June 4, 2011

What I'd Miss the Most in a Medieval World (Guest Post by Lisa T. Bergren)

In my new River of Time Series (Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent), two sisters, Gabi and Lia Betarrini, time travel back to the 1300s in Tuscany, Italy. There they encounter more than their share of adventure, danger, intrigue and of course, some serious romance with some seriously hot Italian guys.

While I loved writing the entire series, the aspect of having contemporary girls in a medieval world provided constant tension. And as they started missing modern conveniences, it really made me think about all that I’ve come to rely on in my cozy, suburban world. In no particular order, here are the things I’d miss most if it had been me that was catapulted back in time:

Modern medicine & dentistry: What docs know these days about our bodies, and how to treat or cure illness, is pretty miraculous. In medieval times, infection was the number one killer. And it didn’t take a sword fight to give you a wound that might be dangerous. Slice your hand with a knife? Get a splinter? Cavity? Any of those could lead you to an infection that could kill you. I <3 antibiotics.

Toilets, toilet paper and feminine products: So they used chamber pots and a rudimentary sort of toilet in the castles of the time. None, that I know of, had running water. Yuck. I hate cleaning toilets now. Can you imagine those? And menstruation would’ve been tough to deal with too. No Advil, no tampons or pads. Heard the phrase, “on the rag”? It’s 19th century, but our medieval sisters dealt with it the same way…with a pile of rags in their pants. Ugh.

Hot, running water: Hauling up water from a well, heating water above a fire, lugging in tubs and pails made it hard to score a bath. No wonder they bathed only once a week, max. I love my daily showers.

Computers & the Net: I hardly write a thank you note by hand any more, and the information available to us—as well as the means to connect with people far and wide—has us spoiled rotten. And writing books? I can’t imagine the editing process without my Mac…I’m not sure I’d make it through ten drafts on parchment and writing with quill and ink. Plus, I’d probably be needed in the fields or out slaughtering chickens or something.

Cars & Planes: Traveling by horseback sounds romantic—for a couple of hours. After that? Meh. And talk about your world shrinking…It really made me think about how tenacious people were to ever get farther than their place of birth and the next “big city.” Can you imagine getting on a ship for the first time? When you couldn’t swim?

Hair products: I have lame hair. Fine, oily, and a light, indistinct color. With a visit to my hair stylist every 6-8 weeks for cut and color, shampoo, conditioner, mousse, a giant can of Aqua Net  (my friend calls it “Aqua Rock”), two kinds of combs and a round brush, I can make myself suitable to go out in public. In medieval times? I’d have had to wear one of those goofy hats. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

Women’s rights: Until recent times, women were treated as little more than a commodity and the means to reproduce. Heck, in America, women have only had the right to vote in the last ninety years, and few were able to excel in professional careers outside the home—other than teaching or nursing—since about the ‘60s. I think we forget how far we’ve come.

Now, all that said, I adore the medieval time period for many other reasons…I imagine the people as somewhat innocent, living their lives in straight-forward, simple fashion. I imagine that they truly valued life—given how tenuous it might be—and enjoyed a solid sense of community, since few could make it “on their own”  (which we take such pride in, today). I imagine courts full of romance and intrigue, integrated with healthy doses of chivalry, which make my modern readers “swoon”…probably because it’s pretty rare these days.

Although Gabi and Lia struggle with missing things from their own modern lives, through the River of Time they begin to see the gifts of a different age, and how no matter where (or when) you live, there are trade-offs. And surprisingly, the scales become more and more tipped in the medieval time period’s favor, not because of conveniences, but because of the most vital aspect of life itself: Love.
 Lisa T. Bergren is the author of over thirty books, in all genres, from contemporary Christian romance, to historical women’s fiction, to supernatural suspense, to children’s books and gift books. The River of Time Series is her first YA series, written for the general market. You can find her on Facebook (River of Time Series), on Twitter (@LisaTBergren) or on her website.

What about you? What would you miss most if you were a modern girl in medieval times?


  1. I loved this post! And I really can't wait to get my hands on Lisa's books!

    I've always wished I lived in a different time. I think the thing I would miss the most would be plumbing and feminine products. Everything else I could probably live with.

    And yes, chivalry problem makes a swoon because we are so unused to it. Though we have gained our rights we have also lost some of the special treatment we used to have. :(


  2. Great post! I loved Waterfall! Looking forward to Cascade!

  3. Great post, hoping to read this series soon. And I would also miss air conditioning!

  4. I like your blog.thanks for sharing this nice information.good post.

  5. Wow - can't wait to read those books. I think I'd miss things like my coffee maker (hot java in less than 60 seconds - cha ching), deodorant ('nuff said) and modern travel (planes, trains and minivans). But how nice would it be to actually live in castles? Or at least hang out near them on a regular basis. And the simplicity of life back then must have been grand.


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