I've been thinking for a while now about some trends that we can all see in fantasy.
First, there's the knight in shining armour romantic novels, that seems to be considered somewhat outdated and juvenile. And then there's the gritty recent novels that seems to be more desirable and adult. I've read about all the claims how those gritty novels are more realistic than the classic fantasy novels.
I've looked a bit around on threads, blogs and wikipedia, and there's a lot of debate going on, but mostly it seems opinions with little real knowlegde about what it was really like in the middle-ages. I've read a short article somewhere on the net where it said that if ASOIAF would have been realistic, it would have been boring. I would like to learn more about life in the middle-ages, what it was like, because I want to be able to judge for myself the level of realism in different fantasy novels and series. Can anybody point me toward serious books or documentary that will help me learn more about the real life and values of the middle-ages?
Also, we get to read about battles with big melee that goes on and on for days. I don't know much about medieval battles, except that I read somewhere they were mostly done in 20 minutes, and were more about looking threatening enough to make the opponent give up than huge amount of bloodshed. I have also been a martial artist for a big part of my life, and can assure you that fighting for more than 5 minutes is quite exhausting. I can't imagine doing it for hours at a time. Especially wearing armor and wielding weapons.
I know that the values we have right now are probably different from what there was in the middle-ages, but I tend to find people in fantasy like Lord of the rings more realistic than those in ASOIAF. Thinking about what I do every day, what my family and friends do, how they act seems much closer to how Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf and cie act, than the actions of Tyrion, Jaime, Ned and the rest. In fact those characters seems to me in serious need of a therapy. I would be surprised to learn that the average male in the middle-ages had the urge to rape, kill, steal and the like. Especially considering how much religion was important at that time.
And it appears to me that fantasy is the continuation of fantastic stories from the middle age. Stories like Beowulf, Tristan und isolt, King Arthur, etc. They were written in the Middle-ages and thus presented medieval protagonists in a medieval setting. In a way, it seems those story where a knight fighting fantastic creatures seems to represent the triumph of Christianity over Pagan beliefs, the fight to move forward, the fight for progress, the fight to make the world a better place, the fight against backwardness. So for Fantasy to evolve, wouldn't it be logical for it's next step to move it to present time, presenting myths of our own time, and how we have to fight to keep progressing, instead of toward "realism"?