The Challenge of the Squirrel is a set of objectives and tasks that MMCG members may choose to complete. Each task or objective relates in some way to the scope of the MMCG, whether that
be through furtherance of the group's knowledge in a specific area of medieval history, or demonstration of a particular set of skills somehow connected with the Middle Ages. The Challenge of the Squirrel is open-ended; members may tackle the tasks at as quick or as leisurely a pace as
they like. The Challenge is intended to encourage members of the MMCG to expand their horizons and deepen their knowledge and appreciation for the period in which our re-creation is based.
Completion of the Challenge of the Squirrel is a prerequisite for induction into the Order of the Scroll (i.e., achieving Knighthood of the Scroll).
In order to finish the Challenge, you must complete ten objectives from the following list (separated into categories below). You may choose no more than two tasks from a single category. You may improvise your own task for a particular category, provided that you have
approval from either a Knight of the Scroll, or from a member of the Noble Order of the Oak. Listed below are the categories and tasks included in the Challenge.
Garb & Costume
Literature & Scribal Arts
1.) Research a style of combat appropriate to your persona's period and geographical location. This does not necessarily need to be from a codified fighting text. Anecdotal evidence as found in poems, sagas or other literature of the period is an acceptable starting place. Illustrations and other iconography from the period are also acceptable as a source. Experiment with the movements and positions until you feel you have worked out a rough estimation of some of the basics of the style. Demonstrate for the guild.
Examples: Irish axe fighting, 15th century Burgundian pollaxe fighting, etc…
2.) Choose a specific style of combat already in use within the MMCG and dedicate yourself to perfecting it over the course of a year.
3.) Watch one of your favorite medieval/fantasy movies or read one of your favorite medieval/fantasy books. Choose a fight scene from it and analyze it. Break it down move by move so that you can demonstrate it from both sides (if needs be, against an invisible opponent). Identify each movement and then explain whether it is historically or combatively viable. Explain why or why not. Then make any corrections you can think of for the sake of practicality. Demonstrate the new sequence.
Examples: Kingdom of Heaven, any of the Drizzt books, etc…
4.) Choose a particular weapon. Study the development and use of that weapon in the European Middle Ages. Look at other cultures throughout the world and find similar weapons. Compare and contrast these weapons with the one you chose. Find the common elements in their use. Who used them? Strive to make yourself an expert in this one type of weapon. Create an MMCG-safe version of the weapon, with citations for appropriate weight, balance and size. Explain how the MMCG version differs from the actual version, and how it is similar.
Examples: Falchion, short spear, crossbow.
5.) For any of the previous four tasks, teach somebody who knows nothing about the topic everything you know (this person cannot already be a member of the MMCG, unless you are coordinating a fight scene from task #3). Bring this person to practice and have them demonstrate what you have taught them.
6.) Design a combat game for the MMCG that is both fun and addresses a special set of tactical or fighting skills.
1.) Learn a medieval handicraft and demonstrate a simple example of it to the MMCG. Be sure that you are doing a medieval handicraft, and not a 17th century one.
Examples: Drop-spindle threadmaking, candlemaking, leatherworking.
2.) Locate an extant medieval artifact of some sort and reproduce it in authentic materials using authentic methods. (No machine work and no synthetic materials).
Examples: Wooden bowl, piece of jewelry, etc…
Garb and Costume
1.) Research a costume appropriate to your persona's period and geographical location (or just choose one that looks cool). Trace the development of this clothing from its predecessors, and then to its successors. Identify the materials used in its construction and the manner in which they were prepared (weaving style, dyeing, fitting). Design and draw three or four historical variations on this costume (either within the same region and time period, or similar types across various regions). Cite and document your work.
Examples: Mid-15th century Flemish squire, 11th century monk, etc…
2.) Choose a particular historical costume (it should be appropriate to your persona's period and geographical location). Identify the separate pieces of the outfit, bit by bit. With the exception of any jewelry, find or make patterns for each piece of clothing. Sew a complete costume from generally appropriate materials (wool, linen, silk, leather, etc…) Cite and explain your work.
Examples: Late 14th century condottiere, 9th century Saxon fyrdman.
3.) Research a single extant medieval garment. Compare and contrast it to similar garments of the period-either extant, or depicted in contemporary iconography. Document your findings and cite your sources. Using completely authentic materials (hand-woven wool, linen, etc… in appropriate pattern), replicate the garment. Do not machine sew any part of the garment.
Examples: Gloves of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II, tunic of Henry II (11th century)
4.) Find a purely iconographic source of costume information (i.e., Bayeux Tapestry, Maciejowski Bible) and based on multiple examples seen within, extrapolate a full costume. Draw this costume (in multiple layers) and find appropriate modern patterns that can be used or modified to create the garb. Make and display this garb at practice, being sure to toot your own horn liberally.
Examples: Mid 15th century German doublet & hose (Paulus Kal fechtbuch), late 14th century cotte and chausses (Canterbury tales illustrations)
5.) Choose a favorite fantasy character (movie, book or video game) and "historicalize" their garb. Advice for this can be found in the "Finding the Reality in Fantasy" article. Make this garb, and document the steps you took. Be sure to make the garb out of acceptable materials (wool, linen, silk, etc…)
Examples: Conan, Parn, Sturm Brightblade.
1.) Research and document a hobby that your persona might pursue (chess, falconry, hunting, etc…) Learn this hobby (or at least begin to), and teach what you have learned to others in the MMCG.
2.) Research heraldry and its rules. Become well-versed in heraldic cant (the way of describing colors and charges, etc…). Design five new coats of arms, and describe them heraldically. Have five friends (either from within the MMCG or otherwise) design a coat of arms to give to you. Describe each of these coats of arms in heraldic cant.
3.) Locate an original medieval recipe. Translate it into modern English (get some help from somebody doing #2 in the "persona" list if you need to). Experiment with the dish until you can produce something edible with the recipe. Then bring it to practice to serve to other members of the MMCG one day.
4.) Research actual feast menus from the Middle Ages (and take note of the regional and periodic changes). Then plan four feast menus in their entirety-one for each season. Cite, document and distribute these menus at practice for future use.
5.) Read five books about a single general subject in medieval history. Write a cited paper following established academic guidelines for submission to the MMCG about this subject. Consider giving a talk to the MMCG about what you have learned.
Examples: Medieval Byzantium, the crusades, feudalism (or the lack thereof), etc…
6.) Watch a medieval or fantasy movie twice. The first time, find all the historical inaccuracies or inconsistencies that you can in the movie. The second time, find all the things that are right. Tell everybody about it insufferably and ad nauseum.
7.) What herbal medicines were used in the 12th to 15th century? Become familiar with herbal remedies and uses of herbs as medicine. Explain how certain herbs were used at that time and how they might be used today. Create a chiurgeon's box of safe herbals (by modern standards) and be prepared to use them for minor maladies.
8.) The pilgrimage was an important aspect of medieval life. Research reasons and destinations, and customs for pilgrimages in the middle ages. Create a personal pilgrimage, go to those places (or place) and then explain to the group the meaning of your pilgrimage.
9.) Research medieval gardening . . . grow a garden containing plants that are geographically and period correct according to your research and report to the MMCG on your successes/failures.
Literature & Scribal Arts
1.) Read a book that was written in the Middle Ages. Reading this books in translation is acceptable. Reading it with side-by-side text is even better. Reading it in the original language is fantastic (and probably indicates that you didn't need to bother with this task, anyway). Take notes about the importance of each work, and explain how it can inform our attempts to learn about the Middle Ages in the MMCG.
Examples: The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Beowulf, The Song of Roland.
2.) Study a particular type of literature from the Middle Ages and make note of the common themes found within. Write a short piece yourself that mimics this style, with an appendix explaining your sources and identifying the parts of your work that resemble a period text.
Examples: 14th century English satire, 10th century Frankish chronicle, etc…
3.) Research a style of calligraphy or other writing that matches the period and geographical location of your persona (or just pick one that appeals to you). Learn to write in this hand, and write a page's worth of text in it.
Examples: Italian rotunda, Bastard Anglicana, Celtic Half-Unical.
4.) Locate an illustrated page from a medieval book and copy it. Examine the style of drawing or painting and do your best to replicate it. Then design and create your own book page done in the same style, but concerned with a subject or event that is important to you. (This may be an actual historical event, or it may be something that has happened to you in the MMCG. It may even be entirely made up-medieval folk were fond of fabricating events from whole cloth when it suited them).
Examples: Book of Hours (any), the Beauchamp Pageant, the Maceijowski Bible.
5.) Study illumination and create an authentic illuminated page using correct materials and processes. That's it (this one is involved enough and difficult enough on its own without adding more to it).
1.) Develop a background for your persona. Include period-and-geographically-appropriate references to events, people and attitudes. Post this background to the forum for inclusion on the website.
2.) Research a language that your persona would be able to speak. Learn some simple phrases and key terms that you think you might need to use in everyday life (or everyday MMCG life). Teach your band, unit or company some of these key phrases during some downtime at practice. (Also consider the accent you persona would actually have when speaking English based upon the pronunciation of sounds and stress of syllables in their own language).
Examples: Medieval Latin, Old Occitan, Middle High German, etc…
3.) Investigate and research an interesting aspect of the culture from which your persona is drawn. Decide how best you might portray that within the MMCG at events, and educate other members of this little tidbit.
4.) Develop an alternate persona. See how in-depth you can make it.
5.) Learn a popular story or tale from the land in which your persona is drawn. Tell it to other MMCG members "in character."
1.) Research a medieval instrument. Write a short paper about its origins, its use in the medieval period, and its legacy in modern music. If possible, attain a recording of period-appropriate music being played on said instrument and share it with the group.
Examples: Krumhorn, psaltry, oud.
2.) Find a replica medieval instrument. Learn to play a few simple period-appropriate tunes on it.
Examples: Rebec, shawm, fipple flute.
3.) Locate some medieval music. Transcribe it into modern notation and arrange it for performance by members of the MMCG. (Many of us play instruments already-ask around. Or combine this with #2). You must be able to produce a copy of the original medieval notation (no sneaky using pre-transcribed tunes).
4.) Research a medieval dance. It may be as simple or as complex as you like (or can find). Locate appropriate music to accompany the dance (either recorded, or performed as a combination with #3). Demonstrate and then teach this dance to members of the MMCG.
5.) Make a medieval instrument using period-appropriate techniques (hand-carve and bore the wood, hand-sew any leather needed, etc…) Provide documentation and citation for the authenticity of this instrument.