I spend a lot of time thinking up new stories to write. Normally I write very short ones (for picture books) but occasionally I get carried away and write pages and pages! That is exactly what happened recently when I set about writing a story about a little boy called Simon who lives in a Medieval village.
Don’t ask me why I decided this boy lived in Medieval times. Sometimes a character just tells you who he is and you have to go along with it! Perhaps I was inspired by a painting like the one above, painted by Pieter Bruegel in 1568. It shows a group of villagers at a dance, and it’s one of the best ways to learn about the way people lived in an earlier time.
To write properly about Simon, I first had to do some research into how people lived in Medieval times (also known as the Middle Ages). When you write about a certain time in history, it’s important to get your facts right!
Life was very different back then, about 700 years ago. It was long before televisions, computers and central heating were invented. There was no running water, so you had to go and fill a bucket every day at the village well or a nearby stream. They didn’t have soap or toothpaste or shampoo, and nobody understood that dirt could carry germs and make people sick.
It was a pretty hard time to be a poor peasant boy. Simon would have lived in a simple wooden house coated in mud with a thatched roof. Because this was a time before chimneys, the fire they used to cook and keep warm would have made the house very smoky. Here is a good website with more information about Medieval houses in Britain and what it was like to live in them.
Rich people in the Middle Ages wore velvet clothes, fancy hats, colourful tights and pointy shoes. But the peasants had much simpler clothes, and this is what Simon and the other villagers would have looked like:
The man in this picture has big holes in the knees of his leggings. He has put the handle of his basket on his head to make it easier to carry (and keep his hands free). I’m not sure what that long stick is he’s holding – it looks like he’s going to play a game of lacrosse! I wonder what will happen to that goose when they get home… Will they eat it?
In my story Simon works very hard, feeding the pigs, fetching water, mending the fence and trying to keep his bad-tempered mother happy (an impossible task!) I needed to create other characters for the village, so I looked up the sort of names people had in Medieval times, and came up with Agnes (Simon’s mother), Gilbert the miller, Edmund the farmer, William the blacksmith and Martha the innkeeper. I had fun choosing names for all the wives, too: Bertha, Hilda, and Norma the nosy neighbour!
If you’d like to see what it would really be like to live in a Medieval village, there are some in the UK and further afield that you can visit.
Cosmeston Village is near Cardiff, in Wales.
Hangleton Cottage is near Hove in East Sussex.
Duncarron is a reconstructed Medieval fortified village that is still being built in the Carron Valley in central Scotland.
Camlann Medieval Village is in Washington State, USA.
This History on the Net website has a great checklist for choosing the perfect place to set up a Medieval town or village. It has to be near water, have a good supply of wood for fires, and also have a clear view all around so you can see your enemies coming!
I had a great time writing the story of Simon and his Magic Fish. Maybe one day it will be published and you can read it!