It’s important to have music that reminds you of your passions. For me, I have plenty of songs that remind me how much I love stories. I love songs that tell stories (who doesn’t?) That’s why we love classics like “Piano Man” and “American Pie.” We get mental pictures as we listen because the singer guides us through the story. Just listen to “Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold (or the newer version by The Almost.) You follow a boy through his life and experiences. If you listen to The Dear Hunter (which I’ll make you listen to later,) the band has a set of 5 albums that tell a long narrative (and it’s BRILLIANT. But we’ll get to that later.)
I don’t know when it started, but somewhere in my childhood, I became obsessed with medieval stuff. Not even the high-fantasy swords-and-sorcery stuff, but the legitimate period of England between 800 and 1500 AD. Your girl was having swordfights out in her front yard at the tender age of ten. She built a castle out of cardboard.
You are watching: We are kings and queens and vagabonds
And the crowning moment was when she was eleven and got a bow and a set of arrows. You better believe she stalked around the woods in her backyard in the winter, pretending to be some medieval girl somewhere running around shooting stuff. I was all in to the medieval aesthetic. You better believe I was the weird kid in middle school. (I still am. Just not in middle school.)
For ten years, I’ve been writing a story set in the middle ages. Because obviously. So you can imagine that I’m dedicated to that medieval aesthetic. Like I said, I don’t know why I was drawn to that period of history. Some historians turn their nose up at that era – so uncivilized. But if we didn’t have that part of history, we wouldn’t have this part of history. And if we’re honest, people will look back on us 500 years from now and probably think we’re pretty uncivilized too.
Medieval rant over. Writers tend to live in their own heads. They like songs, stories, and parts of history to take them away from reality for awhile. What reading is to a reader is what writing is to a writer.
Which is why I watch Reign.
Reign is a ridiculously historically-inaccurate retelling of the story of Mary Queen of Scots catered to appeal to young audiences. The costumes are shockingly modern. Characters are extremely self-aware of their place in history. Everyone is having sex with everyone (ok, that part is historically accurate.) Audrey watches it for the aesthetic and the mindless fluff (that’s the most millennial thing I’ve ever said.)
Reign also features a number of unique music choices. In true millennial-medieval fashion, they’ll feature dances that are set to Vitamin String Quartet versions of pop songs. The Lumineers, Jon Foreman, and others have all had songs featured on the show.
And so has Ellem, whose music takes me to another world.
Day Nine: Kings and Queens and Vagabonds – Ellem
I’ve picked up on a few of the songs from Reign, but Ellem’s stirring, folk-like music struck me the hardest. Every time I listen to it, I have a perfect picture painted in my head. It could have easily been written five hundred years ago.
We lay down in the riverbedRest in the silhouettesour fathers and mothers laid beforeRestless souls in the desert sandDream of another landthat heroes and villians claimed beforeWe are Kings and Queens and VagabondsWe are Kings and Queens and Vagabonds
A lot of this song sounds like legacy – continuing something that your forefathers did, reclaiming something that’s yours. We almost get the illusion of a phoenix rising from the ashes.
We came up with the firelightRaised in the black of nightFalling like angels to the floor
A common trope in medieval literature is a no-name nobody who rises above his station (I guess that’s not just a medieval literature thing.) After an instrumental break, Ellem cries “Hold me down,” almost as if it’s a challenge to her enemies.
Her consistent refrain – “We are kings and queens and vagabonds” – is interesting. Is she talking about people from the past, or her present? We could still live in an age of kings and queens and vagabonds if you think about it. We’re not too far removed from that heirarchy.
While Ellem’s song seems at first glance like a stirring ballad from the past, it could apply to us to. It may be a call to rise to the occasion, to take a stand on something, after sleeping in the riverbed for so long. Maybe it’s from a fluffy CW network TV show, but it’s got some interesting things to say.