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cinzia8 01-28-2012 06:17 PM

For my novel: Ancient stables & torches
Hi all:

I'm a novelist with some experience riding, but not a lot. I'm writing a novel that takes place in 5th century ancient Gaul (France) think the movie King Arthur with Clive Owen.

I have a scene where two lovers meet at night in a stable. I was told from a friend that there would never be a torch used for light at night in a stable because of fire. I should set the meeting to moonlight streaming in through the boards. I have some romance in this scene and I posted a low burning torch nearby so they can see each other. I need some expert advice.

I was wondering, does anyone know what they were using before kerosene lamps and electricity in barns or stables at night to see? What if one wanted to work in the stable or barn at night?


Eolith 01-28-2012 10:03 PM

They may have used lamps. (Not kerosene, but one where you just put a candle in it.) Open flames certainly don't sound like a good idea, but who really knows.

tinyliny 01-28-2012 10:16 PM

They may have used whale oil lamps. or seal oil or even olive oil, though not sure about that. Most lighting in those times was with "rushes" or torches where you had branches tied together and dipped in tar or pitch.

I think that stables of a richer person might be built of stone, so less of a fire worry.
People jsut had to put up with that worry and a lot of stables burned down before electricity. But also, when it was dark, most people went to bed or gathered around a fire place. they didnt' go out at night much. Dangerous.

Red Gate Farm 01-29-2012 11:55 AM

Candles were well known.

For a secret meeting, the lovers wouldn't want anyone else to see the light (which would draw attention) so they would put a candle into a holder made of metal with holes punched out.

Think of a metal box with a floor and a peaked roof on it, with a ring above that to hold it. The sides have holes punched into it. One side would be hinged like a door. You put the lit candle into the box and close the door. The light of the candle would shine out though the punched holes in the metal sides. You would hide the lantern in the shelter of your cloak, letting a bit of the light spill out on the ground where you are going, at the same time sheltering most of the light with your cloak.

bsms 01-29-2012 01:33 PM

Folks faced many of the same dangers using candles in their homes, but they did so all the time. I'm sure they kept water buckets near by, and put any torches or candles over a dirt or stone 'floor'.

But if someone screwed up, Chicago could burn:
"The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about 4 square miles (10 km2) in Chicago, Illinois."

cinzia8 01-29-2012 05:05 PM

Thanks everyone. I'm going to check into oil lamps in stables (these are still Roman times) and I like the idea of perhaps a metal case that holds a candle (they used both oil lamps and candles in the 5th century). The mention of a stone floor and wall could also handle some light with a better safety factor. I don't want the barn to burn down around them. The heat is between them. <g> If I find out anything exact, I'll post it as well. I really appreciate the input. Cinzia

Eolith 01-29-2012 05:44 PM

Honestly, I think this detail is minute enough that you shouldn't have to worry too terribly much about it. Go for some extra stunning character development, and people won't notice what source of light is illuminating their passion. ^_^

cinzia8 01-30-2012 11:50 AM

LOL Eolith. You're probably right. In the historical genre world there are critics over everything. I have a well-known writer friend who writes historical novels who was actually called out for putting a black squirrel in a part of England where supposedly none live. So, I'm a bit cautious. However, as you mentioned, great characterization or romance will most likely make the technical aspect of lighting seem irrelevant.

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