Sunny Side Up

Gratitude & Happiness

O, The Ones Who Are Forgotten.

on April 17, 2015

Ois for Oubliette.

I enjoy reading and watching stories in the fantasy genre, particularly if there is a Medieval aspect to them. There is always the romance, the hero’s challenge and a rescue. Some might say that the dragon is a scary feat for the knight to face, but I can think of something more terrifying. It comes in the form of a dungeon.  Yes, I know when you compare them dragons are all scaly and big and fire breathing, and the dungeon seems like just a far off room. The kind of dungeon I’m referring to, however, is not your friend if you have a fear of tight spaces or being buried alive.

Oubliettes have been referenced in literature as early as Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, in 1819, later becoming popular in 19th century gothic or historical novels as symbols of hidden cruelty and power. More recent examples include the “Chokey” in the children’s book Matilda by Roald Dahl, the rescue of Guinevere from her abductors in the movie First Knight (1995), and when Sarah falls into a pit after making a bad decision in the film Labyrinth(1986.)

What is an oubliette?

  • The term first came into use in French, 1374.
  • French for “forgotten place.” It was used for prisoners the captors wished to forget.
  • A form of dungeon which is accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling.
  • It likely consisted of a tiny, vertical shaft that was only large enough to stand without being able to crawl, kneel or turn around. It would be dark and deep enough to not be able to reach the trap door.

Some possible historical examples include a claustrophobic cell in the dungeon of Warwick Castle’s Ceasar’s Tower, England, only accessible by a hatch iron grille, and the Bastille in France. Since historical literature and buildings have created such fascination for tourists, the castle dungeons are often exaggerated for a thrill effect. In reality, they are usually only storerooms, water cisterns or latrines. Phew! I wouldn’t want to be stuck in one. 😉

Here is a video depicting the spookiness of an oubliette:

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeon
http://www.exploring-castles.com/castle_dungeon.html
Dahl, Roald. Matilda. New York: Penguin Group., 1988.
Zucker, Jerry. Dir. First Knight.  USA: Columbia Pictures., 1995.
Henson, Jim. Dir. Labyrinth. USA:Henson Associates Lucasfilm., 1986.

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