I was thinking about what to write for today, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t done much of anything about explaining my categories. These are not the usual ones I’ve seen on other blogs, but then again, I didn’t really know what I was going to be writing about when I started, and my conceit, that of a mythopoeic inn, didn’t seem to lend itself to “Family,” “Money,” “Stories,” “House and Home,” “Simplify,” to give some from a few of the other blogs I read. I’ve explained “Practical Tools for the Mythopoeic Innkeeper” and “The List,” and “Ordinary Life” is fairly self-explanatory.
So today I thought I’d explain about “Derring-Do For Beginners,” as it doesn’t require me re-reading or explaining other books first. It comes, first of all, because I love the word “Derring-Do.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary (for I guess I do need to consult another book!), it’s a misconstruction of Chaucer’s Middle Englishdorryng donby Spenser and others as a result of a misprinting in the 16th century.
And of course, it means ‘daring action or feats, heroic courage.’
It is a word that to me brings out the best of a certain type of person: it is a word for Robin Hood, and the younger knights of the Round Table. It’s a word for the deeds of the Three Musketeers, and for various fantastic imitators of those romantic heroes. It is what Don Quixote is looking to do.
It is something that is sorely lacking in modern life.
Now, I’ve studied enough medieval literature and history in general to know that it has, in fact, been something lacking in every age of human history. The romanciers of the thirteenth century looked back to the days of Arthur and Charlemagne or Alexander the Great to place their knights; the balladeers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries looked back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries to place Robin Hood in the Greenwood.
There’s never been a real age of derring-do, except in the literature. Hence the second part of the category: “For Beginners.” We are all beginners, I suspect, in this way of looking at things; indeed, it’s hard to know of anyone who is quixotic in quite this way, because the response to such gallantry now is pretty much the same as it has been in any parody of knight-errantry or similar romantic urges from the Odyssey on down.
But to me that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. So this category is for those things in my life that seem to point towards the efforts to be full of daring courage, to reach a little higher and with a little more flare, to practise sprezzatura and magnanimity and the quest for impossible dreams.
It’s also the title of the first book by the main character in my current story, and may end up (as Derring-Do for Not-Quite-Beginners) as the title for the novel. But that’s something I’ll write about another day.