Friday, February 20, 2009

Swords and More

Ok, now I am a fantasy writer. In my case, this means I write story that take place in worlds I make up and they mostly use "medieval" style weapons. I put medieval in quotes because the fact is swords, shields and bows have been used in many times other than medieval, but I suppose I can live with that description.

Anyway, I want to discuss weapons a little bit. First let me mention, that until well into the late renaissance people did NOT use epee type weapons -- you know, those thin little things that are used in fencing. This is not how sword fighting was done for most of history. It evolved from the smallsword of the late 17th century into the dueling sword of the 18th and 19th centuries. They were good for the purpose because, quite frankly, it was much harder to actually kill each other. You could draw blood without, quite often anyway, actually killing someone. And these are NOT good weapons against most other swords.

BUT, I hear someone saying, your female characters HAVE to use one of these because a longsword (I prefer the term hand-and-a-half but it's long to type) is too heavy for a woman to pick up, much less use.




The typical medival longsword, my dear ones, weighed less than three pounds on average. So you mean to tell me that women can sling around thirty pound kids, heft 50 pound bags of wheat or flour, but CAN'T pick up a three pound sword. And, of course, can't learn to use one or like Mr. George RR Martin's Brienne --and I'm usually a BIG fan of Mr. Martin -- has to be a huge monstrosity in order to pick up and use a weapon. Oh, please. Mr. Martin -- give me a break on the sexism. And dragging in epee type weapons for the little helpless women to use quite ruined at least one of Brandon Sanderson's novels for me.

No. Women didn't and couldn't use weapons because they were forbidden to learn how and were never taught not because they weren't capable of it. A claymore such as William Wallace is said to have used generally weighed around 8 or 9 pounds and are two-handed swords. So a woman can't use something that weighs nine-pounds using both arms? Of couse she can.

Now smashing them together is absolutely tiring. Don't get me wrong. But it is certainly something that a woman can learn and do. To win against a larger, stronger person with longer reach, a woman with a sword uses a somewhat different technique, just like a man does when he comes up against another man who is larger.

Evidently someone (another man, mayhaps) has told many of our male writers that the largest man always wins, regardless of skill. Not so. I promise.

If you want to write about using these weapons, I do suggest trying to find a sword fighting club. They do exist, and, again, I emphasize that I am not talking about fencing which is a modern hobby which has little to do with sword fighting. (Nothing wrong with it, but they're not the same)

In a few days, I'll post a little basics on sword fighting techniques you might want to take into consideration if you want to write believable fight scenes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Elric of Melnibone could easily defeat larger and stronger opponents, but he had Stormbringer--a demonic greatsword of unusual size that could steal the souls of Elric's opponents with just a small cut. :0