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Scott Roush
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Location: Washburn, WI
Joined: 27 Jan 2011

Posts: 452

PostPosted: Mon 24 Jun, 2013 7:54 am    Post subject: Migration ring hilts...         Reply with quote

I'm researching ideas for a Migration sword commission and I'm curious about the ring hilts. Some of them are true rings that would have function and some of them seem to be fused 'false' rings that no longer have a function. My only guess is that they retain the idea of them for more mass in the pommel?! Or there was some religious context for the ring to begin with?



Here is an example of a 'false ring'.. the first image:


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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

Posts: 483

PostPosted: Mon 24 Jun, 2013 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You get three distinct phases; starting with true ring hilts (with a free moving ring) in the late 5th or very early 6th century, then false ring hilts (made to look like a free moving ring, like your example) and,finally, stylised ring hilts (where there's no attempt to make it look like a free moving ring).

What the function of the rings at any stage was is open to interpretation although it's commonly held that the ring was a symbol of the oath sworn by the sword's owner to the lord or king who gave it to him, or even that it was the actual ring on which said oaths were sworn (in Old English, "beaga-gifa" or ring-giver is a kenning for 'king' or 'lord').

If this is the real reason then presumably the function continued even though the form of the 'ring' changed as fashions for hilt fittings evolved.

I certainly don't think it had anything to do with weight.

If you're interested in some further reading, track down a copy of Evison's "The Dover Ring-sword and Other Sword-rings and Beads" and Davidson's "Sword in Anglo Saxon England".

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Scott Roush
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Location: Washburn, WI
Joined: 27 Jan 2011

Posts: 452

PostPosted: Mon 24 Jun, 2013 10:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Matthew. That helps a lot.

I actually do have the Sword Anglo Saxon England but so far I've only been using the more technical side on it on construction.. probably time to read the rest. :-)

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R. Kolick





Joined: 04 Feb 2012

Posts: 111

PostPosted: Mon 24 Jun, 2013 4:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i thought the ring giver kenning was a reference to warrior arm ring thanks Matthew i never thought of that. as to the ring hilt im not sure where it comes from but one of the theories ive read on the free moving rings is that during times of peace or as a guest then a string could be tied to the ring on the pommel and used to tie it to the sheath to keep it from being drawn in a drunken rage or in a smiler situation. not sure how plausible this is considering the amount of wars, raids, feuds and other violent acts where carried out during this time period but its a theory
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

Posts: 483

PostPosted: Mon 24 Jun, 2013 11:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The evolution of the free moving ring into the fixed and stylised rings would seem to discount that theory.

And the rings themselves are often very small. You'd have difficulty in passing something substantial through one of them.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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