The Modern Barbarian And The Code of Chivalry

I’ve spent a fair bit of time talking about being a Barbarian. That, in a lot of people’s minds, has a fairly distinct definition. While I’ve tried to define it my own way, it’s still based on what the term means in most people’s minds.

But then I join a HEMA group that espouses chivalric values. It’s made me take a step back and think about what each of those terms means, at least to me, and decide if they’re in conflict and how I’d deal with it they were.

Luckily, I don’t think they are. Let me explain.

First, understand that I don’t use the term “Barbarian” to describe anarchistic tendency, a desire to hurt others for fun, or any of the awful things often called barbarism. I defined it a few times, such as here.

It calls for certain thing, including a ready willingness to hurt people if the need arises.

But then, there’s “chivalry.”

What is ‘Chivalry’

I’m not going to present myself as an expert in chivalry. I’m not, not by a longshot.

Also, I’m not trying to imply that chivalry was the same in all eras and places. It wasn’t. What many consider chivalry today and what was chivalry in the 14th century are different animals entirely.

Without Schola Saint George, the emphasis on scholarship and understanding the historical context of Fiore’s work as well as the discussion of chivalry implies, at least to me, that it’s mostly about the historical version of chivalry.

And that version of chivalry allowed for some pretty brutal stuff.

For example, I remember reading about how the Black Prince of Wales, Edward, was considered one of the most chivalrous knights of his age. In the same passage, I also read how he slaughtered residents of a village that was in rebellion against him after they’d surrendered.

Now, I’m not saying this is a good thing. To my modern way of thinking, this is brutal and excessive, but at the time it was probably a different matter entirely.

Chivalry was a code of behavior for knights in the medieval period, but it was a code meant for knights who engaged in tournaments¬†and battle. It wasn’t some refined, high-minded and civilized way of thinking that required everyone to treat everyone else as your best buds.

Instead, it existed in a world with duels to the death, trial by combat, and some nasty ideas of how to wage a war.

In other words?

In other words, there’s absolutely no reason the two can’t co-exist in the same person. In fact, there’s a good chance it should.

You see, while I believe everyone should be a Barbarian, the truth is that there will always be those who might not be able. Maybe they’re too young or too disabled. Maybe they’re a woman with no taste for fighting and don’t want to cultivate it. Whatever. It doesn’t matter.

Well, many modern interpretations of chivalry call for protecting the weak or protecting the honor of your lady (or partner or whatever).

These are things we kind of need to bring back. Badly.

Could you be wrong about this?

Oh, absolutely.

You see, while I used to be a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, and they’re big on chivalry, it was always more of an “I’ll know it when I see it” sort of a thing.

To some degree, it’s still that way. In fact, it seems like it was that way in the medieval period as well, truth be told.

However, that kind of thing means it’s also open to significant misunderstanding. I’ll own up to that here and now.

That said, I suspect I’ll be doing a fair bit of studying on chivalry going forward and how it’ll apply to being a Barbarian, and I’ll probably share some of that here. We’ll see how it goes, though.


Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *