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Old Today, 05:03 AM   #1
bocephus
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Default The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

The thread about "Cauldrons" prompted me to wonder about this prevailing theme in fantasy of the travelling "Tinker"

Quote:
Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
This is one of the primary functions of a "Tinker" was to mend pots, its one of the reasons villagers would welcome or at least not be hostile to these outsiders.

Which actually makes me wonder how accurate is the modern ideal of a "Tinker" who travels around sharpening blades, mending pots, and trading in the small essentials like pins, salt, whetstones, fabrics, etc... Im opening a new thread for this....
Is this a real thing, or an extrapolation of something that has just become such a standard in the TL1-3+ fantasy and medieval fiction landscapes.

Even as I said it, I started to wonder if this was actually a historical thing, or just a trope that has become so common it became its own fact. I can rationalize the idea, and it seems very reasonable. However I cant help wonder if it ever actually occured?

Im not looking for a GURPS explanation, Im just curious about actual real history.

This is purely a curiosity question on my part to our members that are more historically specialized than I am. I dont need it for a game Im running, nor will it alter my outlook on the world :)

Im just curious, and have enough things going on (my own campaign/players deserve some attention that I have not given lately) that I cant spend the extra time to answer this right now. So I'm farming out my curiosity.

Please and Thank you.
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Old Today, 05:13 AM   #2
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

This is definitely historical, with the word "tinker" going back as far as the thirteenth century.
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Old Today, 05:22 AM   #3
bocephus
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
This is definitely historical, with the word "tinker" going back as far as the thirteenth century.
Agreed, but this is right on the edge of TL4. I was thinking more TL2-3.

Thank you for the response none the less.

I was reading this post to my wife and she thinks is crazy that there is somewhere this is actually a discussion :) .... coming from the lady that will spend all day looking at pictures of peoples rooms, I'll just hod my tongue hehheh
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Old Today, 08:54 AM   #4
Willy
 
Join Date: Dec 2020
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

Yes it was according to german Wiki Version, I add the link just in case, the so called Rückenkrämer also known as " Kiepenkerl " after the basket they used freely translated into back merchants used a " Reff "
a carrying device to transport their goods. I couldn´t descript it even the translator failed the task. The person shown in the photo at the german entry is carrying such a device on his back. According to the german Wiki it goes back at least until medieval ages. I found a picture of a historical statue in the english Wiki including the english name but no further entry, it shows the typical basket and other common accessoirs. Here are both links.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckelkr%C3%A4mer (German )

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiepenkerl ( english )

Just to add further info one of the many historical books I read dated this back at least to the copper age. Both entrys need a lot of polish.
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Old Today, 09:24 AM   #5
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

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Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
Agreed, but this is right on the edge of TL4. I was thinking more TL2-3.
I would not describe a date in the 1200s as being on the edge of the TL3/4 boundary which is c.1450.

Sources in even Old to Middle English are highly limited due to the comparative lack of surviving materials. If you really want to go back to TL2 in Europe you're going to be looking for Latin writings.
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Old Today, 10:39 AM   #6
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

Traveling smiths were recorded as far back as the Bronze Age, if I remember correctly, as there was not enough demand for metalwork in villages to support a permanent local smith. As metalwork became more common, traveling smiths usually became more specialized, as the local smith might only deal with iron and steel while the traveling smith might deal with softer metals. In either case, they would also be merchants, carrying wares of the types of metals that they deal with.
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Old Today, 10:44 AM   #7
jacobmuller
 
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

No GURPS content
Just "historical" feedback - we were always told my great-grandfather was a tinker but then again this was locally synonymous with gypsy, or horse traders, travelling folk, and even just being Jewish but we're talking 1880s in a region that didn't have running water for another 70yrs.
So, "tinkers" were, and by some definitions are, real - come see the horse fairs and mind your manners 😁
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Old Today, 01:20 PM   #8
bocephus
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
I would not describe a date in the 1200s as being on the edge of the TL3/4 boundary which is c.1450.

Sources in even Old to Middle English are highly limited due to the comparative lack of surviving materials. If you really want to go back to TL2 in Europe you're going to be looking for Latin writings.
Right I flipped it... cause the 0 years are the 1st century. It was just a question of idol curiosity :)

Quote:
I couldn´t descript it even the translator failed the task. The person shown in the photo at the german entry is carrying such a device on his back. According to the german Wiki it goes back at least until medieval ages.
I am fair certain that I have seen similar devices being used by pretzel vendors in various cities in Germany. I remember seeing one in Frankfurt that was carrying an oven contraption on the back and his basket of fresh baked on the front.

Last edited by bocephus; Today at 03:07 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old Today, 02:24 PM   #9
William
 
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

I have seen a modern, professional, mobile knife-sharpener within the last few years.

I was living in Portugal. Every now and then I would hear an odd, tuneless whistling from the street below, but I was never sure what it was. One day, I happened to be leaving my apartment as the player came by.

It was a man pushing a modified bicycle. No longer ridable, the pedals instead drove a knife-sharpening wheel. He was playing a simple wind instrument of some kind to advertise his presence as he walked down the street.

He was clearly not wealthy at it, but it was also obviously at least a part-time gig for him. If he can make a living doing it today, I would certainly think someone could do the same in earlier centuries.
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Old Today, 03:55 PM   #10
Polydamas
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Central Europe
Default Re: The "Tinker" fantasy trope or historical occupation?

Aside from tinkers (doing small repairs and metalworking) and peddlers (selling small domestic things like pins or buttons or cloth or ribbons or knives) there were also wandering shoemakers according to the Museum of London Shoes and Pattens book. Stop when its late in the day and you find someone who needs a new pair of shoes, measure their feet, have dinner and bed and breakfast at their house, finish the shoes in the morning and hand then over for a penny or something the shoemaker needs.
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