Medieval-style writing sample: “Le Jour d’Jillian”

In my junior year of high school, my English teacher gave our class the assignment to write a narrative of a single day during our winter break. I thought this sounded boring. No one wanted to read about me playing videogames and doing Christmas gift returns at the mall! Then I had an idea–at the time I was also obsessed with a book called Le Morte d’Arthur, a 15th century retelling of the King Arthur myths. The book has a very distinctive language style–earlier than even Shakespearean English–yet the more that I read, the more I found my thoughts slipping into this style. That’s how this piece was born. Even though it’s eight years old now, I still like it because I think I did a good job of imitating the late medieval grammar, diction and quirks of Le Morte d’Arthur. 

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Now leave we the story of Elaine, the Fair Maid of Astolat, for to tell of a lesser known maid: the warrior-damsel Jillian of Ridge Field.

On this day, that was the year of Our Lord two thousand and six, on the third day of Christmas; that is to say, December the twenty-seventh, Lady Jillian reposed her nigh unto nine of the clock. Then anon she rose and brake her fast with a bran muffin and a mug of skimmed milk, that was passing good and tasty. Once she was right satisfied, Lady Jillian took herself awandering as a knight-errant, and came to the basement of her manor. There were her two brothers playing at video games. These two were knights full noble, and the elder of the brothers hight Sir Gregory the Lanky, and the younger, Sir Kevin le Bruyant. And Lady Jillian came unto their chamber all richly accoutered in plaid and old tee-shirt, and these knights bethought their sister the full noblest and fairest-arrayed lady of the world. And they said:

Sister, thou art late this morn. We have here attended thee two hours; now sit thee down so we might play our new video game with thee. Thou lazybones, thou. So Lady Jillian sat her down upon a couch of white leather.

It happened that this video game was called Twilight Princess, of the Legend of Zelda series, and was a passing marvelous game and a new. The knight of the quest in Twilight Princess hight Link, the which was passing well favored, and so Lady Jillian delighted in him greatly, and ever praised his chivalry and his feats of arms and his blue eyes right dreamy. And as she did thus, Sir Gregory the Lanky and Sir Kevin le Bruyant laughed full loudly and mocked Lady Jillian. For he be not of true flesh and blood, sister, but a computer, and truly it is I, Sir Gregory, that doth these feats. And he is not a true man, sister, but a picture on a screen, and thou art so passing weird we wot not what to do with thee.

Now shalt thou shut thyselves up, said Jillian with right noble poise, and apply thyself to this goodly game, else give unto me the controller. Here, sister, said Gregory the Lanky, then play it thyself, for I am stuck and hungry. Thus he departed unto the kitchen for to find him some Cocoa Puffs. And ever Kevin le Bruyant made noises so passing strange that he seemed the woodest man living.

Jillian then took game controller in hand and anon she solved the puzzle with the which Sir Gregory had been so sore bestead, and performed such feats of arms, in divers fields of the game, that she nigh surpassed Sir Gregory the Lanky, that was then called the best gamer of the world, but anon she waxed hungry, and partook of the caramel corn of Sir Kevin le Bruyant. When he espied this travesty Sir Kevin was passing wroth and he cried, arm thyself, thou false traitress. So the game was paused and they dressed their shields either unto other, and feutred their pillows, and either ran unto other as it were the thunder. Lady Jillian brake her pillow upon Sir Kevin’s helm, and cotton flew hither and thither, yet still Sir Kevin waxed wroth and mighty, and they traded mighty blows for all of two minutes. Then there came Sir Gregory the Lanky, armed right nobly with bowl and spoon. When he espied his brother and his sister so hard embattled he spake: My God, there reposeth in this household such weirdos.

Following this adventure it was eleven of the clock and Lady Jillian armed herself in soccer shorts and running shoes and a sports bra right noble, and gat her iPod in hand. Here I go to run, she declared. But her brothers, the which were playing again at video games, made no response, but for that Sir Kevin le Bruyant pounded his own chest and commenced a chant of his own devising. Therewithal Lady Jillian commenced the treadmill and mounted it and ran three miles, and was serenaded the while by minstrels who called their merry group ‘Hoobastank.’

Following this adventure Lady Jillian was not tired, but bethought her to seek adventure and increase her worship. So for glory she took upon her to climb the perilous stairs, the which feat was not to be lightly undertaken. Anon at the top of the mountain she came unto a tile chamber, and in this chamber a magic door of glass with a handle of silver. Lady Jillian clasped this handle and opened the door, and found upon the stone wall a lever all of silver. Without hesitation did Lady Jillian take this lever in hand and she turned it, for she was passing strong and mighty; and in haste there came forth water. So Lady Jillian gave thanks unto Our Lord Jesu Christ, that delivereth water unto Moses in the desert and so unto Lady Jillian at the top of the stairs. She bathed herself in this water, and named it The Bathroom Shower.

Once she was bathed and dressed came Lady Jillian down the mountain, and she happed upon a gentlewoman making great dole, that was the lady of the house. So Jillian rode unto the gentlewoman and said, fair mother, what ails thee? Oh my daughter, said the gentlewoman, I prithee an thou art knight grant unto me a boon. Fair mother, said Lady Jillian, as I am knight and your daughter, and servant of Our Lord Jesu Christ, by the might of my hands I shall do all that ye ask of me. So the gentlewoman was right pleased and said, therefore I require thee to slay the dust-dragon that hath lodged itself in thy chamber, for it grieveth me sore.

Then Lady Jillian spake, and said: I may not. For I am sore wounded of the running that I had but late ago to do withal. In any wise, fair mother, there be not a dust-dragon in these lands, but perhaps it is a dust-bunny, and therefore take courage, for I will scourge it an I find me the time. Thou false knight, thou, said the gentlewoman, ye win no worship by me here. As to that, said Lady Jillian, I had liefer win my worship in quests of my choosing. For hark, I go now to the great tournament in the land of Mall, the which was decried yestermorn by the King of the After-Christmas Sales. For I have taken upon me already two quests, and they be unto the land of Esprit, for to exchange the Sweater Which Looks Like a Cake, and unto the land of Gap, for to return the Fearsome Striped Pajamas whence they came.

Then the gentlewoman repented her of her harsh words, and said, I commend thee for this noble quest, fair knight. Grammercy, said Lady Jillian, and if it please ye I shall depart now. The gentlewoman said, do not be late for piano practice this eve. Lady Jillian said, fair mother, I love thee. And then the gentlewoman, with mien much aggrieved, sighed passing weary and said, fair daughter, I love the passing well; keep thee alert on the roads. Madam, I will, said Lady Jillian.

So Lady Jillian rode forth unto the mall, and along the way encountered many lesser knights and laid them low; and we shall not make mention of all her adventures, sithen the adventure with the Knight of the Sports Utility Vehicle. This was a dastardly evil knight, the which had a car far too big and thought himself King of the Parking Lot; for this outrage Lady made to joust with this recreant knight for a parking spot right convenient, at the border of the Realm of Macy’s, but the craven Knight of the Sports Utility Vehicle took the spot for himself and refused to have ado withal, and dismounted from his gargantuan steed. As she was loath to have ado with an unarmed knight on foot, Lady Jillian went her way passing wroth, and took for herself worship of the Spot Lesser Convenient.

Lady Jillian therefore dismounted, and armed herself with purse and tote bag, the latter for the cause that she was loath to take bags of plastic and therefore smite the environment; she was a right noble knight. Armed most valiantly she rode unto and through the country of Macy’s until she came unto the Fountain of Wishing-Pennies. At this spot were reposing two knights of great valor and blondness, the which hight Sofija the Prattlesome, and Samantha the Indecisive. Lady Jillian saluted these, and they her, and spake unto her, saying thou art late.

That me sore repenteth, said Lady Jillian, well you know I am loath to keep two such noble knights in attendance. It is forgiven, and easily done, said the Ladies Sofija and Samantha. Therefore, my friends, said Lady Jillian, I would fain have thy fellowship on a quest unto the land of Esprit, for this past Christmas morn I have received the most full evil sweater made; that is to say, the Sweater Which Looks Like a Cake. Mercy Jesu, said Sofija and Samantha, with all our hearts we forgive thy lateness, for we knew not of thy noble quest, and with a good will we shall accompany you and increase our worship and fashion.

So the three knights rode through the mall and soon passed into the land of Esprit. And there the Lady Sofija was sore tempted by a black jacket, but by the mercy of Our Lord and the savvy of Lady Samantha she espied the price tag, and knew the jacket for the devil it was. So the fellowship rode unto the register, and came upon the seneschal of Esprit, that was also in those parts called the cashier. Lady Jillian saluted him and said, fair knight, take heart, for that which I am about to show thee shall make lesser hearts tremble. I am ready, said the cashier, and he took his scanner in hand and opened the box; and therein lay the Sweater Which Looks Like a Cake, that was right hideously colored a most sickening white and pink, as like icing. Now shall I scan the demon, cried the cashier, and thou shalt make all haste and find thee a worthy exchange. That I shall, brave knight, said Lady Jillian, and she galloped across the length and bredth of the store and gat unto her a green scoop-neck tee shirt, and a navy sweater, the which were full noble raiment. And lo! I am successful, said Lady Jillian, now, fair knight of Esprit, make haste to scan these three items, and then methink the Sweater which Looks Like a Cake shall be vanquished. It is as ye say, said the cashier, and here is also ninety-seven cents back; have a nice day. And verily he gave unto Lady Jillian the tee shirt and the sweater, and cast the Sweater Which Looks Like a Cake onto the pile of returns, and these knights rejoiced and rode full gladly from Esprit.

What shall we now? said Lady Sofija unto the others. I wot not, said Lady Samantha the Indecisive. Then spake Lady Jillian: I would well try my hand in the jousts of these parts, for I am loath at this time to undergo such a grievous quest again; for I fear that the Fearsome Striped Pajamas shall prove more evil still than that foul sweater. Her companions had passing joy at this, and so they rode unto Macy’s, and there beheld many strange and wonderful adventures, and anon they came unto a rack bearing a sign, the which read: $9.99 in bold lettering. Fair sisters, cried Lady Jillian, behold ye that sign, and what treasures lie beneath it. For beneath that sign lay many dresses, and some were tacky, but therein lay too some dresses right noble. I will try my hand at them, said Lady Samatha. I as well, said Lady Sofija. And so the fellowship rode forth mightily, and dashed at the sales rack, and came away with many dresses apiece; and they rode quickly unto the changing rooms and there did passing great feats of arms, for they slew many dresses right foul, and claimed the best of the lot for their own. And so on that day the fellowship held themselves passing well in the tournament of Macy’s, but they did not claim the degree, for they were not long in the field.

Grammercy, said Lady Jillian, that for my sake ye have left the field for to ride with me unto the land of Gap; for I fear that this quest will be most perilous. Never fear, said the knights Sofija and Samantha, for we are with you unto the bitter end. And so this valiant fellowship rode forth, and on their journey witnessed many wonders, and resisted many evil temptations, and finally reached the land of Gap. Get thee hence, therefore, said Lady Samantha unto Lady Jillian, for we have arrived and there is the Knight of Gap, that guardeth the cash register. Go, and we are right behind you.

So Lady Jillian rode unto the Knight of the Cash Register, and called upon her; fair knight and lady, I prithee help me dispose of this fearsome and ungodly beast, the which men call the Fearsome Striped Pajamas. But this craven knight aided Lady Jillian not, but instead feutred her scanner and profferered Lady Jillian to joust for the despite of her. For ye may not return that beast unto these lands, said the craven Knight of the Cash Register of Gap, for that monster hails from the land of Gap Outlet, the which is a land completely different than this realm of Gap.

Then was Lady Jillian passing wroth, and frustrated, and said fie on thee, recreant cashier, for this land of Gap is full of cowards as to-brast, and I shall get me gone, for I may win no worship in this craven country. So that good and righteous fellowship rode from the land of Gap and unto the stone stairs afore the mall, and there they reposed them a while in camaraderie. Alas, said Lady Jillian, I have failed in my quest, that was to slay the Fearsome Striped Pajamas. And so the three knights complained them of their misfortune, and then considered the great feats of arms they had done in the tournament; and anon they waxed joyful, and displayed their victories much orgulously.

Anon the fellowship split along three different paths, that were the roads unto their homes, and so Lady Jillian mounted her car, and returned to her home country with much worship, and two tops and a dress. So she entered into her lands, and anon felt herself passing weary, and so laid herself down upon a bed and reposed her. She passed thirty minutes in that wise and then came upon Lady Jillian lying on the living room sofa the same gentleman as a fore, and made great dole. And the gentlewoman told Lady Jillian that, an she did not ready her, she would be late for her piano lesson. Lady Jillian then made great haste, and armed her and dressed her and made him a worshipful cup of strong coffee, and mounted her faithful car and rode out for the Castle of Heavenly Music, and there performed great deeds of arms, and of fingers.

The sun had set ere Lady Jillian had completed this quest, and so as the moon waxed full above her she rode again home, much awearied of her day’s travail, but still she sang as she sat bestride her car, full loudly and painfully. And so that eve she feasted with Sir Gregory the Lanky, and Sir Kevin the Bruyant, and also there was Sir Daddy the Difficult, and the gentlewoman that was called ‘Mother.’ And each made great joy of other and there was feasting, and anon Lady Jillian betook her to her chamber, and clad herself in the Fearsome Striped Pajamas, and took to reading a book ere she reposed her, and this book was Le Morte d’Arthur.

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