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Life off the Page

October Dragons and Violins

So this month, I get to do one of my favorite things in the world.

No, I’m not spending three days locked in a closet with my laptop and a pile of snacks to get some writing done. Funny.

I’m actually going outside, in the crisp fall air, forgetting about deadlines, stress, and responsibilities, and instead spending the day playing my violin for anyone who wants to listen and wandering among swordsmiths, cloak-makers, nobility, knights, patrons, and people who love a good adventure story just as I do.

Dragonfest 2019.

I live for Renaissance faires.

And I guess I should explain this, because while it’s second (or maybe first?) nature to me, I realize some people have never been and/or don’t realize how awesome they are. I remember talking to someone from the Kansas City area about a year and a half ago who had never been to the faire there–and it’s a pretty big one. Not my favorite, but big. If you live there and haven’t at least heard of it…well, no one should judge me for being a Hobbit and never coming out of my hole in the ground again.

If you’ve never been, there are two steps to this.

  1. Listen to me when I tell you they are awesome. As Hazel from The Fog Diver would say, “three kinds of awesome.”
  2. Go to a faire. Seriously. I can’t explain in words everything there is to see and do and fall in love with. Some things you just have to stumble into yourself. Make sure that you pick one with real jousting. Not this choreographed nonsense where the victor is predetermined. What nonsense.

Optional steps involve dressing up in costume, talking like a pirate, and participating in the games of strength or valor present in almost all faires. Because that’s half the fun of going.

And I also realize there might be more to my love for the faires than there seems to be at first glance. It’s a bit of a long story, so if you’re going to listen to the whole thing, make sure your dragon is comfortably settled with his tea and your kittens aren’t quibbling over the accuracy of nursery rhymes.

From the beginning, then.

Little children, when they are small, believe in Fairyland. Some of them. They read about it in books, they see beautiful pictures in glowing colors, softly beckoning them to a world that must be possible, a world they know is glorious and magical. Full of dragons and creamcakes and steamed plum puddings and happy endings and impossible feats of strength and valor and deep, dark forests that never end.

When I was a little girl, I didn’t have to just believe in Fairyland because I’d read about it. I knew it existed. I’d been there.

Several times, in fact.

Every spring, about at the beginning of April, my family made a trip to a Renaissance festival (Yes, I have cool parents. Very much so).

We went about every year when I was little. I met Queen Elizabeth, was made a lady of her court, cheered jousts (to this day, it’s one of the few sports I’m actually fanatical about), still have a blue stone a fairy gave me, listened to stories from wizards, I think first tasted funnel cake, watched magicians, and met a wonderful woman who let Little Me hold her violin and play a note or two. Highlight of my young life, as yearning for violin seems to have been in my brain and blood since birth.

Sometime as the years spun by, we stopped going to the faires. I don’t really know why–moves, changing interests, forgetfulness, something. But I never really forgot about them. I mean, really, how could I? I’d watched men swallow fire and knock each other off huge horses galloping at each other at full speed (in retrospect, this could be why I’m not easily impressed by things these days…conversation for another time). And I got bored. Or something.

So the shoe got on the other foot, and I dragged my family to the faires. Hartville in the rain, Kansas City for a burning hot weekend, to the very first Dragonfest. Most of the time, they had to coax me away.

After all, what child would willingly leave Fairyland? When there are dragons and juggling and adventures to be had?

Last October was my first chance to actually be a part of Dragonfest as something more than a patron. I’ve been spending most of my time since counting down the days until I could go back again.

Which leads us to this month. Or the next two weeks, specifically. October 19, 2019.

I’m going to be the Strolling Player of Dragonfest.

And Knights of Valor are going to be there in all their glory (best joust I’ve seen in some time!) J. Christopher Wilson with his Wards of Iasos book (review another time, don’t worry), Lady Jillian who is absolutely amazing when it comes to hair (seriously, she had mine in a French twist within minutes using only two pins that must be magic. There’s no other way I would have been able to keep all my hair up like that), and so many others with cloaks, little books, cold cider and all the glorious faire trinkets for sale I have terrible weaknesses for. Last year there were blacksmiths who kept time for me as I was fiddling, whether they realized it or not. And Queen E. and her court, of course. I’m actually quite fond of everyone in the court. Yes, including the Goblin King.

But the stories from last year, from the jousts to the gypsies singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” (no joke) to the Goblin King getting a small gourd sliced off his head by Knights of Valor–I can’t begin to fit them all in this post. I could make a full post of each of them and still wonder if I’d left something out.

So for now, I’ll just have to satisfy myself with crossing off the days until Dragonfest and hoping, hoping, hoping, that it doesn’t rain. Because even though faires are rain or shine, the violin, I am afraid, is not. So I’m hoping and praying for a day as perfect as last year.

Because I really do live for the faires.

But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone…

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.

Tolkien, J.R.R. “Upon the Hearth, the Fire is Red,” The Fellowship of the Ring. Allen & Unwin, 1954.


3 responses to “Life off the Page”

    • Sometimes they’re hard to find. There are quite a few faires scattered across the States, but that means a road trip if you want to see the big ones in California/North Carolina/Texas/Ohio and don’t live there.
      You might check into the Abbey Medieval Festival in Queensland. I haven’t been (yet), but it looks like it might be similar. 🙂


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