I'm determined to write a real, medieval history. I mean, fantasy world histories tend to be about evil empires versus good nations, or good nations with a few bad apples. And that can be great. My basic model here is the Silmarillion, which I love, but it's generally hundreds of pages about the few exceptions to the rule that the elves are perfect and have irrepressibly beautiful thoughts. And that's great, but I want executions of heretics and bizarre codes of behaviour based on a sexually repressive deity. I want the truth lost or twisted after fifty years, plagues, and civil wars based on misconceptions of history or religion that was itself based on false pretexts anyway.
It seems like every time I think I'm starting to get too dark, The Norton Anthology of English Literature backs me up. From the introduction to John Donne; "Donne was distantly related to the great Catholic humanist and martyr Sir Thomas More. Closer to home, a Jesuit uncle was executed by the brutal method of hanging, castrating, disembowelling, and quartering, and his own brother, Henry, arrested for harbouring a priest, died in prison of the plague." Yep, I'm on the right track.
Again, I love Tolkien. The Silmarillion's great, and I don't think a history needs to be realistically brutal to have meaning to a reader. Though I'm definitely a proponent of Tolkien's idea that his Orcs were previously Elves, who were tortured and mutilated over hundreds of years. I imagine perfect, innocent creatures having their psychologies turned around after--I mean, just imagine it--spending so much time in a place of shadows and fire. The heat, the ever present choking stench, the physical punishment incurred whenever one's habits turned toward more wholesome thoughts, the derision of, I presume, the Balrogs. Stretch that shit out over an unimaginable length of time. Tolkien handles it with one, maybe two paragraphs, but just think about the long, grinding, repetitive existence of pain that would be required to make a good, noble, graceful Elf into a mean, puerile, sadistic Orc.
Happy, I am, to have brightened everyone's day, so now I'll go to more of the Lord's work.