This guide should be used together with the authenticity guide to realistic characters.
Who Are You?
In order to keep a village scene as realistic as possible it is necessary for re-enactors to have a character. The important bit here is that at some time the ‘actor’ bit of re-enactor will need to be exercised. Whether this is in organised acting or just interaction with the public doesn’t matter, at some point you will need to know who you are ; eventually a member of the public will ask who you are and the answer should be given “in character”.
If for no other reason everyone requires a persona in order to pass Drengr kit checks.
Everyone should therefore devise a character for themselves based upon what they do in the village and/or within the Society. Your equipment and clothing should reflect the status of this character. You require :-
- A Timeline ; you are permitted to decide when you lived, irrespective of the show you are at your character will have existed at some time during our period and you can choose that time. If you want to adjust your character to the timeline of a specific show for added realism then you can.
- A Name ; this should be a period name. Specifically for Vikings your name would be a contemporary first name followed by a patronymic based upon your family, i.e. someones’SON or someones’DOTTIR. If you are a religious convert you may have taken on a new name when you were baptised. You can embellish formal names with an ekename (nickname) if you have one, but if the origin of a nickname is not obvious then you need an explanation as to why you are called by that name.
- Previous generation family history (or if Welsh/Brythonic the complete family history back to Adam and Eve). It is sufficient for low status people to only know a couple of generations, but the aristocracy would know much much more.
- Ethnic Origins (Anglo Saxon, or Danish, or Anglo-Danish, Welsh/Brythonic etc.). This is reflected in the style of your clothing, and where you live has a definite bearing so once again research is essential in order to get things right.
- An Address (i.e. where does your character live - not your modern address). Remember that most people lived on farms, but you would know what the nearest town or village was. You would also know the kingdom (if early Saxon) or shire that governed your farm. If you live in a town then you would have a trade or be very rich and live off your country estate. You might need to describe your house, so some research into the area’s local building methods wouldn’t go amiss.
- Occupation ; everyone would do something, and generally males who aren’t warriors and don’t have a specific craft would be farmers. Women can just be wives and tend hearth and home etc. but they will be expected to know about spinning and weaving. Warriors are acceptable even in the village although they will need to have a full set of weaponry ; they can be a lord’s retinue or hired guards.
- Religion ; Christian or pagan – take note of the time and location in which your character exists as this may determine your religion. Ensure that your kit, especially your jewellery reflect the chosen deity.
A good rule of thumb is to keep things as close to modern reality as possible. If you are called Stephen, and your dad is called Harold, then you can be Swein Haraldson. If dad is a joiner then he remains a woodworker. By keeping things close to the modern truth you will find it easier to remember the general details and over time the minutiae will fall into place.
Try to remain in character as much as possible. By having persona names that are close to real names helps this immensely because everyone forgets and will use modern names as a matter of course. Keeping in character is very difficult as the public expect us to respond to their questions in the third party ; you cannot compare now and then in the first person as that first person will have no knowledge of ‘now’.