minstrel: Who's afraid of the big bad filk?

John LaTorre jlatorre at midtown.net
Mon Mar 13 11:55:08 PST 2000

In the course of following this thread, one thing has struck me. Are we losing
sight here, just a wee bit, of courtesy and gentility?

If a bard approaches a bardic and hears period stuff and nothing else, is it too
much to expect of him or her to ask if filk is appropriate there? If the answer,
given with politeness and respect, is "no," is it too much to expect that the bard
take the answer with good grace and equal politeness and respect?

And most of the people I've talked to who object to filk are really objecting to a
spirited* rendition of "B-B-Bard to the Bone" drowning out their harp and psaltery
session three campsites away.

Filk is fun. Filk is also (I think) an important tool for acclimatizing newcomers
who haven't sung anything in public since their Scout days. Filk is appropriate in
some bardics, but not all bardics, and not all the time. The key here, as in so
much of SCA life, is to respect the diversity that one finds at an event. One
campsite works hard to provide as close to a "period" experience as possible,
while another does not. As long as we don't confuse the standards of the two
campsites, or assume that what holds at one bardic also holds at the other one, or
(blackest sin of all) imposes the standards of one on the other, then where is the

At one of my first events, a gentle at our bardic circle most politely asked if he
could sing a "quiet, gentle, little filk." We agreed, and he crooned:

All the Normans seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay..."

It made the event for me. "Gee," I thought. "If I'd heard that in eighth grade
World History, I might actually have remembered what happened in 1066."

*In the alcoholic sense, as well


John LaTorre (Johann von Drachenfels)

"Always do right. It will gratify some people & astonish the rest."
--Mark Twain

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