December 15, 2003

0. The Charter in a Nutshell

Why this page?
The Charter of the Minstrel's Guild is rather old and rather long. The following is, in a nutshell, the speech I give to people who want to know what it's all about. It contains the changes made to the Charter at Bard's Night II in Dreieichen, but is compiled solely from memory and contains opinion. If you disagree or if you find mistakes here, please tell me.

Topics relevant to the guild

  • Singing
  • Storytelling
  • Playing an instrument
  • Writing music
  • Writing stories
  • Building instruments
  • Research
Performance should be done in front of an audience. You should make a reasonable attempt to have it look and sound medieval or renaissance. (Except when doing research. You can use a typewriter or even a philosopher's engine for that...)

When referring to the whole of these topics, the term commonly used is 'Bardic Arts'.

On ranks and gaining them
There are four ranks in the Guild, which hopefully correspond to levels of skill. The rank a member of the Guild holds is shown in the number and type of coloured ribbons he or she is wearing.

These ranks are:

  • Member: To become a member, tell one of the Guild officers that you want to join. Pay your membership fee if there happens to be one. To show your membership, wear a single white ribbon.
  • Novice: A novice has proven that he or she has some basic skill in one of the Bardic Arts.
    To become a novice, you have to present something that fits under one of the aformentioned topics (tell a story, sing a song, write some lyrics etc.) and have a journeyperson or minstrel listen. As a novice you wear a white and a black ribbon. (Right. You can keep all the ribbons you got before.)
  • Journeyman or Journeywoman: Traditionally a Journeyperson is someone who's competent enough to work without needing the supervision of a master. For a musician or storyteller that means to be able to present something to an audience that they enjoy hearing/seeing and to do so in a way that catches their interest.
    To become a Journeyperson, you need to get a minstrel and an audience and show some skill in three of the topics on the list, or you decide to do something good in one of the topics and something decent in another.
    Journeypersons wear three ribbons: white, black and red, and can hand out black ones (thus making someone Novice).
  • Minstrel: A minstrel should be competent enough in at least one of the bardic arts to teach, and well-versed in most others.
    To become a minstrel, you need an event with all the minstrels you can get, and a patient audience, because you have to show that you're good in four of the seven topics and brilliant in a fifth (your masterpiece). If you do not manage to get five topics covered, you can manage with two good plus two brilliant. So, yes, if you suffer from severe stage fright you can now become a minstrel without performing.
    Minstrels wear all three ribbons like a Journeyperson, plus a wooden pendant of a lyre. They also should carry lots of multicoloured ribbons in their pockets to hand out to new members, novices or journeypersons.

What does she mean with 'good'?
In the paragraphs above I speak of 'basic', 'decent', 'good' and 'brilliant'. What does that mean?

'Basic' means, an easy thing done without major fumbles. Sing an easy song without hurting someone's ears, tell an anecdote, write some verses to an existing melody, write an excerpt of an article on some medieval music subject.

'Decent' means putting some talent or effort in what you are doing. Sing a song that is not too-well-known and sounds rather medieval, tell a fairy-tale, write a research paper that tells people who are not experts on the subject something new.
A 'decent' performance should capture the attention of a bardic circle.

'Good' means putting talent and effort in what you are doing. Write a song with harmonies or an easy choir piece, sing something that most people have never heard and couldn't sing if they had, do a research paper fitting for the first year at university.
If you can keep the audience's attention for more than two minutes, you're probably good. 'Good' work is what you'd expect in an A&S contest.

'Brilliant' means to have people coming back for more. Since you never know that before it happens, you can settle for doing something complex, free of visible flaws and well documentated.
A brilliant performance in a feast hall makes people stop chewing during the first remove. Don't try this at home - the phone will ring at the most inopportune moment.

Officers in the Minstrel's Guild
The officers of the guild are:

  • Exchequer, who handles financial matters should there be any.
  • Chronicler, who publishes the newsletter.
  • Guildmaster or -mistress, who does everything else.
I'm not quite clear about whether only Minstrels may vote people into these offices, or Minstrels and Journeypersons or all members. I would be too happy if someone would enlighten me.

The guildmaster or -mistress has to be a Journeyperson or Minstrel. There seems to be a curse on the Minstrels, or at least on the guildmaster/mistress, these people tend to disappear from the SCA like snow in springtime. I'll let you know if I feel myself disappearing.

On filk, autenthicity and the lack thereof
This paragraph is included solely to confess that I only have a very vague idea of what filk is and isn't. Sure, 'Blood For Odin' is filk. So is 'My Lady Is Fighting At Pennsic'. But what about 'Raven Banner' or the 'Shield Wall Song'? Or a song like the 'Flandrischer Totentanz', which is quite commonly mistaken for period? What about all those Zillions of Pop songs which use medieval themes or elements? Or about stories like 'The Knight and the Robber', which is an SCA Classic but can be told in perfectly mediaval style by changing a few words?

Personally, I'd go for a 'reasonable attempt' here. If it is in medieval style and conveys the right atmosphere I don't mind when it was written. (Though I'd still want to know. That's what documentation is for.)

Filking is a perfectly period activity.
"Apart from their satirical attitude towards ecclesiastical life, the goliards showed their free and at times heretical views in their parodies of religious hymns, their irreverence in adapting ecclesiastical melodies to secular texts, and their use of metaphors and expressions from church hymns in their loose verses."
- from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight, on the matter of goliardic song in the 11th century.

As with cooking, the secret lies in the ingredients...

Do you give out ribbons for good performances?
No, I don't. The reasons for that are the following.

First, I do not consider it polite to shove anything at anyone, be it swordspoints, chocolate chip cookies, work or ribbons.

Second, membership in a guild is not a prize to be handed out, but a decision a person makes. Do I want to join a guild? Do I want to carry the responsibility of a rank? Do I see myself/my persona as a musician?

There are people in the SCA who sing a whole lot better than I do, play loads of instruments, are professional storytellers. Shall I make them Minstrels and tell them, you have to take students now, judge performances, vote in guild matters and pay membership fees? Definitely not.

So, if you want to become a member of the guild, or if you want to apply for guild rank, please tell me or Lady Valeria. If you don't, we might ask you. But probably we won't.

Is 'minstrel' a 'protected word' in Drachenwald?
No. Reasons are coming soon.

Where do I put the apostrophe?
To paraphrase the words of Ld. Aethstan, a 'professional Englishman':
It's not one minstrel's guild, but it belongs to several. So 'minstrels' is plural, and the apostrophe belongs after the s, making it a "Minstrels's Guild" and a "Bards' Night".

December 12, 2003

DW_Bardic Group

Added a link to the DW_Bardic group on Yahoo to the navigation section. It is a group dedicated to the bards, troubadours, minstrels, filksters and musicians within our great Kingdom of Drachenwald.

December 10, 2003

The Psaltery

A research done by Milady Janneke von Suylen of the Shire of Polderslot as part of her Journeywomens' test, Oct 2000.
© Janneke van DenDraak, 2000

The psaltery is an ancient musical instrument, having its origin in the Near East in late classical times. The name "psaltery" is derived from the Greek word psalterion, which means "harp". It is also sometimes called a canon or instrumento di porco. This last name refers to the shape of the psaltery as it appears in the later Middle Ages resembling a pig's head and snout . The psaltery has plucked strings of gut, horsehair, or metal stretched across a flat soundboard. The shape is often trapezoidal, but also rectangular, triangular, or wing-shaped. And as mentioned above the popular pig's snout shape. The strings of the psaltery, just like with a harp, are open, none being stopped to produce different notes. Psalteries are members of the zither family. Non-Western psalteries are thus sometimes referred to as zithers.

The instrument reached Europe around the12th century as a variety of the trapezoidal Arabic psaltery, or qanun, hence the name canon. The picture on the right [1] shows drawings of musical instruments from a 10th century copy of "De Musica" a book by M. Severinus Boëthius, who lived at the end of the 6th century in Italy. The first word above the square instrument is psalteriu, which is mentioned again at the left side of the trapezoidal instrument. Possibly this means harp (psalterion), but one could argue the psaltery was known, if not used or popular, in Europe before the 12th century.

The psaltery is played by plucking the strings with the fingers or plectra (often quills were used). There are different positions in which the instrument can be held during play: on the player's lap, on a table or in the front of the player's chest. Also it can be held in one arm while being plucked with the other hand.

There are many different shapes in which the psaltery is found. Over time the shape evolved, with as latest developments the pig's snout shape, like the picture on the title page, and the wing shape (Ala Bohemica, illustration left [2]). Sometimes the pig's snout shape was halved and these instruments were called micanon or demiporco.

The original shape of the psaltery might have been a simple square box, like in this illustration on the right side [3].
Why did the shape change? This has everything to do with the properties of strings.

There are several ways in which the pitch of a string can be varied.

Length: longer strings have lower pitch.
Mass: the heavier (thicker) a string, the lower the pitch.
Tension: the higher the tension on a string, the higher the pitch.
All during the Middle Ages the musicians and instrument builders kept experimenting with these variables. It became most common to keep the tension of all strings equal, to prevent distorting the instrument, but vary both the length and the mass of the strings. Naturally the length of the strings influences the shape of the instrument. Sometimes the strings were in pairs or even triple, so that two or three stings of the same pitch are plucked at once to increase the volume of the instrument.

The psaltery remained popular in Europe until about the 15th century. After its decline, it continued to be played on occasion in fashionable society.

The dulcimer (picture on the left [4]) is a psaltery having strings that are struck with hammers rather than plucked. Dulcimers are often double or triple strung. The psaltery gave rise to the harpsichord, which is a large psaltery with a keyboard mechanism for plucking the strings. In the harpsichord on the picture on the right side [5] you can clearly recognize the shape of the halved pig's snout or demiporco.

Psalteries nowadays still played in European folk music include the Finnish kantele and its Baltic relatives, among them the Estonian kannel, which is bowed rather than plucked, and the Russian gusli. The medieval qanun did not only travel to Europe, but also diffused eastward across India to Indonesia and China. It is still prominent in the music of Arabic-speaking countries, where it is played with finger plectra and is normally triple strung.


"Encyclopedia Britannica" (1999)
"Encyclopedie van Muziekinstrumenten" (1977)
"The World of Medieval & Renaissance Musical Instruments" by Jeremy Montagu (1976)
"Handboek van de muziekinstrumenten" by Alexander Buchner (1981)

Psalteriu: drawings of musical instruments from a 10th century copy of "De Musica" by M. Severinus Boëthius [back]

Ala Bohemica: detail from miniature in the Pasionale of Abdis Kunigunde, 1319-1321 [back]

Square psaltery: detail from an illustration in the York Psalter, c. 1175 [back]

Dulcimer: detail from illustration in Codex Casimiranum, 1448 [back]

Harpsichord: detail from a stained glass window of a chapel in Warwick, c. 1440 [back]

December 07, 2003

The Swordmaster and the Emerald Maiden

by Lady Valeria delle Stelle

Once upon a time there lived in a faraway castle an old Duke. This Duke had a young daughter. Her name was Adel and her beauty was so well hidden that noone could see it. Only when she lifted her head the beauty of her eyes would stun anyone, for she had large, emerald eyes, eyes that sparkled like twin stars. But most of the time she kept her eyes downcast and nobody could immagine their power.

One day the King of the land gave a grand celebration in his castle in honour of his son, the Prince, and he bid all the young noblemen and noblewomen to attend. Thus Adel found herself at the Kings palace, all dressed up in soft blue velvet. She moved around and nobody paid any attention to her because she never lifted her gaze.

Then the trumpets rang and all the guests had to present themselves to the Prince before the great Feast could begin. Adel waited patiently her turn and when she finally arrived in front of the Prince she curtsied and then lifted up her eyes and her gaze fell upon Swordmaster Demetrius.

Lord Demetrius was the Prince's general. He was a very hard man. He had been in so many wars, had fought so many battles, had slept on the ground for so long that the night cold had crept into his bones and had turned his heart into a lump of ice. It was said that Demetrius had never cared for a woman and no woman had ever cared for him. The only thing he craved for was power and for that he got married to an evil witch who could assist him.

The Swordmaster turned his head and looked deep into her emerald eyes, and the fire of her sparkling twin stars fell upon his frozen heart and began to melt it. For the first time in his life Demetrius felt the heat of true love kindling inside him. He couldn't take his eyes off hers even if he wanted to.Adel looked at him too and felt a bond being woven between them, a chain of fire and ice.

They sat side by side at the grand Feast and their hands touched underneath the table and Adel felt her heart swelling and she knew that he and no other was her one true love. After the Feast they sat together on a garden bench and they talked and talked and when they had finished they started from the beginning and each time everything seemed new.

The time came when they had to part. Demetrius bent down and kissed her once on her soft, red lips. Alas! that was the only thing he could do. For the evil witch had tied him with her magic in bonds stronger than steel and he could not break them, no matter how hard he tried. So he turned and left Adel and the grass and the leaves turned wet by his tears and the drops from his melting heart.

Adel watched him go when suddenly she heard a great ripping sound. It was her heart being torn in two. Then Adel knew that the only thing which could make her heart whole again was his kiss, so she mounted her horse and ran behind him. But the bonds of the evil witch were very strong. No matter how hard she tried, in a while she lost him. But she kept going because her torn heart wouldn't let her rest. Her horse was exausted and died under her, but she kept on, without food and without water, for her torn heart would not be at ease until she saw him again.

Tattered and torn, she arrived at last at the edge of a dark forest and there, at the far side of a black-watered lake, she saw looming a castle of black stone. At the shore of the lake she stumbled and fell on her knees. She could not move any more. Her torn heart had betrayed her.

Meanwhile, the evil witch had discovered her husbands' treachery. She was so angry that she imprisoned him on the castle's highest turrett. There she went every day to tease and taunt him and he could not resist because his heart was not a lump of ice anymore. But the witch knew that his heart could freeze again, if only he never saw Adel's eyes again. So, when Adel collapsed on the shore, she bid her men to tie her on a stake and burn her, so that her emerald eyes would be destroyed and Demetrius would belong to her forever. Then she went up to the turrett and forced Demetrius to watch. She thought that the distance between them was too great to cause any harm.

But true love knows no limits and no boundaries. As the flames begun to engulf her, Adel lifted her head and her gaze locked with Demetrius. And as the evil witch's fire burned her body so the fires of her emerald eyes melted Demetrius' heart. When the witch went to where she had been burned, she found nothing because the ashes were scattered by the wind. And when she went up to the turrett, she found only damp stone where Demetrius had stood. Furious, she began to descend to the deapths of the castle, trying to locate the water that was Demetrius. But if she had looked up, she would have seen two swans circling above the turretts. And the one had a sword painted on his breast and the other had bright, emerald eyes that sparkled like twin stars.

Author's Notes & Documentation

The story was written as an alternative of a greek folktale that I read years ago. I added some bits of my own experience and tried to write it in a more literary style. I think I would tell it a bit differently if I was storytelling.

© 1998 by Leda Filippopoulou

The Maiden and the Manual

a postmodern fairy tale

Once upon a time there lived an old man and his beautiful daughter in a little house in the wood, and they were so poor that all the girl owned was an old book of fairy tales. And she read this book, day in, day out, until one day she saw her face reflected in a pond and noticed that she was a fair young maiden -- just like in the fairy tales!

So she decided to do what a fair young maiden must do -- go and find a prince who would marry her and live happily ever after. She bid her old father farewell and went out into the wide world to find a prince.

But since fair young maidens, especially those who lived in a little house in the woods all their lifes, can't walk very far, the castle of the prince couldn't be too far, either. So, after less than half a day of walking, she came to a turn in the road and there the castle was.

The girl knew what to do. She went straight up to the castle door and knocked, and when an ugly, wrinkled, humpbacked old servant opened the door and asked her who she was and what she wanted, she said: "I'm a fair young maiden, and I'd like to work in your kitchen as a drudge, but you must promise to hate me and make my life hard."

The ugly, wrinkled, humpbacked old servant grinned wickedly and said, "No problem, that can be arranged. We need a scullery maid anyway, so come in and get to work."

The girl did so, and she was given all the hardest and dirtiest tasks in the kitchen, but since she knew herself to be on the right way to marrying the prince, she did them with a smile on her lips and a spring in her step, and never complained. That made the other servants suspicious, and they said: "Sooner or later the prince is going to notice that a fair young maiden is doing drudge work in his kitchen and he's going to save her and make her princess -- better get rid of her now!"

So they sent the ugly, wrinkled, humpbacked, old servant to the queen, and he told her: "My Queen, down in the kitchen there's this scullery maid who claims that she can spin a room full of flax into the finest, thinnest, smoothest thread in only one night!"

The queen heard that with great delight since all her spinning women had run away, so she sent for the girl. "Is it true," she asked, "that you can spin a room full of flax into the finest, thinnest, smoothest thread in only one night?"

The girl had no idea how to spin, but she knew herself to be on the right way to marrying the prince, so she smiled and said; "Yes, my Queen, I can do that."

"Good," said the queen and led her to the room full of flax. "You spin all that before morning, but if the thread isn't as fine and thin and smooth as you say, you'll loose your head." Then she locked the girl in the room.

The girl looked at the spinning wheel, then at all the flax and tried to remember what to do, then it came to her: Fair young maidens, when faced with an impossible task, sat down and cried their eyes out. So she did, and her tears were flowing and flowing and making a sizable pool on the floor.

Suddenly there was a rapping on the door, and through the closed door a shriveled old woman entered and said: "Fair young maiden, why are you crying?"

The girl said: "The queen wants me to spin all this flax into the finest, thinnest, smoothest thread before morning, or she'll have me killed!"

The old woman looked at the flax. "That's an easy task for me," she said, "and I'll do it. But you must promise to call me 'aunt' on your happiest day."

The girl thought for a while whether calling the old woman 'aunt' could get her in trouble, but it seemed pretty safe, so she agreed. The old woman sat down to spin and the girl lay down to sleep, and when the queen unlocked the room in the morning, all the flax was spun into the finest, thinnest, smoothest thread.

The queen thought to herself, "This girl is useful. I'll keep an eye on her," and sent her back to the kitchen.

The other servants were quite unhappy to see that the girl still had her head and was smiling and singing more than before.

So, the ugly, wrinkled, humpbacked, old servant went to the queen again and said: "This girl! Now she has said that she can weave all the thread into the finest, whitest, softest cloth in only one night!"

The queen heard that with even greater delight, since good weavers are hard to come by, so she sent for the girl. "Is it true," she asked, "that you can weave all the thread into the finest, whitest, softest cloth in only one night?"

The girl had no idea how to waeve, but she knew herself to be on the right way to marrying the prince, so she smiled and said; "Yes, my Queen, I can do that."

"Good," said the queen and led her to the room full of thread. "You waeve all that before morning, but if the cloth isn't as fine and white and soft as you say, you'll loose your head." Then she locked the girl in the room.

The girl started crying again, quite confident. And before long, there was a rapping on the door, and another old woman entered and said: "Fair young maiden, why are you crying?"

The girl said: "The queen wants me to weave all the thread into the finest, whitest, softest cloth before morning, or she'll have me killed!"

The old woman looked at the thread. "That's an easy task for me," she said, "and I'll do it. But you must promise to call me 'aunt' on your happiest day."

I'll have two aunts then, the girl thought, and agreed, and when the the queen unlocked the room in the morning, all the thread was woven into the finest, whitest, softest cloth.

The queen thought to herself, "This girl could be a great gain for the familiy, besides, she's young and fair, and my son is still unmarried... I'll think that through," and sent her back to the kitchen.

Down there, the other servants were furious to see the girl still alive and carrying herself like a princess, so they sent the ugly, wrinkled, humpbacked, old servant up to the queen at once, where he said: "My queen, you wouldn't belive that scullery maid's pride! Now she has said, she can sew all the cloth into shirts before the morning!"

The girl was called again, confirmed that she could indeed do it and locked again in the room. Her crying reliably made a third old woman enter through the locked door, offering to sew the shirts if only the girl would call her 'aunt' on her happiest day. The girl agreed, and the shirts were sewn, the needle flew so fast that you could hardly see it.

The queen was extremely pleased in the morning and decided that the girl was a prize she'd never let get away. So she introduced the girl to her son, who, upon meeting a maiden so young and fair and skilled didn't have to be persuaded to marry her.

As soon as the ceremony was performed, the queen said to her daughter-in-law: "Now, you go to work tomorrow. I'd say, you spin on Mondays and Tuesdays, weave on Wednesdays and Thursdays, sew on Fridays and Saturdays, and I'm sure a woman as diligent as you will find something to do on Sundays, too."

But at that very moment there was a rapping at the door, and three ugly old woman entered: One had a nose so long she couldn't keep her head upright, the other had a hump so large her head was nearly down on the floor, and the third had eyes as large as saucers.

The fair young princess greeted them, one by one. "Welcome, aunt, I'm glad you could visit me on my happiest day."

Which each greeting the queen's face became longer and longer, and she said to the princess: "How can it be that these women are your aunts?"

The old woman with the long nose cackeled: "Oh, once I was as young and fair as my niece, here, but my husband made me spin day in, day out, until I got old and ugly!"

The old woman with the hump sighed: "Oh once I was as young and fair as my niece, here, but my husband made me weave day in, day out, until I got old and crooked!"

The old woman with the eyes as large as saucers winked: "Oh once I was as young and fair as my niece, here, but my husband made me sew day in, day out, until I got old and ugly!"

The prince had gotten paler and paler on hearing that, and when the last of the old women had spoken, he said to his wife: "My wife, as your husband I forbid you to ever touch a spinning wheel, a loom or a sewing needle again!"

And they all lived happily ever after.

Author's Notes & Documentation

This is fairly classical, except for the motiv of the girl doing things as she has learned them from a fairy tale book, and you can as easliy tell it without the 'modern' twist. But I found that this twists add a lot of suspense in telling as the audience waits for the other shoe to drop.

This tale was told to me by a friend over lunch.

Transcribed from memory by Ingeborg Thorulfsdottir.

A Tale of Kings

a very Drachenwaldian Legend

Once upon a time, in the early days of the principality of Drachenwald, there was a big event being held on a castle in Sweden. Though this event was big, the castle was far bigger, and while the SCAdians occupied one part, some heraldic symphosium or the other occupied the rest.

At the event was the usual mixture of early-Drachenwald SCAdians: a lot of Swedes, a few English, some American SCA officials from Germany, and maybe some Finnish or German or Irish folks, too.

Now, up comes this man, middle-aged, wearing something that is not really in period but can pass for it, followed by an entourage of seven, including a standard bearer. A senior SCA herald, watching the colourful display, recognizes the coat of arms and thinks: "Argh. Better do something quickly," and so he walks up to the middle-aged man.

"Excuse me, my lord," our herald says, "but you cannot bear this device."

The man looks at him, slightly perplexed. "So, why, in your opinion, can't I?"

"Because it's the device of the Earl of Bath."

The man looks slightly impressed. "That's alright, son. I am the Earl of Bath."

Argh! thinks the herald. Darn newbies, not knowing what is proper. "Now, see, you can't be the Earl of Bath!"

Again the man asks: "Why can't I?"

"Because," our herald explains, "you can't choose a real historical person for your persona!"

The exchange gets interrupted by a younger man in mundane clothes who addresses the herald.

"Excuse me, but this gentleman really is the Earl of Bath."

The herald turns around and looks over the new arrival. Great, another one of those. "And who are you?" he asks.

The mundanely-clad man smiles. "I am the king."

Our herald is a patient and courteous man, but that is too much. The king is safely away in the mainland of the East Kingdom, meaning: an ocean away, but that does not mean that any newbie or mundane can go running around claiming to be king, of all things! "Now listen, man," he says, "I know the king -- and you're not him."

The man smiles again and says: "I am the King of Sweden. This is my castle."

Author's Notes & Documentation

This Story is probably apocryph, but it is so very Drachenwald...
(told at Bards' Night IV in Birmingham, I do not remember by whom)
Transcribed from memory by Ingeborg Thorulfsdottir.

Lupus the Mad

by Laird Seanne Alansyn

In the dim past
when our dragons claws
Were small to the task.

There lived a Roman or at least his last heir
Residing in the south of the Teutonic lands
With slaves and mistresses for his care.

This Roman was known as the fighter most small
he only stood maybe to a Vikings chest
Just so, so tall.

Lupus fought both man and beast
Attending and enjoying every practice, tourney and feast

Into the hall he and his favorite slave would stroll
all eyes were upon the slave
As she was beautiful, just so.

At a practice attended by many
Lupus strove to fight and compete with any

He was berift of armor, weapons and shield
Thus to anothers charity he must did yeild

Moondragon of the Isles lent him for his needs
but alas the armor was too large,
Some hanging below Mad Lupus' knees.

The protection was thin tis true
in fact it was made
To pad mechanical writers from bumps that slew

Another problem was not known that day
mad Lupus had a spleen
Which was damaged before the fray

Lupus he fought well and clean
But the armor did not protect
From the rupture to his spleen.

The nub of this tale is true,
ask Karl Haraldson
for he witnessed this gives his due

As for Mad Lupus
Principality Company of Sojourners he became
Non knows his where abouts but acknowledge his fame

But here in the dragons fold
It is he and his spleen of which tales are told.

So remember poor fighter, young and naieve
Only borrow armor which fits and to your body does cleave.

And never forget the chirugens advice
Fight only when all, even your spleen feels nice

Author's Notes & Documentation

Most of the inspiration are SCA events or topics.
The style is built upon that of Chaucer and earlier, being very alliterative and using imagery.

This poem © 2000 by Rick Allison

The Jewels of the Dragon

by Laird Seanne Alansyn

In the land of dragons smoke and fire
Live finest jewels, who do inspire

Jewels they sparkle and play
Careless and free every day

Skills develop of Science and art
All know from such jewels we start

Small and brightly seen
They are true children of a dream

How may we protect and guide them so
From where will such a skill grow

Unto the realm came a lowly lord
Children be his charge and word

A guild he built, with rules and order
Awards and challenges
As his bricks and morter

Forty and five Children true
All playing and happy as is their due

Among them journeymen and pages stand
Learning and growing from their parents hand

Arts of paint, leather and writing
Even some martial arts, very exciting

Faire acts and Service through each day
Thus our children learn Chivalries way

Each is special, with future bright
Everyone is the dreams pure sight

These jewels grow bright and strong
In each see Chivalries clean, pure song.

Treasure the jewels for with each day
The value increases giving love as pay.

Author's Notes & Documentation

Most of the inspiration are SCA events or topics.
The style is built upon that of Chaucer and earlier, being very alliterative and using imagery.

This poem © 2000 by Rick Allison

A Fool's Dream

by Ingeborg Thorulfsdottir

Once upon a time there was a king who had lost his kingdom and was set to wandering the world in the guise of a scholar, a scribe or a sage. And one day he came to a town by the sea which was peaceful and prosperous and there he decided to stay.

He set up a business of counselling people about the law and soon became known as a man of great wisdom and honour. Before long he had become councillor to the magistrate and used his knowledge of affairs of the state to the good of all because he was a firm believer in the law and the welfare of the people.

In the same town now there lived a bard, a grizzled man, who had travelled far and wide in his youth. He was well-known in the town and, for the most part, well-liked. He could play the fiddle and the bagpipe and often played at weddings or parties or on the Spring Day when the stormy season was over and the fishing boats set out to sea again, proud and shining in their new coats of paint, or at Fall Market when the traders returned home, laden with treasures and wonders from all four corners of the world. But most often he was found in a tavern or at a street corner, playing his old harp with the silver strings (made out of mermaid's hair, some said, while others scoffed at the idea), singing his songs with the voice of a man who had seen a lot through the years, who knew loss and sorrow but still retained a love for live that would outshine any darkness. And his music could make people cry and laugh, it could make mortal enemies sit down and keep their peace, rekindle love lost and melt hearts frozen in fear or greed or despair.

Over the course of the years the councillor gained high honours and finally the magistrate appointed him judge and law-maker of the city. It was the only office he would take.

Before, the merchants of the city had been busy cheating each other, the nobles had been busy fighting duels and arguing on matters of honour, the magistrate had been occupied with politics and intrigue, the poor people with making ends meet and the thieves with stealing from everyone less clever or daring than they. But now the law reigned and everyone knew their places and did their jobs and there was no more fighting and cheating, everyone had enough to get by and the thieves got honest jobs or left the city for greener pastures.

But one day, the daughter of a baker who was to marry the baker's help ran away with a handsome young sailor, claiming that she loved him and would not live without love. They fled the city on a fishing boat during the stormy season, and on Spring Day her body was washed to the shore. Her father, the baker, was sick with grief and rage for she had been his only child and he had loved her very much. And each time he walked down the streets and heard any bard or minstrel sing of true love he felt his temper rise. So, finally, he went to the magistrate and brought a charge against the minstrels who had led his daughter astray with their songs.

The judge listened carefully to the baker's claims. He, too, had seen people rush headlong into their ruin by chasing things beyond their reach, had seen kingdoms lost in the strife for perfection where only compromise was to be had, he had seen wise men of the church fall into madness when they tried too hard to be close to God.

So a law was passed that forbade frivolous talk and songs and encouraged artists to praise the virtues of patience, honesty and modesty. And the artists complied, because they, too, liked their warm beds and the streets safe at night, wealthy patrons and two good meals a day. Only the old bard refused to change his songs, and when his friends warned him about the new law, he just laughed.

'It's a fool's law,' he said to anyone who wanted to hear, 'It's made by fools and kept by fools,' and he sang a song about the king of a far land who had lost his throne because he had stopped believing in it.

When the judge heard that, he grew white with fury and everyone who was near shivered in fear, for never had they seen such a look on his face.

'Bring me that insolent bard!' he ordered his guards. 'Bring him to me in chains, for he has broken my law!'

So the bard was brought before the judge, although not in chains for no-one had dared to touch him.

The judge said to the bard: 'People say that you disregard the law that bans tales of vain glory and songs of heroic stupidity. Is that true?'

'It is true,' the bard said, 'that I sang songs of heroes of old who conquered dragons, of girls who bested evil wizards in games of wits and skill, of love outlasting diamonds and of the promise of new horizons. And about a lot of other things neither stupid nor vain. If that is against the law then so be it.'

The judge looked down at him. 'You don't seem to understand the seriousness of your crime,' he said. 'Because of songs like yours, men leave their home and trade to board ships to far countries in search for riches and adventure, and women forget their places and go out hunting for strange beasts! And they die far from home and are buried in foreign soil, because they followed a fool's dream!'

'And what if they hadn't,' said the bard, 'what if they had never dreamed, in a safe little world where there's nothing left to strife for, where all days melt into a constant now and no thought of change ever comes, a world that ends at the shore of the sea, at the edge of the forest because no one dares cross the borders to find the secrets beyond, scorning jewels for fear they might be a hungry tiger's eyes!'

'So you say,' the judge replied, 'but a man's or woman's duty does not lie in finding jewels and tigers. Instead, it lies with their family and their homes, to the people that raised and protected them, and in turn they serve them, for that is the way towns and kingdoms are kept alive, through hands and minds that work for the good of all.'

'But I,' said the bard, 'I have seen kingdoms fall for lack of dreams and towns crumble to ruin cause the people stopped believing in them. And you, judge of this Seaside City, have seen it, too, or you wouldn't be here.'

The judge didn't answer to that. Instead he said: 'I see that you have indeed broken the law and by your own words you will continue to do so and will not see reason.'

And so it was decided that the bard was guilty of disturbing the peace and furthering unrest and rebellion amongst the populace, and he was sentenced to hang when the sun set on the following day.

But during the trial, a great number of people had gathered in front of the City Hall, and while the judge wouldn't have hesitated to tell the verdict aloud to all of them – for thus was the law that every man and woman in town had a right to hear the decisions of the magistrate – the magistrate was afraid that the people would revolt. So the magistrate argued with the judge for a while, until the bard stepped forward.

'Far be it from me to break the city's peace,' said the bard, 'and there shall no innocent blood be shed in my name! So I appeal to you, judge and magistrate, to allow me to sing for the people one last time and I give you my word that they won't rise in rebellion against you.'

And so he did, he went out on the market place and started singing, he sang of roads not travelled and of things left unsaid, of the passing of time and the running of rivers. And the people sang with him, and they sang of the ships and the spring and the sea, and beer appeared and bagpipes and a fiddler, and a young couple started dancing and old courting songs were sung and ballads of true and not-so-true lovers, and before long everyone on the square was dancing and singing. Everyone but the judge and the magistrate who watched from the city hall but dared not intervene.

But the day passed and the sun turned to the sea, and the judge entered the place with his guards. And the bard welcomed him as if he hadn't a care in the world and sang one last song, a song about music and dreams and flying away on the wings of a song. Again, everyone joined in – and when the song ended, the bard was gone. No one had seen him leave, everyone could swear that he had stood in the middle of the square and not moved an inch – but gone he was, as if spirited away by his own song. And no one, the guards at the gates swore, had left the town but a gypsy woman with her ancient father, whose skin had been dark with age and his hair as white as snow.

So the bard was gone. He left the city to the judge and the magistrate, to its diligent artisans and honest traders, its lords and ladies, its workers and sailors and tavern keepers, and took to the road, never to be seen again in the city. But tales were told about an old man with a harp with strings of mermaids' hair, a gypsy or a wizard, who didn't stay long in any town, bringing laughter to the coldest of hearts and hope to the weariest minds and telling tales of wonders just beyond the horizon.

That is my tale, which is not as large or glorious or full of fire as the tales of old used to be, just like there aren't any more giants left today and no-one has truly claimed to have seen a unicorn in many lifetimes, and even the dragons have gone old and lazy on their hoards and melted back into the stones, into the mountains, where they came from. But the sea and the sky remember, and so shall we.

For in a world without myth or magic... is there any point left to life itself?

Author's Notes & Documentation
This story was strongly inspired by Sylvia Volk's "Tall Tale" and Cathy Butterfield's "Risk" (I won't link, but you can google), as well as by certain events of the year which made me feel very uncharitably about those who would find "uses" for dreams.

The story has neither been beta'd nor proof-read by a native speaker of English, sorry. All misspellings, grammatical errors and weird uses of language are mine, too. You may tell or re-tell this story as you see fit. If you want to put it down in written form for other than personal use (i.e., on a webpage or in a newsletter), please ask!

© Ingeborg Denner, 1999

A Chinese Tale

Ten peasants are working in the fields, planting rice, when a great thunderstorm comes over the mountain, with wind and hail, thunder and lightning strong enough to flatten men and crops alike. They run and take shelter in the ruin of a temple nearby, and there they cower against a wall, but still the rain drenches them to the bones, the thunder makes the ground tremble and lightnig strikes all around, and they are very afraid.
Finally, they say: "One of us must have angered the gods and they seek to slay him. So let's all hold our straw hats outside, and when lightning strikes on of them, we'll know the guilty one and send him out so that the gods will leave the rest of us in peace."

They all agree and hold their hats out into the storm. Before long, lightning strikes and one of the hats goes up in flames. The owner of the hat protests that he is innocent, he never did anything to anger the gods, but little good it does him: the others grab him and shove him out of the shelter.

The storm blows the man down and he falls flat on his face and the biggest lightning of all comes flashing down from the sky --

-- and hits the ruin of the temple, reducing it, and everything inside, to ashes.

Author's Notes & Documentation

None -- do not know where it comes from, do not know where I heard it.
Transcribed from memory by Ingeborg Thorulfsdottir.

The Black Dragon's Son

(or: Revenge of the Black Dragon!!)

You all know the story of noble Albion, the Black Dragon who gave his teeth and scales, his tail and his blood and his heart to the rightful king of the Land Beyond The Black Forest. The king gained his throne, and Albion, the black dragon, died, because even though a dragon might be able to live without tail, teeth and scales, he cannot live without a heart.

Years passed. The old king died, as old kings do, and his son followed him on the throne. His son now, was a spoiled brat, as princes sometimes are, and thought little of the burden of the crown and the price that had been paid for it, and a lot of power and money and the fine things both could buy him. So he dressed himself in the softest velvets and silks, drank only the sweetest wine and passed his time with the most beautiful ladies in all of the land. He was popular with his court, because he was generous and well-versed in the courtly arts. He was less popular with his advisors, to whom fell the burden of reigning the land, and even less popular with his people whose work paid for his silk and wine and fine ladies.

Eventually his advisors advised him to marry, and because he already owned more beauty than he could wish for, his bride was not beautiful but wealthy, the daughter of a powerful and ambitious king. She also was proud and headstrong, but that he didn't discover until the wedding night.

The wedding was an event that people talked about for years to come, there was free food for everyone and the fountains in the king's capital flowed with wine, red as blood and golden as spring.

It is less well known that Albion had a son, too. The young dragon never knew his father, since Albion died the winter before his son hatched, and with no father to name him the young dragon remained nameless.

The young dragon grew up in the vast woods of the black forest where men seldom came. He flew high with the eagles and dug down in the caves with the gnomes, he found treasure and cherished it little. He learned the language of the birds and from them he heard the tales about Albion, his father, and he pondered them long and hard, trying to find a meaning in them.

Who was my father, he asked the proud falcon, and the falcon said, he was a noble creature who served the rightful king, though it cost him his life.

Who was my father, he asked the lowly sparrow, and the sparrow said, he was a noble creature who never preyed on the weak.

Who was my father, he asked the witty mockingbird, and the mockingbird said, he was a noble fool who died for a human's glory.

Who was my father, he asked the old raven, the wisest of the birds, and the raven said, he was a dragon and he did however it damn well pleased him.

And the young dragon thought long and deep.

Sometimes, he ate a deer, and he grew tall and strong with the passing of the years, with a coat of the finest black scales, shining ivory teeth, a tail that would have made a cat proud and a heart fiery enough to melt the snow around him in the bitter winters of the black forest.

The passing years were less kind to the king than to the dragon. At thirty, he was already past his prime. His wife had borne him three daughters, but no son, and ruled the castle and the treasury with an iron hand. His courtiers had left, sons and daughters of nobles now ruling their own estates and worrying about harvests and taxes, and his neighbors, never slow to take advantage of a weak king, hovered at the borders. War threatened, and the king was afraid - not for his kingdom, but for himself, for in those times it was thus that a king led his fighters into battle.

He spent many a sleepless night, and finally he knew: He needed a miracle. He needed - a dragon.

And so one day at the end of winter, the king rode into the Black Forest, accompanied only by his two most trusted knights and a servant. They searched a whole day, but they never found the dragon, only a falcon watching them from high above. One of the knights shot an arrow at it but missed. The made camp when the night fell. The servant prepared a meal and they all ate meat pies and drank wine they had brought with them.

On the second day, they saw a sparrow watching them from beneath a bush, and the servant threw a stone at it, but the sparrow flew away. They made camp as they had the night before, ate bread and cheese and drank wine.

On the third day, they saw a mockingbird watching them from a beech tree, and the other knight threw a stick at it, but the mockingbird hid behind a branch and sang a shrill note as they rode by. In the evening they made camp again. Their bread had gone stale and there was no wine left.

They went hunting on the forth day and lost each other in the hills and thickets, so that the king found himself alone all of a sudden. He called for his knights but got no answer. After some riding he came to a clearing and there the dragon waited for him.

The birds had told the dragon of the king's search, but the dragon had thought it unwise to go into the reach of the knights' lances. But he was curious, and seeing the king alone he had decided to meet him.

The king rode up to the dragon. "Are you the black dragon?" he asked.

The dragon considered the question. "I am a black dragon," he said. "And who are you?"

"I am the rightful king of the land beyond the black forest," the king said "and I want to talk to you. You can address me as 'your majesty'."

"You can adress me as 'dragon'," said the dragon. "What do you want to talk about?"

The king looked around for eavesdroppers, but they were alone save for a large raven sitting in one of the oak trees around the clearing. "I need your help," he said.

"And why should I help you?" the dragon asked.

"Because everyone knows that black dragons are generous and pure at heart," the king said after a while, reciting a bard's words. "There's a black dragon in the coat of arms of my familiy, in memory of noble Albion, who helped my father gain his throne and his kingdom!"

The dragon sat down. He folded his front paws and put his large dragon head upon them, then he curled his long tail around himself. "I see," he said. "What do you need my help for?"

"Ah - " the king said. "There's a war coming up at my borders, you know... and I need a magical armor so that no blow will harm me."

The dragon thought about that. "There's a gnomish smith in the east near the great river," he said. "He's good. I can tell you how to find him."

This doesn't go well, the king thought. "I heard of this smith," he said, "and of his outrageous fees. It won't do. Besides, I also need a sword to win the war, a mighty blade so that no foe can stand against me."

The dragon thought about that. "I heard that there's a glass mountain far in the west on the shores of the great sea, where one of the magical swords of old is hidden, protected by a fierce guardian. It would be a quest worthy of any knight or king to travel there and win the sword from the guardian."

Is this dragon stupid? the king thought. "I can't stay away for so long!" he said. "I am the king! I could get killed on that fool's errand!"

"If you regard life that high," the dragon proposed, "how about not going to war at all?"

"To avoid that," the king said, "I'd have to be known as a fighter not to mess with. I would need to gain glory on the tourney field, but my duties never allowed me the time to gain proficiency in fighting tournaments. To win, I would need a magical lance to throw down all my opponents."

"A lance," the dragon murmered. "Now, that is going to be more difficult... But there are legends of a magical ash grove in the south beyond the mountains. Were someone to go there and make a lance out of their wood with his own hands he would hold a weapon that none could stand against on the tourney field."

The king started to get really annoyed with the dragon. Didn't this stupid beast understand what was demanded of it? Wasn't it, too, a subject of the crown and wasn't it its duty to serve him, the king?

"Are you out of your mind?" the king said. "I am a king, not a carpenter or lance-maker! How can you expect me to work wood? I am the king, and you are my subject, and you'd better remember that!"

The dragon started to get annoyed, too, but dragons are patient beasts, so he summoned his patience and said: "If you will not help yourself, than perhaps you should look for allies. I heard that your father-in-law, the king of the north, is powerful and rich. If his daughter, your wife, asks him to, he would surely help you."

"My wife is a shrew," the king said, "and her father is plotting to take over my kingdom."

The dragon regarded him thoughtfully. "You're in trouble," he said.

"You could say that," the king agreed.

"I'm afraid there's only one solution for your problems."

Finally we're getting somewhere, the king said to himself. "Yeah," he said aloud.

"I really don't want to do this..." the dragon said.

"Yeah?" said the king hopeful.

"And I don't, normally... but I see no other way."


And the dragon ate him.

And they all lived happily ever after - except the king, of course.

Storytelling Advice
If you tell this story 'as written', it will take about 20 minutes.

Author's Notes & Documentation
'The Black Dragon's Son' was first told at Bard's Night II in Drei Eichen (21.2.1998 CE) as part of a Minstrel's Test.
Copyright 1998 by Ingeborg Denner. All misspellings, grammatical errors and weird uses of language are mine, too. You may tell or re-tell this story as you see fit. If you want to put it down in written form for other than personal use (i.e., on a webpage or in a newsletter), please ask!

I wanted to write this story since the investiture of Karl and Leia, the last prince and princess of Drachenwald, where I first heard the Tale of Albion told. You will know why after you heard it.

Albion's Tale (the original) is sometimes told at official Drachenwald occasions (e.g. coronations or the like). If you'd like to hear it, you might ask Helmut zur Juelich of the Barony of Drei Eichen to tell it, IIRC he has the original text. Or you might contact the Kingdom Chronicler who should have it, too.

The story is in fairy tale style with sone more modern (read non-period) elements, especially the alternating points of view and the ways the characters act and talk.

I used a period theme, the critique of chivalric virtues which was done quite often during the High Middle Ages in both courtly and common texts and some period style elements, e.g. repetitions and symbols. A 'real' period tale would most likely have more symbolism and a lot more colourful descriptions. It would also be much longer.

You might notice that I use the fourfold repetitions common in celtic fairy tales rather than the middle european threefolds. I did so becouse I liked them better.

Thanks to Lady Ceridwen Caitlin of Ravenstone who kept me from having to do my own research by answering all my questions on High Middle Ages Storytelling.

Why the name 'Minstrels' Guild'?

It seems strange to have a Minstrels' Guild. Most people would consider Minstrels and other performers the last group to structure themselves in a guild-like organisation. And for many performers this was true, especially in the social circles the SCA represents: the nobility. Until the 13th century there weren't even guilds in the Middle Ages. But there were groups of performers, for example the Meistersänger in Germany, that had a guild-like organisation. These groups would usually belong to the upper bourgeois classes, and not to the nobility.

Still we have chosen a guild structure for a number of reasons. First, guilds are familiar within the SCA. People know what the name means, what they can expect from a guild. Second, a guild has more hierarchy than a loosely organised troupe. We wanted to make the people that have skill and can help others easier to recognise. Now guild members will know who they can turn to with their questions. Having a Minstrels' Troupe with a clear hierarchy would be much stranger than having a Minstrels' Guild.

We have chosen the name Minstrels' Guild and not the name Bardic Guild. In the SCA what we do are called Bardic Arts, and there are Bardic Contests. But the name Minstrel is much more authentic for the kind of things we do than the name Bard. A Bard is a person who lived in the religious organisation of the Druids in early Celtic societies. He was the one who told stories and sang songs that told the history of the people. His task was more a religious and historical one than the entertainment we have in mind. A Minstrel was a name used in the 12th to 15th century for the performers who would play for the nobility. They didn't all write their own songs, though some did. They would sing the songs of the Troubadours, that were part of nobility, because the Troubadours would not sing their own songs. They were also expected to tell stories and provide other entertainment.

(This information comes from 'Music in the Medieval World' by Albert Seay)

What about Filk?

As you can see I keep repeating 'things that are or could have been from the Middle Ages'. So we want to do things as authentic as possible. But what about Filk? (Filk are songs with funny lyrics that are made on melodies very much from this time, like 'My Lady Is Fighting At Pennsic' on the melody of 'My Bonnie Is Over The Ocean'.) And what about stories like 'Blood for Odin', which have a long tradition in the SCA but have things like cars and aeroplanes in them?

These things are also important in the SCA, they tell much about the history of the SCA and are often quite fun. They should also have their place in the Minstrels' Guild. But if you look at the amount of songs sung at a Bardic Circle for example: more than half of them are usually filk. So it is important to emphasise the authenticity of songs and stories. This does not mean that no filk can be sung, but it has no place in competitions or tests for Journeypersons or for the Minstrelcy.

8. Recognising people in the Minstrels' Guild

It is a good idea if people that belong to the Minstrels' Guild can recognise each other at events. It would also help if Journey(wo)men and Minstrel were recognisable, so you would know where you could go with your questions. We have decided the following for this:

The colours of the Minstrels' Guild are white, black and red. The members of the Minstrels' Guild can wear these colours in ribbons wherever they want as long as it shows respect for the Guild.

A novice can wear a white ribbon. A Journeyperson can add a black ribbon to the first one. A Minstrel can wear all three colours [7]. The ribbons can be put in one's hair, on one's instrument, on one's clothing etc.

[7] This was changed at Bard's Night II in 1998 C.E. The new ruling is: Members a white ribbon, Novices white and black, Journeypersons all three colours, Minstrels all three colours with a pendant of a lyre.

7. Making decisions in the Guild

Daily decisions in the Guild are made by the Guildmaster of -mistrss, the Chronicler and the Exchequer. Other decisions that concern the whole Guild and not just the newsletter or financial aspects will be made by the Minstrels. It is the duty of the Guildmaster or -mistress that this will be done in a fair way. The decisions will be published in the newsletter.

If there are Guild members who do not agree with the decisions made or who want to put forward issues that are ignored by the current Minstrels, they can ask for a general vote in the following way:

  1. A petition for a vote on a specific subject has to be signed by at least 10% of the Guild members. However the minimum of signatures has to be five, the maximum is 25. (This is only important if the Guild will grow so large that 10% will amount to more than 25 people, though I don't think this will shortly be the case.)
  2. Information on the subject and voting ballots are published in the newsletter and will be distributed to all members. Votes will not be anonymous. Every interested member can send in his or her vote. There will also be a given date when all votes have to be entered to be counted.
  3. When the day has come that all votes should have been entered they will be counted. The decision for which the majority of the votes have chosen will be followed, no matter how few votes are entered!

It is also possible to make changes in the Charter in this way. (This can only be done by a general vote!) One exception is point 3 above. For a change in the Charter at least 25% of the Guild members have to send in their votes, otherwise the Charter will remain as it was.

When a general vote is held, the Guildmaster or -mistress will not vote, except in case of a draw, when his or her vote will be the deciding one.

6. Officers in the Minstrels' Guild

The Minstrels' Guild must at least have the following officers:

  • Guildmaster or Guildmistress
  • Chronicler
  • Exchequer
The Guildmaster is chosen by the Minstrels. This person has to be a Minstrel herself. The Guildmaster or -mistress has to have the majority of the votes. The terms of this office will be two years. After that, the same person can be chosen for one other term of two years. After this second term the Guildmaster or -mistress can only be chosen again if there are no other suitable candidates. The task of the Guildmaster or -mistress is to lead the Minstrels' Guild, to oversee the works of Chronicler and Exchequer, the arts of music and storytelling.

The Chronicler can be any member of the Minstrels' Guild. This person is also chosen by the Minstrels and needs a majority of votes. The term of his office will also be two years. After that, the same person can again be chosen for another term, if the Minstrels approve. After the second term the Chronicler can only be chosen again if there are no other suitable candidates. The task of the Chronicler is to ensure the regular appearance of a Guild Newsletter, preferably once every three months. For this newsletter any person can send in songs, stories, music and other material that is interesting for the Minstrels' Guild.

The Exchequer can also be any member of the Minstrels' Guild. This person is also chosen by the Minstrels and needs a majority of votes. The term of his office will also be two years. After that, the same person can again be chosen for another term, if the Minstrels approve. After the second term the Exchequer can only be chosen again if there are no other suitable candidates. The task of the Exchequer is to keep a list of Guild members and to keep track of any money that comes in or goes out.

There is also a fourth office that can be filled if there is a candidate for it. This is the office of the Librarian. The task of the Librarian is to keep lists of known books about medieval music, order them (on subject for example), and add any information on where these books can be had. This can be a big help with research. The Librarian is appointed by the Guildmaster or -mistress.

Because of practical consideration voting can be done by mail. Every Minstrel will receive a form on which he or she can write her choice. The Guildmaster, the Chronicler and the Exchequer are responsible for ensuring that the correct procedures are being followed.

If according to a majority of Minstrels , an officer does not perform his or her job adequately, the office will be reopened, and if there are other candidates, the Minstrels will have to vote again.

5. Students in the Minstrels' Guild

The art of music and storytelling is something one usually learns by performing a lot and practising, practising and practising. It is possible that you find that you need some help with this, or some ideas on how you can do things, or that you want some regular contact with someone who can help you with your difficulties. If you want this you can become a student. Minstrels should take at least one student and more if they can manage, except when they can show that they do not have the opportunity.

There will probably be less Minstrels than students, so if you cannot find a Minstrel to study with, you can also study with a Journey(wo)man, as long as you are satisfied that this person can teach you. If you cannot find a Minstrel or a Journey(wo)man on your own, contact the Guildmaster or -mistress. There we will see what we can do for you.

Taking a student is a more formal way of saying: I will help you and teach you what you want to know in the points that you are interested in. If you take a student you should have regular contact with him or her, preferably once every month or even more often.

4. Becoming a Minstrel

To become a Minstrel you have to have a skill of average or better in five of the seven points. [2] Then you think about your masterpiece. A masterpiece is an original contribution to one or more of the seven points. Your masterpiece could be a song with music and lyrics written by yourself, or a performance, or a musical instrument that you have made, or an article you have written about medieval music. Make this masterpiece the best you can do!

If you have finished your masterpiece you contact the guild. Together you decide on an event where you can show what you've been doing. This will have to be done early, two or three months in advance. Events where we try to get as many Minstrels together as possible are the following: two coronet tourneys [3] a year and two university events. If there are other events that are also suitable the guild will decide if they will also be used for candidates for the Minstrelcy. In the guild newsletter we will announce that you want to become a Minstrel, at what event you're going to try this, what your masterpiece will be and you'll have to introduce yourself then.

Any Minstrel who is interested in you can contact you then. Every Minstrel who is interested should come to the event at which you are going to show your masterpiece. All the minstrels that attend that event will have a vote. At least three Minstrels should be present [4], or have given an opinion by mail to make a Journey(wo)man a Minstrel. A majority of the votes have to be in favour of the candidate for him or her to become a Minstrel.

If you go to the chosen event you bring your masterpiece and other material to show your skill in your chosen five points. Performing can be done at the event (if you want to be a minstrel there will always be one performing point in your chosen points (there are only four non-performing points!)). When you have performed and showed your work the Minstrels will decide if you are worthy of the title 'Minstrel'.

We prefer that candidates come to an event to show their skill in music and storytelling to become a Minstrel but sometimes this is not possible, because the candidate lives far away and cannot afford to come to an event where three Minstrels will be present. For those people we have the following option: The candidate contacts the Guildmaster [5], and they will discuss if there are possibilities for Minstrels to come to the candidate. If no direct contact is possible, it is also an option to show your skill in the chosen five points by photos and a videotape (it would be best if the performance was put on videotape, with the added description of the performance by a local specialist, for example a Guild member or the local Minister of Arts and Sciences). This information will be circulated so all Minstrels can have a look at it. If a majority of the Minstrels agree, (votes should be sent by post to the Guildmaster) the candidate will be a Minstrel. It is possible for a Minstrel to give a vote without having seen the material of the candidate (for example because he or she has already seen the candidates work), but every Minstrel has the right to see the work of the candidate.

Minstrels are expected to help members of the Guild and of the SCA as much as they can manage with the arts of music and storytelling. It is strongly recommended they take at least one student if there are people who want to be their student.

There is one Minstrel that does not have to pass this test to become a Minstrel. That is the current princess Bard or Dragon Bard or whatever name they come up with later. This person is a Minstrel and has a vote in the Guild for as long as he or she carries the title. Then the vote will go to the next Bard. This is because is it good to have some new blood now and then in the Guild, it keeps us from being frozen in our habits! [6]

[2] This was changed at Bard's Night II in 1998 C.E.. Now you can become a Minstrel by having two masterpieces, but covering only four points total. [3] Since 1994 C.E.: Crown Tourneys. [4] There are only three Minstrels in Drachenwald right now and getting them all on one Event might be difficult. Don't let it stop you, though, we'll find a way to manage. [5] You can mail me. [6] AFAIK there hasn't been a King's or Queen's Bard for quite some time, probably as far back as the reign of Prince Karl and Princess Leia.

3. Becoming a Journeyman or Journeywoman

To become a Journeyman or Journeywoman you have to have some skill in at least two of the above mentioned seven points [1]. If you think you have that skill, you can contact the Guild. They will tell you which event a Minstrel will attend. You choose in which points you're going to demonstrate your skill. The next time you go to an event where a Minstrel will be, you take with you whatever you can use to show what you have been doing with music or storytelling.

So, if you have written a song, you take the music and the lyrics and whatever documentation you can come up with. If you have made an instrument, take it with you! If you have published an article, take it with you! If one of the points you have chosen is a performing art, you will have to perform at the event.

The Minstrel or Minstrels (if there are more) will decide if your work is adequate to become a Journeyman or Journeywoman. You don't have to be dazzling in your performance, or be able to make a lute or something like that, we require just basic skill in the two points you have chosen.

[1] This was changed at Bard's Night II in 1998 C.E.. To become a journeyperson, you now have to cover 3 points, or you decide to do a 'Journeymen's Piece' (like a Masterpiece, but more simple) and cover only 2 points.

Welcome back

Welcome back to the Minstrels' Guild of Drachenwald. As you can see, we've moved the website over to a new location, and started with a new layout.

The previous incarnation of the website can be found here.

2. Becoming a member of the Minstrels' Guild

Everyone can join the Minstrels' Guild. We will ask a small contribution for becoming a member. This is because we want to publish a newsletter approximately once every three months, that every guild member will receive. We will not ask more money that publishing and mailing the newsletter will cost.

Everyone in the Guild will start as a Novice. If you have practice enough in the arts of music or storytelling you can become a Journey(wo)man, or even a Minstrel. How that works you can read later.

1. Introduction

The Minstrels' Guild is meant for members of the SCA who are interested in the arts of music and storytelling, and in performing those arts. People who do not want to perform are also very welcome, but because songs and stories are best when shared with a group of people, the performing side of the guild will be important too. There are seven points of interest to the Guild, which I shall mention below, and if you want to advance within the Guild, they play an important part. First I will mention these seven points and give a short explanation. There are three performance points, and four points that do not require performing, but are very important to keep the arts of storytelling and music alive.

I. Singing in public
This entails singing a medieval song or a song that could have been medieval in public. In public means at an event, in court, at the feast or any other time and place where there are enough listeners.

II. Playing a musical instrument in public
This, too, means playing a piece that is or could have been from the Middle Ages. It is understandable that not everyone can afford medieval instruments, but it is important that instruments are played in a way that could have been done in the middle ages as much as possible.

III. Telling a story in public
Tell a story and make people listen. This isn't as easy as it sounds! We want to look into techniques like repeating lines, using different voices to make the characters come out, etc.

IV. Making musical instruments
In the Middle Ages many of the musicians could make their own instruments, because there weren't so many instrument builders around. This is an important point, because if you make an instrument you get a much better idea how it works, and how you can differ the sounds of your instruments. Also, making your own instruments can be the only payable way of getting a medieval musical instrument. We want to look into instruments like psalters, flutes and many others.

V. Researching medieval songs and instruments and publish your research
Research is important, too, because there is not enough known at the moment about medieval music. It's good to share information with others, so we can learn from each other. Publishing this kind of information can be done in all kinds of SCA related newsletters, like your shire's or barony's newsletter, the annual Arts & Science issue or even in the Guild Newsletter (that would probably be best for us).

VI. Writing texts
We hope to get more stories or song lyrics that people make themselves. Remember that the lyrics or stories should sound period!

VII. Writing music
We'd also like to get more music that was made by people in Drachenwald, both songs and instrumental music.

The charter of the Minstrels' Guild was written by Lady Sarah bat David in 1993 C.E..
Put into html, slightly edited and footnotes added by Ingeborg Thorulfsdottir in 1999 C.E.
Whatever changes might have taken place in between I do not know of.

The Bear Skinner

You can find a condensed version of the story below.

Once upon a time there was a war. The war ended, and all the soldiers could go home. Some did so quite happily, but others had no home to return to, and they knew no trade but war.

One of those was a young and handsome officer. His money was spent far too quickly, and he had already sold his bright cap and his shiny gold buttons, and he had even sold his sword to a blacksmith, and finally he found himself begging for money on the streets.

One day he hadn't been given a single coin or a single piece of bread, and he was hungry and angry and under his breath he cursed, as soldiers do: "I'd rather deal with the devil than with these greedy merchants who wouldn't give bread to a starving man!"

He had hardly spoken these words, when the devil appeared in front of him.

"So you rather want to deal with the devil than stay a beggar?" he asked the soldier.

The courageous soldier did not run away, although the devil looked quite horrible. "Yes," he said.

"Then, here's the deal," the devil said. "I'll make sure that you will always find gold in your pocket. But you have to wear this old ragged bear skin and not wash, nor cut your hair or your beard or your fingernails for seven years. If you die before seven years are past, or if you break our agreement, I'll get your soul. But after those seven years, you are going to keep the gold and your soul both."

"That's a fair deal," the soldier said. He put on the bear skin and the deal was done.

Six years passed. The officer was still wearing the bear skin and he hadn't washed, nor had he cut his hair or his beard or his fingernails, and he looked very gruesome and wild. But he always had gold in his pocket, so he never lacked for anything -- except human company, for, gold or none, people feared and avoided him.

One evening he was sleeping on a soft bed in a good inn, when he heard sobbing from the next room. Curious, he rose and went looking, and in the next room he found an old man who was crying.

"Why are you crying?" the soldier asked.

The old man was so sad that he didn't care about the other man's apperance.

"I'm a trader," he said, "and I have lost all my wares to robbers. I'm ruined, I have no money to buy new wares, and I have three unmarried daughters to care for!"

The soldier pitied the man. "Maybe I can help you," he said. "But I want one of your daughters for my wife!"

"I can't give one of my daughters to a stranger," the old man said. "You will have to ask them yourself."

"That's good enough for me," the soldier said. He gave the trader a lot of gold, and accompanied him home to meet his daughters.

When the trader's eldest daughter saw the wild man in the bear skin, she turned to her father and said: "Marry him? You're out of your mind! He's but an animal from the forest!" And she walked away.

The trader's second daughter saw the wild man and screamed, "He's some wild thing of the woods, or even the devil himself, and he's ugly to boot -- you can't demand I marry him, I'd rather die!" And she ran away.

But the trader's youngest daughter looked at the soldier and said, "He's a very poor man, all ugly and ragged, and I pity him. I will marry him."

"So we will marry," the soldier said, "but I can not marry you right now. I will be back in a year and a day, and then we will marry. And I give you this so you'll recognize me," and he took a ring from his pocket and broke it in two. One half he gave to the trader's youngest daughter, the other he kept.

Another year went by and the seven years were finally over. The soldier threw the old bearskin away, he washed and had his hair and fingernails cut and his beard shaved and bought fine new clothes fit for a prince, because the devil had been true to his word -- the gold had not run out.

So, it was a very fine and wealthy looking young man who came to the old trader's house one day. No one recognized him, and the eldest and the second daughter tried everything to catch his eye, but the youngest was sitting silently in the corner, ignoring the young man.

The soldier walked up to her and said, "My lady, why won't you look at me?"

"I am betrothed to another man," the youngest daughter said, "and it would not be proper to look at you like my sisters do."

"But surely you can bring me a cup of wine?" said the soldier, and so the youngest daughter went to fetch wine. When she gave it to the soldier, he dropped his half of the ring into it. He drank the wine and looked into the cup. "My lady," he said, "You seem to have lost this!" And he showed her the ring at the bottom.

Imagine the girl's surprise when she found her part of the ring still on the chain where she wore it, and her even greater surprise when the two pieces fit together perfectly! She looked up at the soldier and finally recognized him and fell into his arms.

They got married soon thereafter and lived very happily. But the sisters who had shunned the soldier before went yellow and green with envy, they didn't sleep or eat anymore because they couldn't bear to look at their sister and her fine husband. And finally they became so furious that they killed themselves out of anger.

As the envious sisters were buried, the soldier met the devil again, and he said to him: "I always heard that you are so clever and devious and always get your due -- how can it be that I escaped you?"

And the devil, looking at the two coffins, said: "I have not gotten you. But I got two for one instead!" And he disappeared in a cloud of sulphurous smoke.

And here's the same story reduced to the bare bones...

An officer comes home from the war, not knowing where to go or what to do because he knows only fighting. Then he meets the devil who offers him a deal: he will always find gold in his pockets, but he has to wear a bear skin for seven years and not wash or shave or cut his hair. If he survives the seven years he's free and the gold will still be there, if he dies in that time, the devil gets his soul.

He agrees.

After some years, he looks pretty hideous, but his money still buys him a place at an inn, and there he hears weeping in the next room. He finds an old man who has lost all his money and is indebted, and is crying because he has three daughters and does not know how to care for them.

The officer gives him a lot of gold, and the old man offers him the hand of one of his daughters.

The elder two turn away in horror, but the youngest is willing to honor her father's deal. But the officer says, that he cannot marry her now but will return in three years (knowing that by then the seven years will be over), he breaks a ring in half and gives her one part.

Three years later he's still alive and freshly washed and clothed and shaven and looking very fine. He returns to that old man's house where he isn't recognized, but the two elder daughters are fuzzing around him, hoping to catch his eye, while the youngest sits quietly, wearing mourning colors, for her promised husband has failed to return. But he shows her the ring and they marry and the elder sisters are so furious that they kill themselves.

And in the end the devil appears again to the officer who still wonders how he got off that easy and tells him, now he's gotten two for one.

Storytelling Advice
If you tell this story 'as written', it will take about 8-10 minutes.
The 'Bare Bones' Version will take about 2-3 minutes and is closer to the original.

As you might have noticed I took some liberties with the story, embellishing, changing some things, inventing others, and so on. I encourage you to do the same: This is a fairy tale, and it's meant to be told and changed -- not memorized.

Author's Notes & Documentation
none yet.

Posted by Ingeborg Thorulfsdottir at 03:06 PM

Parcel of Rogues

Wolfgang's Parting Song
by Lord Wolfgang vom Bruch

Farewell to all our values high
farewell our ancient glory
the times of freedom have gone by
are left to minstrel's story
The harvest of the trees we grew
is picked by traitors dire
the royals never had a clue
Such a parcel of rogues in a shire

What clerks or crowns could not subdue
through many reigns and seasons
is rot now by a courtiers few
for medal greedy reasons
The fighters' swords we could disdain
no titles our desire
but reckless toadies were our bane
Such a parcel of rogues in a shire

Our bards were known throughout the lands
our stories met with cheering
a jolly club a merry band
not bound by laws of peering
Now music's banned from streets and halls
no joy-full song or choir
just humble praises and grave hums
brought this parcel of rogue to our shire

I never though I'd see the day
that liberty would leave us
that inner strive would bring dismay
and force me from my home thus
But ere I yield I'd rather see
our towers set on fire
my bardic freedom needs no wall
nor that parcel of rogues in our shire

No More Turmstadt's Archers

by Lord Wolfgang vom Bruch

Oh the times were calm and peaceful, our archers went to rest
Our bows were cob web covered and our arrows in the chest.

Our fighters all had left us, sailing off to foreign shores
Taking with them all their knowledge of the art of fighting wars

Our fighting spirit dwindled - for you don't have to be bright
Just to know that, without armour you can never learn to fight

So we called for the exchequer our coffers to untie
When he showed us what was in there we could just sit down and cry

So we went to see the bankers, oh we wanted not to wait
On the way we met our landlord who told that our rent was late

We tried everything from wire to the mats from an old trunk,
never got us any armour, just a heap of useless junk

But it seems that some old war-god say our efforts, shed a tear,
And by times and lives strange tidings a new marshall stranded here

And as soon as he recovered from the first shock of our sight
He said: I can get you armour and I'll show you how to fight

With a heart for undeveloped, and a master of his trade
And a wagonload of armour Rory Ryan passed our gate

Oh my lord, it's really fitting and it even looks quite fine
But that breastplate you are donning is the upper leg of mine

Please, my lady, stop the bashing, 'cause for mercy now he begs
And it's really not that stylish if you kick between his legs

Well, although this speedy movement will quite surely bring relief
Your opponent won't be happy with your shield between his teeth

No, I am not rhinohiding, I feel quite misunderstood
Just your blows are coming faster than I even can call 'good'

And it was just four weeks later when we heard with great delight:
We were awfully insulted - now we have someone to fight!

Turmstadt's force! to your weapons!
Show them f... northern b... we can fight!

Tunes (choose some):

The Carnival is over
Eine Seefahrt die ist lustig
Da oben am Berge
Ode to Joy (An die Freude)

(...and possibly a lot more)

Turmstadt's Proud Archers

by Lord Wolfgang vom Bruch

We are Turmstadt's proud archers, we are Drachenwald's pride
At the first sound of war we will look where to hide.
Our captain is bold, our captain is brave
He will march in the front 'til he thinks it's not safe.

On defense of our banner no forces we'll waste,
Those four square feet of cloth can be quickly replaced.
We are training each day till we fall off our feet
Our only maneuver: Disordered retreat.

Our financial status is one of renown:
When we get near an alehouse, all the shutters go down.
But at every event our banner you'll see
Just as long as you state that our drinking is free.

We are loyal and faithful to our King and the Crown,
When he tells us to revel we won't let him down
We are true to our King, this is known far and wide,
We'll just start a rebellion if we think we are right.

Brave fighters, move gently and slow, just be kind,
So that Turmstadt's proud archers can follow behind.

Krähwinkler Landsturm

(...and possibly a lot more)


Drachenwald ArmsThe Minstrels' Guild is part of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) in the Kingdom of Drachenwald.

You can read about the charter of our guild, or just get charter, updates and comments in a nutshell.

The previous incarnation of this site can be found here.

What does the Minstrels' Guild of Drachenwald do?

We do:

  • Singing
  • Playing Instruments
  • Writing lyrics or stories
  • Building musical instruments
  • Research about medieval and renaissance music and storytelling traditions
  • Storytelling
  • Writing music
... and trying to get people together to make music, exchange songs and stories and information, and encourage SCAdians to try their hands at the Bardic Arts.

To this purpose the Minstrels' Guild holds an event called "Bards' Night" once a year. (Or at least that's the plan ;-)

The Black Dragon Guards

by Laird Seanne Alansyn

Once in the dark forests of dragons and wyverns
A lonely Prince did wander.
Standing high on open ground, the greatest target in his environs.

Galen of Bristol new crowned Prince
Was in need of a guard for his defense.

Much whispered discussion
surrounded this need,
But who would be strong enough
to do the deed.

The Dragons land is far and wide
Would a single guard travel and abide?

Could Cucullian, Hector or Barbarosa rise again?
Where could a single hero be found with out sin?

A man-at-arms stepped forwards
Seane stood to address the Prince and his wards.

"What we need is not a single hero but a band of plenty
To protect our Prince from his enemies many."

The advisors agreed and Galen approved,
Thus Seanne was left to organize such a brood.

Seanne begged assistance from fighters of renown
Karl Haralldson stepped up to devise the membership and leadership honors.

Together Karl and Seanne did devise
the Black Dragon Guard
to protect the Coronets
From attack by enemies and their allies.

So lowley Seanne did set
a tournement for captains
In each region well met.

The tourney was held
on a foul rainy day
And the winner smote mighty
with a Madu and held sway.

So the first Black Dragons stride forth
Captain of the Guard armed with Madu,
Leutenants for the Center were
Karl Haraldson and Daffyd ap Hewyll

This did occur in AS XVII
I was there and
this truth cannot be deny.

By the way Daffyd became Prince
not to much longer nigh.

Author's Notes & Documentation Most of the inspiration are SCA events or topics. The style is built upon that of Chaucer and earlier, being very alliterative and using imagery.

The Black Dragon Guards © 2000 by Rick Allison