Tyrades! Huzzah For Ye Olde Tyrades! Column

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Tyree family recently traveled back to 16th century England by attending the annual Tennessee Renaissance Festival near Triune.

I wish we'd gotten an earlier start. Although we saw a magician, knife throwers, the pirate maze, two bawdy washerwomen and other entertainment, we seem to have missed some big events. Someone tells me that a lady bearing a striking resemblance to Nancy Pelosi was giving guided tours of Castle Gwynn. ("Forsooth! A dungeon! They never told me anything about a dungeon during tour guide orientation!")

Our souvenir budget was tight, so we got son Gideon to limit himself to a small dragon-emblazoned wooden shield. We could've sprung for a life-size working catapult, but I'm overdue at the chiropractor and knew that within two days I'd be searching for the catapult under the sofa.

More than 100 separate Renaissance festivals/fairs operate in the U.S. and Canada. Their very existence divides mankind into three distinct groups: those who go all out and dress in elaborate period garb; those who are casual spectators; and those who couldn't be dragged to a fair with a team of wild oxen.

Perhaps "Joe Sixpack" would feel more comfortable at the festivals if they were adapted to resemble the modern world more. Maybe they could use celebrity DUI mug shots for gargoyles. The lute players could go cruising with the bass turned way up. ("I gave my love a red red rose...Boom boom boom..."). Bagpipe music? Replace it with celebs desecrating the National Anthem and most people couldn't tell the difference. Jousting? Let the combatants charge at each other with king-size steroid needles.

Of course there is already a major debate about how authentic Renaissance festivals should be. Some easy-going participants emphasize the fun; anal-retentive purists allow no fantasy elements (such as ogres, fairies, balanced federal budgets) or anachronisms. ("That's right -- your costume is historically inaccurate and your hairdo is a joke. And -- unhh! -- that chokehold you're using wasn't even invented until the 19th century. Don't you feel like a buffoon...GAKKKKK!")

The Renaissance period of cultural rebirth was helped along by the rediscovery of classical manuscripts about philosophy, history, and science that had been lost for centuries. Innovation was spurred even more by the need to find innovative ways to pay the &^%$# library overdue fines that had accumulated.
It's hard to pinpoint the causes and duration of the Renaissance, because it rolled out at different times in different European countries. That led to a "keeping up with the Joneses" dynamic. ("But, Dad, Italy next door has a resurgence in classical architecture. Why can't we?" "Shut up and go to your poorly designed room.")

It's also hard to compare the modern world with the Renaissance. The Renaissance era was dominated by "Renaissance men" such as Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci. 2009 finds society dominated by the Repo Men.

Okay, in one respect there's a strong contrast. The humanist philosophers who prevailed during the Renaissance asserted the genius of man -- the unique and extraordinary ability of the human mind (to quote Wikipedia). People of 2009 have progressed to the point that we need product disclaimers such as "This electric deep fryer is not designed for use in the hot tub." *Sigh* I'll be cringing under the sofa with a dragon-emblazoned wooden shield if the 21st century needs me.

Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at tyreetyrades@aol.com.