…so reblogging that post about Chinese culture has brought my thoughts back around to my own individualism ideal
it’s this romantic image stuck in my head ever since i first started getting my own interests and aesthetic and social circle and music taste (so, ~14)
like. it’s not All That I Think Is Good In Life, in fact i have another romantic image, more recent, that… well, not opposes, but complements it to a whole world? anyway that’s a different thing
this one is older and sometimes I feel like its an immaturity thing for me but also the more i grow up and analyze it the more i understand how important the core of it is to me
it’s an image that comes from songs. russian ‘minstrel’ songs. filk? folk rock? whatever. they are a thing. and in them there’s a thing – a romantic image of a ‘minstrel’. obviously these girls (almost excusively girls) are talking about themselves (and grammatical gender wise the minstrel is usually male but also they absolutely mean themselves and its one part sexism one part breaking down gender boundaries I M H O bc just because the world minstrel is male doesnt mean the person it refers to has to be… ANYWAY)
…so yeah, a minstrel. its actually a pretty extensive and specific image. im not sure if its accurate to anything historically, and obviously its not accurate to anything about these people in real life. its a romantic ideal like i said and i have 2 separate OCs based on it with love and care as a deeply secondary but still important part of their design
The Minstrel is a wanderer. He (imma use he for now bc grammatical Russian gender and im gonna slip into it anyway. just imagine its a gender neutral he) doesn’t stay anywhere for long. He does not have permanent employment. He does not own property other than what he can carry on his back. He usually doesn’t even have a horse or any other means of transportation because he’s pretty much dirt poor.
The Minstrel earns money by performing – making up fiction, retelling existing fictional stories, retelling existing historical tales, fictionalizing recent history, etc. If he performs for the wealthy, in castles and stuff, he is usually treated like dirt. Always -this- close to being killed for rudeness towards his hosts. He does not have a permanent patron.
If he performs in front of the general public, he’s usually able to make ends meet much better, and will often be universally beloved. He will often spread revolutionary ideas, put himself in danger via political stuff in various other ways, spread truth where it is suppressed. Tell the tales of people who aren’t normally remembered, tell the other side of the story.
One very particular variation probably based on a specific story that I just don’t know is a minstrel who inspired a rebellion, then it was quashed with extensive cruelty, then the minstrel was cursed by the people for bringing all that about and must now wander forever, mute. Or something. I know it from like three separate songs, they are very beautiful but not very specific.
An important part of The Minstrel archetype is that he is like this by choice. He might have a home, property, everything, and then just spontaneously abandon it and go be poor.
(Obviously the minstrel is able-bodied and able-minded enough to afford to do that. Although historically at least some people the archetype was based on were blind / otherwise disabled, and earned money by singing because they didn’t have any other way. Never said this archetype was unproblematic)
A minstrel might abandon his lute (or another musical instrument, personally I favor the guitar, sometimes a flute is featured, but the lute is archetypical) and go fight in a war to defend his country. This is a tragedy and a great unfairness. Usually the minstrel will die because he is a musician and not a soldier. It’s a conscious sacrifice, nobody can CONSCRIPT a minstrel. Like, he just won’t come and there’s nothing you can do about it.
(A more cynical variation is a young silly minstrel who is TRYING to die a beautiful death and succeeds, except nobody things it’s beautiful they just facepalm and go ‘well that was tragic and useless’)
I have heard like… one whole song about multiple minstrels travelling together. I think the basic idea is that they meet people, then part again, then maybe meet again, like waves, from time to time. Randomly running into each other, spending like a whole week together, then parting until next time is the name of the game here.
All those are surface attributes. They are easy to gather, and I’m not a particular fan of all of them… it’s harder to talk about the core of it, the thing that makes me love this despite everything that is wrong with it.
The Minstrel is an individual who is, for the most part, entirely without attachments in all the new places he goes. He does not have friends waiting, he does not have anyone waiting. Nobody knows his name until he introduces himself. Like, okay, maybe they’ve heard of him, but they won’t know it’s him until he tells them, and they might not believe him if he does.
(A minstrel whose face is actually well known, who is relatively well off and can afford to travel with like… a bodyguard – he’s a separate thing, he’s not this trope)
There are many stories that imply that when people are utterly alone, when nobody is there to know about their existence, the reality sort of cracks under them, and they fall through, and they might as well have never existed. This trope takes that and says a hard NO. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear the sound, the tree itself is still an observer. The Minstrel is somewhere alone, on his own, with nobody’s viewpoint to support his existence other than his own, and it’s good enough. It’s valid. In fact, The Minstrel EARNS HIS LIVING by being just that – a living viewpoint. He tells stories, he shares his perspective. HIS PERSONAL knowledge and understanding is what he brings to the world, and it is valuable. He bears witness. Sure, he can have personal relationships, friendships, but he will leave them and go further forward in a heartbeat. His primary relationship with the world is that he /knows/ the world, and that he /tells/ about it. And the reciprocal relationship is that people know HIS STORIES. If he goes to a new country and hears his own song sung by people there, that is reciprocation, that is validation. He as a physical body does not need to be acknowledged, his presence in other people’s minds is via the impact he made, and he himself might as well be a ghost.
(Yet, his physical body doesn’t ‘not matter’. It matters to HIM, and that is enough. He is a thing in himself, a complete entity, and he doesn’t need to see his reflection in mirrors to know himself.)
(The Minstrel can very well be too vain, conceited, or alternatively, filthy and uncouth. In stories that feature echoes of this archetype, it might very well be a conflict that he is All That yet entirely unpleasant to interact with as a person. AND THAT IS OKAY. You might in fact want to try and murder him, and you might even be absolutely justified in doing just that, but you’ve still just killed a unique person, snuffed out a valuable existence. Hope it was worth it, you murderer.)
The story of The Minstrel is, to me, a story of self-worth. A story of your own story being valuable, no matter who you are, no matter how you are. Just existing, just experiencing things, it already makes you someone of worth. And yeah, the minstrel /tells/ his stories to make his living, but the only reason it works is because HIS STORIES HAVE WORTH. The service he performs is not so much that he sits and talks all day, it’s that he travels, that he /listens/, that he /watches/. That he hears others’ stories and gathers material for his own. Just being an observer is his profession.
It’s… I don’t know. I think this is an important ideal to have in mind, an important extreme to acknowledge, no matter how flawed particular incarnations of it might be.
It deserves to be a thing.