Episode 681 - Swords and armour

Apr 1, 2024

Today we're talking about swords and armour, the reality of those things and their use in fiction. I've always had a bit of an interest in swords since I was a little kid because I loved them in fairy-tales, comics and fantasy: The Three musketeers, puss in boots, Zorro, the Narnia books, Robin Hood, Errol Flynn movies, King Arthur, Conan, Asterix and more. Join us on Discord - https://discordapp.com/invite/7NpJ8GS

Topics and Show Notes

I only started seriously collecting them as an adult though when I needed the correct costume sabre to go with the hussar uniform I put together. I started with replicas and very quickly moved to buying expensive antiques. So I have a collection of real military sabres now, some over 200 years old and i've learned a lot about swords in general in the mean time.

A sword is a long piece of sharp metal with a handle at one end, it's ancient technology that's been constantly updated over the centuries. Most cultures developed their own versions, starting with bronze and then moving to steel. Swords are heavily symbolic of power, royalty, command, control, action, chivalry, and nobility.

There are many sword myths: A popular modern internet myth is to say swords were always “secondary weapons” or “side arms” in history while pole-arms with the “primary” weapon. Which is a silly simplification, the use and importance of the sword was always context based, they were “primary” weapons in many instances and situations; on the battlefield by Roman legionaries, by Hungarian hussars, Landsknechts and their giant swords, sailors and their cutlasses, by any solder who fought in a confined space, and the sword was the main civilian weapon for centuries.

Another silly myth is that Japanese katana swords were the best, lightest, sharpest, most sophisticated swords, of course none of that is true. Swords are much the same the world over with none being really better than any other, they're just better for their own particular geographical, cultural and historical contexts. “Folding” the steel in a katana is just a clever yet primitive solution to reducing the concentration of impurities in the metal, there are other, easier, better ways to do that but that method stuck because it became a tradition. And no, “European” swords were not heavier, clumsier or blunter.

Then there's the modern myth of swords being worn on the back for use, which was never done in history because any sword the size of your arm or longer is impossible to draw from the back, unless you do weird things. Swords with worn on the hip, waist, or carried on a horse generally. it looks cool but it's useless.

Another myth is that the straight swords that knights used were called “broadswords”. That term came about much later when skinny swords like rapiers, smallswords, and spadroons were popular It was a way of differentiating swords that were a bit wider than the more popular thin swords, and they usually had basket hilts.

I could nerd out much deeper and talk about pattern welding, Ulfbert swords, crucible steel, Damascus swords, tempering, differential hardening, tangs, grips, guards, rapiers, sideswords, pala, Kilij, small swords etc, but I won't! What is your favourite sword or favourite swordsperson? My fave has to be Nothung, the sword of Beowulf, just because it has such a cool name. And my fave swordsperson has to be Inigo Montoya

This week Gunwallace made up a theme inspired by Soulmates by SirMollington - A contemplative, dreamy, floaty, trip through clouds of muted colour, in a world of quiet stasis against a slow, jazzy background.

Topics and shownotes


Featured comic:
Sandra's Day - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/news/2024/mar/26/featured-comic-soulmates-by-sirmollington/

Featured music:
Soulmates by SirMollington - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/Soulmates_by_SirMollington/ - by Sir_Mollington, rated M.

Special thanks to:
Gunwallace - http://www.virtuallycomics.com
Ozoneocean - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/ozoneocean
Tantz Aerine - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/Tantz_Aerine/
Banes - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/user/Banes/

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