As RPG hobbyists, we all share a love of adventure. As fans of fantasy, we dream of a quieter time, when wide open wilderness and mysterious secrets invited us to explore. As revelers and lovers of friendship, we crave the freedom and laughter of an afternoon at the mugs.
Like so many of you out there, these things lure me each year to the local renaissance faire. This year, my character was Harold Funz, moss farmer. I usually dress up as some kind of warrior, but each year I am less interested in weapons and armor... finding a deeper vein of truth in a character akin to my actual self: a humorous, optimistic oddball with more interests than skills. Fill my mug, and I'll tell you about the time I found a lamprey in my potato bin.
Moss farmer and little-known chronicler Harold Funz seen here on his way to the village
Each year, I arrive at the faire brimming with excitement. The shops, the costumes, the happy faces, the ribaldry, the mead! Then, boom, I hit my first cluster of people. I weave my way through excited crowds, or crane my neck to see a meteor-sword being bought by a bright-eyed teenager. I stumble to and fro, giggling with friends, desperately seeking a place of reprieve. Are there no benches in this wasteland of men? Will the buildings never yield to forest? What mad tyrant has decided to cover these walls with colorful signs? Where is the wandering musician or the sword-swallower? It's all so large, so loud, so dense with stimulus and calls-to-action.
This must have been the feeling of many folk in ancient times when the renaissance took place. Even long before, way back into the shadows of the iron age. Imagine the shock of larger towns appearing here and there, of cluttered carriages and muddy roads where only trails once tread. Imagine the rush of the first real crowd you had ever seen: hundreds of people all in one place! Imagine the 'Hyborean Age' finally ending.
Don't get me wrong, I have a blast every year, but I am always reminded of one thing: if, in becoming these characters for a weekend, I am reaching back to some latent memory, channeling some distant ancestor, or reconnecting with some part of myself I wish to know, that part of me is far older than the so-called renaissance of these faires. I am from a time of bronze and iron, of stone and the elements, of mystery and quiet.
This realization, on its own, is the pay dirt of historical re-enactment, even if the faires seldom play out how one expects. I hope all of you find your pay dirt, hiding in a wizard's hat.