Places: Hillfolk Tent

“She looked up and noticed that she was standing only a few feet from the – what does one call it on a tent?  Door implied hinges and a frame – front of the grandest tent of all.  It was white, with two wide black stripes across its peak from opposite directions, meeting and crossing in the center, and extending to the ground like black ribbons.  A black-and-white banner flew from the crossed center, the tallest point in the camp, as the tent was the biggest. ‘Go in,’ said Corlath at her side again; ‘they will take care of you.  I will join you presently.’

“Inside Harry looked around her with awe.  If the camp from the outside was white and grey and dun-colored, as dull but for the black-and-white banner flying from the king’s tent as the sand and scrub around it and brightened only by the robes and sashes some of the men wore, inside this tent – she was sure it was Corlath’s own – there was a blaze of color.  Tapestries hung on the walls, and between them were gold and silver chains, filagree balls and rods, bright enameled medallions – some of them bright enough to be shields.  Thick soft rugs were scattered on the floor three or four deep, each of them gorgeous enough to lie at the foot of a thrown; and over them were scattered dozens of cushions.  There were carved and inlaid boxes of scented red wood, and bone-colored wood, and black wood; the largest of these were pushed against the walls.  Lanterns hung on short chains from the four carved ribs that crossed the high white ceiling to meet at the center peak, above which the banner flew outside, and below which a slender jointed pillar ran from floor to ceiling.  Like pillars stood at each of the four corners of the tent, and for more braced the ribs at their centers; and from each pillar a short arm extended which held in its carven cupped hand another lantern.  All were lit, bathing the riot of deep color, shape and texture in a golden glow which owed nothing to the slowly strengthening morning light outside.

“She was fascinated by the specialties of language she was learning; there were, for example, a number of kinds of tent.  The king’s great tent, with its internal grove of poles to hold it up, was called a zotar, the only one in this traveling camp.  The smaller tents, where most of the people were housed were called barkash; the stable tents were pituin.  Then there were several terms she didn’t quite have straightened out yet that referred to how the thing was made, how many corners it had, made of what material, and so on.  A dalgut was a cheap poorly made tent; there were no dalguti in the king’s camp and to refer to another man’s tent as a dalgut, if it wasn’t one, was a profound insult.”


This post is a Place Description quoted from Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword.  I intend no slight to the author in using this excerpt, in fact I recommend that you visit your nearest library or bookstore and get your hands on the real thing.

Hmm, my last two place descriptions have been about tents or tent like temporary structures made into homes.  Its not surprising as I’ve been feeling a certain amount of wanderlust lately – a little late for the Canterbury Tales schedule of being prompted by April’s sweet showers but catching the tail end of spring.  Stay tuned for a post soon on tent-living.

2 responses to “Places: Hillfolk Tent

  1. Good quotes. Reminds me of the Tents from a Harry Potter novel where JK introduced porting. I recall they all ported to a tournament, those tents were awesome. Will add the Blue Sword to my reading list.

    • You’re so right, Michael. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the descriptions of the tents in Harry Potter (a future post?). The Blue Sword is a definite recommendation for any lover of fantasy as well. I look forward to hearing how you like it.

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