Monday, 22 September 2014

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 3: Swords

The W.A.R. swords
The 'Broadsword'
The 'not so broadsword'

The W.A.R. Armoury, Part 3
Items: Swords

Whoops!  What was originally intended to be an occasional series has become so sporadic it has almost disappeared entirely!

Introduced so long ago that Nazgul feels obliged to remind you what the devil this series is all about, the short version of the story is that in a moment of madness Nazgul purchased from Hugin a substantial proportion of his old props, weapons and armour as featured on a myriad of demos and albums over the years.  It's not as if Nazgul is trying to monopolise the second-hand market in all things Hugin, you understand, as many of these items had been publically advertised on Hugin's Facebook page for quite some time before Nazgul made his offer.  But as it turns out, no one else seemed to want to own these interesting items and the logic of keeping this stuff all together with Hugin's musical output does make a lot of sense (even though the antiquated wooden floors of the Castle Library creaks and groans alarmingly with the weight of these items pressing down upon it).

For a reintroduction to this series, do take a look at Part One when some particularly weighty chainmail was examined, and also Part Two when Hugin's flail was put to good use.

Assuming you're now up to speed and longing to hear about some other sharp and dangerous objects, let's get on with the subject of today's post: Hugin's swords!  Now, the photos accompanying this post will have given you a flavour for how they were used in promotional shoots in the past, and it has to be said that they are fine specimens of bone-crushing weaponry.  Nazgul has two swords in his collection, and in the fine tradition of a Crocodile Dundee meme ("that's not a knife: THAT's a knife!") one is significantly - even hilariously - larger than the other.  

Which reminds Nazgul of the merry rhyme of the young man from Devizes, whose balls were of different sizes, but that's a story for another day and certainly not for an audience as refined and polite as those of you reading Honour and Darkness...

Where were we?  Ah yes, the swords!  There are many, many types of sword depending on size, shape, purpose and antiquity, and poor old Nazgul is no expert in these matters.  Let us just conclude that the smaller of the two is manageable in a fight and would leave your adversary with some very nasty gashes, whilst the bigger one (which Nazgul would deem to be a two-handed broadsword or something of that ilk) is positively alarming in size.  Which brings to mind another young man, this time from Nantucket, but once again a much needed sense of propriety comes into play!

Having professed ignorance of sword classifications, it should be noted that to my eye this pair are similar in style to the classic Viking sword.  A weapon of the Viking Age, it was a development of the Roman spatha, evolving out of the 8th century and into the classical knightly sword in the 11th century. Early Viking Age swords were pattern welded, though later blades were made of more homogeneous steel. Of particular note is the "Ulfberht" subset, which used steel of higher purity and carbon content than its peers.  Blade lengths varied from 71-84cm, and all have short single-handed hilts with triangle, lobed or cocked-hat style pommels (usually iron).  And, by and large, that's what we're looking at here.

With young Nazgul now two and a half years of age and scampering freely around the Castle causing havoc and destruction in equal measure, the original plan to have these swords mounted on the walls of the Library has been deferred, at least until the prospect of them falling on his head or having him try to reach up and touch/pull/swing on the blades has passed.  They remain hidden yet accessible, ready to be used in stout defence of the Hugin collection should an unwelcome intruder venture unwisely through the portcullis. 

And trust me, you'd not want to argue with anyone wielding these bad boys!  Though it has to be said, to actually whirl one of these things around for a period of time you'd need to be pretty fit, as they are far from light.  Indeed, having commented in the original Armoury post about the weight of the chainmail, you have to ponder how on earth fully-kitted out knights and armoured warriors had the stamina to get themselves to a battlefield without passing out from their exertions, let alone fight their way though the ensuing melee?!

You can see the length of the Broadsword against 6' Hugin... !
Of course, it's one thing to admire such items within the confines and privacy of your own castle, but what of handling them in the modern world.  What might that be like?  Let's hand over to Hugin:

"It was always funny to do the outdoor shots: the expressions on the faces of people who watched me always looked very funny and I felt like an idiot sometimes when I jumped out of the car in full amour with swords... :-)

The best shots I did were in winter 1999/2000 at the castle of Wildberg wearing only the fur and helmet at minus 10 degrees!  Brrrrr that was freezing - my fingers were sticking to the iron of the sword because of the cold!  I can imagine how knights felt in winter time in the dark ages!  Most of the shots where done with my Nikon cam by my mum - she had great fun doing it :-)  Thx mum ..."

They say an artist suffers for his art, but minus 10 degrees wearing only a small furry rug is surely above and beyond the call of duty?!  And you can just picture the slack jawed amazement of passers-by who glimpsed a 6' plus man dressed in period armour leaping from a car and waving swords, flails and other paraphernalia around in the freezing snow for a few minutes before scooting back to where he came from!  Priceless!

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