Hail, and well met

Write My Round takes an anachronistic trip to Ren Faire land

Published September 15, 2023

Eric Keihl is the managing editor for Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. Each week, he will accept a reader challenge to write a entire, quiz-ready trivia round on some tricky or obscure subject. You can challenge Eric here.

This week’s theme is “Renaissance Fairs,” suggested by Melissa Martin at the Cogstone Brewing Company in Colorado Springs! Thanks, Melissa!

Ah, Renaissance fairs! I can smell that pungent bouquet of roasted turkey1 and body odor now. I haven’t been to one since 2016, when I visited the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Texas for a friend’s wedding. They had four or five blacksmiths, but nobody was rolling around in agony covered with plague sores. Not very immersive!

The original Scarborough Fair, of Simon & Garfunkel fame, was a big ol’ merchant jamboree that ran in Yorkshire every summer from 1253 to 1788. That famous song (which dates back to at least the 17th century) is about the fair, yeah, but its obtuse lyrics suggest something spookier: Some speculate that the “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme” thing is a recipe for a sinister love potion. Others say that the singer is supposed to be dead, since those herbs all had morbid associations in medieval times. Mysterious! Anyway, let’s get to the stuff we actually have answers for. Forsooth! Onward, ye insouciant wastrels!

1. Before upgrading to fake aristocrat in “American Hustle” and fantasy princess in “Enchanted,” what actress cut her teeth as a Ren fair “cheese-bread wench”?2 Amy Adams

2. On an episode of “DC Super Hero Girls,” Zatanna went to a fair dressed as a dainty, sparkly princess and got picked apart by what not-dainty princess of Themyscira? Wonder Woman3

3. Jesters at this year’s Texas Renaissance Festival include Arsene Dupin, who taught juggling to what troupe that somehow has six active Vegas shows?4 Cirque du Soleil

4. Dream’s 600-year-old pal Hob Gadling says Ren festival patrons should be sprayed with poo to get a more authentic experience, in a 1995 issue of what drowsy Neil Gaiman comic? The Sandman

5. Zounds! After taking lance splinters through the eye in 1559, King Henry II of France became the most famous casualty of what staple Ren fair activity?5 Jousting

6. Kinda like a corset but worn on the outside, what fair-appropriate garment is often ripped by clumsy romance novel heroes? Bodice

7. Elephants aren’t welcome at the massive mock battles of the Pennsic War, a LARP event anachronistically named for Pennsylvania and what ancient scuffles between Rome and Carthage?6 Punic Wars

8. There’s a very friendly “Renaissance Faire Kinksters” group with over 6,800 members, on what BDSM social network whose logo is a heart with cute little devil horns?7 FetLife

Bonus: Sail down the Rappahannock a bit from the Fredericksburg Civil War battlefield8, and you’ll find an abandoned Ren fair being slowly reclaimed by the wilds of what Southern state? Virginia

  1. Before you get all “well, actually”: Yes, turkeys are New World birds, but settlers caught on quickly and they were being eaten in England as early as 1526. So turkey legs at a Ren faire is more or less legit.
  2. Bread and cheese were staples of the standard medieval “ploughman’s lunch,” along with pickled onions and beer. Sounds like a job for ye olde breath mint.
  3. Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston based the superheroine on his wife, Elizabeth… and his polyamorous life partner Olive, who lived happily with Elizabeth for 33 years after William died. Love is the real superpower, y’all.
  4. Arsene has also performed at the White House for George H.W. Bush. George did smile during the performance, though he might have been reminiscing about garroting a KGB asset in ‘61.
  5. Don’t feel too bad for old Hank: He was notorious for burning French protestants alive, and cutting the tongues out of folks who sassed the Catholic Church. Eat your heart out, Targaryens.
  6. The great Carthaginian general Hannibal lost the Battle of Zama after some disciplined Roman troops panicked his charging war elephants and sent them crashing into his own troops. Those brave Romans probably weren’t mice in miniature triarii gear, but it’s an adorable image all the same.
  7. You’re darn right I created a FetLife account to write this question. Feel free to wave hello to my profile, assuming your hands aren’t cuffed to something.
  8. Fredericksburg a very ugly defeat for the Union, thanks partly to the tactical bungling of commanding general Ambrose Burnside. His prestigious facial hair inspired the term “sideburns;” you can decide for yourself which of his legacies is the greater disaster.

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