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I have a modern day person stuck in a medieval setting. How they got there is not important. It is important that they did not expect to end up there so haven't done any research.

They are however a little more qualified for their situation than their average counterpart.

  • They spent time on a self-sustaining farm so know a bit about animal husbandry and farming and eating unprocessed food etc.

  • They are interested in history so they have some practical knowledge about the past, they are however no history buff amongst them, so have no specialised knowledge.

  • They are a bit of a book and movie worm and so they have an extensive memory of all manner of stories.

The age they are dropped into should be around the early 1100. Religion if possible should be slightly more powerful and the political situation a little more stable.

The character decides that his safest option is to become a storyteller, rather than risk being burned as the freak who tried to introduce hygiene or the idea of bacteria and viruses.

However I am a little concerned that as a storyteller they would be burned as the blasphemer who spoke about witches and heathen gods.

I know traveling minstrels were liked and kept by the nobility and I imagine the storyteller in the same sort of capacity as this. However to make even partial use of their arsenal of stories the listeners have to be tolerant of all manner of strange and fantastic.

How with a strict religion similar to christianity of the middle ages would this be possible?

As a added bonus what would enable the storyteller be able to trade stories for food or a bed for the night with poorer people?

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    $\begingroup$ People back then were quite hospitable. If you looked like you needed a bed, you'd find one, if you gave them something in return (ie, a *story or a pair of shoes.) The strict religion would benefit, as they would be looking to free themselves from sin, helping a lonesome traveller definetly would count. $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2017 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ Your protagonist isn't going to be able to communicate with locals of the time. 1100AD English can be considered a completely different language from todays English. Hard to tell stories to people that won't understand them $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Apr 13, 2017 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ A medieval commentator complained about the secular interests of monks by telling a story of how someone got a room full of monks eating dinner to sit up and pay attention by mentioning King Arthur, Thus someone might get by by telling a different modern version of the Arthur story each time "but here is another version of the Arthur Story". The story of the Green Children of Woolpit indicates medievals could be hospitable to people so foreign they have been called fairies or extraterrestrials. $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2017 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding the traveler could even mix and match elements of King Arthur with other stories he knows. Maybe there is a "new" adventure where King Arthur attends Hogwarts to learn to become a Jedi so that he can defeat the Borg, because winter is coming.... Almost certainly non-time-travel related story mixing has already influenced our traditional stories. $\endgroup$ Jun 29, 2017 at 14:23

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Crack a book on medieval literature and see how bizarre some of their stories were. Saints tales have lots of violent imagery and don't really have a base in reality. Alexander the Great was popular and there were some classical stories relayed as parables. Pre-christian tales were adapted into religious stories. Many tales were local (you can tell where medieval calendar pages were produced by what saints are listed) so your storyteller could say "in my home town we tell of St Obi Wan."

The later 1100s was the beginning of the troubadours. If your story teller finds a powerful person who enjoys their tales, like Queen Eleanor, they might be a bit more safe from religious influences.

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Put your character in the Islamic Golden Age.

For an example look into the "Arabian Nights" or One Thousand and One Nights

Yes religious, but a lot more fun than 1100 France. Maybe she turns out to be Scheherazade. The stories we know (like Aladdin) from this collection are familiar because they are familiar but some of the stories in this group are spooky or just plain wacky and hard to follow. Clearly the Arab world in the period had an appetite for escapist stories.

I think a modern could probably entertain people well just by singing selections from the enormous repertoire of catchy hooky top40 songs that reside in our heads. She could do that to earn her keep while she learned the language.

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I'm not sure it's practical or the best way to utilise his knowledge. You're taking him back almost a thousand years, there's going to be a huge language problem. If he learns the language there's going to be a huge vocabulary problem.

Apart from that he would possibly do ok recounting historical tales and travellers tales about far off countries and adding the odd dragon or so. In a christian country there is a wealth of bible stories to choose from, most of which would not be well known. Same with other religions I would think.

He'd be better off attaching himself to a monastic institution or something like that though rather than wandering around making himself a target.

500 years ago the English in use would be almost a different language to listen to, 1000 years ago it would be incomprehensible because at that time it's wasn't English as we know it, it was Anglo Saxon, the Norman conquest of England was at that time. Here's the prologue from Beowolf, good luck reading it, no one knows how it was actually spoken although many think they do.

In addition to that tales were told in a special way using phrases that are a bit like our slang, rather than straightforward stories.

Personally I think his medical knowledge of hygiene and anything else would be far more valuable.

Prologue

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Looking at theatre during this time period may be helpful. There were traveling bands of actors & musicians that wrote and staged liturgical (religion-based) plays that were retellings of Biblical stories - but could often expound greatly on details so long as the story ending remained the same. Plus, don't forget that there are great and fantastical stories and imagery in the Bible - there's wheels with eyes, talking snakes, dragons, and lakes of fire, after all. I think as long as the stories appear to be in line with religious rules, the character would be unlikely to be considered a blasphemer. In medieval times, there were also a number of festivals and feasts where rules were relaxed, like the Feast of Fools, that may have been as rowdy as the Roman Saturnalia or more like Mardi Gras - though, interestingly, there were usually factions within the ruling religious body that both loved and hated such displays.

It's probably also important to remember that during the 11th & 12th centuries, the political structure was indelibly tied to the religious structure. So you'd likely need to consider the political ramifications of his stories, as well - it's important that the church and state look holy, but there's little communication and standardization on enforcement of many of those rules (that's why religious guilt was such a powerful tool to be used for political gain.)

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Stories told in those time by storytellers were basically:

  • latest news from the kingdom (being travellers, the storytellers knew more than the peasants and where often the only travellers visiting villages in months)
  • stories radicated in the local culture, like "chanson de Roland" or "king Arthur".

Your storyteller may try his luck with the Lord of the Rings, applying some adaptations to make it sound more "Christian vs Devil". No Star Wars or Sherlock Holmes, which can sound too heretic (space travel or reason only to defeat evil? Burn him!)

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't see an answer to “how would this be possible” in giving suggestions as to stories to adapt. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 13, 2017 at 17:42

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