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Krateng
09-24-2013, 12:41 AM
So, hi everyone!

This is my first post, and I hope this is the right place to ask it :)

Since I'm writing in a medieval setting, I have a bit of a problem right now with my characters. It is known that people in the middle ages reached emotional and intellectual maturity earlier because there wasn't that much space for education and self-finding, especially for non-nobility, so even 14 year old boys could take responsibility, marry and hold landed titles without a regent.
However, I struggle a bit with physical maturity. I know that it depends on the economic situation, with more food, people become adults a lot faster. And we all know that people had less to eat in the middle ages than they have now. However, it's often implied that people back then looked older than they were in today's terms (fantasy example: A Song of Ice and Fire, where Jorah Mormont feels sexually attracted to 14 y/o Daenerys) - also, noble girls tended to get pregnant early (same with Daenerys here), and that would require them to have a body AT LEAST equal to a modern-day 14-year-old.

I could absolutely not find information about that, so I thought maybe this is the right place to ask.

Thanks for the help! :)

Beth Wyand
11-19-2013, 11:51 PM
In less-civilised times, noble girls were usually married off young, while commoners waited longer; a spare diet tends to correspond to youths reaching puberty later, while a rich diet can cause puberty to occur earlier. Diet and medical care quality during infancy and childhood has a notable effect on how young people grow and when they stop; even by modern standards, girls tend to reach puberty earlier than boys, so a 14-year-old girl could easily be taller than a 14-year-old boy.

Luddite
12-28-2013, 09:06 PM
It is known that people in the middle ages reached emotional and intellectual maturity earlier because there wasn't that much space for education and self-finding, especially for non-nobility, so even 14 year old boys could take responsibility, marry and hold landed titles without a regent.

Known by whom?

I'm not sure this is quite right.

I'll answer with reference to Medeival England with the caveat that this will vary for other parts of the world.

In general, English 'childhood' defined under English Common Law lasted to the age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys. What this meant was that at that age they were considered able to understand their actions and take responsibility for them. 'Childhood' though was a legal term and people would certainly be undertaking work prior to that. Children of all classes were generally left to play until the age of 7 after which they would be steadily expected to take on more duties and chores. Schooling was reserved for the nobility and ecclesiarchy. Lower classes would expect either to enter their father's profession, or if lucky could perhaps find a position as an apprentice to a tradesman.


However, I struggle a bit with physical maturity. I know that it depends on the economic situation, with more food, people become adults a lot faster. And we all know that people had less to eat in the middle ages than they have now.

This may be true, but that doesn't mean they were malnourished. What it means is that now we have far too much food. In fact in most years, even the lower peasantry were relatively prosperous and well fed. It wasn't until the mid to late Tudor period, when the open field system was enclosed by the nobility, that localised shortages became an issue, and even then it really wasn't much of a problem. Famine was almost unheard of in Medieval England.

The poor consumed a diet largely of bread, cheese, milk, and beer, with small portions of meat, fish and vegetables (including, towards the end of the period, the newly imported potato), and occasionally some fruit. At a somewhat higher social level families ate an enormous variety of meats, especially beef, mutton, veal, lamb, and pork, as well as chickens, and ducks. The holiday goose was a special treat. Many rural folk and some townspeople tended a small garden which produced vegetables such as asparagus, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, beans, cabbage, carrots, leeks, and peas, as well as medicinal and flavoring herbs. Some raised their own apricots, grapes, berries, apples, pears, plums, currants, and cherries.


However, it's often implied that people back then looked older than they were in today's terms (fantasy example: A Song of Ice and Fire, where Jorah Mormont feels sexually attracted to 14 y/o Daenerys) - also, noble girls tended to get pregnant early (same with Daenerys here), and that would require them to have a body AT LEAST equal to a modern-day 14-year-old.

I'm not sure it is 'often implied', but if it is they're wrong. People looked much as they do today, although far more robust and healthy as they lived 'manual' lifestyles. It's also worth noting that while under common law a girl became a woman at age 12, there are relatively few examples of women that young marrying. Most stayed with their parents, learning and developing their skills and experience. A man would want a wife of quality, able to run his domestic affairs well, (while he was farming his fields, or conducting other business). A 12 year old simply wasn't up to the job. They also knew that pregnancy among girls so young were very dangerous both for the girl and the child, and nobody wanted to take such risks. Interestingly, Romeo and Juliet were around this age!

In general, i'd say your assumptions aren't quite correct. Medieval folk were just as we are today, only with a healthier but much physically harder lifestyle.

Nathan
05-09-2014, 11:59 PM
I can see why this thread is finished. Luddite seems to have nailed most of the points down. About the only thing that would be different as far as apparence would be stature where most would be 1-2 inches shorter, but it would not be uncommon to see men over 6 feet all at all.