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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 5:00 am    Post subject: On the terms "historical" and "fantasy."         Reply with quote

This is something I've been wondering about lately. I've seen the terms "historical sword" and "fantasy sword" mentioned multiple times, here and elsewhere, and what fascinates me is that there seems to be a general assumption that anything that isn't historical is fantasy, and that many apparently consider the difference to be important.

(Me, I've always considered swords to be swords and left it at that. Wink )

So, just curious here; how do you guys and gals define a "historical" sword, how do you define a "fantasy" sword, and finally, is there a middle ground somewhere between them?
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 5:52 am    Post subject: Re: On the terms "historical" and "fantasy.&q         Reply with quote

This topic has been discussed before, and I think the conclusion is more or less 'to each his own' Wink

For example you have this spotlight topic of myArmoury;
What is 'historical accuracy'?

Or on SwordForum, there was this thread recently:
Historical accuracy again...

And I'm sure many more could be brought up with searches about "historical accuracy" or "historically accurate"...

The thing is that people tend to value the historical accuracy of certain aspects over others; but which aspects are focused on really depends on the person. For example my key interest in swords is how they move, how they behave when used, so I'll have different criteria than someone essentially concerned by the visual aspect. That does not mean, however, that the same sword cannot appeal to us both...

And then there is the question of how you judge of the historical accuracy of the aspects you are interested in. Just on the functionning, I started a thread (Historically accurate functioning of swords) that unexpectedly grew in length... which proves the problem is not easy. Well I suppose that if you have the heart, you could look at it as well Wink

I hope all this helps...

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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 6:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Vincent, I'll look into those. Happy

To clarify further; I'm not really looking for a definitive answer, but rather personal opinions. Varying thoughts on the matter are appreciated.
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Dan P




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 7:18 am    Post subject: Re: On the terms "historical" and "fantasy.&q         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
So, just curious here; how do you guys and gals define a "historical" sword, how do you define a "fantasy" sword, and finally, is there a middle ground somewhere between them?

That middle ground between exact replicas of known examples in museums, and wild designs with no real historical connection, is that vast number of swords which are "battle ready" and made in the style of a particular time period but not copies of any specific antique. I call this "historical plausibility"- its not known to have existed, but it well might have.
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 7:53 am    Post subject: Re: On the terms "historical" and "fantasy.&a         Reply with quote

Dan P wrote:

That middle ground between exact replicas of known examples in museums, and wild designs with no real historical connection, is that vast number of swords which are "battle ready" and made in the style of a particular time period but not copies of any specific antique. I call this "historical plausibility"- its not known to have existed, but it well might have.


Interesting. Does that mean that any sword that is "battle ready" but doesn't fit into any particular time period is per definition a fantasy sword to you? (Even if they are otherwise sensible and well-crafted tools.)
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So why historically accurate?

I think because it seems just that little bit more uncommon.

In very broad general terms, historically accurate, in this sword collecting hobby, has often been a more exclusive domain than fantasy has been. At times, to some collectors, this really matters.

Basically the vast majority of modern fantasy swords are clearly identifiable on visual inspection as modern mass production product and tools. To almost any inspector, they are clearly made using industrial fabrication processes geared primarily towards insuring a level product consistency while minimizing production costs. In the most general of senses, historically accurate swords tend to emphasize other production values much more than cost and uniformity. This often drives up the cost of historically accurate swords which is coincidently often desirable to the collector.

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 8:06 am    Post subject: Re: On the terms "historical" and "fantasy.&a         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
Dan P wrote:

That middle ground between exact replicas of known examples in museums, and wild designs with no real historical connection, is that vast number of swords which are "battle ready" and made in the style of a particular time period but not copies of any specific antique. I call this "historical plausibility"- its not known to have existed, but it well might have.


Interesting. Does that mean that any sword that is "battle ready" but doesn't fit into any particular time period is per definition a fantasy sword to you? (Even if they are otherwise sensible and well-crafted tools.)


To me any sword that has "battle ready" in its product description self identifies as a turd. Big Grin

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Justin King
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 8:15 am    Post subject: Re: On the terms "historical" and "fantasy.&a         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
Dan P wrote:

That middle ground between exact replicas of known examples in museums, and wild designs with no real historical connection, is that vast number of swords which are "battle ready" and made in the style of a particular time period but not copies of any specific antique. I call this "historical plausibility"- its not known to have existed, but it well might have.


Interesting. Does that mean that any sword that is "battle ready" but doesn't fit into any particular time period is per definition a fantasy sword to you? (Even if they are otherwise sensible and well-crafted tools.)


This is the area where many will disagree according to personal inclination and the influences they have had. The more scholarly tend to focus more on known examples exclusively because the basis of true knowledge and understanding of historical swords must be fact and not conjecture or re-invention.
On the other hand, There is certainly room for creativity in the design of swords, this is as true today as ever, and probably necessary for the craft to continue.
Where the lines are drawn between these two philosophies is something that changes for me as I learn.

There are folks today who are producing swords that are in my humble estimation probably superior in many regards to the majority of original surviving pieces, and would probably function as well if not better in their intended role. This is modern technology improving on an ancient weapon and is seperate in my mind from the study of historical weapons.
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 8:26 am    Post subject: Re: On the terms "historical" and "fantasy.&a         Reply with quote

Joe Fults wrote:

To me any sword that has "battle ready" in its product description self identifies as a turd. Big Grin


Yes, well, for the sake of this discussion we'll just assume this hypothetical battle ready blade is, in fact, a genuine article bona fide practical sword, shall we? Wink

Justin King wrote:
This is the area where many will disagree according to personal inclination and the influences they have had. The more scholarly tend to focus more on known examples exclusively because the basis of true knowledge and understanding of historical swords must be fact and not conjecture or re-invention.
On the other hand, There is certainly room for creativity in the design of swords, this is as true today as ever, and probably necessary for the craft to continue.
Where the lines are drawn between these two philosophies is something that changes for me as I learn.

There are folks today who are producing swords that are in my humble estimation probably superior in many regards to the majority of original surviving pieces, and would probably function as well if not better in their intended role. This is modern technology improving on an ancient weapon and is seperate in my mind from the study of historical weapons.


I do belive it is important to understand historical swords, even for those who -like me- prefers experimentation. As I see it, the better I understand the ideas and applications behind historical designs the more likely I am to be able to create a non-historical sword that still acts and behaves as a real weapon. Wink
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would add that one can also make the distinction between functional and decorative and these can be subdivided into historical designs and fantasy designs.

1) A genuine antique sword i.e. from the period. ( There can also be antique swords that are not from the period like Victorian era reproductions that qualify as " antiques " and can be very close or very far from what they are copying. Or even Victorian fantasy piece ! Wink Laughing Out Loud )

2) A modern reproduction of a specific period sword, made using period equivalent materials and methods. (Custom swords were even the steel is made by the maker and less extreme, Albion Museum line swords that reproduce the dimensions and handling with high precision )

( EDITED: As suggested by Vincent, next post, the A & A swords might fit better in category (2) than (3) as they are each based on a specific historical sword ).

3) A modern reproduction of a generic type of period sword plausible for the period and place. ( Albion next generation line or A & A )

4) A modern reproduction of sound construction using modern materials and maybe some non-period assembly
( Angus Trim swords as an example ).

5) Modern designs meant to be original designs but with no direct resemblance to period swords. ( Angus Trim tactical line ).

6) True fantasy based designs based on films, books, games, mythology: These can be very useable or be of very " weird " handling i.e. unusable only in the most optimistic sense.

7) I would make a whole separate category of pure display swords that can be historically or fantasy inspired but are only sword inspired objects. Some of these can be good art objects or very poor " TOSH or KITSCHY ". Oh and have little or no practical value and would fall apart if one even swung it around too vigourously.

Note: Albion, A & A, Angus Trim are given as examples of custom or quality production sword makers out there making swords fitting my definitions: Other custom makers and companies who make good swords are also out there but these are the best known and are known quantities as to their high quality.

As well, big high volume makers and sellers producing everything from very good to very bad swords depending on what one is looking for, ready to accept or afford.

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Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Sun 16 Dec, 2007 10:29 am; edited 3 times in total
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 10:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
2) A modern reproduction of a specific period sword, made using period equivalent materials and methods. (Custom swords were even the steel is made by the maker and less extreme, Albion Museum line swords that reproduce the dimensions and handling with high precision )

3) A modern reproduction of a generic type of period sword plausible for the period and place. ( Albion next generation line or A & A )


I think A & A should be in your category 2. For most swords in their catalog, they give the period original it is modeled after. So these are not really swords of a generic type...

In fact the distinction between these two cases can be hard to draw. Reproducing a damaged sword, I suppose, can involve some guesswork based on other swords that seem close (and how this is determined is essentially a matter of typology). So there is some blend between the two...

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 10:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
2) A modern reproduction of a specific period sword, made using period equivalent materials and methods. (Custom swords were even the steel is made by the maker and less extreme, Albion Museum line swords that reproduce the dimensions and handling with high precision )

3) A modern reproduction of a generic type of period sword plausible for the period and place. ( Albion next generation line or A & A )


I think A & A should be in your category 2. For most swords in their catalog, they give the period original it is modeled after. So these are not really swords of a generic type...

In fact the distinction between these two cases can be hard to draw. Reproducing a damaged sword, I suppose, can involve some guesswork based on other swords that seem close (and how this is determined is essentially a matter of typology). So there is some blend between the two...


Maybe you are right there as one could say that most if not all of the A & A swords are based on a specific historical sword.

Well, my attempt at making a " quickie " typology shouldn't be taken too seriously. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Maybe I associate the A & A swords more with the Albion next Generation Swords in the general sense of being comparably historical swords in the way they handle and in general quality.

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean,
I think you did a pretty good job, particularly as a ""quickie." I suspect a lot of swords in our forum members' collections could fit into the #3 as "Historically Inspired." Whereas museum specimens may have had hand forged furniture, ornate tooling, engraving, etc., most of us don't want to pay for all of that additional labor. I am happy with something that is very similar to known originals, but has modern material and "production short cuts" (CNC machining, castings, omission of; inlays/ gilding/ elaborate tooling, etc).

As a questionable case, I hope to eventually produce a 12th century style medieval sword that is pattern welded with hand forged furniture. This might be "historically plausible." Some have speculated that "star like" patterns described in Joan of Arc's sword may have been a twist type pattern weld. It strikes me as a "fantasy combination" of historical elements from mixed periods. Hopefully it would even turn out "battle ready!"

Maybe others out there would prefer a sword of a certain type with a reproduction grip that is a little larger than actual historical length because of comfort or preference. And yet others might re-enact with armour kits that have some period overlap just because they have need to make do with what they have collected over time rather than buying a $10,000 custom made harness all at once.

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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 1:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I would add that one can also make the distinction between functional and decorative and these can be subdivided into historical designs and fantasy designs.

1) A genuine antique sword i.e. from the period. ( There can also be antique swords that are not from the period like Victorian era reproductions that qualify as " antiques " and can be very close or very far from what they are copying. Or even Victorian fantasy piece ! Wink Laughing Out Loud )

2) A modern reproduction of a specific period sword, made using period equivalent materials and methods. (Custom swords were even the steel is made by the maker and less extreme, Albion Museum line swords that reproduce the dimensions and handling with high precision )

( EDITED: As suggested by Vincent, next post, the A & A swords might fit better in category (2) than (3) as they are each based on a specific historical sword ).

3) A modern reproduction of a generic type of period sword plausible for the period and place. ( Albion next generation line or A & A )

4) A modern reproduction of sound construction using modern materials and maybe some non-period assembly
( Angus Trim swords as an example ).

5) Modern designs meant to be original designs but with no direct resemblance to period swords. ( Angus Trim tactical line ).

6) True fantasy based designs based on films, books, games, mythology: These can be very useable or be of very " weird " handling i.e. unusable only in the most optimistic sense.

7) I would make a whole separate category of pure display swords that can be historically or fantasy inspired but are only sword inspired objects. Some of these can be good art objects or very poor " TOSH or KITSCHY ". Oh and have little or no practical value and would fall apart if one even swung it around too vigourously.

Note: Albion, A & A, Angus Trim are given as examples of custom or quality production sword makers out there making swords fitting my definitions: Other custom makers and companies who make good swords are also out there but these are the best known and are known quantities as to their high quality.

As well, big high volume makers and sellers producing everything from very good to very bad swords depending on what one is looking for, ready to accept or afford.


Very interesting! Happy

So, if I were to make a "medival-looking" sword that doesn't fit into any medival period and isn't covered by the Oakeshott typology -say, taking a much later baskethilt-style blade and sticking it in a medival cruciform hilt... that would go in category four, then? Are those within what you consider fantasy swords or are they more like borderline or something?

EDIT: Oh, and how do you define the difference between category 5 and category 6?

Obviously, swords must make some historical sense in order to be historical, but I'm curious regarding if "not making historical sense" is enough to qualify them as fantasy.

Also, here's a thought experiment:

Say I pay a good blacksmith -actually, let's go ahead and make it Peter Johnsson while we're at it- a lot of money to make me a very historicaly correct blade. But let us then say I feel like spicing it up a bit, so I then hire Jody Samson to make a very elaborate, decorative and fantastical hilt for my new sword. Somehow, be it through skill or sheer luck, the resulting weapon still behaves exactly like it would have with a historically correct hilt.

What kind of sword am I now the owner of? An unusually practical fantasy sword, or a sorta gaudy historical sword? Or someting else entirely?
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Dec, 2007 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
So, if I were to make a "medival-looking" sword that doesn't fit into any medival period and isn't covered by the Oakeshott typology -say, taking a much later baskethilt-style blade and sticking it in a medival cruciform hilt... that would go in category four, then? Are those within what you consider fantasy swords or are they more like borderline or something?


I think these would go in Jean's category 5 as they are not based on whole originals, so that functionally and aesthetically they are likely to be different. I don't think being faithful to a different period for several parts of a sword can count as historically accurate...

Quote:
EDIT: Oh, and how do you define the difference between category 5 and category 6?


I'd say category 5 implies a concern for historical functionning or durability, whereas in 6 the design is mostly driven by aesthetics. Well maybe I should let Jean talk about it, that's just the way I understood him Wink

Quote:
Also, here's a thought experiment:

Say I pay a good blacksmith -actually, let's go ahead and make it Peter Johnsson while we're at it- a lot of money to make me a very historicaly correct blade. But let us then say I feel like spicing it up a bit, so I then hire Jody Samson to make a very elaborate, decorative and fantastical hilt for my new sword. Somehow, be it through skill or sheer luck, the resulting weapon still behaves exactly like it would have with a historically correct hilt.

What kind of sword am I now the owner of? An unusually practical fantasy sword, or a sorta gaudy historical sword? Or someting else entirely?


If the hilt has the exact properties expected from the historical hilt (something not easy to determine), it's mostly the aesthetics that changed, but as they are very important and striking many would call it fantasy. Fantasy-looking would be more accurate, maybe... In fact the question also occured to me, I was considering a rapier with celtic or norse knotwork on the hilt Happy , I don't know if this happened but it does not harm the function...

A more complex classification (I like complexity Big Grin ) could use four aspects of swords:
1) performance
2) aesthetics
3) fabrication process

In each of these you can be:
a) historically accurate (witnessed on one specific original)
b) historically plausible (can be deduced from originals of one target period)
c) fantasy/modern
depending on the intent in the design (i.e. being historically accurate by accident does not count Wink ).

A modern katana forged traditionally in Japan would mark b on all aspects: If a medieval swordsmith was brought back to life and given the means, he would probably produce a sword that is b on all aspects by definition (not an exact reproduction but plausible)...

And in my opinion, from what I know:
Albion Museum line or A&A would be 1a, 2a, 3c.
Albion NextGen would be 1b, 2b, 3c.
Angus Trim's tactical line would be 1b, 2c, 3c
A typical fantasy sword would be 1c, 2c, 3c (in the intent, I mean. Obviously some traits will be shared with originals).

You thought experiment would qualify as 1b, 2c, 3c(or b, depending on the hilt's construction), something like that.

I doubt this is more clear than the very concise calssification of Jean Big Grin , but this is how I see things... For now Wink Thinking about it, on the whole I define 3x3=9 categories, which is just two more than Jean...

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Dec, 2007 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

O.K. I think the whole thing is a continuum of features and attributes and my " typology ", such as it is, are just judgement calls at intervals of the continuum: There can easily be overlap and tweeners, 5, 5.5, 5.85, 6 etc .... if one wanted to be fussy about subtle distinctions.

With what I would call real swords meant to be able to perform as swords one could simplify things into:

1) Historically based and close aesthetically and functionally to the real period swords, with a clear intent to base things on what was done in period. Subcategories can be made depending on how close or far materials and assembly must be close to period.( Strict reenactment criteria or much looser standards of historical accuracy depending on goal ).

2) Modern swords attempting to make functional swords that may be similar or very different aesthetically to period swords, where period accuracy is not an important priority. These may look a lot like period swords since it's a bit like trying to re-invent the wheel: The hub caps might look different but the odds are high that the thing is going to be " round " if it's going to function properly. Square wheels might be " creative " but they are not a functional improvement ! Razz Laughing Out Loud ( JOKE ).

Oh, these can have very modern aesthetics and futuristic materials: If " UNOBTANIUM " is ever discovered we could have razor sharp swords that never dull of notch even if cutting reinforced concrete pillars, as well as never rust, break or take a set. Hummmm, they might even be of memory metal that would self-repair over night ! Put your dinged and notched sword in it's scabbard for the night and wake up the next morning with a pristine blade! ( Also a JOKE, but on my wish list ).

3) True fantasy swords including some with type #2 above priorities to purely aesthetic " ART " swords possibly with very negative handling features.

All of the above can be well done, well designed or bad design, bad execution. Also, priced in proportion to objective quality or way overpriced " JUNK ". One can have the goal to make #1, #2, #3 or tweeners with a bit of everything mixed in but one can also make very good or very bad examples of each.

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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Fri 21 Dec, 2007 12:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting stuff, this. Happy

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Oh, these can have very modern aesthetics and futuristic materials: If " UNOBTANIUM " is ever discovered we could have razor sharp swords that never dull of notch even if cutting reinforced concrete pillars, as well as never rust, break or take a set. Hummmm, they might even be of memory metal that would self-repair over night ! Put your dinged and notched sword in it's scabbard for the night and wake up the next morning with a pristine blade! ( Also a JOKE, but on my wish list )


To be honest, I've never ever even considered materials to be an issue. I've always thought it obvious that swords should be made out of steel, at least until we invent something better. Wink
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Tom B





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PostPosted: Sun 20 Jan, 2008 7:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For some of us, Historically accurate would normally include of the following:

-copy of a surviving weapon.
-various surviving sword/dagger components of a rough time period assembled into a generic weaponfor the period. Mush the way Musuem Replicas constructs alot of teir swords.
-Built to original designs using original methods of construction.

And for fantasy well, think conan the barbarian, somethign that looks wicked, but would snap the minute it hit a real piece of steel. For reference material, go look in the cheaper then dirt catalog, or the local "knife" display case at your local junk store.
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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Jan, 2008 8:46 am    Post subject: Fantasy swords         Reply with quote

Hey Tom,

Let's not get too down on Conan the Barbarian swords. i own two Jody Samson custom "fantasy" swords, and they are built very strongly! Were they created with a sharpened (i.e. forged-in) edge, I would pit them against anything Albion, A&A or other "historically accurate" sword makers offer. Just because a "Conan" sword is "fantasy", doesn't mean it's not a good sword. Wink Yes, I'll agree that most fantasy wall hangers are pieces of junk, and yes, historically accurate swords do offer a greater perception of what "real" swords were like back in the day, but since a "real sword" is one that must function as a true battle weapon should, then I would say that just becasue a sword is a new design or has no representative in past history, doesn't mean that it can't be a reliable, good handling weapon. Just my two cents. Happy

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Jan, 2008 9:13 am    Post subject: Re: Fantasy swords         Reply with quote

Christopher Gregg wrote:
Hey Tom,

Let's not get too down on Conan the Barbarian swords. i own two Jody Samson custom "fantasy" swords, and they are built very strongly! Were they created with a sharpened (i.e. forged-in) edge, I would pit them against anything Albion, A&A or other "historically accurate" sword makers offer. Just because a "Conan" sword is "fantasy", doesn't mean it's not a good sword. Wink Yes, I'll agree that most fantasy wall hangers are pieces of junk, and yes, historically accurate swords do offer a greater perception of what "real" swords were like back in the day, but since a "real sword" is one that must function as a true battle weapon should, then I would say that just becasue a sword is a new design or has no representative in past history, doesn't mean that it can't be a reliable, good handling weapon. Just my two cents. Happy


Maybe the word " Fantasy " is being overused if it's being applied to all swords that are not historically based or close copies of known historical swords.

One could add a variety of non-historical swords types: Art swords, modern design swords, movie or litterature inspired swords, performance swords and maybe other types I'm forgetting about. Lets also make the distinction between any sword that could be used and functionally practical and wild designs with negative handling qualities and " swordlike objects ".

Keeping this short otherwise I'll just be repeating what I said in one of my earlier posts
( If I haven't just done that already. Razz Laughing Out Loud ).

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