Alberta kids learn about the Middle Ages from library demo

"[Initially] it was really strange people who thought history was much more interesting than real life," said Mark Traub about the early SCA during an interview with William Stodalka of the Cold Lake Sun (Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada).

Stodalka learned more about the SCA, including how it has grown since the early years, when he attended a demonstration at the Grand Centre Library branch. The program included a demonstration of armored combat and a discussion of chivalry. 

There was never a 13th century Saxon knight who wore white running shoes, but Balinor's the exception.

Craig Holder, or "Balinor", is a heavy fighter with the Cold Lake chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that recreates aspects of Medievil society, including combat, for fun.

It was this combat they showed off at a recent demonstration at the Grand Centre Library branch.

But at the heart of it, it's about a group striving to re-create a reality that was never really real, even when it was around.

The Society, created in the '60s by hippies around Berkeley in San Francisco, was designed to give a sense of history to children.

Mark Traub, one of the longest serving members of the group, said that the group's composition has changed over time.

"[Initially] it was really strange people who thought history was much more interesting than real life," he said.

But since then, it's gone much more mainstream, and the group has moved from young members of the military with a few nights to kill, to include more families.

Currently, Joan Jensen, who helps run the group, said the it has 46 members.

Its members can basically do anything so long as someone, somewhere did it in Medieval times - Jensen cooks, president Wanda Edel sews her own clothes, and others teach calligraphy classes.

But there's a large emphasis on combat, too. That's what kids who stopped by the library got a glimpse of.

To a crowd of about ten or so kids, these men fought with "swords" - heavy bamboo sticks covered in duct tape - while telling children about what life was like in the Middle Ages and showing off their fighting skills.

Others fought with rapiers, wearing fencing helmets and using skills indistinguishable from the real sport.

In the ideal, these fighters would be practically indistinguishable from the knights of yore, and they strive for the most accurate presentation possible.

But at the library, cowboy boots, track pants, and sneakers are worn beside Medieval helms, body armour, and Viking-looking shields, hitting each other with objects that feel slightly less dense than a baseball bat.

But despite the real blows, Traub insists no damage is being done, because rather than striking opponents in exposed areas, practitioners go for blows that would inflict lethal damage in real life - and they protect themselves accordingly.

"We are not trying to hurt each other," he said. "We are trying to kill each other."

And just like in the real Middle Ages, people die every weekend over petty conflicts.

Or at least in the fake wars the Society for Creative Anachronism holds.

Hundreds of members in full garb take part in battles for the "kingdom" of An Tir, which includes the Cold Lake area, and even has a defined hierarchy, with a king and queen.

And these kingdoms often have armies feuding over them.

During one of these wars Craig Holder attended, he saw the opposing king making a speech to the men, when one of his arrows fell across the field and landed on the king, "killing" him.

And during those precious moments of confusion, Holder and his fellow armies charged, wiping them out.

But as fun as it may be to these people to dress up and play war, there's also a philosophical bent to their actions – namely, the medieval concept of chivalry.

"The people who play this game, I want to say believe in the chivalry stuff, or while they're in garb, they do," said Traub.

"Back then, it may have been more brutal in their living conditions, but it might've been a more gentler time," Jensen said.

Your average medieval scholar may not agree. They would probably tell you that knights didn't always follow these rules.

Often times, they would rape and pillage amongst the populace, while playing lip service to the chivalrous codes.

But the members of the SCA aren't warriors.

They're people with a hobby, and while Jensen and Traub may attribute the nice things they've seen to chivalry, it's more likely just human nature.

When you get down to it, throughout history, people have always truly been capable of kindness. Sometimes it just takes a false idea to bring it out.