Last night, we went on a candlelight tour of Sully Plantation, a local house dating back to the 1790s. We arrived to find Father Christmas dressed in green robes and his elves, who gave candy canes to the children, passed a tent and campfire surrounded by civil war soldiers (whom I insisted on calling ghosts,) and were given a tour of the house in which men, women, and children in costume spoke or played instruments, telling us about the activities of the time.
I kept insisting that they were ghosts, because I thought this made it mysterious. Juss kept insisting they were people in costumes. So, once we came out again, I brought Juss to one of the horses (the shaggiest horse I have had the pleasure to pat) and told him it was a person in a costume. This amused him.
Then, we had hot cider and cookies, and John bought me a Jane Austin action doll (complete with quill and writing tablet) for Christmas (which I don’t know anything about yet, shhhh!)
On the way out, we stopped off at the slaves quarters where a gentleman sang a song as an illustration of the kind of things that might have been done for entertainment at night. For the first time, I stopped and thought about what I would have done in a similar situation…
…had the weirdest thought…
John and I have often been rather poor. (We are writers, after all.) We have a favorite activity that costs almost nothing. In fact, often it costs nothing at all. Sometimes, we bother getting a piece of paper or a twenty-sider. It’s a thrilling and absorbing activity that can keep people — couples or groups — entertained for hours.
So, I turned to John and said, "In the past, when people had all this free time with no modern entertainment…why didn’t they roleplay?"
He was stumped.
We’ve talked about it quite a bit since. Why is it we don’t hear any reports of people in the past, primitive or more civilized roleplaying?
We hear about storytellers, even stories that continue night after night. We hear about children’s games. We hear about couples doing a little bit. ("In the meadow, we will build a snowman (snowman) and pretend that he is Parson Brown. He’ll say: ‘Are you married?’ We’ll say: ‘No, Man. (No man) but you can do the job while you’re in town.’"
But long, drawn out, complicated, novel-like games with action, romance, and heartbreak? I’ve never seen a reference to anything even remotely like it.
And yet…it does not require anything that did not exist in the past. Leisure time? Did the aristocrats roleplay? Ancient tribesmen? Slaves would could not go out in the evening? Children played…did any of their games continue into adulthood? Did any British lords play Cavaliers and Roundheads as adults?