Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Thursday, 3 July 2014
This is Crag Duggin for the Calontir Living History series talking to Duke Sir Finnvarr de Taahe. It is Friday night at Pennsic 19 at Cooper's Lake.
CD: I'm going to recall first a night about three or four Pennsics back where I first noticed that instead of being a continuous long, loud party that lasted all night, suddenly people started going to bed at midnight and a few of us were wandering around in the fog about 11:30 and I bumped into Finnvarr. Pavel Yosevich was with me and we bumped into Ternon de Caer Liant. We stood around at a virtually quiet Pennsic on a Friday night and called ourselves the Ghosts of Pennsics Past. With that as a lead-in, I'm going to speak to a man who was a well thought of, well-respected person when I joined twelve years ago and is crucial in the act of the forming of Calontir. Before we get into that, though, I'm going to ask Duke Finnvarr something I've asked the others that I knew better -- what are the titles and the honors that you've collected over the years?
FdT: That's a good question; I'm not sure I can remember them all. I'm a knight, a master of the Pelican. I have a Willow for, I believe, my writings about Society history. I have a Purple Fret for autocrating events. Perhaps that's all.
CD: When were you knighted?
FdT: I was knighted on October 30 or 31 of 1971 which, I believe, is AS VI. I was the seventh knight of the Middle Kingdom.
CD: That's actually jumping somewhat ahead. You are also once king of the MidRealm, or twice?
FdT: Once king of the MidRealm and first king of the East before that. I began in the Middle Kingdom. I'm an old-timer in the fact that I "founded the SCA". What I mean by that is that I did not join an established group. I helped build a group in an area that was close to no other established groups in a kingdom that was practically brand-new. My first group was Northwoods, the second really flourishing group in the Middle Kingdom. The exact chronology of whether we were actually second or not is a little up in the air. I got interested in late 1969 because there were two people, Baroness Signy and Baron Thorvald (as they would later be known) who had attended in 1968 the BayCon demo which is when the SCA started spreading outside the San Francisco area to all sorts of centers of science fiction fandom in the United States. They came back immediately enthusiastic but until my friends and I became interested about 1-1/2 years later, nothing much happened. Then we put together a group, put together an event and liked it so much that we kept going. Northwoods quickly became the biggest and most active group in the kingdom, so I was close to being on the ground floor although, of course, Tree-girt-Sea did predate us and did actually found the kingdom. I was around for much of the crucial founding of the kingdom as something more than a single group based in Chicago.
In 1972 I graduated from the university at Michigan State, went to live with my parents for a year in New Jersey. While I was there, I won the crown of the East and that was my first crown.
CD: What place do you have in the lineage of the East?
FdT: I don't remember how many kings there were before me because they had some short reigns and they had some long reigns; it was a very irregular type of thing. Maybe the eighth or ninth king of the East, maybe earlier than that. I was the king of the East at Pennsic 2. During my reign, even before Pennsic 2, I moved back to what was, in theory, the Middle Kingdom -- Toronto -- to go to grad school and became again a Middle Kingdom knight. After about a year there, another Northwoodser, somebody I didn't actually know personally, a former seneschal of the barony moved to Toronto for the same reason. The two of us, with the help of our Northwoods friends, started the Toronto group which was first the Shire of the Eoforwic, the very first beginnings of what would become Ealdormere, Eoforwic: you couldn't get this name in the Society anymore; it is an old name for York. Toronto was originally York.
CD: You tell me you were the seventh knight in the Middle Kingdom. Were you squired to anyone?
FdT: I was not a squire because the people who were the good fighters in Northwoods all started fighting together and when one of us was knighted, which was Thorvald, the rest of us did not become his squires. We took pseudo-squires of our own because we knew something about fighting and the new people who were coming in didn't. It just wouldn't have been right to centralize that much power in one person. There was never any hostility or anything about this; it was just the right thing to do.
FdT: Trainees, what would you call them, apprentices, members of our households. People who aren't knights do this all the time today. They start a fighting household and train up people. I was not a squire. I didn't have the opportunity to become a squire. As I said I was a founder of that group.
CD: During your first reign in the East, did anything significant happen? This is of interest, in a sense, because part of our lineage comes through the East Kingdom and this would be part of our history, too.
FdT: Yes, the Middle Kingdom was very briefly, at least in theory, a principality of the East. It didn't really mean very much. It was a principality until the first prince was crowned. I don't know exactly how that happened.
CD: Who was the first prince?
FdT: The first prince was Cariadoc of the Bow. He was the first king. He won a tournament which was meant to be a crown tournament, so in a very, very loose and theoretic sense the Middle Kingdom was a principality of the East. We would not, in our modern day, recognize this as being a "real" principality.
CD: Was he ever styled as a prince?
FdT: Between winning the crown and being crowned, he was called prince but he was both crown prince and principality prince.
CD: What was the interval there, do you remember?
FdT: Very short. From July to September of 1969. In fact I could have gone to the first coronation of the Middle Kingdom because I was at the science fiction convention in St. Louis, Missouri, where it took place -- in Calontir, in other words, as it would become. I just wasn't interested at that point. I knew what the SCA was but I wasn't all that interested. Apparently, it wasn't a very impressive occasion so it is perhaps just a fortunate that I didn't go; I might have gotten a bad impression. There was some kind of rivalry between West Kingdom and East Kingdom representatives who were there.
CD: Cariadoc says, as he recalls, the West king actually crowned him.
FdT: I thought that the Queen or a former Queen of the West, named Adrianne of Toledo, brought out a crown but I wouldn't be able to tell you that. I don't know who was king of the West at that time or whether he was at that convention or not.
CD: Going on, you went to Toronto and founded Eoforwic. Tell me about the growth of that group.
FdT: Cariadoc once asked me why Toronto didn't become part of the East Kingdom because we are very close there to New York State and Toronto is not terrifically close to Michigan, which is where there was real activity in the Middle Kingdom at that point. What it really came down to is that all East Kingdom activity at that time, with a very few exceptions, was on the East coast and we were a mere six hours drive from Northwoods and both Gillian, the co-founder of Eoforwic, and myself had good friends in Northwoods who would help us and they helped a lot. Eoforwic started out with people I knew from science fiction fandom and from the university in Toronto and it grew from there. It was small for awhile and eventually it got bigger. We had the disadvantage of starting a group in a large, cultured city with lots of alternative things happening but we persevered long enough that eventually it became an immense advantage. At first you have to sell people an idea that has almost no concrete manifestations when they could easily be doing something else. Eventually we attracted the right people. It has been a very, very, very successful group in the fact that it has always produced good fighters, people who really care about the Middle Ages, good artists. It has always had both a certain seriousness and a really good sense of fun. I am very proud of the group and having been associated with it.
CD: Carry on and while we're at it, talk to me a moment about the development of the whole region that became Ealdormere.
FdT: I wish I'd studied this up a bit. I did write a history of the Barony of Septentria at one point which has the chronology right.
CD: Do you still have a copy of that you could send?
FdT: I'm not sure. Well, I may; I'll see. The second group was also in the metropolitan Toronto area, based originally at York University which is the other university in Toronto. Then we had some people in Hamilton and Windsor who knew each other who started a household, more or less, which developed into two groups when they got more members. About 1975 (it's hard for me to think in society years, so I'm going to use the mundane ones) was Eoforwic's first event. I think before that year was up we had a second one and there had been something small and very informal at the Norlanda group at York University. By the time I became prince of the Middle Kingdom in 1976 it was obvious that things were happening and we had to decide what we were going to do.
One thing that I did, besides being the knight's marshal of the group, I also acted as the chronicler and put out the newsletter. I made sure that everybody in all of Ontario got the newsletter, if they were at all interested, and started talking to people, when I was prince specifically, about whether we wanted to form something, basically a regional entity, or wanted to have no formal links or specific informal links at all. I was very strongly of the opinion that it would be awfully good for everybody if we worked together in the hopes of forming perhaps a barony in the future. There was some suspicion from the people who were outside of Toronto of this idea but eventually we did sell it to them. This is, in part, because Toronto is, of course, by far the dominant city in Ontario and is the dominant city in most of Canada. People naturally think of Toronto as 'Hog Town', not because it has a lot of slaughter houses (although there are some of those) but because it is a hog and sucks everything out of the rest of Canada. People looked at this as another Hog Town trick and there were some real tensions. Eventually in 1978 we did form a barony which included all of Ontario, in theory; in fact, it was just three locations.
CD: How did you resist the temptation to call it a province?
FdT: Because the Middle Kingdom never had a province and because the idea of having a province was, for one thing, too mundane if you already lived in a province; i.e., the province of Ontario, and second, it didn't give you anything. One of the advantages of being a barony is that you have a Baron or Baroness to be a focus of loyalty and symbolism when you don't have a crown around all the time.
CD: There are times when I think that more and more, that's less of an advantage.
FdT: It is very important. Well, it depends. There are places in the West Kingdom that for many years had no baronies and didn't need them. The core part of the West Kingdom had no barons and that was, more or less, right for them until it stopped being right and then they had a few.
CD: Just so many times the personality problems develop within a barony.
FdT: It's very tricky because it's the one powerful position that is eternal in the Society.
CD: Moving on, Septentria has now formed a barony and is prospering. There are now three groups there. What has Finnvarr been doing this time?
FdT: What happened was that in October of 1976 I won the crown of the Middle Kingdom.
CD: Do you remember the fight?
FdT: I remember the fighting fairly well. Merowald was my opponent in the finals; he won the next crown to become a duke also. He had been king of the Middle Kingdom before. I went to a Steeleye Span concert on Friday night because I was not going to miss Steeleye Span even for a crown tournament that everybody I knew thought I would win because, of course, I was by far the dominant fighter in my area. I was actually very good at that stage. My squires and various other members of my household just sort of crammed me into the car after this concert. We drove to Flint, Michigan, crashed on the floor for about 3-4 hours, then they rushed me out to find breakfast, rushed me out over to the site, slammed me into armor and warmed me up so I would have my best shot at it. I managed to win. The big issue of that reign was ...
I never told you much about my Eastern reign. The big issue of my eastern reign was, would there be another Pennsic War. Everybody wanted one but was it actually going to happen because I was king of the East at Pennsic 2. This was the year the debatable lands was founded. I was involved in that.
When we came along to my MidRealm reign, Pennsic War was still not terrifically well-established. There had been five wars. There had been bad feelings about the fighting at every single one of them. We had not had the same site twice. Duke Dagan du Darregonne of the Middle Kingdom had found Cooper's Lake for Pennsic 6 (my war) and that was the first war at Cooper's Lake. There were some other tricky things to do, arranging a reasonable set of rules for the war because they weren't at all standardized and had been different every time. That was the first war where perhaps a significant number of people from other kingdoms came to fight. That was when the Magnificent Seven -- many people have seen the video tape of this -- or whatever they called themselves, including Paul of Bellatrix, came out from the West Kingdom and fought. Of course, it was the year that the Tuchucks showed up for the second time which was a disaster; it was a very bad unpleasantness at Pennsic 6 with them. They had also been at Pennsic 3 but they were really dangerous at Pennsic 6.
In that war I managed to salvage a tie for the Middle Kingdom by single combat with the king of the East, Fernando, and winning. We had a different plan but nobody would fight the Tuchucks. There was supposed to be field battle. We had a woods battle which was very much like a field battle, over in the old archery field and areas around that, very close to where we are sitting right now. The East was ahead and there as one more point to be fought and there was not going to be a field battle or there was going to be blood. Fernando and I got along very well, fortunately, and we put together this compromise that it would be a single combat between kings. If he won, they won and if I won, it was a tie. Fortunately, I won.
After I became a duke we in Ontario very quickly got to the stage where we could be a barony with the membership we had all over and with a certain amount of accomplishment in putting on events, much of that done by Eoforwic but not entirely, with activity now springing up in other places. Ottawa, Skraeling Althing was the next (fourth) place. We were going on to baronial status. One of the smartest things I ever did was not become baron. Gillian who had just a good a right to the title as I did became the Baroness and did a very good job. We grew quite a bit during the time she was baroness. Then she left Toronto in 1981. We had our second king already (Hugo) and Aedan and Caffa took over from Gillian, an inspired choice. They were actually quite new. Their very first event was my coronation in 1977 and this was only four years later. They hadn't actually been all that active right off the bat. Very soon in their time as baron and baroness it came to a crucial point at which people in Ottawa thought that for their own development -- as Ottawa is not particularly close to Toronto -- they should be their own barony. They had everything they needed to be one. This is not the way I had envisioned it. I envisioned that the barony would become a principality like the Corpora seems to set forth as an ideal, but this never happened. Skraeling Althing formed a barony and now we in Ontario had two baronies. It was a very friendly parting; it was hardly a parting at all. Before we actually got around to becoming a principality, we had three baronies. So, it is not the principality of Septentria. Aedan and Caffa were a very successful baron and baroness because they were not greedy. They had exactly the same feeling that any sensible person would have, that if we're not going to advance to a principality as one barony, then Septentria has no business being as large as it is; it should evolve as quickly as is practical. They were very good at helping people develop their own land.
CD: It always surprised me because even at Pennsic 10 Septentria was fairly large.
FdT: At Pennsic 10 Septentria was Ealdormere, geographically speaking, and it is the foundation of Ealdormere in historical development and geographic extent.
CD: Now you were king of the MidRealm then in 1976, you said?
FdT: No, in summer of 1977. I won the crown in October 1976.
CD: Now we're coming into a time where you touch on Calontir a little bit.
FdT: My first touch on Calontir history was actually quite trivial from the point of view of a sitting king; I mean, in the sense that it took a very short amount of my time and not a lot of serious thought. Although it was a serious matter, I thought the answer was obvious, but who knows whether my actions would mean anything to anybody in the long run.
The crown tournament in that year, May of 1977, was in Minneapolis; the first time they had a big kingdom event. That was not a short trip for me. At that event, I think it was Geoffri of Wareine, the original baron of Forgotten Sea, and some people approached the crown at that court with a petition that Calontir, which didn't have a name at that time, be recognized as a region. Basically they wanted permission to have a name, more or less, to work as a region, work together. Everything in my experience favored the request -- remember, by this point I have already been thinking about what should happen in my area which was far closer to the center of the kingdom than Calontir was but had some of the same problems; so it made perfect sense to me. It struck me that these people west of the Mississippi actually had the brains to want to work together which was the only way that they were ever going to get anywhere and the Crown should encourage them. The kingdom seneschal -- this was Rory O'Tomrair -- soon after that asked me if I thought that was a good idea. I don't recall what the petition said but basically what everyone interpreted it to mean was that they would have their own officers. This certainly didn't strike me as a bad idea and I don't think I was at all surprised that they did it, so maybe it was in the petition. Rory said that there aren't any such things as regions in Corpora. I explained what I thought as my common sense view of it and said that basically this is something to encourage people to do something and to let them do it. Perhaps that ended up being a charter of some importance to Calontir.
CD: It is. It still remains.
FdT: Yes, but you see what I mean by it being a trivial matter. Who knows, these could have all been a bunch of turkeys as far as I knew, but the principle was very clear.
My further involvement in Calontir... See, you told me earlier that there was a story that I was the first king to progress through Calontir. When I was king of the Middle Kingdom, I never went to Calontir. The first king that I know of to visit was my successor, Merowald. The Barony of Forgotten Sea got some money together and said they were willing to pay some of his expenses to come out there. He went out there and he was his charming, wonderful self and told them they were all great people which apparently they all were, and took a squire (Ternon de Caer Liant) which as an incredibly big deal because there were no squires. Three Rivers, which was close enough to interact with some knight or another, had a very strong Dark Horde tradition at that time and there was no likelihood that anybody there would be a squire but Forgotten Sea was less into that trip and they were just thrilled. It was honest, sincere interest from a sitting monarch in people who were doing neat things, so that was a very constructive thing.
My further involvement took place -- when was that? The crown tournament that was held in St. Louis not too long after that which Nathan won, 1978. There was some sort of an election for the first regional officers of Calontir. There had been candidates put up and all the groups sent in votes. They wanted me to help count the ballots or validate it which meant that these people already thought of me as a supporter of Calontir, and Merowald, too, was involved in this. It was another thing that was easy for us to do and meant something to them.
Going to a crown tournament is not the way to know the local group putting on the event, so the tourney didn't tell me much about Calontir. Oh yes, that crown tournament is interesting because it was when I first met Ternon. It's the classic story in which the guy is pulling an armor bag out of the back of his car. An established fighter more or less from the local area comes out and says 'If you want to authorize, go over there' and then later on he finds out that this was a duke. Well, Squire Ternon told me to authorize and, yes, I as a duke. I didn't find out actually that much about Calontir, but I was there. All these people were trying to build up the society in their area and they seemed to be all right, and more power to them.
A little bit later on I gave some continuing support to Calontir when I was earl marshal for about a year. That was a busy year, 1979 I think it was. I was in a position of authority. This was Laurelen's first reign, I guess, at least part of the time that I was earl marshal. I was working with the local people to help. The local person in particular was Brummbar who was Calon Marshal, as they said back then. I started regional deputies in the marshallate. He became one of them, obviously. His region was the most obvious one. When Baroness Arwyn got married to Chepe and they had a tourney to celebrate, they said 'Why don't you come on out? We'll pay your gas money' which in 1979 meant something because that was during one of the oil shocks. My lady and I drove a vast distance to St. Louis and fought in a tournament there. I won the tourney prize which didn't hurt because I didn't have much money back then. It was something like $20 in dollar coins. It was a berserker tourney. One other thing that happened there. My lady Ragni Dzintara was an authorized fighter. People were still adjusting to women wanting to fight in the society. Calontir was a little bit behind the times at this point and the men of Calontir were not being very encouraging to the women of Calontir who wanted to fight. The fact that here was this woman who actually could fight made a big impression on some people. It was a very, very friendly event. People were very nice to us. Somebody told me, years later, of course, that there had already been trouble with the kingdom about Calontir's distinctive identity. So when the bigwigs showed up from outside, the distinctiveness was put on hold. We came about as close as anybody to seeing what Calontir was like when there were no outsiders around at that event -- so I was told.
CD: That trip must be the one that I've heard referred to as what I interpreted to be a progress.
FdT: I've not been to that many Calontir events. What else did I go to? I went to the first coronet tourney and I have been flown out to lecture at Forgotten Sea. I can't remember when that was; it was after I was married, so it was about 1982 when I came out and gave two lectures.
What I want to do is make this point here. What I have done for Calontir has been pretty painless for me. For one thing, a significant portion of the time my way was being at least partially paid, so I don't think that I deserve too much credit.
CD: Except for an openness at a critical time...
FdT: Yes, well I'll claim that.
CD: You know forest fires are started with matches. It would have taken considerably longer and who know what would have occurred if you had said no to Geoffri and turned around and walked off.
FdT: It would have real bad. I'm sure it would have been very bad because we were just entering into a period when Rory was quite new as seneschal and we didn't know what he was going to be like. We didn't know that the Cleftlands Dynasty was coming along; it wasn't all that far in the future. This is the gray period of repressiveness in Middle Kingdom history in which diversity was actively discouraged by all the important people in office.
CD: How many people would you call that? Don't name names, but just how many people would you say were in this. As I've gone back, there is a time when I had this vague notion that there were large numbers of folks. Now as I have been studying and thinking about it and talking with people, I would almost say that you could count them on the fingers of one hand.
FdT: What do you mean, the Cleftlands Dynasty?
CD: No, the people that significantly opposed places like Calontir developing.
FdT: It is a small number of people but in the society a small number of people in the right positions have a tremendous influence on the direction of the kingdom. I'll give you an example that has nothing to do with any of this stuff. In 1970 the society went through a crisis in California that affected the rest of the known world but mostly affected the Kingdom of the West. The Board of Directors at that time was the bogey man Board of Directors that is constantly brought up by people who are unhappy with things in the society.
CD: 'The BOD, the BOD,the BOD thinks it's God, it's God, it's God."
FdT: That's exactly the one. They ran things in a very unbusinesslike manner. They had constant meetings and they interfered in absolutely everything, trying to give direction to absolutely everything. Of course, this could be very bad if you were in the Middle Kingdom because there were these thunderbolts from far off that would descend but at least they were infrequent thunderbolts. If you lived in the Bay Area, in the Mists, there was constant interference. What happened at that point was fighting policy which was a really touchy point. Edwin Bersark was the Society Marshal and his ideas of fighting were significantly different from most other members of the chivalry of the West kingdom. He was the big boss of all fighting in the entire universe and what the king wanted, what the earl marshal wanted, what the knights wanted, what the fighters wanted in the West Kingdom didn't seem to figure in in any obvious way. He had the backing of the board; I don't think he was on the board. What happened then is that James Grayhelm and Paul of Bellatrix traded the throne back and forth for a little bit over a year (they have three kings a year) and effectively declared the independence of the Kingdom of the West from the board of directors. Two people who thought exactly alike on the crucial issues were constantly in charge and had backing of other people. They said to the BOD, you can set certain general policy things but if you start messing around with tourneys or you start giving orders to kingdom officers over the head of the king, forget it, we won't let you do that. Those two kings changed the entire way the SCA worked on the West Coast. Similarly with the Cleftlands Dynasty: here, half a dozen, eight people maybe, the kings and queens and certain officers on the Curia, with a very clear idea of what the Middle Kingdom and the Society should be like, had a very big influence.
CD: I was talking to Myrra yesterday and I got the feeling from her that when Calontir separated and became a separate kingdom the vast majority of the Middle kingdom populace were not much more aware of it than the majority of the Indian population was aware of the end of the British Raj.
FdT: Why should they be? I think that's probably true. Things like the United States of America or the Middle Kingdom are myths to a certain extent. They don't just naturally exist. It takes a power of imagination to make them exist. If you have an actual working, mundane country there are certain things that help it exist. Look at the Soviet Union today. If you stop believing the Soviet Union exists or is workable and nobody forces you to believe it, it immediately starts falling apart. When you have something that is just held together entirely by the imagination anyway, then if I'm just some person living in Eoforwic, the Middle Kingdom may or may not mean anything to me and where it ends in the western part doesn't necessarily mean very much to me at all. If I go there and I know people from there, then I may have an opinion. If I don't, I won't.
CD: I think it interesting to those of us who were in that formative period of Calontir, what I remember most when I was beginning to get active beyond my shire in 1979-81, you were very highly thought of. When did you take Juan as a protege?
FdT: Can't say. Trying to remember. Would have been in that period. it was very likely it was in 1979. That's when I started to really know individuals in Calontir fairly well -- when I got to know Ternon, Juan, Geoffri, Brummbar, Arwyn a lot better than I had -- and various other people whose society names escape me at the moment.
CD: Did Juan ask you or did you ask him?
FdT: He asked me.
CD: How many proteges have you had over the years?
FdT: He asked me to become a squire because he was interested in becoming a better fighter and he had a high ideal of knighthood. Since I was already a Pelican, he really knew that this was probably more appropriate to his talents. There was no developed idea of a Pelican protege at the time; in fact, I don't like that term at all because it gives visions of people giving you cushy jobs in the bureaucracy.
CD: I agree.
FdT: He took advantage of the fact that I was a knight to get the title of squire, but it was a perfectly honorable thing to do and an appropriate thing to do because he wanted to work with me towards a peerage.
CD: So he was your protege, not your squire?
FdT: He was my squire, not my protegee.
CD: Oh, I beg your pardon.
FdT: I guess he still is my squire although in a way the quest was fulfilled when he became a Pelican, he deservedly became a Pelican. They let me ask the boon for him; it was very nice. It felt good. You think about it. I know that he is less than a perfect person who has screwed up big time a number of times and I'm not talking about his political agitation either. He really is the kind of person who gives dynamism. He helps create an idea. You know Calontir doesn't naturally exist; it has to be an idea in people's minds and somebody has to start the idea rolling and encourage people to believe it actually could be. He was one of them; he was a big deal one of them because he is quite eloquent.
CD: I always thought he was sort of a Samuel Adams of our revolution.
FdT: As a matter of fact, it was at Pennsic War I heard he was going to get the Pelican and somebody whose name I won't reveal said 'What's he getting it for, treason?'.
CD: That was Earl Sir Bearengaer.
FdT: No,he didn't say that. Maybe he said it, too.
CD: Well, I bumped into him on the road that Pennsic and he said to me,'Well, I heard that Juan is going to get a Pelican'. I said, 'Yes, that's true' and I think he said 'What's it for?' I said 'Treason' and he said, 'Well, that's all right because in Calontir treason is a protected activity' or something to that effect.
FdT: Well, this other Pelican said to me, 'What is he getting it for, treason?'. I stopped for a moment, thought, and said, 'Yes'. There are times when treason is the right thing to do.
CD: I argued for him, and for some others that we did, that unsuccessful revolutionaries are hung; successful ones are made heroes and therefore this is the avenue one does that for.
FdT: It never should have been conceived in those terms. That was the sad part of the early history of the Middle Kingdom.
CD: You understand that we were saying that rather tongue-in-cheek.
FdT: I realize that but unfortunately other people took that idea quite seriously, that pushing for independence, self-determination for Calontir was somehow treason. This is a ludicrous idea from my point of view.
CD: How do you like the crown principality being used for Ealdormere?
FdT: It was a big step forward. In some ways after we got it, people sat back and said 'Why are they making us go through this farce?' In a way they were right but in a way it was maybe nice to have the breathing room because we got burned rather badly and some of it was our own fault, but not much. It allowed us to not do things in a huge, hectic hurry after a period of enforced inactivity. That might have led us to make some serious mistakes. It is hard to say what might have happened otherwise but things have been working very nicely in our first reign as a full-blown principality. It's hard to argue with that.
CD: As opposed to going ahead and becoming a principality two years earlier and independent like we are. When Calontir became a principality it was sort of a given that in 2-3 years we would be a kingdom but that is being carefully avoided with Ealdormere.
FdT: I don't think people in Ealdormere are that strongly -- well, there are different opinions -- but the thing is that Calontir was a big area and it was really far from the center of the kingdom. It was working well -- if it hadn't been working well, why all the opposition? If it was falling apart, there was no need for anybody to oppose Calontir doing whatever it wanted to do; since they couldn't do it anyway, why oppose them. What people in Calontir were talking about was, 'God, how can we become a kingdom?', 'How can we get to first base by becoming a principality?' It was 1981 when Calontir became a principality. In 1979 and 1980 people in Calontir who were really dedicated to it and a lot of other people were saying 'How are we ever going to become a kingdom?' As there were crises, this feeling became stronger. 'If we could just get to be a principality, we really got it beat because we will be legitimatized and we would show them we could do it'. In our case, there are people who are looking forward to us being a kingdom and some people are probably pretty strong on it but the general thing that we are talking about is how we are going to make this principality work. Many of Calontir's institutions were formed in the regional period like Huscarls, the Fyrd and various other things I'm probably not particularly aware of. You had a character and institutions, you just needed the stamp of approval. We've got a character but we don't have the institutions. We don't have common institutions because we devolved all our common institutions away to encourage growth. Now we have to pull them all back together.
CD: This was the original Septentria group?
FdT: If we'd stuck with Septentria or if when Skraeling Althing went its way, if we'd given up Septentria as a name for the rest -- well, I don't know how we could have done it differently.
CD: Do you foresee developing your own award structures?
FdT: We're already developing awards which is something I'm not terrifically enthusiastic about. I don't like SCA awards as they've developed. They're not medieval at all. They perform a certain function but they tend to evolve into awards inflation just by the very nature of it and become less satisfying as we go along. Anyway, I have a different idea of what would be neat.
CD: Which is?
FdT: Well, something I wrote into the laws of the principality. Our first prince and princess who have many other things, many things to think about, have not followed up on it and have instituted awards of the normal sort. I wanted to have a scroll of honor which whenever the prince and princess saw something neat happening, they would inscribe people's names on the scroll of honor which, to my mind, is a much more effective way of doing things than having awards for most things. I mean, it doesn't substitute for peerages obviously. But for nonpeerage award, once you get your arts award, four years down the line, who the hell knows what you got it for? How the hell are they going to find out? Will they even think about it? If we actually got the scroll of honor going, it would be displayed quite frequently and you could read it -beautiful calligraphy, different types of calligraphy, saying 'At Pennsic War 19 Grimwolf tweaked the nose of Duke Palymar by dressing up in a Mykfaellin surcoat and going out and taking pictures of a supposedly secret unbelted champions battle practice out in the woods' which, in fact, actually happened at this Pennsic War. Perhaps this would not be a particularly diplomatic thing to put on the scroll, but say that you didn't care about this and you gave him an award for something or the other, some award that you could give him. Well, who knows what he got it for four years down the line. If it is written on this scroll of honor, it is there forever.
CD: What a neat concept.
FdT: It is a neat concept. It would take a bit of work and a bit of belief to do it. Habits are very strong in the society; it is a very traditional society.
CD: Why do we not take better care of our own history? Your work is probably the best example of how to do something. It has been an inspiration to me for a number of years. Why, as interested as we are in history, is the kingdom's historian's office one of the least of the lesser lights?
FdT: I think perhaps because the Society has a split personality and has had it from the first tournament, I'm sure, between the people who want to recreate the Middle Ages and the people who want to create a chivalric dream. Actually, if you're developing a chivalric dream, to think about it in a mundane sense as being history is kind of devaluing it. It's much nicer if it's myth. I mean, you can think of the early Christians. No Christian wrote a real history of the church until about the year 300 because earlier Christians thought of themselves as living in this mythical moment, a numinous moment where everything was about to change. Merely mundane things like the history of the church since the resurrection or since the apostles were trivial because they were living in this community that was about to experience this vast change and time would end. We live in a community where we're trying to enact our dreams of heroism and honor in their vast variety; it's still kind of new. It's still kind of mythical rather than historical. We're looking for mythical experiences; history is humdrum. History is real life.
CD: To me what was interesting was when I read your history of the Middle Kingdom, it became mythical to me.
FdT: Yes, that's true but you have to remember that it's the songwriters who sometimes do the best work here. My historical training is as a historiographer, a historian of how history has been written. That is a concept that every professional historian is familiar with but most of them aren't really interested in it and that's not what they work on. This is, again, the history of how people think about what's happening, how people revisualize the past for various reasons at various times. Early on I wanted to write a history of the Middle Kingdom. I was mad as hell about one of the early reigns of the Middle Kingdom and I wanted to write sort of an expose type of history but I didn't do it.
CD: The Iriel reign?
FdT: Yes. I eventually wrote my version of it but with a little bit less anger and a little more feeling for the sort of classic pathos of the whole thing.
CD: The pathos of that is what came across.
FdT: I saw it all, too, or almost all of it. I did hope for the mythical thing to be in my histories.
I do think that writing history is important. I'm just saying that I understand why people don't do it very often. Actually, making kingdom historians is not the way to get history. What you need is people who really care about something or the other, and it's usually when they're mad that they write things. I wrote the first part of the history of Septentria when I was happy about something, how well things were going. Somebody else wrote a second part which hasn't been published yet, just because he thought it should be done for the decennial of the barony. He wrote most of it and somebody else has written more onto it and it's stuck in production. The third part, which again is unpublished, was written by somebody after Ealdormere was shot down by the Curia Regis; again, he was mad. These special occasions come along where it seems appropriate to write history. If you just tell somebody that it's their job to write history, they come out with some dry garbage because they have no passion. Good history is written out of passion.Good historical studies may be written out of sheer interest in the puzzle of how something happened but the great histories are written out of passion. That is the kind of thing that people in the society want. Somebody did write a history of the early West Kingdom once. It as the most unbelievable piece of garbage I ever read in my entire life; I couldn't read it. I saw a copy someplace. After about four pages of neat stuff about the early kingdom, the rest of it is a catalog of what happened at every single tournament for the first 10-15 years of the West Kingdom. It was a reference work maybe but it was not something that anybody would read for enjoyment or be inspired by. If you knew that Duke Andrew of Riga had done such and such and you wanted to check the date, this was a good place to go. It was just a catalog of information. It was not a mythic history. It was not a passionate history of what made the West special or what was rotten about the West or the cool people in the West who should be remembered. There was nothing of that in it at all. Just no artistic sense whatsoever. This is the kind of thing one would expect to have from kingdom historians. We had a kingdom historian fired because he wrote a history and he had opinions in his history. Everybody knows, expect perhaps historians, that historians only write the facts; they don't have opinions. It would be nice if there was more history but, as I say, I understand why we have somewhat less than we should. The Middle Kingdom actually has had a number of historians; we're lucky that way.
Is there any Calontir history?
CD: Not really. There have been a few vignettes written and I have about fifteen interviews. I caught Cire just before he left and moved out. This got started. I had been thinking about doing this a long time and when William Coeur de Boef was killed I thought that I didn't get around to it soon enough; we're already losing it. That tells you how long I have been dallying and doodling. I've really only gotten on it this past year or two but I'm beginning to see folks. Not everybody is a quasi-immortal like Finnvarr. We've lost many people. We've lost Ternon, although I have a two hour tape of him that someone else did a year or two before. At any rate, we don't have that and that is really what this project is about.
Let's run a bit further on you because there are a couple of more things that I mentioned. We've done your first reign -- you reigned once in the East and then once in the MidRealm. Into the 80's, besides working on Ealdormere, tell me what happened when you got slapped down by the Curia Regis. I'd like that story.
FdT: I was on the Board at that time which put me in an interesting position, real tempting, but considering the quality of the people on the board at that time, real foolish to try to abuse my position on the board. What happened was that -- my lady is actually very responsible for some of these early things. We had a regional seneschal basically (the title was deputy kingdom seneschal). She got the job as the second one, I guess, and she said we really should think about what we're going to do. She thought that the obvious thing to do was to have a regional champion's tourney and have a name. Where have I heard that before? I don't know if she was specifically thinking of Calontir when she thought of this; it's just the society model. She'd been to Calontir, but it's important to point out that this is a very simple idea and very logical in the society context. She called various officers from around and said we ought to try and do this and the people were reasonably enthusiastic about it. I guess I was at board meeting, so I wasn't even present when people got together to discuss this. The people at the moot liked the idea and we did it. We informed the higher ups about what was going on and they didn't interfere, which is somewhat to their credit.
In fact, it was at the Eoforwic decennial tourney that we had the first regional champion's tourney. I was the autocrat and didn't compete. It was won by a somewhat controversial fighter, a big, strong guy with not a lot of culture, good-hearted, not dumb but rough; and a lady who was reasonably well-known. Yog was the name he picked when he was told he couldn't have his own name; he has a very medieval mundane name, Helmut something or other. His name was one thing people didn't like about him. Hannorah O'Neill was his lady. Yog and Hannorah were cruising along as Champion and Consort of Ealdormere. They had collars, they didn't have crowns. There must have been some real uneasiness about this in the minds of some kingdom officers. The way I understand it is that Hannorah started writing letters to kingdom officers in which she seemed to be getting well above herself. I think there may also have been some little thing about Yog but basically it was mostly Hannorah writing letters, and probably using her title when she signed it, Consort of Ealdormere.
This was when Alen was king and Isabella was his queen. Alen's previous queen was the kingdom seneschal. Palymar and Katherine were prince and princess for the first time and were real new in the society. They had a curia meeting over the telephone which I think was the bare minimum of the quorum which was the seneschal, king and queen. They made a decision and called Palymar and Katherine and basically got them to be the front people, which I thought was despicable, to call us up and tell us we couldn't have our champion or our consort or our name or anything. What was really, really bad about this was that at this point Ealdormere was full of peers and had two landed baronesses and a baron, none of whom were even called until the mighty decision had been made from on high. A crown that took seriously medieval ideas of fealty like we claim to base ourselves on, would have involved them. If you have a problem, you talk to the people who are closest to you, the peers and barons; these are the people the crown should be talking to. Maybe there is a solution; they should know something. Maybe you even want to chew them out, but none of this was done. We were not happy. They said we couldn't have our name. My lady resigned as seneschal because she thought this was the British tradition, when the minister's activities aren't acceptable to the crown, the minister resigns.
We got another good seneschal in who basically picked up the pieces. Our baronage and peerage told everybody that if you want to write to the board or to the crown, do it, but don't rave at them and don't do anything stupid. Nobody much did, I guess. Eventually the dynasty broke down and more positive people came along. We had the support of people like Fern and Tadashi whom she was then married to and various other people, especially people who in other regions of this overlarge Middle Kingdom had been thinking of emulating what we were doing with our region already. There was actually some serious reaction from other parts of the kingdom with people saying, 'What the hell is going on?'. Not an awful lot. Most people are totally oblivious, of course, but people who had been thinking about the future of their own regions, certain peers reacted. So eventually when the influence of the people who are against any type of devolution or any type of splitting of the might Middle Kingdom's unity lost their influence, basically by burning out as everybody eventually does, there were people around who were willing to encourage us. I was not involved in any of the movement that came to us becoming a Crown Principality which was two years ago. There had been some discussion.I don't even remember who was king and queen at that time. I think Palymar and Katherine felt very bad about the situation. The thing is that there were people around who were positive. The various people who were really carrying the ball showed up at Pennsic 17 and a charter was written up. That was a great moment in court. We got the promise that we were going to get someplace and got our name back and got our principality. We were a principality although it didn't really feel real until coronet.
CD: How was your first coronet tourney?
FdT: It was good; no problems.
CD: Do you think that the first coronet tourney was perhaps the most exciting, enjoyable tourney?
FdT: It was wonderful. Your first coronet tourney was wonderful. I remember the bells; that was a wonderful touch. It was just so good. It really made me happy to hear those bells at Calontir's first coronet tourney. I was happy to be there. I didn't even get to see our first principality court. We had to go home and feed our animals. It was really late. The feast was very good at ours but it was real late getting started and if somebody had really been on the ball, they could've had the coronet court first and everybody would've been happier, I think. That as our biggest problem! I took part in the coroneting. I was proud of my own performance in the lists because with only a very little practice I got a lot of mental exercise; that was the important part. I got up to third. It may not be that impressive for a duke to get up to third but we actually had some pretty good fighters. The fighting was very clean and very skilled; it was neat. It would've been nice to have a really pretty fighting site or a really pretty feast site. Actually, I guess the feast site was okay. It was hard to tell because there were so many people crammed into it. One of the best people for the job won, so we have a really good prince and princess.
CD: Who are they?
FdT: David and Tangwystl.
CD: You said earlier that you have designs on some day being the Prince of Ealdormere?
FdT: I'm seriously thinking of going for it. I'm not going for the next one because I wasn't that enthusiastic about doing it this fall. I want to write on the book I'm writing at the moment instead. Anyway, I missed the deadline. We have a reverse invitational, you invite yourself in and the coronet have the opportunity to say no for a reason. They don't have to make a big public fuss over it like Atlantia does.
CD: That's how we do it. The only time the reason has to be released, as I understand it, is at the request of the person being denied. If they wish it published, it can be published.
FdT: There is a very strong feeling around the principality about the coronet. Everybody was tired of purely invitational lists, but everybody recognized that there were a couple of people they really were very uncomfortable about winning the coronet and they might do it. They would be very unsuitable people, especially the first time around. Nobody was actually excluded from the first one but I think there were a couple of people who were sort of encouraged not to apply, that it might be better for them in the long run. If people had doubts about them
as fighters, for instance, them winning the coronet would not tend to dispel those doubts in the slightest but if they sort of stood back for a little bit, they might be seen as a little less pushy than otherwise.
CD: Let's look in the future for a minute and wrap this up. You've been in the society for 20 years. It's changed a lot. Has it changed in the directions you thought it would go? Are we closer to what you wanted it to be now?
FdT: I think maybe in some ways. What I wanted out of it, perhaps, has changed somewhat but that would be hard to define. I think that in a way we're doing very well, in a way we're drifting away from what we should be doing. Being part of the Middle Kingdom and having been on the Board of Directors I think that people are too wedded to a rigid centralized idea of how things should be run. I mean, unity of the society does mean quite a bit to me actually, but it is not sort of a god that all our children should be sacrificed to. I think that much of the problem that the society has is that it is so big that it is no longer as satisfying as it used to be, especially for the newer people, which is why you often have unofficial things, things that are unexpected in the society context jumping up, some of which are good and some of which are really stupid and bad but all of them because people joined the society to do something, at least the worthwhile people do. They don't join the society to be spectators. We have very big kingdoms, even Calontir is a pretty good sized kingdom. There are going to be a lot of people condemned to mainly a spectator role, and maybe for quite an extended period, and this is not good for them or anybody else. I think many of the society's problems would be solved -- and I say this a little bit facetiously, but not entirely -- if we had 50 kingdoms. That would solve an awful lot of our problems. Some of those kingdoms would be hideous places. You'd have to send in the exterminators. Every few years you would decide which ones would have to be destroyed. But we have had kingdoms like this already in the society, we really have, or at least principalities that have had serious, serious problems. If other people had really realized how bad they were, they would have really been shocked. You just have to deal with those things.
It's getting to the point where, you know I've been on the board, and you can't run these things from the center if you're going to let people participate. I mean the idea of societywide heraldry has been a joke for ten years. I tried to radically reform heraldry when I was on the board but I got off the board before I could completely follow through on it. It's just going to get to the point where running things from the center isn't going to work very well and we're going to have to come up with some creative solutions. There are going to be corresponding disadvantages to it.There are going to be things that happen that nobody can stop which, that if we had a centralized structure, we could stop. It might be too high a price to pay to continue to keep things the way they are. I just don't think it's going to be workable for very much longer, too many people.
CD: Would you then see the role of the board in those things diminishing in terms of standardizing policy?
FdT: I suppose so. I think that is pretty much inevitable if things keep developing. The corresponding thing is that -- well, I'll tell you a story that happened at this Pennsic. Yesterday afternoon I was walking down the road with some ice cubes in bags, more than I could comfortably handle, and I saw a man standing by the side of the road. I knew who he was, he was Duke James Gray Helm, somebody I had met several times on trips to the West. He is a real old-timer, he's king and on his eighth reign, a legend in his own time. He was a legend in his own time 20 years ago when he was 16 years old and king. Yesterday he was bummed out. He had been in a royal encampment. There had been this lady lifting this immense trunk that she couldn't handle and a man is sitting around doing nothing. He, the king, went over and offered to help this lady truck this immense thing full of some other king's feast gear back to where it belonged. I think that was just one thing and maybe a couple of other things that happened. He said he was really fed-up with the society. For somebody who has been in the society for 20-some years to say that, I thought, was kind of alarming. He is generally a very cheerful fellow. I told him that I had seen some pretty rotten things at this Pennsic, too, but then I told him all the neat things I had seen at Pennsic like the Pennsic Parade of Fools, the fun feud we have been having with Aramanthra the Vicious' household who has the camping site that we had last year which is like this Eden over on the other side of the lake. We went over there and were ritually cocking a snook every time that we passed by and they were waving their buns at us in return. Then they said they realized they were on our ancestral lands and the bones of our ancestors were buried there. They said they were looking for the bones of those ancestors and would bring them back. They put together a vast parade of people in fancy dress with heralds and banners and presented the bones of our ancestors to us. After they left the real kicker was that Death showed up five minutes later to inspect the bones of our ancestors, with a black cloak and a black hood over it and a big scythe. He almost freaked our baroness right out. He said he was just shopping, it wasn't an actual visit. The Pennsic Parade of Fools could be described at length, too. It was wonderful and very authentic. All this living theater of the society, really, really good stuff. When it comes down to it, I think the Pennsic War fighting the last few years has been much better and people are much less serious about their wars.
CD: It seems to be less hostile.
FdT: You bet. I mean the early Pennsics were hideous if you took them at all seriously. There was just incredible mistrust, incredible misbehavior, incredible back-biting. It was just nightmarish at times. I really mean that. I can remember being complete overcome, partly I think from depletion from standing in the sun, but just being completely overcome by how bad everybody is feeling at the end of this war and it shouldn't be like that. That was Pennsic 3. At Pennsic 3, when I was King of the East, there was so much diplomacy about whether women were going to be able to fight for the East Kingdom or not in this war that I blanked it all out; I can't remember any of that crap. I was in favor of it but all my old friends in the Middle Kingdom thought it was a horrible idea and they wouldn't fight women. Just garbage. All sorts of other horrible scandals, some of which have never become public knowledge. I think it's better now but it's sure far from perfect.
One thing that people get dissatisfied with the society for, and I have some squires who feel this way, is about the inauthenticity of a lot of people in it and the fact that they know nothing about the Middle Ages which is true of an awful lot of people. You really have the choice between an open society where you encourage people to get involved or a closed society in which you very carefully screen people and have very definite rules that are very strictly enforced. You can sort of fantasize that it would be neat but you realize that all the heralds and seneschals and laurels that you dislike would be the entire membership of that organization. All the people who are always spoiling everybody else's fun would be the entire membership of such an organization unless it were very cleverly devised. I would like the SCA to be a lot better than it is but I think the idea is pretty neat.
CD: I see a lot of folks that start out and the first couple of years that they're in, they are everything that's not right but sooner or later so many of them get bit with the bug and they go places and you said this is not something that this person could have ever in their lifetime have imagined themselves to do and it has provided them an opportunity to grow.
FdT: Exactly. I've seen the society wreck people's lives and I've seen it save lives. Incredibly creative people who are just sort of sitting around and slugging back the beer because they really had no obvious direction to go. It could be a big stepping stone for them. It wouldn't necessarily keep them in the society forever.
CD: Have you seen people who stepped up to the throne and matured and stepped down and really were radically different people because they learned. I've noticed that on a number of folks.
FdT: I've also seen people get incredibly rigid backbones after being on the throne, too, which is unfortunate. While they gain something, they sometimes lose something, too. It's a challenge for royal peers to stop taking themselves too seriously after awhile.
CD: Not a problem I shall ever have to face. Let's do one more thing. Let us try and see the future one more time. I hear an enormous amount of blather, I term it, which tells you where I come from, about how we've got to change up the three major orders because they are so inauthentic and the worst thing of all is that Pelicans and Laurels are not treated with respect and knights are; therefore we should tear apart the whole system or rename them all to be knights of this, that or the other. We should all be Knights of the Laurel, Knights of the Pelican, Knights of the Chivalry. What's your view on this?
FdT: That's crap. You know why it's crap? Because if people don't respect Pelicans and Laurels and only respect people who hit other people with sticks, changing all the names will not make the slightest bit of difference. People will know who the stick knights are and they will think it's great. People will know who the embroidery knights are and if they don't respect that kind of accomplishment, they won't give them any respect. I have heard that, too. There are other things but I don't think the society can change its basic structure. It is too big. What you'll have is this: any organization that grows to a certain extent, and it's already happening, will have schisms and reformations and new churches formed and they will go on. They'll go on in parallel and may go on with a certain amount of hostility. There is less reason for hostility in our situation than in real life. I think that any radical change will just create a new organization. The old organization may fall apart and wither after the new one leaves, but I doubt it. I think this organization, as it exists with its pretty much its current structures and attitude has a long life ahead of it, not an eternal life but probably a good generation at least. If any really radical changes are made, it will probably split the organization.
CD: What do you think demographics are going to do to us?
FdT: Well, as long as we have fighting as an important part of the society's life, we're always going to bring in the young men and the young men will bring in the young women and this is one of our advantages over many other similar organizations. We are kind of gentrifying a bit and it is kind of alarming sometimes but we do have a certain corrective built into the system.
CD: I find your final opinion so agreeable that I think I'm going to stop right there. Thank you very, very much, Duke Finnvarr.
FdT: It's been fun. I love to talk.
CD: We'll do this again sometime.