Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

The truth about history November 5, 2012

“A story can be new and yet tell about olden times.  The past comes into existence with the story…  Beginning at the moment when you gave it its name…it has existed forever.”

Michael Ende.  The Neverending Story (Large print edition, p. 305).

I’ve been reading The Neverending Story for the last few days.  I came across this quote today, and it struck me as being rather profound within the context of the historical fiction workshops I attended at SIWC.

The history described may be factual, but its interpretation is imagined.  Scenarios are created.  Some may have happened ‘sort of’ like the author imagined, or maybe not. However, once the reader has that account in his head, it becomes the story of the history.  It becomes the reader’s experience and it colours his/her understanding of history.

I was on London’s Tower Hill last spring, and saw a plaque commemorating the deaths of Balmerino and Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat.  They were real people who were beheaded for their involvement with Charles Stewart.  They died in 1746 and 1747, but I grieved them as if I’d known them when I saw that plaque.  I touched it and felt a pang of loss, because I’d met them in the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s books.  She’d made them real.

Were the real men anything like she portrayed them?  I don’t know.   She called forth a story, and it existed from olden times.

It’s rather daunting for anyone contemplating writing historical fiction.  We may be re-creating history.  What a trust!


NaNoWriMo report for Day 5: 1698 words   (Total: 8424)


3 Responses to “The truth about history”

  1. Shawn Bird Says:

    Reblogged this on Shawn L. Bird and commented:

    A post from last November…

  2. tjtherien Says:

    I’ve come to determine most of the history we are taught are the works of fiction evidence of this is in the Conservative government of Canada proposing to re-write Canadian History. So the next generation will have a history taught to them created by politicians and not historians…in our new proposed history there will be more emphasis placed on our military achievement. Will they remove the fact we gassed ourselves in the battle of Vimy Ridge in the new version. History was at one time a spoil of war with the victor getting to tell about the war from their perspective and it was written in blood…now it will be legislated and used as political propaganda…but it will remain a work of fiction…

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