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25 January 2009 @ 05:11 pm
Some thoughts on Food...  

After rewatching the 6th episode of Merlin yesterday I couldn't help but notice the remarks about food. Some of them made me wonder, such as 'quicker than you can say rotten tomatoes' or when Merlin said that the people were throwing potatoes instead of rotten food.

If we believe that Merlin really is set in a fantasy land somewhere in time, that wouldn't be a problem of course. But if we believe that it is set somewhere in Britain, as the original legend of course suggests, the question arises if this is an oversight from the Merlin producers. We all know that tomatoes and potatoes only came to Britain sometime in the 1600s....and as the Merlin producers said, the series can be set somewhere from the 6th up to the 14th century, but certainly not later.

So what do you guys think? It is just an oversight or is Merlin really set in some complete fantasy land/ time?


Current Mood: weirdweird
Current Music: On the phone with euraylie
Malkav's Den: Vampiresouzoukyuuketsu on January 25th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
Well I noticed that as well, but I think it belongs to the long series of anachronisms that litter the series... So... It made me laugh in fact XD
wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
I guess you could be right...I didn't even notice it the first time around
feannafeanna on January 25th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
I personally don't know to much about those times, but I've seen comments around, that the food really isn't the only thing that wouldn't fit with the time. The kind of armour they wear seems to be another thing that wasn't around until later. Also the fabrics that are used and other things.

I therefore think, that they've just decided to go the fantasy route, because as silly as the show can be, when you think about the little things they put in, it becomes clear that they at least know what they're doing. (Again I'm not an expert and can't really point to things, but there's Geoffrey the historian as a character in the showfor example who I gather is pretty important for Arthurian legend as a writer.)
wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
You could be right...I think they've mixed real historical elements with fantasy elements.
I was also wondering about the clothes and othe stuff
anna_zee: colinneckanna_zee on January 25th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
I'm going with fantasy land/time- there's magic, dragons, griffins, unicorns and many other things of the like. As soon as you go into that kind of territory, all bets are off for me.

Anything is possible in Camelot!
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Arthurwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
Anything is possible in Camelot!
That certainly seems to be so :-)
Keddi: merlin flowerluisadeza on January 25th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of food related inaccuracies, those are the grave ones, but it's also unlikely that they'd have strawberries and fresh apples at the same time considering their normal harvest times for Europe, and they'd have different strawberries anyway...

BUT, it still doesn't bother me, and I think it's something they just didn't put emphasis on. It's clearly more about telling a story than historical accuracy. So maybe that means it's more of a fantasy land/time, but probably not on purpose.

Edited at 2009-01-25 04:40 pm (UTC)
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Gobletswiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
Right, I totally forgot about the fruit...
It doesn't bother me either, just made me wonder.
lou_angellou_angel on January 25th, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
If I can buy the idea of a giant dragon living under the castle I can cope with inaccurate food references. And I teach History for a living!
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Be my Saviourwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
If you put it like that, I can also live with it :-)
It just made me wonder...
lou_angellou_angel on January 25th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
Normally historical inaccuracies do bug me, but as the show isn't trying to be historically accurate I'm willing to let it go :D
timelordsimone on January 25th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
This is exactly what I said.

My friend said he hated Merlin because it's so historically innacaurate.

So I told him it's not trying to be historically accurate.

If it was meant to be accurate, and wasn't, it would bug the hell out of me.

As it is I don't care.

(Plus, I know squat about history. haha)
lou_angellou_angel on January 25th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
I've heard from one of the Merlin writers or directors (possibly on the DVD) saying how it made them laugh that they got letters complaining that it was historically innaccurate to have sandwiches in the programme and yet no-one said anything about
a) a Wizard
b) a ruddy great big dragon.
Ann: merlinkaitou1412 on January 25th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
In the DVD commentary they specifically talk about how they wanted to create a 'fantasy' world. They're more free to play with what kinds of armor, architecture, so on and so forth they can use. And I think things like the tomatoes, sandwiches, Gaius's glasses, Merlin telling Geoffryy of Monmouth that he's 'doing homework,' (the list goes on and on) is just the producers having fun with it.

It reminds me of 'A Knight's Tale' where on the commentary the director jokingly moans, 'Why didn't anyone TELL me they didn't dance to Bowie in the 12th century!?'
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Grinwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
I'm also tending to think that one shouldn't take it too seriously, especially if one considers all the other fantasy elements

Why didn't anyone TELL me they didn't dance to Bowie in the 12th century!?'
LOL :-)
At times Merlin reminds me of A Knights Tale
archaeologist_d: Venicearchaeologist_d on January 25th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Complete fantasyland.

The sandwich, the potatoes, the armor, the duster coat worn by Arthur at times, Merlin's clothes, the women's clothing, the fabrics, the social structure... need I go on?

The 'real' Arthur supposedly lived around 524 AD (I think). He is associated with the battle of Camlann fought on that date and is found in the real historical AngloSaxon chronicles of the times (where Arthur's name was never mentioned, btw). So the producers seem to be going more for the 1200s and the romance stories of the period but even then there are so many wrong things with the show that it's almost fun to try and find them all - like a treasure hunt of unreality.

Doesn't stop me enjoying it thoroughly!
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Colin Grinwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the historical facts :-)
I fear I don't know too much about that period...

I'm really starting to believe that is set in a fantasyland....I love the show wherever it is set!
archaeologist_d: Evil Qui-Gonarchaeologist_d on January 25th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
I have fun with the Arthurian legend, both the early version and the later one with Geoffrey of Monmouth. Even went to England to the sites where the 'real' Arthur was supposed to have lived and fought. It was really cool.

But this show is just plain entertaining so I don't worry too much although it would be fun to get a group together and talk about all the inaccuracies. It would go on for pages. :D :P
wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
You visited the sites? *is impressed*
I'd love to so one day as well...

it would be fun to get a group together and talk about all the inaccuracies
That could be very interesting ;-)
archaeologist_d: Glencoearchaeologist_d on January 25th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
Sure, there's a whole list of sites. I've only been to a few - Stonehenge, Tintagel, Cadbury Castle (thought to be Camelot by some archaeologists), Avebury and Glastonbury. Gorgeous places all on their own. You should go someday. Lots of history, not just Arthurian.

wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 26th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
So far I've only been to Stonehenge. I've always wanted to go to Glastonbury (I've read loads of books about the place) and TIntegel of course :-)
archaeologist_d: Nabooarchaeologist_d on January 26th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
Loved Stonehenge. Glastonbury is fabulous. The Tor is wonderful, if a bit steep to get up and the abbey is a lovely set of ruins. I also liked the church that supposedly st. Augustine founded - it's in ruins as well but very interesting, too. You should go sometime!

Plus Tintagel in on the coast and I love the ocean as well as the ruins and where it's located. Just beautiful.
wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 26th, 2009 09:52 am (UTC)
I long to go there one day! I almost went to Glastonbury the last time I was in England but then our travel plans changed.

Well perhaps I'll go next year when I've finished uni :-)
Muzymuzivitch on January 25th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
I'm kind of a history nerd, so the first few episodes I was LOLing a some of the inaccuracies - like Morgana's clothes, the food, etc. But eventually you just have to go with it. Like someone else said, the historical Arthur is actually from a much earlier time period than they're going for here anyway. I think of Albion as a complete fantasyland that has some commonalities with medieval Britain but isn't at all the same thing.
wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
That's probably the best way to think of it ;-)
Alsoa: Merlin//emo lovestealingpennies on January 25th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
I tend to just accept that's how it in this world and the various time anachronisms don't bother me. I actually find it easier to go in this direction then if they had anchored the series to a specific period and got the details wrong. That would have been very irritating. I think once you buy into the 'dragon under the castle' then anything goes! *g* Also it leaves lots and lots of scope for the fanfic writers to bring in whatever props they wish!
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Bradley Laughwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
I actually find it easier to go in this direction then if they had anchored the series to a specific period and got the details wrong

I couldn't agree more! And this way I guess they just have more freedom to do what they want :-)
Aleathiel: Arthur smirk openskilesaleathiel on January 25th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
Like everyone has said, I guess if you are buying into the dragon/unicon/magic side of things, then you can't really complain about the clothes and the food and the modern speech and about a million other minor (and major) inaccuracies. I think that the producers just don't really care about setting it in an actual historical time (the fleur-de-lys in the castle would make it post Norman conquest, but Camelot is an independent kingdom, for example). This makes writing in the fandom both easier and more frustrating. It makes it easier because you can do and write anything you want. But it makes it harder because a 6th century Arthur might fight against the Saxons, an 11th century Arthur probably would be a Saxon, for example. And religion? There are vague mentions of God, there's an 'old religion', but there's no clear evidence of religious belief at all. I guess we have to each decide which bits we want to buy into, and which bits work with what we are trying to do in our stories.
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Be my Saviourwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
I haven't even thought about the impact on fanficitons and such....
Thanks for comment! Really got me thinking....
Aleathiel: protect you openskiesaleathiel on January 25th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
It's something that I find really interesting. You could write a plot with very similar plot shape and set it at the earliest point in which the show could be set, and then do it set in the medieval period of high romance, and you'd end up with two completely different stories. I think that's fascinating. I'm really drawn to exploring the ways in which the show riffs off the mythology, and to trying to fit things I know historically into the show's canon to see what effect it would have.
leofullerleofuller on January 25th, 2009 06:05 pm (UTC)
I'm into medieval re-enactment, so I know enough about the foods and clothes of the period to realise that the BBC don't bother trying to be accurate with the details - Robin Hood was just as bad, worse as the exact time period for Merlin isn't defined whereas Robin Hood can be pinned down to a period of about ten years... Anyway, I find it's best to (try to) just ignore all the inaccuracies and enjoy the story - except for the episode with the drought, where Merlin asks Gaius where he got the water to make the tea, and I was actually yelling at the TV: "Where did you get the TEA?!"
Anna and Kinathkathkin on January 25th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Tea = herbal infusion. It doesn't have to be made with actual tea - you can get tea made with other plants, after all.
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Arthur Cute Grinwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
just ignore all the inaccuracies and enjoy the story
That's what I'm doing as I'm finding more and more inaccuracies.

Tea could also be herbal tea :-)

BTW Your icon is just too cute!!!!
leofullerleofuller on January 25th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC)
The thing with herbal teas is that while they may well have had them, they wouldn't have been called "tea"... which is where my flatmate tells me off for shouting at the TV, points out that it really doesn't matter, and I just have to get over it...
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Bradley Laughwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
I have no idea what the would've called it....
but I guess it really doesn't matter that much ;-)
(Deleted comment)
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Came-a-lotwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
That is really the best answer to it all! Thanks so much :-D
(Deleted comment)
wiccaqueen: Merlin - 2 Sides 1 Coinwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
In that case, ignorance is bliss.

It certainly is and I think that's just what I'll stick to in the futurs :-)
(Deleted comment)
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Grinwiccaqueen on January 25th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)
So I've heard ;-)
There seem to be a lot of inaccuracies like these...but what the heck, as long as we can still all enjoy the show :-)
preparing for when the velociraptors come: [ arthur/merlin: oops ](bowie28)calicokat on January 25th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
It's def. set in fantasyland. The giant French castle is pretty indicative of that. It is neither square, stout, nor made from rough grey stone which, as far as I know, most English forts would have been at that time? Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure any actual castle in that time would've been built entirely for defensive purposes with none of those wildly French flourishes. I mean, this was 500 CE. Heck, it's pre-Roman so it should probably be a hill fort?
wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 26th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
Well I think the castle indicates that it could be set somewhere in the 14th century, as one of the producers said on the behind the scenes.
But I guess you're right when talking about earlier periods.
preparing for when the velociraptors come: [ *g* ](twt)calicokat on January 26th, 2009 01:55 am (UTC)
Yes, but Arthur lived in the sixth century, if he lived at all. (And he probably did live, he just may not have been so exciting!) So the fourteenth century would be...a very long way away. XD
wiccaqueenwiccaqueen on January 26th, 2009 09:53 am (UTC)
I know, but I think they refered to 'Le Morte d'Arthur' the manuscript which was written around that time.
Anyway it's a beautiful castle! So I'll just enjoy it as it is :-)
munninmunnin_odanin on January 26th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC)
Hey Wiccaqueen

Interesting debate you’ve got going on. I’m a historian and a re-enactor and have gotten use to suspending disbelief in order to enjoy shows like this. I find it’s more fun to spot when things are right than wrong – the animated Beowulf film was a cracker for that: simple things like the queen’s necklace and the cup people were using at the feasts were drawn from period finds and museum collections.

With Merlin it’s little things like that that make me happy – all the main character wear real steel mail, ok it’s the cheap stuff coming out of India that looks far too shiny but it’s still riveted flat link which is about as accurate as you can get without making it yourself (not difficult but very time consuming believe me!)

On the food front what made me smile was the throwing of the tomatoes. Ok they may not have had them in that period but when they did; for a long time they were considered poisonous and only good for feeding livestock (and throwing I’d imagine.) Turns out the problem wasn’t the tomatoes (despite being a member of the nightshade family) but the plates they were eaten off. The lead in the pewter plates leaches out over time and the acid in tomatoes speeds that up so people who ate tomatoes off pewter plates got lead poisoning. So given most of Arthur’s tableware is pewter, throwing the tomatoes at Merlin is a sensible use for them!

Cheers and good on you
wiccaqueen: Merlin - 2 Sides 1 Coinwiccaqueen on January 26th, 2009 10:14 am (UTC)
Hi Munnin!
Thanks for commenting first of all and showing so much interest :-)

You're an re-enactor? How exciting! I've always been interested in re-enactments, but I guess it takes up a lot of time, energy and money.

I find it’s more fun to spot when things are right than wrong
I can just imagine! :-)

Also I had no idea that the armour they're wearing is that accurate. And I can live with the fact that they didn't make them theirself ;-)
I helped a friend once making his own chain mail, and that was quite an experience ;-)

What you said about the tomatoes is fascinating! Although I could imagine people outside the court eating from wooden plates? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Thanks again for the infos!
munninmunnin_odanin on January 26th, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
Hey Tanya,

No, thank you. It’s a most interesting debate you’ve started here. I love to see the range of opinions within the community.

Re-enactment can take up a lot of time and energy but can be quite cheap...as long as you have the time and energy to invest.

I helped my partner make his first suit of mail and it cost under $30 but took both of us six weeks and a ton of blisters (as I’m sure you found helping your friend) but man the finished product looks good! I make most of my own gear with the exception of my boots (they’re tricker than they look and cheap enough to buy.)

I can’t vouch for the plate armour pieces – they moved right to be steel rather than plastic (even if Gwen mixed up a few names) but the mail’s spot on. The Indian mail’s not ridiculously heavy (8 to 12 kilograms on average) but I’m still impressed the actors wear it so well. The extra weight and the way it moves takes a bit of getting use to. It may be that they have lighter suit for the fight scenes rather than the close ups.

In regard to tomatoes – most of the medical records we have from the time are from the courts as they were the only ones who could afford that level of medical care. The church ran hospitals for the poor but they weren’t able to keep records as detailed. It was John Gerard, herbalist and Barber-Surgeons who published his Great Herbal towards the end of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign that declared the tomato poisonous. I’m afraid that’s about all to know, my main area of interest is 10th century Europe so it’s a bit out of my scope.

However my housemate also pointed out that in an agriculturally self-sustaining culture like Camelot would be: you wouldn’t throw anything you should be eating and it would be unusual to allow food a chance to go off. Trust an anthropologist to think these things!

Glad to be involved
wiccaqueen: Merlin - Morgana bluewiccaqueen on January 26th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
I helped my partner make his first suit of mail and it cost under $30 but took both of us six weeks and a ton of blisters
Wow that's really cheap! But I know what you mean about blisters ;-) When I helped my friend I had the same, but all in all it cost him something like $100! I guess it just more expensive in Germany.

but I’m still impressed the actors wear it so well
Dito! Especially Bradley does an amazing job everytime if you ask me ;-)

you wouldn’t throw anything you should be eating and it would be unusual to allow food a chance to go off
That's what I thought at the beginning too. Food I guess was too precious to let it rot...I mean I still hear my grandma saying that they never threw anything away when she was a child, because food was considered too valuable.
And like you said, if an anthropologist says such things, I tend to believe it's true!

Thanks again for the infos :-)
I really didn't think my wee post would get so much attention, but I'm glad to be able to actually start a discussion.


Edited at 2009-01-26 07:16 pm (UTC)