I don’t read or listen to a lot of fantasy or historical fiction, but two things I consumed recently caught my interest. I just finished listening to The Ballad of Iron Percy and I’ve been watching Sleepy Hollow religiously. Both had instances where I wondered, “Would a character from that time period, or a similar time period, speak in that way?”
In the case of Iron Percy, the character of Elise Aranoun had what struck me as a very modern way of speaking. I don’t remember any idioms right off the top of my head, but more than once I thought about her manner of speech. Granted, the world it takes place in is completely fictional. That should give the author some freedom. More on that freedom in a bit.
Sleepy Hollow is more of a bit of historical fiction. Ichabod Crane awakens from a two century long nap and has no problem understanding or being understood. That’s not a big issue. He does need to be told about modern idioms, which is good, but while I know our language hasn’t changed a gret deal in the main points over the last two hundred years, I would think it would be a little more challenging. In a recent episode I was pleased that they had someone who spoke Middle English.
So, in a purely fantasy setting, where the world resembles in some fashion our own medieval times, how important is it for the author to use a more archaic form of English for speech, or at least to avoid modern phrases? I could see using the argument that what we’re getting is perhaps a “translation” of the happenings in the native language. The same would be true of historical fiction from a non-modern or non-English period. What do you think?