Gregory of Tours wrote the History of the Franks late in the 6th century. It is the most precise history that is available today about a time when Europe and the rest of the world were in constant turmoil. Europe was not the continent that it is today. There were varying tribes that were vying for dominance in the western and the northern regions. The Franks were the ruling group of France at the time, and it is through History of the Franks that the world gets a glimpse into the way the culture lived. In the Preface of Book I, Tour paints a bleak yet interesting picture.
Most writers want to grab the reader’s attention with the first sentence or at least the first paragraph, but Tours does so in a different way. He starts out by lamenting the people of his time and telling the reader up front that it will not be a book of cute stories and or one that leaves him/her longing for the days that are being recorded. He has a sarcastic tone and even admits that he is not writing because he wants to but because he has to. Hearing continually these complaints and others like them I [have undertaken] to commemorate the past. (Tour)
The Preface starts out with the admission that intellectual lives are very few and far between. They have been replaced by some good, but mostly evil works of mankind. there were many deeds being done both good and evil: the heathen were raging fiercely; kings were growing more cruel; the church. attacked by heretics, was defended by Catholics; while the Christian faith was in general devoutly cherished, among some it was growing cold; (Tours) There is an emphasis on the heathen, or uneducated people of the day. The majority of the people did not know how to read or write.
The nobility and the Church Leaders were the only ones who were educated at all and they were sent away for their education leaving the masses uneducated. This worked for the nobility and the Church leaders because education is power, and therefore, the masses had to rely on their leaders. This left it open for corrupt leaders to take advantage of those who were less fortunate. Tours, explains that because of the ignorance of the common people, who were the only ones who would tell the truth of the corruption, that unless someone like him stepped in and wrote the true history, the truth would not be told.
No grammarian skilled in the dialectic art could be found to describe these matters either in prose or verse; and many were lamenting and saying: “Woe to our day, since the pursuit of letters has perished from among us and no one can be found among the people who can set forth the deeds of the present on the written page. ” Hearing continually these complaints and others like them I [have undertaken] to commemorate the past, order that it may come to the knowledge of the future; (Tours)
He informs the audience that he too is not as educated as he should be to undertake such a writing project, however there is absolutely no one else to do the job. And although my speech is rude, I have been unable to be silent as to the struggles between the wicked and the upright; (Tours) He says that the truth is important enough for it to be told. He is like a child who has to do his/her chores for the allowance and knows that they have to be done, but has no joy in what lies ahead of them.
He goes on to explain that perhaps his crude language will be sufficient for the people who are really important and that is the majority. He satirizes the educated leaders who seem to have forgotten that there are others besides themselves and who have gotten so carried away with their rhetoric that people have an incredibly hard time understanding them. And I have been especially ¬ encouraged because, to my surprise, it has often been said by men of our day, that few understand the learned words of the rhetorician but many the rude language of the common people.
(Tours) He feels that since the majority of people are uneducated, than it is there history that should be told, and that it should be told in such a way that they can understand it. He then goes on to say that he will start the history with the beginning of the world. Tours states, 1. Adam and Eve 2. Cain and Abel. 3. Enoch the Just. 4. The flood 5. Cush, inventor of idols. 6. Babylonia. (Tours) He uses this list to symbolize just how important that these events are to the common people and that is that they are not that important at all.
In fact, the educated leaders spend a great deal of time studying these events and entertaining many theories about them. The common man/woman only knows that they happened and that is all that matters. Tours tries to portray himself as a disgruntled crude man that is only recording the History of the Franks because of necessity. However, he is clever and witty in using this way of articulation. By doing so, he is widening his audience to incorporate many more people than would read the rhetoric of the leaders.