18. About repetition
During my research into the position of chess and draughts in the past I introduced a new approach: the linguistic analysis. Each analysis gives the same result: in the Middle Ages the position of chess was miserable, draughts was far more popular. All board game historians however are convinced that in this period chess was on the contrary awfully popular. Their foundation is medieval stories.
It is cristal-clear what I have to do: (try to) prove that the medieval literature is an unsuitable and unreliable historical source. Here the start of my argumentation.
In chapter 17 I mentioned three great writers: the Dutchman Louis Couperus, the Frenchman Emile Zola and the Englishman Charles Dickens.
The work of these three eminent writers ‒also, there is more‒ stands out because of the diversity. They don’t repeat themselves ‒ albeit that we can of course point to constants, the lot of the miner hardly differed from that of the worker in the textile factory.
Characteristic for the medieval romance is the stereotyp story. A comparison with the western is obvious: tough knights and tough cowboys march out for adventures. They drive their horse throught the river to the far side, water is by a brook, they are always on the alert for the fears threatening from all sides. And the knights are playing tables and chess. The poet tells this mostly in one short line.
Here a fragment from a famous western:
The romance of chivalry and the western are both built on a stencil, an underlying plan with invariable ingredients that produce all the time a same story, however with different concrete elements. I shall exemplify this with the Castle novel and the Doctor’s novel, two genres that in my native country sell like hot cakes.
In one Castle novel the male principle character bears the title esquire and in the other one baron, lives in a somewhat ramshakle castle in a sombre wood or in a modern countryhouse not far form the big city, has difficulties with an angry ex or with creditors, but invariably he falls in love with a pretty and shy girl from a humble family and marries her after all obstacles have been eliminated.
The Doctor’s novel is another stereotype. The man is a paediatrician or a heart surgeon or chief operating room in a district hospital, private medical center or city clinic, the woman is a nurse. They fall in love, have to overcome difficulties but in the end they press each other, relieved, in their arms.
The sociologist or historian from the 22nd c. cannot use the Castle novel or the Doctor’s novel as a basis for a description of the spirit of the early 21st c., neither can the medieval romance of chivalry serve as a basis for historiography.