There was a time when I was deeply concerned about genealogists adopting pseudo-history into their research. Most often I see people believing they are descended from Jesus of Nazareth through the Merovingian dynasty. Oh my. This kind of thing is entertainment, not serious history.
Now I’ve found a simple way to describe the problem to people who don’t have a good grounding in History — stuff like that is Fan Fiction.
Most people I know understand the idea of fan fiction better than they understand historiography. A few months ago, someone, somewhere in my universe referred to the Book of Mormon as “Christian fanfic.” I was maybe a little shocked at first, then enchanted. That has to be the most interesting and engaging perspective I’ve encountered in 50 years of reading and thinking about it.
And not just religion; also history. If I had been smart, I would have made the leap myself. Instead, I had to wait until Ken Mondschein at Medievalists.net used fanfic to describe the Magdalene stories.
“Let’s take the perpetually popular Mary Magdalene for an example. Her latest incarnation, as a Christian symbol of the feminine and fertile, stems from Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln’s 1982 Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a sensationalistic, but extremely popular, pseudohistorical work that alleged the early medieval kings of France were descended from Christ and Mary Magdalene and that the “san graal” or “Holy Grail” was actually the “sang real,” or “Holy Blood” of Christ. This theory (if it can be called such) was picked up by Dan Brown in his unfortunate bestseller The Da Vinci Code, which became a Tom Hanks movie. However, including Brown’s fanfic of Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln’s conspiracy theory, there have been no less than four iterations of the character, each with a different history.“
Mondschein goes on to talk about medieval variations on the Magdalene legend, but I can stop here. The stories are stories. We can enjoy them, but there’s no path to claiming the characters as our actual ancestors.
- Mondschein, Ken. “Hagiography: Medieval Fanfiction.” Medievalists.net <medievalists.net>, Dec. 2019. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2019.