Falconry in Fantasy

Falconry shows up regularly in fantasy, both books and movies.  It’s a good way to add dimension to a world and to give it a time period.  It’s also something that can make a character seem impressive.  It adds that “Wow, the guy is carrying a falcon” effect.  With only about 2000 falconers in the country, plus the several hundred bird trainers that work at zoos and other facilities, odds are pretty good that most of the readers and viewers that interact with this ancient sport will not have much of a knowledge base.  This means that many authors take the shortcut of making it up.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those readers with no knowledge.

I have never been a falconer (although I was married to one for a while) but I do have a reasonable background in the care and training of birds of prey.  Since falconry has been around for 4000 years, we figure the techniques they use are pretty well established.  Why fix it if it isn’t broken?  This means that I am fairly well-versed in hawking and could probably find my way around a medieval mews without a guide.

If I come across falconry in a movie or book that is done incorrectly, I lose all respect for the author.  The reverse is also true.  If I find an author with a well-researched, accurate description of a mews (Cecilia Dart-Thornton has an excellent example in one of the books of her Bitterbynde trilogy.) I know that he or she has taken their time to do their homework.  I will now give them credibility in all areas, not just falconry.

Of course, knowing this about myself means that I have a drive to make sure I do my research.  If I’m including something with which I am less than familiar, I want to make sure that the reader who may know more than me doesn’t figure that out.