What Is a Knight?

What is a knight? Most of us picture a man clad in heavy armor, similar to this:

Knights

But, as with many things, our general perception doesn’t encapsulate the entire truth.

I did a bit of research on historical knights so I’d know what they were and could borrow from reality and legend to create the knights in my own work.

In reality, a knight was usually a mounted soldier serving under a feudal lord in Europe. The concept of what a knight was would come to mean men, usually of noble birth (but not required), who would be apprenticed as first a page and then a squire.

During this apprenticeship, they were taught all of the skills necessary to be a skilled fighter, as well as religion, reading and writing, and social decorum. They’d then be given the military rank of knight and be bound to the code of chivalry.

This code of chivalry was enacted partially to control behavior. Because history has taught us how well behaved soldiers can be. See also, Vikings.

vikings
They’d terrorized much of Europe, so yeah, chivalry had its reasons.

Unlike many other titles (duke, baron, etc.), knighthood was not hereditary. It was given to a person by a sovereign because of personal merit or service. This means that it was easier for men who were good at being soldiers to move up in rank. It also meant you never had a six-year-old knight. Unlike some kings. And helped reduce the crazy, unlike in kings.

Knights were an important part of feudal system established by Charlemagne. Under this system, the king owned all of the land, and he granted fiefs to various lords in return for loyalty, protection and service.

In order to provide this protection, the knight class was created. Many knights were professional warriors, and the lord they served paid them for the services, and provided food, lodging, armor, weapons and horses.

Knighthood was a way for a man to advance in a society that offered few other means. As it also wasn’t an inherited position, it was a way for a younger son of a lord to advance himself. Knights could make fortunes from their service, and they could be granted land from the king and become a lord in their own right.

While many of us think of Knights of the Round Table when we think of knights.

kingarthur.jpg
Okay, maybe not this King Arthur.

In reality, knights were experienced mounted soldiers. They were also supposed to have a firm grounding in religion, among other things, but the reality was knights were about as religious as any other general order of soldiers.

Stories of knights have been told for a very long time. I think it somewhat relates to the legends of King Arthur, but I also think seeing men riding in armor on horseback left a strong impression. It was story worthy.

 

How about you? What do you think of when you think of knights? Maybe Sir Lancelot or Sir Galahad from King Arthur’s court? Ser Bronn from Game of Thrones? Sir El Cid of Spain? Or maybe you think of something all together different?

Death of the White Knight?

Jenn Moss over at Rough and Ready Fiction had an interesting post on “goody-good” characters and why they don’t work in modern fiction.

She writes science fiction, whereas I’m a romance writer, so our audiences are not quite the same. Still, it got me to thinking about the anti-hero and bad-boy tropes that seem to be quite popular.

bad

I’ll think more on the anti-hero, but research says that bad boys really don’t get the girl. There’s several links in that article to the studies proving it, too.

It also explains the role of narcissists in this perception. Narcissists are really good at fooling us into believing that they are good people in the short-term, but they can’t live up to it in the long-term. Nor do they really want to as they aren’t interested in those types of relationships anyway.

They article also explains that there are reasons that some women may be attracted to bad boys, but a lot of that has to do with how they were brought up and their family life. Basically, what they’ve come to expect from a relationship.

Many years ago, I had a good friend who had a thing for bad boys. After again being treated poorly by her current love interest, we were eating ice cream together while she lamented the state of her heart. This had not been the first time this series of events had happened, and I asked her what she’d expected.

We knew he dabbled in drugs, drank, smoked, and was barely passing in school. He was more interested in his motorcycle than he was her. What did she think was going to change?

bad2

She was dumbstruck by the question , and she never gave me a straight answer. In hindsight, I don’t think she knew. Not really, and I never did understand. Eventually, we drifted apart as friends because you can only watch someone self-destruct so often before you just can’t feel much for them.

When life hands you onions and you cry, I’ll be there holding the tissue. But when you keep going to the onion patch and picking onions, eventually I gotta shrug and walk away.

It didn’t help that relationship that I’ve always been a fan of the white knight. The good boy that understands duty, honor, and kindness. I liked Luke better than Han, King Arthur better than Sir Lancelot, etc.

Many years later, and I think I’m starting to get it.

You see, my mother was very adamant with me that you love someone for who they are that day. They aren’t going to change. They aren’t going to become someone new for you. They are who they are, and either you love them then and there or you don’t. If you love them for who you think they can be, you’re only hurting them and yourself.

That stuck with me my whole life. If I wanted to be with a person who’d love and respect me, I needed to marry someone who was already like that.

And I did.

But this wisdom doesn’t seem to flow through our culture. There’s this expectation that if you love someone enough, they’ll change for you. That underneath their angst and misery is a heart of gold just waiting to fall in love with the girl that saves them.

Maybe some others have had experiences where this is true, but outside of fiction and the movies, I’ve never seen it.

I’ll keep the white knight.
How about you? Do you think the White Knight’s dead? Ever had a friend go for the “bad” boy or girl? Maybe you do or did? How’d it go?