Illuminated Manuscript. Gaston Fébus. Livre de la chasse. Wild Boar. Medieval Hunting.
In-Depth

The Wild Boar. The Age of Empires 2 Medieval Hunting Simulator Overview with Historical Commentary

I’ve been meaning to write this blog-post for a looong time. Actually, it is where it all started for me and my online Asinus persona. However, the more I delved into the topic, the more I discovered that the sum of my knowledge was close to nothing… I had to watch more videos and read more. All in all I spent several hundred hours on that very particular subject. I hope you will appreciate my findings. Please, let me know if I’ve forgotten anything! I will update my post accordingly. Thank you for reading and see you soon on my next blog posts.


This blog post is dedicated to _LilTrouble, the kindest of all Age of Empires 2 streamers, who makes her streams feel like you’re in a lounge having a good time with friends.

Check her out on Twitch!


Skip Through the Boarshit!

This is a long post. And there are no potatoes. Sorry. So click on what sparks your interest to skip what you don’t want to read! And have fun 😉

How to Hunt Wild Boars in AoE2?


Intro

The first time I restarted Age of Empires 2 for an online game with my father and his colleagues, I just did nonsense. I sent my scout straight to my allies. I scouted my base with my villagers. I found three turkeys and didn’t look for the fourth one (though you always find cattle in even numbers). I just didn’t what a build order was!

11.

Herb Laugh

I got my ass served to me a few times by my father’s colleagues and I decided that I couldn’t suck at some twenty years old game anymore. My pride was tickled and it had to be answered. I started to learn what a build order was. Matthieu Macret puts it best:

A build order defines the sequence in which buildings are constructed, units are produced and technologies are researched. Build orders target a specific strategy, such as rushing or timing attacks.

Once I acquired that little piece of knowledge, I went on to learn that boars, that I had always ignored, were to be hunted and their food collected. Hunting wild boars is however a dangerous activity in Age of Empires 2. That’s why I had always avoided it altogether in the past. Was it really necessary, though, to change my habits to improve my gameplay?

Yes.

It was.

Sorry to be blunt but first I thought I should serve you with a long ass demonstration. Eventually I decided against it. Age of Empires 2 is a Real Time Strategy game that works on a very simple principle: the more ressources you have, the more military you can produce. There is an element of sheer strategy to the game, but on the long run the player that has the best economy usually wins.

You just can’t ignore the free food boars represent. You need it.

How to get it, however, is another matter… for which I’m fully prepared to go on for a bit and boar you with details.

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How to Hunt Wild Boars in Age of Empires 2?

Toying with Danger

Hunting a wild boar is a dangerous business. You can help out your villagers by researching loom and grant them extra hit points and armor. However, loom costs 50 gold and researching it could slow your build order down if you aim for very early aggression. Also, sometimes you just don’t have the time to have it researched before you have to lure boars. It can happen on a Nomad map, for example.

Just watch the following clip from T90 Official YouTube channel and witness how Lierrey turns a bad start around with two successful very early boar lures.

The Shortest Pro-Player AoE2 Game You’ll Ever See

Lierrey is a pro-player and he makes it look very easy though he comes close to lose a villager. However, many a player have lost many a villager in unsuccessful boar luring attempts.

A few weeks back, a new meme was born to mock William McNabb who went on Twitter and asked the following in the wake of two more U.S.A. mass shootings and argued in favor of assault weapons:

Legit question for rural Americans – How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?

I’m not making this up. I found the original tweet back for you.

It became an instant internet success (click on the link to read Joey Cosco’s very entertaining account of this viral moment). Of course, since Age of Empires 2 players have to face the danger of wild boars every early game, they just had to join in on the fun and they came up with some memes of their own.

Not to hit you too hard and too soon with some concrete historical knowledge, but it was actually well-known in the Middle Ages that wild boar hunting was a dangerous business. The sole encounter of a sus scrofa (to call the wild boar by its latin scientific name) could lead to an ineluctable death. I just happen to know of a few stories about muredrous medieval piggies.

Should I briefly narrate two of those stories to you?

The Pigs that Killed Kings

Illuminated manuscript. Bernardus Guidonis. Flores chronicorum.
Death of Prince/King Philip (1131) – Besançon, BM, ms. 677, f. 67v

October 13, 1131. Paris.

The City of Light was still haloed in darkness but the sun was high and bright on that fine and long-forgotten Tuesday. Prince Philip was only fifteen years old but he rode his horse as proud as a peacock.

He had many followers behind him. Not only was he a Prince, you see, he was actually a King. He’d been introduced to the fine art of ruling the realm at the ripe age of three years old. Six years later, he’d been coronated and anointed along his father at Reims. The rolls of chancery called him rex designatus or rex junior. His kingly title was therefore the most official thing.

The Capet Kings had taken the habit of crowning their successors and give them the regal title before their passing to ensure the future of their dynasty and favor the transition from an elective monarchy to a hereditary one.

Prince Philip was born on a windy day. His father was fat and his mother ugly. His Greek name was yet quite uncommon for his time, though he’d been called after his grand-father, Philip I.

Philip I had had a Byzantine princess for mother. Some unverifiable sources state that she descended from Macedonian Kings of old. That’s why, maybe, she gave her son the name of Alexander the Great’s father. It quickly caught up, however, and soon the name “Philip” was just as common as “Eudes” or “Raoul”.

Since he’d been anointed at Reims, Prince Philip was believed to have curing powers that he could channel through his hands. It was a gift that all the Kings of France shared and it made him a holy man despite his youth.

Until the age of seven, Prince Philip remained in the company of ladies, that fed and cared for him. From then on he had the task to educate himself and to become a man. Such a noble achievement could only come through the arts of horse riding and weapon-wielding. It comes as no surprise then that Prince Philip, aged fifteen, ventured outside Paris on a hunting party.

Or maybe did he just escaped the city for a ride in the countryside with his friends? We do not know. Meanwhile, his father remains very busy in the capital, mustering his troops to face a few rebellious lords.

As evening lights dawned on Paris and the sun descended below the horizon, Prince Philip came back from his ride in the countryside and passed through a suburb. That is when the accident happened.

It all flashed in a minute and there was nothing anybody could have done.

A pig ran into the legs of Prince Philip’s steed. The horse panicked. The young King lost balance and fell from his horse. His head hurt a rock. The steed then trampled Prince Philip, fell and crushed him.

The fifteen-years-old King was somehow still alive and was brought to the nearest house but he was certainly doomed. His father was informed of the accident, rushed to his bedside and cursed the devil-sent pig. Prince Philip died overnight. The pope, who was en route to Reims, changed his travel plans to attend Prince Philip’s funerals in Paris.

Never a death was deemed more unjust than this one. It was describe with the all the darkest words known to the Latin language: misera, miserabilis, horrenda, horribilis, atrox, turpis, ignominiosa, invidiosa, sordida, infamis, immunda. It left a stain on the new regal dynasty that was difficult to overcome. However, the Capets managed to get over the dishonor Prince Philip’s death caused. He was buried within the next twelve days and his little brother, Louis, was anointed at Reims by the pope himself, shortly after that.

Philip’s fat father and ugly mother also decided to conceive a new child and to name him after their first born. This second Prince Philip, who never became King, received powerful ecclesiastical charges. Nonetheless he gave up the bishopric of Paris to Pierre Lombard. But that, my friends, is a story for another time.

Do you want to know more about the pig that killed a king? I would advise you to read Michel Pastoureau’s monograph: Le roi tué par un cochon (Paris: Seuil, 2015).

Illuminated manuscript. Giovanni Boccacio. De Casibus Virorum Illustrium. Laurent de Premierfait.
Death of Philip the Fair, King of France (1314) – Paris, BnF, fr. 226, f. 267v

The next story, for now, will tell you how Philip the Fair died, two centuries after Prince Philip, in 1314. It was more epic, however, since this time it happened during an actual hunting party, in a deep dark forest and not in the suburbs or Paris. It also enflammed the rich imagination of several great contemporary novelists of ours, as you shall see.

November 4, 1314. As the cold winds of winter closed in on the kingdom of France, its king chose to lead a hunting party in the cursed forest of Halatte. That is where Louis V met an untimely end in 987. The forest of Halatte had already taken one king. It could take another. Philip the Fair, however, didn’t let it scare him away. He plunged into the forest and hunted a wild boar with the vigor of a young man. He found a beast. He injured it. The beast threw itself under the feet of the king’s steed. Then, just like Prince Philip in 1131, Philip the Fair failed to maintain his balance and fell over. He broke his leg and the wild boar charged him. The beast was slain but King Philip IV proved to be badly injured. He was carried out of the forest and brought to Fontainebleau. He wished to stay alive until the day that a specific holy saint was celebrated. However, he died from his injuries a few days before the date. Many clerics saw that as a form of divine punishment. Philip the Fair hadn’t been very protective of the Church. He’d minted counterfeit money and robbed the Templars of all their belongings after he destroyed their order.

The untimely death of Philip the Fair and his harsh political choices actually gave birth to the legend that he’d been cursed by the Grand Master of the Knights Templar when the latter was burned at the stakes by order of the king. That curse then supposedly ran through many generations and it ultimately led to the Hundred Years’ War.

This legend served as the core concept of the best-selling novel series The Accursed Kings (originally published in French under the following title: Les Rois Maudits) written by Maurice Druon. It is worth of note, moreover, that ‘The Accursed Kings’ served as a major inspiration for ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ novel series, by G.R.R. Martin. The latter doesn’t even hide his admiration towards Druon and compares him to Alexandre Dumas, calling him “my hero”, also stating The Accursed Kings are “the original game of thrones”.

Do you think it is a sheer coincidence, thus, if Robert I Baratheon, G.R.R. Martin’s character and King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, died from an unfortunate wild boar hunting party?

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The Fine Art of Luring a Wild Boar

Well! This is all fine and dandy, but let’s get down to business and talk about wild boar hunting in Age of Empires 2. The best way to collect their food is to lure them.

Legit question for Dark Age villagers: “What’s that all about?”

The Overall Concept

Spirit of the Law’s Tutorial about Wild Boar Hunting in Age of Empires 2

Let’s say you’re new to Age of Empires 2.

How do you hunt a wild boar? Do you send all your villagers right next to it, shoot it down, and transport the food back to your town center like a fresh newbie? Or better yet, do you build a mill next to the boar to facilitate the food gathering?

Meh.

I know the wild boar is dangerous. I know kings have died because of it. I know very well that a single AoE2 villager stands no chance against such a beast. Yet, it is a villager alone that you have to send towards the wild boar from which you wish to collect food in order to create more villagers or early militia units.

There he goes, your villager. Look at him. Look at her! Your villager walks towards the wild boar with a bow in its hand. What do you do next?

Don’t panic.

If you want to lure a wild boar to your town center so that its food can be directly collected there, you villager will have to shoot the beast twice. Not once. Twice. If your villager injures a wild boar with only one arrow, the boar will not follow him or her. You need to tickle the beast for good. However, as soon as the boar has been shot twice, your villager must go back to your town center.

Assume that your villager is stupid because it is, indeed, a fact. Your villager will keep firing at the wild boar until he or she dies unless instructed otherwise. So don’t forget your boar hunting villager as you build a lumber camp, send another sheep to slaughter, or scout the enemy base. It will cost you food and time.

Once nearing your town center, your injured boar hunting villager (for he or she will take a few hits!) can jump into it and your villagers butchering sheep right on that very same spot can now draw their attention to the beastly wild animal and kill it.

The job, finally, is done. However, so many things can go wrong… So here are a few more tricks to add your skillset if you want to become a top AoE2 player.

Seriously, who needs loom anyway?

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Exquisite Tips and Tricks

As I’ve stated before, boar hunting is some seriously dangerous business in Age of Empires 2. Many things can go wrong and any little mistake can slow you down by messing up your precious build order. You need to be careful, however, you can’t be solely focussed on your boar hunting business as you’re boar hunting.

I know. It can be confusing but pro-players call it APM. Actions per minute. How many actions can you achieve under one single minute? In RTS games, the more, the better.

While you’re boar hunting, you still have to manage the rest of your economy, keep an eye out for your enemy, build, scout, collect other ressources. The Dark Age isn’t as easy-peasy as it seems, nor as quiet. The five first minutes of a game can sometimes definitevely show if you’ll win or lose twenty to forty minutes later!

The Farm Trick

As far as I’m concerned, Age of Empires 2 is an exploration game as much as a strategy game. I remember spending hours, as a kid, exploring every single corner of the map with my scout. I was pretty devoted to the task. I wouldn’t multitask. I would only scout. I was also super focused on the technologies that widen your line of sight like town watch or town patrol. Because who needs horse collar and double-bit axe?

If you ever play against me online, be sure I’ll outpost rush you before I ever tower rush you. I know. I’m lethal.

I was rather surprised to meet people online who hated the fog of war with their guts. They only wanted to play on all-explored or all-visible maps. And it had to go fast, too.

Hey! Don’t bully my slow villagers. I don’t even pay them any wages. Fifty food is all they get to last the thousand-year span from the Dark Age to the Imperial Age…

However, the fog of war is really what separates the wannabe pros to the real pros. I mean, look at The Viper. Not only is he, like, super cute—Debbie, beware. He’s so cool behind his glasses that he’s like a blond Sakamoto.

The Viper, also, is obsessed with his boars. So much, in fact, that he slaughters them all mindlessly and yet still wonders where they all are every once in a while. Location, location, location. The Viper is always very concerned with finding his wild boars. Now, if you happen to have scouted your entire starting base and you can’t find them, maybe that’s because they’re hidden in a little fog of war pocket. And if that ever happens, The Viper has a trick up his sleeve that can be useful to you: just build a farm over the fog of war to spot your missing wild boar.

The Viper Scouts Wild Boars by Placing Farms over the Fog of War

This is a very neat trick and one does not need witchcraft to conjure it. In order to lift the fog of war by placing a farm foundation, you need to place it on at least one tile of explored map area. That’s all folks!

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Gaia’s Line of Sight

Maybe you wonder. Why put a villager in danger if you can send your scout to lure a wild boar to your town center? Poke it twice, turn back and gallop towards your town center: job done! But, is it? The problem with the scout is that he’s too fast for the boar. Meaning a wild boar pursuing a scout will quickly lose sight of it and, at that point, drop the chase to return to its starting position.

The problem is, as T-West the Wise teaches us, that a regular AoE2 wild boar has a three tile line of sight. If you venture out of that three tile radius, the boar stops pursuing you.

However.

The really interesting thing is this.

A wild boar shares the line of sight of every Gaia unit on the map. This includes deer, wolves, birds, and even holy relics! Therefore, once you hit a boar with a scout, as long as that scout remains into the line of sight of any Gaia unit, the boar will continue to chase you.

T-West’s Tutorial about Wild Boar Hunting and Taking Advantage of Gaia’s Line of Sight

It can be quite tricky to master the skill of getting a wild boar to chase you beyond its own line of sight. The following clip shows the pro-player MbL failing at the attempt. And yet, MbL is usually so successful in AoE2 boar hunting that he got nicknamed ‘the Boar Whisperer’ and the ‘Master Boar Lamer’.

What went wrong for him here is that his scout, which tries to lure a second boar to the town center, didn’t enter the three tile line of sight of the first boar that was being lured by a villager. He left the three tile radius of the boar it was supposed to lure and failed to remain into Gaia’s line of sight. Therefore, the second boar returned to its starting position.

MbL Fails at Taking Advantage of Gaia’s Line of Sight

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The House Trick

The scout may be too fast for a boar to pursue, but the boar has no problem to chase down a villager and rip it into pieces. Nevertheless, you feel confident enough to send out a villager to lure a boar. You know you won’t forget that villager and make it turn back on time to save his or her life. But, will you? There are many sounds in Age of Empires 2 that can rattle you and distract you from your wild boar lure. I guess you know them all by now.

If you’re sending a villager to lure your second boar, the most probable sound that will distract you is the population limit alert. You’re being housed. Deal with it urgently or fear that your town center will remain idle a second to long.

AoE2 Sound. Limit population reached

You’ve build a house? Nice.

AoE2 Sound. House built

That’s when you hear this…

AoE2 Sound. Female villager death
AoE2 Sound. Male villager death

Because of your bad APM, you couldn’t save your villager on time. He or she’s been killed by the boar. What a disaster, loss of time and resource. You should just call the GG right now and forget about this whole mess.

Something else could have distracted you. If you’ve send a villager to build a forward barrack, you have a 100% chance that this villager is going to be attacked by a wolf.

AoE2 Sound. Wolf attack

By the time you go and deal with it, again, your boar luring villager will be dead.

13. Sure! Blame it on your ISP.

AoE2 Taunt. 13. Sure! Blame it on your ISP.

That’s not all. If you’re playing a team game, or a diplomacy game, maybe another player is trying to show you something on the map, and you hear that sound.

AoE2 Sound. Mark on the map

You check it out, you’re APM is still shit because you’re below the 1.5k ELO despite the fact that you’ve played AoE2 non-stop for six months, bim, you’re boar luring villager is… yet again… dead. Do you feel the rage building up?

“Good. Gooood!”

More seriously, what do you do? Please, follow The Viper’s advice and save your villager’s life with the neat and amazing ‘house trick’. Basically, what you have to do is to place the foundations of a house over a boar to stop it in its course. It is, however, very difficult to achieve properly. Your execution must be on point.

The Viper’s Tip of the Day #2

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The Scout Save

What does a diligent scout do? He scouts, he attac, but most importantly, he circles bac!

You can task your scout different missions at the beginning of a game. Scouting your base should be your first priority to find out your starting cattle (sheep, or turkeys, or cows, or whatever), your main and secondary golds, your main and secondary stones, several wood lines to chop wood from and, of course, last but not least, your boars. There should always be two (or more, depending on the map) not too far away from your town center.

Once the elementary scouting is out of the way, here are a few things your scout can do.

First, he can go on and locate the enemy base. An early scouting of your enemy can also inform you of his/her strategy depending of his/her build order. Do you see a barrack already up? Beware of the drush. You’ll soon have militia units heading your way to disturb your economy. Do you spot villagers mining stone in Dark Age? Beware of the trush! You’ll soon see enemy villagers going forward to build towers in order to deny you the access to your own resources. Therefore it is useful to send your scout towards your enemy and see what’s what.

However, your scout can do more.

Once at your enemy base, he can hit one of your enemy’s wild boar and try to bring it back to your own base. It is tricky, though, because you’ll have to cross the entire map. More on that and the laming of boars in the next section of this blog post, though.

Otherwise, your scout can also play the good stay-at-home scout and ‘push deer’ towards your town center. It is very tricky to do. Maybe I’ll develop on it in another blog post.

Eventually, another use of a stay-at-home scout is to save your villagers from boar attacks. If you manage to place your scout between your boar luring villager and the wild boar chasing him or her, you can slow the boar down and save your villager’s life.

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The Town Center Fire

At this point, the boar has been located, successfully lured and brought back to your town center. There is only one thing left to master: how to look like a total pro. You can weaken the wild boar you lure with town center fire to prevent your villagers to loose hit points and keep a full health. It is especially practical if you expect early aggression from your opponent and fear that he will ‘snipe’ your weak villagers.

The traditional build order will have you to assign your six first villagers on sheep and the following four on wood. That’s when you’re supposed to go lure your second boar. I don’t wait that long myself: I send my seventh villager straight to the nearest boar I found. I don’t know if it really matters, I’m not a pro-player. However, as you lure your first boar to your town center, you can garrison your six butcher villagers in your town center and weaken the boar by firing it twice. Be careful, though, if you kill the wild boar with the town center its food will be lost! I leave Spirit of the Law give you the full detail of it.

Spirit of the Law’s Tutorial about TC Firing a Wild Boar

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Medieval Meme
Medieval Meme – Blog Post in Progress
Fun Fact

The Devil’s Ten Commandments

Medieval Meme
Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 51v.

We find in several manuscript an illumination of a devil sitting on a tree. Every branch of the tree reads one of his Ten Commandments. Additionally, a wild boar at the bottom of the tree looks up at the devil and his commandments.

1 ~ Here is my first Commandment: swear upon God’s name as often as you can.

2 ~ Grant your body with as much delights as possible; there isn’t any other heaven.

3 ~ Come by my house anytime: it is the pub and the brothel.

4 ~ If you wish me to remember you, cover yourself with vain glory.

5 ~ Despise all poor people and love nothing but gold and silver.

6 ~ If you have nothing for yourself, take it from another, and give nothing back.

7 ~ Should you father argue with you make him fear you.

8 ~ Use wine for gambling instead of holy mass.

9 ~ Believe and witchcraft and violence: your will shall be fulfilled.

10 ~ Would you be short of money you shall take if from the Church.

Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 26v

Those Ten Commandments are given as Queen Ratio provides a moral and allegorical commentary of the wild boar which is depicted as a devilish creature. Furthermore, all of this is found, believe it or not, in a medieval hunting treatise.

It is called the Books of King Modus and Queen Ratio and reads as a long dialogue. Whereas King Modus teaches the hunting apprentice how to hunt the deer and other animals, Queen Ratio provides an allegorical reading of nature and its creatures.

If the wild boar is a devilish beast, then the deer is a Christian one. Its noble antlers are actually a figure for God’s own Ten Commandments. The deer protects itself with its antlers as the good Christian shields himself with God’s Commandments.

Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 29r

The wild boar used to be considered as a brave and mighty beast in Germanic culture. Henri de Ferrières, author of the Books of King Modus and Queen Ratio, however, turns it into the most despicable creature of the forest. Would you want to know more about that cultural shift, I’d recommend Michel Pastoureau’s book on the subject. It’s quite the page turner!

Brussels, KBR, MS 10218-19, f. 50r

Further readings:
~ Michel Pastoureau, Le Cochon. Histoire d’un cousin mal aimé (1999).
~ Les livres du roy Modus et de la royne Ratio, éd. Gunnar Tilander, Paris, Société des anciens textes français, 1932, 2 t.

Fun Fact

Are You A Good Person? ~ The Game of the Blind and the Pig

Early depiction of the game of the blind and the pig ~ Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264, f. 74v

You’re a nice and kind person, are you not? I mean, not to everybody, of course, you’d kill your noisy neighbour in a heartbeat like anybody else, but let’s say you see a blind person in the street trying to board on a bus by himself. You’ll help him—right?—because that’s the right thing to do.

You’ll even be what we can call a “good Christian.” Indeed, we read in the Leviticus (9, 17)—among many nonsensical and very outdated prescriptions—: “Do not put a stumbling block in front the blind.” Jesus himself reminds us about the blind (John 9, 3): “Neither this man nor his parent sinned.” Meaning that blindness is not some kind of divine retribution. It’s just… Shit happens bro. *Shrugs.* I’m sorry it happened to you.

You’ll forgive me being preachy there a minute, quoting the Bible and all, but we’re talking about the Middle Ages in this post and we know how important religion was during the Middle Ages. Right?

I mean, there was no way people would go against the moral prescriptions of the Church back then. Right?

It’s not like you’d gather blind people, hand them weapons and ask them to hit a dangerous moving target at the risk of hitting themselves. Right?

Right?!

Well… *Sighs.* Nope.

I found some cheese!

When you see how Dukes and Kings embraced adultery, if not debauchery, and broke their wedding vows on a daily basis—I’m looking right at you, Philip the Good!—, you can’t be too surprised when you read about blind people being pitted against a pig. In a fenced square. For the merriment of an urban crowd. Despite Jesus’ teachings.

~That last sentence was too long so I added a few periods for dramatic effect.~

This is exactly what happened on August 29th, 1425, in Paris. The Moon entered Libra that morning and it would have called for a peaceful and well ordained day, yet the people of Paris didn’t hear it that way.

The whole “Paris: City of Light” turned out to be fake news and they were totally fed up with natural disasters, unruly companies of bandits, a desultory nobility, conniving merchants and corrupt churchmen. Children were being snatched from their homes to be allegedly eaten by wolves or actually dismembered by vagrants that turned them into beggars. Young women prostitute themselves not to starve. The Seine would flood Notre-Dame and drown horses every year or so. Whenever a new army would take control of Paris the city was brutally sacked. Those were not the good old times. Just ask the anonymous author of the “Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris” how pissed he was. I mean, there’s a good reason that the people of Paris still behave like total dicks on a sunny day. They’ve endured a lot. Their streets, houses and bridges still carry the memory of those long awful years and it poisons their minds! It’s the only logical explanation for them being so disparaging all the time. It’s rooted deep down in their “stadtgeist” or city spirit DNA.

But I digress.

On August 29th, 1425, a few blind people were herded, given weapons and asked to kill a pig. The one who would kill it would win its meat. It turned into a ghastly spectacle. The blind started to hit each other, thinking they were hitting the pig. The pig would run them over and trample them. They’d have killed one another if they’d been armed with actual weapons.

It all sounds like a random anecdote but it turns out to be a very famous game from the Late Middle Ages, especially in Northern Germany, the Low Countries and in Northern France. The first actual record of such a game is dated from 1386, in Lubeck, though medieval scholars mention such events already in the 13th century.

Well, believe me, the people of Lubeck knew what they were doing.

During Carnival, the young lords of Lubeck picked out twelve healthy blinds. They made them drink to heighten their joy and spirit, then they plastered their bodies with cuirasses, equipped them with mismatched pieces of armour and put helmets on their heads but backwards to insure that they really couldn’t see anything.

[Translated from Richard (2015), p. 525]

Followed the same scene that happened in Paris, on August 29th, 1425. It turned into a bloody mess. For one thing. Pigs back then were not cute hairless pink babes. No. They were still pretty much fearless wild boars. Hoink! Hoink! They really took a page from Pumba’s book and charged head on yelling “They call me MISTER PIG. Yaaah!” Many a mighty lord faced with such a terrible foe died in the process of fighting the ungulate beast. I’ll write about it in a later post.

To even the odds, the pig would sometimes be tethered to a post or readied with a little bell. Ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! This is the sound of death. Ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! You’re dead. Ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! And the brave folks of the market place are laughing at your corpse! Ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! Isn’t it a shame that you were born blind just to die that way?

One thing is sure, John the Blind experienced a more epic and respectable outcome.

Olivier Richard gives many interpretations of this “urban ritual.” The one that really struck me though is how this parody of a fight is, actually, the parody of a fight! More especially the parody of a knightly tournament. It is not a coincidence that this game happened during Carnival in Lubeck, in 1386. Then in Paris, in 1425, it was held near the Hotel d’Armagnac, the mansion of most hated lord that the people of Paris were more than happy to deride.

Most of the time, the game of the blind and the pig was held within a series of events that would constitute a festival of some sort. When the Emperor, Maximilian of Hapsburg, came to Bruges in January 1481 with his wife, Mary, Duchess of Burgundy and Countess of Flanders, the dutiful people of Flanders organized several days of festivity. It started with a knightly tournament of the outmost noble fashion. It ended up with blind people pitted against their worst enemy: the pig.

This game would be played up until the 20th century in Flanders! However, from the 16th century onwards, the participants were not actual blinds anymore, but regular people with covered eyes. Some chroniclers share some doubts though, like Alphonse Vandenpeereboom, writing in the 17th century. He rules out the possibility that actual blinds were pitted against the pig but only because he thinks it would be too cruel. Was he right, though? Were people actually nicer in his times than they were two to five centuries ago? What would it teach us about our society as a whole?

Well… it’s all a prank and fake news anyway. #Trololo We all know blinds are actually secret Kung Fu masters that would eat you for breakfast. Isn’t that right, Hundred Eyes?

Further readings:
~ Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris de 1405 à 1449. Edited by Colette Beaune. Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1990 (Lettres Gothiques).
~ Olivier Richard, “Le jeu des aveugles et du cochon. Rite, handicap et société urbaine à la fin du Moyen Âge”, in Revue historique (2015), 675, p. 525-556.