Outremer. The Holy Lands. Jerusalem.
Over my life, there’s been a quiet call to the East. Stories derived from the age of the Crusades have always been appealing to me, for any number of reasons. I grew up with an affinity for knights and knighthood, for the ideals of chivalry and adventure, for epic battles and desperate charges for love.
Just ask my parents, who indulged my desire for Castle Legos each and every opportunity they could. My Christmas memories are laced with the deep joy of assembling the latest Forest Escape or Dragon’s Castle and playing out any number of stories on the old pool table in our basement that represented my realm.
In later years I’ve enjoyed a number of media sources that continue to hone my interest and knowledge of both story and the period itself. Some of my beta readers have asked where I learned the small details found in The Chronicles of Outremer. One source is Hollywood.
I have each of these movies in a digital version that travels with me everywhere. I would estimate I watch each at least once or twice per year, often in place of newer movies just so the feel of the period remains fresh. In some cases, there are story elements that appeal to me. I fully recognize many of the finer details are speculative and may not reflect the period with 100% accuracy. And I think that’s OK. I know my fiction is not 100% accurate to the time either.
What I hope my books do, much like these movies, is to inspire an interest that continues when the cover is closed. Never heard of a rouncey? Not sure why a knight would carry a scrap of chain mail? Not sure why I call it maille? Good. Then I’ve done something to spur your interest beyond the pages.
Over time a natural order for these has come about. They are nominally in chronological order per the time period surrounding the 2nd crusade, which is about when my series occurs. As mentioned, they all contain story and plot elements which have influenced my writing, but here they are given as “historical” reference sources*.
Ridley Scott must also like the period; he’s got another here as well. When I researched this movie, it turns out there’s a real story behind the whole thing. Historians disagree on Guy’s villainous nature, but Scott tells a surprisingly accurate account of the period.
I think I learned about this story from YouTube, and once started fell in love with it. The movie-length version is a compilation of what were TV episodes; supposedly the episode version has more detail and is, in general, a better watch. That said, the compactness of the movie makes it easy for me to enjoy. If you liked Kingdom of Heaven, you’ll probably enjoy this at least as much.
My parents can tell you how often I watched this VHS in our house growing up. Probably where it all got started…
I include it here in the sense that Prince of Thieves begins in the Holy Lands, but ends up in England. However, it ends with King Richard returning to England. As compared to my next selection:
Scott begins his Robin Hood epic in France, with King Richard’s crusading army on the return home after his ransom from the Holy Roman Emperor. Interesting perspective on the legend and how it came to be.
Not included here, but also an interesting backgrounder, are the early Hollywood story of Robin Hood found in Ivanhoe, and the early 1990’s version of Robin Hood with Uma Thurman. Both tales contain material that develops the uneasy relationship between the Saxons and Normans after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Old feelings die hard.
What’s almost sad is how many times this story has made it to the screen; there’s another version coming in 2018. It’s a great story. Not sad about another telling of it. But seriously, we don’t have any better writers out there to come up with an original?
This is another of those movies that brings so much to the table, yet failed to deliver. Great cast, big names, surprisingly accurate historically, good period elements, and the story is sourced from the best place: it really happened! Nonetheless, not really known as the pinnacle of crusader films.
Say what you will about Nic Cage, but this wasn’t the worst film ever. OK, at least for me. Certainly, the parallels of demonic possession, crusaders, and the themes and elements in Chronicles of Outremer are there. In time this occurs in the later stages of the crusader period, but well after the fall of Jerusalem. So it should be placed in or around Braveheart.
Another staple of the genre. Edward Longshanks ruled England after the majority of crusader activity occurred. But the technology and period elements are not so far removed as to be inaccurate. Without doubt, the story is amazing and has withstood the test of time. The period material is no less interesting.
There are plenty of other movies that I enjoy and that have served as source material. Some are just outside of this time period (300, King Arthur, 13th Warrior), but are nonetheless an interesting take on history. But for crusader media, in addition to several television series, documentaries, and a number of books, these films continue to be a go-to source for inspiration for this period.
What are some of your favorite stories? Leave a note in the comments below!
* My technical editor once said “We don’t use “scare quotes” because we don’t want to scare people.” I realize there are significant limits on the historical accuracy of anything coming out of Hollywood. I don’t believe that means we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Source: All movie posters sourced from IMDB from their respective linked pages.