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Interviews: Files that did not make the Companion #3





Jul 22nd, 2015




Charleston, SC


Team Jordan


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  • 1

    Team Jordan

    Robert Jordan was fond of collecting information on any number of topics, a practice followed by many authors. Some of these facts, however indirectly, found their way into his novels; others had no discernible relationship to anything he wrote, as far as we can tell.

    Here are some random edited entries from an obscure file in which RJ collected entertaining tidbits about the Middle Ages. We cannot attest to their accuracy, or the source of most of these entries, although many are generally accepted by historians to be true; references have been appended where possible.


  • 2

    Robert Jordan


    Higher education: In some schools, pupils hired teachers, determined courses to be taught and fined lecturers for skipping classes. Each teacher had to deposit a sum of money from which his fines were paid.

    Freshmen were called yellowbeaks, for young birds.

    Universities had the right to set their own rules, determine their own affairs, determine rents and suspend classes, or strike against the town when its rights were abrogated. Townsmen feared loss of prestige if the university moved to another city.

    Meals: Dine at 10 am on beef and a thick soup of gravy and oatmeal. [RJ himself would often start the day with a hearty beef stew.] Eat an equally scanty supper at 5 pm. A typical day went from 4 or 5 am until 9 or 10 pm.

    Cat abuse or religious intolerance?: At a festival in Belgium, cats were flung from the town belfry to symbolize a change of religion. (Note: According to the FreeDictionary by Farlex, as well as other sources, cats had been worshipped for their association with witches; the first “cat tosser” was a Christian convert, and eager to dissociate himself from pagan beliefs.)

    Real property: A “glebe” was a plot of arable land.

    A cotter (or kotter) kept a kot of 3 or 4 acres and had to do menial labor in the manor. Word cottage relates to cotters.

    Serfs were called villeins in some areas (related to the word villa).

    Fairs: Booths were set up with every imaginable item for sale. Safe conduct was guaranteed by the “fair peace.” Fairs often drew traders from many places, including enemies of the host region. (Source: Europe in the High Middle Ages: 1150-1300 by John H Mundy)

    Guilds: The Guild mark was a seal of approval as being good work.

    Guilds often allowed no competition. Men had to charge the same, pay their workers the same, and could not employ more workers. Shops were all the same and no man could attract attention. A cough or a sneeze could result in a guild penalty.

    Booze related: Designated ale tasters traveled from tavern to tavern in a city, tasting the tipples. Ale tasters could close a tavern.

    Criers for wine visited taverns each morning and found out what wine was available. They then walked through the streets with the wine, beating a stick to attract attention. The criers were appointed by a royal provost who was paid by tavern owners. The criers would shout “so-and-so, the (merchant/tavern keeper/etc.) has just opened a cask of this wine. Who wants to buy some of it will find it in such and such a place.”

    On the wall behind a tavern counter would be clothes left by drinkers who couldn’t pay. Tavern keepers were usually also pawnbrokers.

    Peasant fashion: Ocreos: Legs were bandaged in a heavy cloth which was then wrapped with leather thongs.

    Revelin: A heavy shoe of undressed leather.

    Some peasants wore a peaked felt hat with a narrow rolled brim.

    Ink manufacture and writing: Bark of oak was gathered in April and soaked eight days. The water was boiled until it thickened. Pure wine was added next. The whole was left to stand until it thickened again. This was stored in bladders or in sewn parchment bags. Before being used, the ink was mixed with vitriol (sulfate of iron).

    A knife was used for scraping parchment smooth. Instead of erasing, a knife also scraped off errors. A knife was also used to shape a quill pen, and the inside fuzzy scale was scraped out.

    Method of sending a letter: The sender wrote on one side only of a folded paper or piece of parchment. He or she made slices with a knife and a cord was passed through. The two strands of cord were connected with sealing wax or lead.

    Money and wages: A full purse might contain ten or fifteen coins of which three would cover a night’s drinking.

    Travelers might carry 150 such coins (or equivalent) in a money belt.

    One sou would buy twelve large pitchers of wine. 7/12 of a sou would buy a load of charcoal.

    A skilled worker got 3/4 sou per day, enough to buy nine large pitchers of wine or a load of charcoal and one large pitcher of wine.

    An unskilled worker got 1/6 to 1/4 sou per day. Four to six days work was required to buy twelve pitchers of wine. Two and a half to three and a half days work was needed to buy a load of charcoal.

    Superstitions: It is unlucky to see a cripple or a blind man (first thing in morning, especially).

    Agate renders a wearer eloquent, amiable, and powerful.

    A witch, when caught, is branded with a church door key.

    Incubi and succubi appear as beautiful people and cohabit with mortals.

    Some held that two men are responsible for the creation of twins.