Medieval Life … Includes Roundworm

Richard III

Richard III

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:

New Research Shows That Richard III Suffered from Roundworm Infection

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

About Hannah Steenbock

Hannah Steenbock is an author, dreamer, and coach. She has published several short stories in English and German, as well as one novel in German. In 2013 she started self-publishing her work. In 2014, she has won two awards for her short story "Sequoia".
This entry was posted in English, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Medieval Life … Includes Roundworm

  1. Marissa Ames says:

    Adding roundworm into a plotline would give it more detail and up the stakes for people trying to accomplish a certain task. But I agree with you… to much focus is going to disgust readers.

    • hannahsteenbock says:

      Oh, yes, it would be easy to use it as “local color”. But the details are pretty disgusting. I found a medical article about a Vietnamese man with tapeworm recently … very shudder-worthy. At least modern medicine could treat him. He would have died a horrrible death in the middle ages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *