Being a Faire Fewterer

This section is for the individual participant in a group. We hope to provide information for both newly converted "mundanes" and die-hard Rennies.

What is a Fewterer?

The fewterer was the keeper and handler of the greyhounds in medieval and Renaissance society. They took the hounds in "couples" into the fields for the hunt, and released them at the appointed time. While being a fewterer was a peasant's position, it was a well-respected one.

Who Had Hounds in Renaissance Society?

While the laws governing ownership of greyhounds were relaxed during the Renaissance to allow non-nobility to own greyhounds, it would not have been normal for a peasant to own one. In general, the owner of a sighthound was of the nobility, or was a wealthy merchant. These people, however, generally delegated the care of their hounds to hired help (peasants). Hunting with hounds was still reserved strictly to the nobility, though greyhounds were also favored by poachers. If you are playing the part of a peasant in a Renaissance Faire, you should refer to the hounds as "your lord's" hounds. A noble character with a hound would refer to it as his/her "favored" hound, as a nobleman might have many dozens of hounds, and would only personally handle his most favored hounds. Highly favored hounds might live in the lord's home.

Were Renaissance Greyhounds Different from Modern Greyhounds?

Yes and no. Certainly, a modern greyhound would look right at home in the Renaissance. However, the curly or wire-haired greyhound which existed at the time was bred out during later times. This variety was eradicated in English, Irish and American bloodlines. It does still exist, however, in the Spanish greyhounds, also known as Galgos. One must also keep in mind that the concept of breeds as we know them today did not exist at the time. Hounds such as the Deerhound and Wolfhound may often have been referred to as greyhounds. Written records of the time usually refer to hunting hounds as running hounds (scent-hounds), lymers (a specially-trained running hound), greyhounds, and alaunts (a cross between a greyhound and a heavier hound like a mastiff). With the exception of greyhounds, most of these names referred to types of hounds rather than actual breeds.

Is My Hound Right for Faire?

This is a question every Faire fewterer should ask of each of his or her hounds. All hounds at Faire must absolutely be good around all ages of people, including small children. Faire is a very crowded and chaotic environment, there is no way you can reliably keep your hound away from small children. And patrons have a reasonable right to assume that any animal brought by a participant is safe. If you think your hound might have any kind of aggression problems toward any kind of person, it is best to leave that hound at home. If you have a good permanent base of operations, like a booth or pavilion, dogs that are shy or do not like to walk in crowds may not be a problem. Just don't force them out into the crowd, and keep a close watch on them to make sure they don't get stressed or upset. Remember to always keep a close eye on your hound's mood. Even the best, most experienced Faire hound can get stressed from over-stimulation and/or exhaustion. When stressed or tired, your hound may get a very short temper. Always remember to rest and water your hound sufficiently. Remember also to reward your hound with praise when they behave well in a stressful situation.

What About Me? What Do I Need to Do?

First, you must decide what class of person you are going to be. Peasants are rather easy, since they do not require complex and expensive costumes, nor do they require complex character histories. Merchant or nobility class, on the other hand, can be enjoyable for those with good costuming skills who like to dress up very fancy. Once you decide what class you are to be, a simple character history is a good thing to have. This helps you develop the personality of your character, and to explain why you have sighthounds. If your Faire gives workshops, I highly recommend you attend them. You will learn a lot about working at Faire, and about acting. You will also get an introduction to "Basic Faire Accent" (BFA). Some workshops will also hold costume swaps, where you can get some basic used costume items at a really good price.

What About My Costume?

First, it's called garb. Some veteran Rennies will get downright indignant if you refer to it as a costume. There are a number of sites in the resources section devoted to garb. However, you must keep some things in mind. Avoid synthetic fabric at all cost. First, it is easily recognizable as being out of place. Second, it is much more uncomfortable for long days in the sun. Specifically, it traps heat, and prevents evaporation. Cotton and Linen are good materials, with linen being more period-correct. Cotton existed, but was very expensive. Wool is also a good choice, and is surprisingly comfortable even in warm weather, so long as the fabric is not too heavy. Linen is a very good choice for warm weather, as it wicks away moisture without absorbing as much as cotton does. Fabrics were generally solids, stripes, checks or plaids, though highly ornate embroidery was common for the upper-class. Be sure to eliminate all "anachronisms" from your person before Faire. Sunglasses are out of the question, though clear glasses for those who require correction are permissible. A hat is highly recommended, and is required by some Faires for participants. For women, a snood is often sufficient, however, when walking in the sun, a wide brimmed hat is highly desirable. Cell-phones, pagers and other such items should be left at home. If you absolutely cannot do without them, be sure to silence them, and never, ever, talk on your cell-phone while in the public areas.

Anything Else I Need?

As a matter of fact, yes. You will need a water container and a drinking vessel. You can find them at some of the shops listed in the resources section, or you can purchase them at Faire. A water-skin is a perfect container, and a good tankard is the perfect drinking vessel. I recommend leather, wood or pewter tankards rather than pottery, as a tankard on your belt tends to bump into a lot of things. Pewter tankards are best if they do not have glass bottoms. Be sure to get a tankard-strap to attach your tankard to your belt. If you're squeamish about drinking out of the same container as your hound, you may also want to get a "noggin" or "porringer", which is a small bowl with a handle on the side, which you can also hang from your belt. This will allow you to give your hound some water while you're walking the grounds. Note that water-skins come in different sizes. Large ones obviously hold more water, but they can also get quite heavy and can cause shoulder or neck pain. I have two of them, one large one I keep at the booth, and one small one I carry with me when I walk the grounds.

Can I Dress Up My Hound?

Yes. Fancy collars are absolutely appropriate for period sighthounds. These hounds were highly valuable, and thus were treated accordingly. For a leash, a simple leather lead is appropriate. Do not use nylon leashes, even the most inexperienced patron can see it doesn't belong. Blankets/coats for your hound in cool weather are also appropriate. Just remember that the same rules for fabrics and designs apply for them as they do to you.

What do I do at Faire?

This isn't as silly a question as it may seem. Yes, you are there to promote adoption, and you probably already know what to tell people about adoption. However, that is not what the patrons expect from you! The patrons expect you to provide entertainment for them, which is just fine, as it helps you in your desire to promote adoption. You are just as much a representative of the Faire as you are of sighthound adoption. Remember to look patrons in the eye, and cheerfully greet them as they pass by you. This, far more than your costume, identifies you as someone who works there, rather than someone who just dressed up to go as a patron. By initiating conversation with the patrons, many of them will stop to talk to you, or to pet your hounds. This, of course, is exactly what you want! From here, you can tell them about the historical significance of sighthounds, or about adoption, depending on what they are interested in. It doesn't matter which they want to hear, as either one helps them to understand and feel more connected to the hounds.

Don't forget to wander by the shops! You will learn which shops like the hounds, and which do not. In truth, many of them are quite fond of the hounds, as they draw attention. Some shop owners at the Faires I attend keep special treats just for the hounds! Shop owners are sometimes interested in adoption as well. Just remember that if the shop is crowded, you should stay clear rather than get in the way of the customers.

Oh, and know where all of the bathrooms (privies) are. Patrons assume if you work there, you can give good directions, and the most asked-for destination is the privies. Knowing where other places are is also very valuable, so make sure you have a map with you at all times if you don't know where everything is.

Above all, be courteous and friendly, you want to leave people with a lasting positive impression of you and your hounds.