Friday, December 02, 2005

Fictional tiles: Clothar the Frank by Jack Whyte

The first in another series! I'm calling these fictional tiles, rather than literary, as there is often something wrong with the way they are portrayed. Perhaps I should call them imaginative tiles! Disclaimer: not all novelists get their material culture wrong ...

First off is Jack Whyte. He mentioned tiles being imported from Gaul in an earlier book, but they've been mentioned again in Clothar the Frank (sometimes known as The Lance Thrower). No, no and thrice no! Well, very unlikely, particularly as Britannia could produce tiles - in stone and ceramic - with no problem at all. Why bother importing at this period, when importing was so expensive? Admittedly, in the medieval period tiles and brick were imported to this country, but there is little, or no evidence for this in the Late Roman period so far. Never say never, but on the other hand novelists assuming isn't a good idea either. I only have to point to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code to exemplify how influential novels (aka works of fiction) are.

A time when tiles were imported to Britannia was the earlier, conquest period (1st century), where there is some evidence for movement of tiles from Gaul to the south coast. But Clothar the Frank is set in the 5th century, and sometimes referring back to 4th, blithely mentions tiles imported from Gaul (page 526, Viking Canada edition, 2003). What with all sorts of other assumptions the author makes, the tiles business in an assumption too far for me :-)

1 comment:

Gabriele C. said...

Seems Whyte got a few things wrong. I remember Alex posted about another historical culture mistake in summer.

I haven't read the book yet, and I'm not sure I will. Does it at least tell a good story?