The most surprising question that I’ve had at the Fortress has been: “So, if I don’t know anything about history, where do I start learning about the Ozark Medieval Fortress?” Well, there’s nothing wrong with starting at the beginning. It’s like entering through the gate. Coming to the Fortress and taking a tour is the best way to begin. In the basics, “Fortress” speaks for itself but a good start is understanding the history behind the terms “Ozark” and “Medieval”.
Arkansas is part of the country that was French from the time of the explorer La Salle in the 1680’s until we bought it from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. These mountains were called the “Region of Bows” by the French because they were impressed with the Quapaw and Osage native bows made of hedge apple wood. When a Frenchman said this, it came out as “le region aux arcs”. To an Anglo-American, that sounded like O-zarks, hence the name Ozarks.
“Medieval”, remember is not “mid” and “evil” even though the first part is often called the Dark Ages and we tend to think of dark and evil as the same. It’s actually Latin for “middle ages”. It’s that simple. It is a period of time in European history between the fall of Rome in about 500 until the Renaissance in about 1500. Rome fell to the Germanic “barbarians” or bearded guys, which may have been all worthwhile because they introduced us to pants, which beats a toga any day! Dating the Renaissance at 1500 shows a French perspective because it was earlier in Italy and later in England. It works well for Americans, though, because it is easy to remember Columbus in 1492. That works as a good date to think of as the end of the Medieval period. Renaissance was a change in thinking so drastic that it changed how we label European history. The Medieval was a time when people thought: “Life is short, I need to stay right with God”. The Renaissance was a time when people thought: “Life is short, I need to enjoy it while I can”. People often confuse and mix up these periods, especially with the American popularity of Renaissance Fairs. But if you say to a person at the Ozark Medieval Fortress in 1226 (Medieval) that we should have a Renaissance Faire, it’s a lot like telling an Amish fella he needs to lighten up and wear some pink. A Renaissance Faire has good food, which they had in the Medieval as well, but you’ll also find bawdy jokes and lyrics to songs, low-cut gowns and people pretending to be wizards and magicians. Medieval times were much more reserved. Medieval is the time of the violence of the Dark Ages (first half) and the time of the Crusades, knights and castle building in the High Middle Ages (second half).
The Ozark Medieval Fortress is dated 1226, the middle of the High Middle Ages.