then. Knighthood as we picture it didn't exist yet.
- Medieval Morons
- Norse Mythology
- Swiss-Army Weapon: inverted - most Dark Agers carried one big knife that they used for everything from cutting food to carving wood to killing. Hopefully with a cleaning of some kind in between - you wouldn't want to get foodstains on your dead enemy, after all.
- The Time of Myths
Works set in this period include
Anime and Manga
- The Nibelungenlied and its derivatives, such as Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung and Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen : Siegfried and Kriemhilds Rache
- Beowulf and its derivatives, such as Beowulf and Grendel (2005) and Beowulf (2007)
- The King Arthur romances
- The Song of Roland, Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso
- G. K. Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse
- Brother Cadfael (Technically The High Middle Ages, since it's set during the reign of King Stephen, almost a century after 1066 - but since King Stephen's "reign" was one long civil war, Cadfael feels like the "Dark Ages" rather than the age of chivalry and courtly love.)
- Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
- J. R. R. Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham
- The Sea of Trolls and the sequel, Land of the Silver Apples, by Nancy Farmer.
- Many of The Icelandic Sagas, specifically the Sagas of Icelanders (semi-historical, halfway realistic stories set c. 900-1030 AD) and the Legendary Sagas (heroic legends set in a mythic Dark Age Europe, faintly echoing real-life history from c. 400-900 AD). For example:
- The Old Gods, the pagan expansion DLC for Crusader Kings II, pushes the start date of the game back to 867, allowing the player to take control of the Great Heathen Army that invaded England right after their conquest of York.
- The Brytenwalda mod for Mount & Blade: Warband is set in the 7th century British Isles.