In the latter of the twentieth century we have become award of a phenomena known as the urban myth, also called the, “friend of a friend story.” This story is about some fantastic thing that happened to a friend or relative, of a friend, of the storyteller. People who have tried to trace these stories to their origin have never been able to do so. The friend or relative to whom this actually happened is always another two steps removed from any previous storyteller.
I am quite sure that friend of a friend stories were common in the medieval period. The only difference from urban myths would be the subject matter. Modern myths deal with murderous urban gang initiations and phantom hitchhikers, their medieval counterparts dealt with satanic rites and vanishing fairy gold.
In light of this, it is not surprising that the SCA should have its own set of myths. Some of these myths, like their mundane counterparts, may never be traced to their origin. However, I do know the origin of one of these myths, and I have from a reliable source the origin of another.
The story I can unequivocally tell you the origin of is the one about the little girl who, when a lord accidently stepped on the train of her gown, turned around and said, “My lord, you are not a caboose. Kindly get off my train.”
If you have not already heard this story at an SCA event, sooner or later you will. The teller will probably not be sure exactly when or where the incident took place, but he or she will tell it with great relish and will probably get a laugh or at least a smile. If, however, the tale is told to Mistress Diana of the Isle, the smile will be a long suffering one. You see, Mistress Diana was that little girl!
I once asked Mistress Diana how many times she has been told the story, and she informed me that she lost count a long time ago. What really annoys Diana, however, is when people don’t get it right. At a recent Pennsic War there was a lady in a tavern who was telling the story to just about anyone who walked in. Diana kept trying to correct the lady, but the woman kept brushing Diana off, certain that she had the true story.
Another myth that you will hear around the Society is the story of the SCA and the bikers. The gist of this story is that one day some Hells Angels happened upon an SCA gathering and, figuring that guys who wore dresses were sissies, challenged the assembled fighters to a rumble. The fighters at the gathering then treated the Hells Angels to assorted broken bones, concussions and bruises.
The various versions of this myth that I have heard were set in West Realm, East realm, Ansteorra, and the Outlands. The SCA gathering at which the incident is said to have taken place was reported as a persona party, fighter practice, or tournament. The number of bikers varies but it is never fewer than a dozen.
Now let me tell you a little bit about Lord Eric Thormansson. Eric is married to Lady Phelan, who mundanely is an Air Force nurse. Every few years, Phelan gets posted to another part of the country, so she and Eric have moved around quite a bit. In addition to the SCA, Eric is also quite a Harley Davidson enthusiast.
One evening, when they were living in New Mexico, Eric was in a bar when he made the acquaintance of another biker. In the course of their conversation Eric mentioned a piece of Harley Davidson equipment he had and was quite proud of. Eric had the equipment, (I’m sorry I don’t remember what it was), in the trunk of his car and so the two went out into the parking lot so Eric could show it off. In the trunk of the car Erik had his fighters helm, and when the other biker spotted it he asked,” What’s that?”
Eric, not wishing to get involved with a long explanation of what the SCA is simply said, “It’s a helmet for this history club I belong to.”
The other biker said, “You’re one of them medievalist that beat the snot out of me and my brother!” The fellow then went on to explain that in his younger days he, his brother, and his brother’s friend tried to crash an SCA event. The fighters took umbrage to this and cleaned the bikers’ collective clocks. Eric was concerned that the other fellow might want some pay back, but the other biker said, “Yeah, we were young and stupid and thought we were pretty tough. We got what we deserved.”
So there you have the truth behind the story of the bikers and the SCA. Of course, since Eric is a friend of mine, it will be a friend of a friend story if you tell it. Don’t be surprised if someone chimes in, “No, it didn’t happen in Outlands, it happened about ten years ago in Georgia…”