Friday, January 23, 2015

The Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint

Saints were a major part of medieval Christianity, as I have discussed previously.  In writing stories set in a fantasy version of the real Middle Ages, I have therefore included saints.

The modern person may assume that saints were gentle and kind.  They could be, but medieval saints could also be frightening to malefactors, or even to those to whom they were well-intentioned.  In The Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint, I used many motifs from real medieval saints' lives and miracle stories.

For example, my fictional Saint Eusebius has a backstory of how he came to die for the faith.  In his case, he was eaten by a dragon (this is, after all, a fantasy story), and the dragon miraculously choked to death on him, thus saving the people of the countryside, and leaving only his big toe.  This of course became the relic of the Holy Toe.

In the story, the Holy Toe is served by a hermit, who has several apprentice hermits living a short distance away.  This motif reflects a common medieval dilemma--a hermit would be so renowned for his holiness, his austere life in total isolation from society, that many people would want to go join him.

Eusebius shows his crankiness in one case by diverting a river so that the grave of a noted reprobate will be cut off from the rest of a cemetery full of good, decent dead people.  This is based on a real medieval miracle story.

A key feature of the plot is that two different groups of people want the saint's relics (the Holy Toe) for their own, both claiming that the saint has appeared in visions to them.  Again, this was a real medieval concern, wanting to have the relics of a saint near one in order to be sure of his favor.  There were many medieval stories of "holy thefts," people stealing a saint's relics and bringing them home when the saint was clearly not being properly revered or respected where he was (as evidenced of course by visions).

Click here if you're interested in seeing more of the Cranky Saint.

© C. Dale Brittain 2015

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