Have you ever seen the Broadway musical “Shrek?” Based on the popular child’s book by William Steig and the film it inspired, Shrek finds himself surrounded by fairy tale characters who have been banished to the swamp by an evil king because of their, well, weirdness.
We who love TRF are kind of like those fairy tale characters (yes, we even have ogres, fairies, dragons, and wee royalty) who live in that swampy, wooded, castle infested and dragon-populated world.
If you really love the Renaissance festival world, if you travel to other faires and own a closet full of costumes and spend your extra income to make camp improvements, you might be a rennie. And if you’re a rennie, chances are there are people in your life who don’t get you. Maybe your family kind of tilts their heads askance when you mention that you’ve got an incredible new claymore that you can’t wait to wear with your great kilt. Perhaps your cubicle neighbor snickers when you, on a Monday morning, sleepily describe the rocking pub sing from the night before. Once, at a holiday dinner, my eleven year old nephew declared to everyone at the the table that the Renaissance festival is where all the “weirdos hang out.” I admit to being a little irritated (though I realized he was just parroting what he’d heard from adults, since he hadn’t been to TRF since he was four years old). But then I thought “Hey! I may be a little weird! So I don’t conform to the American middle class norm? That’s okay by me! I am a little freaky!”
The fairy tale characters in “Shrek” realize it too, and sing what may be the best empowerment song ever written:
Here are a few freaky things that might be true for rennies:
- We love dressing up in strange clothes (in fact our costume collection might be monetarily valued higher than our vehicle).
- We love reading fantasy and comics.
- We love knives and daggers and swords.
- We save our pennies so we can buy more garb, or spend months constructing the perfect suit of armor or Elizabethan court dress.
- We actually might know the difference between Cranach gowns and dirndls or doublets and jerkins.
- We know the words from 18th century sea chanties.
- We might have more tattoos that the average CPA.
- Our libraries are likely to have biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine instead of the latest Nicholas Sparks weepie.
- And by the way, we’re usually pretty highly educated.
So many of us felt like outsiders while working our way through the ranks of school, the ultimate conformity factory. We couldn’t stand out, we had to fit in. We had to look like mass produced kids, instead of limited edition, one-of-a-kind people.
Then we found faire and we found our tribe. I think that’s why we count down until opening weekend. It’s why we find times to see each other during the off season- events like Comicpalooza or pub crawls or the Pirate Cruise give us an opportunity to hang out with people who don’t judge us for our freakiness. We make groups on Facebook so we can talk about the strange things that fascinate us. (For example, this post about a woman who recently won the European longsword championship)
So I guess what I am trying to say is: if you’re a little out-of-step with the world around you, that’s okay. Wave that freak flag. Wear that ruffled pirate shirt to work or on a date. Decorate your home with viking ship bookcases. Get a tat that represents your love of the faire. Dye your hair dandelion yellow to go with your fairy wings. Rock that Pandora Tartanic station. Cross-dress. It’s all good. Because as long as you’re kind to people and animals and Earth, I am pretty sure this freaky faire family will welcome you with open arms.