As you all know, I write predominately fantasy. What you may not know is that I actually studied archaeology for a couple of years. So I have a good idea of how life really was back in those middle ages or earlier. And let me tell you – I’m quite happy I’m living in the 21st century.
Here’s one reason why:
Even kings were affected by parasites. Mind you, they didn’t kill him, his enemies managed that quite nicely, after all. But it goes to show how common such infections were. Richard III probably dealt with roundworm quite well because he was rich enough to eat plenty of food.
Many others were not that lucky.
This is stark medieval reality (and in fact, estimates are that a sixth of the current human population is infected even now). But you won’t find roundworm in my books, neither in most fantasy or historical novels. That’s because readers don’t want to read about parasites. They have their place for creating drama, of course, but basically the imagry of roundworm (or any other kind of human parasite) is too gross and doesn’t fuel the romantic notions many people have about medieval times.
So what would you prefer? Honest description of suffering, illness or squalid living conditions – or simply a story that entertains and moves your heart set in a medieval background that’s less than realistic but more enjoyable?
Let me know in a comment.
Image Source: Artwork from University of Toronto Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection