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Mike Pollard




Location: UK
Joined: 22 Jan 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2016 1:44 pm    Post subject: 5th Century Sword Making, Myth?         Reply with quote

Hi
I was doing some research on King Arthur, (I know - eyes roll, sorry!) and had seen that someone online had written that the sword in the stone story could have come from the method of sword making around the 5th century AD.
The belief being that once a sword had been poured into a mold and had cooled only the owner of the sword was allowed or expected to take it from the mold.
That makes sense but would that have been a 5th century technique in Britain or would that be an older tradition. Or is this another myth and was never the case in sword making?

Many thanks for any reply, I do appreciate your insights.

Regards


Last edited by Mike Pollard on Sat 23 Jan, 2016 4:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joshua McGee





Joined: 14 Jun 2011

Posts: 69

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2016 2:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as I know, there are no historical battle swords that came from pouring molten iron into a mold a la Conan. Correct me if I am wrong on this anyone.

As an aside, nothing wrong with researching King Arthur; even as a myth, it played no small role in what could be considered medieval pop culture. Monty Python's Holy Grail is maybe more historically accurate than Braveheart Wink
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 493

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2016 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Certainly a myth, dark age and laters furnaces didn't achieve the temperatures needed to turn iron into a liquid. They would have killed for it, would have burned out the slag in the process, saving them allot of trouble in the forging process of trying to remove and even out slag inclusions. The Monty Python is quite funny and ironic, considering how man Manuscript text drawings there are of bunnies hunting men with bows. Also I've heard that the insult that your mother was a rodent and your father smlled of elderberries was the Medieval equivalent of saying your mom is a hooker and your dad is a drunk.
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
Joined: 28 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2016 3:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Mike, this is certainly true of bronze swords, but I'd be surprised if that memory lasted for many centuries into the iron age. Have you talked to Chris Gidlow about this? He works at The Tower of London and is a published Arthur enthusiast.
Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Tyler Jordan





Joined: 15 Mar 2004

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2016 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Griffin wrote:
Hi Mike, this is certainly true of bronze swords, but I'd be surprised if that memory lasted for many centuries into the iron age. Have you talked to Chris Gidlow about this? He works at The Tower of London and is a published Arthur enthusiast.


Would be an odd bit of carryover from bronze-age superstition, but stranger things have happened.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,278

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2016 8:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Certainly a myth, dark age and laters furnaces didn't achieve the temperatures needed to turn iron into a liquid. They would have killed for it, would have burned out the slag in the process, saving them allot of trouble in the forging process of trying to remove and even out slag inclusions.


Cast iron is no good for swords anyway. It picks up far too much carbon to be malleable or workable. You need modern foundry methods to cast any kind of usable steel, unless you only need to cast frying pans!

Matthew
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Jan, 2016 10:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For this in action, look at Chinese sword-making from the mid-Han (about 2000 years ago) onward. At about that time, the Chinese developed furnaces that would liquefy the iron, and started casting in iron. Not weapons. Agricultural tools, woks, and so on. For swords, the cast iron would be broken into pieces, heated and de-carburised, and then swords made by forging.
"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 1:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've heard people suggest that the Sword in the Stone is an echo of Bronze Age sword casting. But I would like to know where, in the Bronze Age world, was it a tradition that "only the owner of the sword was allowed or expected to take it from the mold"? It sounds like speculation to me.

I've never heard an attempt to euhemerize the Sword in the Stone myth that makes any more sense than it being just pure narrative invention. They usually just raise even more questions.
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Mike Pollard




Location: UK
Joined: 22 Jan 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 4:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi all
and many thanks for all the informative replies.

Joshua, thanks thatís great information, I will be looking to Terry Jones' writings for insights.

Philip, I hadnít thought of that aspect of the science behind the making of the sword, and yes Python again good information there.

Mark, I donít know Chris Gidlow, Iíll chase him up/his written work. Thanks, thatís a very useful lead.

Timo, thanks for that information it looks quite advanced, Iíll have to check some of that out. Thereís so much information to sift through.

Tyler, Dan, I thought it was a logical story of the sword being taken from the stone but didnĎt think it would be so old then I had found this from Theseus and the Minotaur:
Before Theseus was born his father, Aegeus, left a great sword under a stone, telling Aethra that the boy was to have the sword when he was able to move that stone away.

Matthew, Iíve been hit by an iron frying pan and it didnít bend, just ask my wife!

Hereís the low down.
I am in the early stages of writing an Ebook on King Arthur as it occurred to me that maybe it wasnít a sword he pulled from the stone, but something else (well that's going to be my spin on the story).
Then I had a couple of other ideas that seem to work from that point.
So basically Iím looking at what variations of the story are out there and to see if my idea holds water before I take it any further.

Regards
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J. Nicolaysen




Location: Wyoming
Joined: 03 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this is a fantastic book about Arthur and the post-Roman era in Britain, a very readable and historical based look at everything: http://www.amazon.com/Worlds-Arthur-Facts-Fic...+dark+ages

I'm sure you will enjoy it.

I suppose given that some fairy tales and mythologies have survived for millenia through oral tradition, there's no reason to doubt that some lore of casting could have been passed down and conflated with other secrets of the blacksmith's art. However, the unique part of only the owner of the sword pulling out the cast blade seems different, I haven't heard that part. Regardless the type of smithing in this time period simply doesn't work with casting...
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 11:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem with cast iron isn't that it bends too easily, it's that it doesn't bend enough. Something as thin as a sword blade that gets put through the same stresses would most likely crack. Cast iron cookware is much thicker and sturdier, and also it's not intended to be slammed it into things.

There are a number of ideas about what might have inspired the Sword in the Stone myth, although most of them amount to little more than an image without the meaning of the myth as received (a magical means of divining who is the secret heir to the kingship). Among them there's the idea of smelting iron from ore, and also the fact that some Steppe peoples used a sword thrust into the ground as an altar. The latter is connected to the Sarmatian theory, which proposes that Arthur's cohorts were descended from Sarmatian warriors whom the Roman empire had transferred to Britain more than a century earlier.

As you can probably guess, I don't think much of these ideas. If I were writing an Arthur story without any supernatural elements, I'd just as soon dispense with the Sword in the Stone altogether. As far as i know, the pre-Galfridian sources don't mention it, and Geoffrey of Monmouth simply says that Arthur was elected at age 15 by the other nobles, and crowned by Archbishop Dubricius.
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Mike Pollard




Location: UK
Joined: 22 Jan 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Nicolaysen
Thank you for that link I will check that book out along with a few others.
Yes it looks like the story regarding the sword from the mold, as interesting as that looks, isn't probable which helps support my idea.

Dan
I won't be going down the supernatural road in the sense of Arthur being a mystical-once and future King.
My ideas are based on what I think Arthurs' purpose may have been and in that sense an object extracted from a stone works on a parallel to the sword in the stone.
Sorry to be cryptic but I don't want to write my ideas online until I get a clear picture if the book and my ideas stand up to some more research.
If it looks like my ideas are groundless then I'll just post my thoughts and see what you think.

So far I think I can incorporate the elements of: a mystical adviser without the need to believe in the supernatural, a unique (I think) concept of the round table, an item extracted from a stone - regardless of the fact that this may never have happened - as it makes sense once we understand Arthurs' quest and the view we have of him.

Cheers
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Pieter B.





Joined: 16 Feb 2014
Reading list: 10 books

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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 6:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Pollard wrote:
J. Nicolaysen
Thank you for that link I will check that book out along with a few others.
Yes it looks like the story regarding the sword from the mold, as interesting as that looks, isn't probable which helps support my idea.

Dan
I won't be going down the supernatural road in the sense of Arthur being a mystical-once and future King.
My ideas are based on what I think Arthurs' purpose may have been and in that sense an object extracted from a stone works on a parallel to the sword in the stone.
Sorry to be cryptic but I don't want to write my ideas online until I get a clear picture if the book and my ideas stand up to some more research.
If it looks like my ideas are groundless then I'll just post my thoughts and see what you think.

So far I think I can incorporate the elements of: a mystical adviser without the need to believe in the supernatural, a unique (I think) concept of the round table, an item extracted from a stone - regardless of the fact that this may never have happened - as it makes sense once we understand Arthurs' quest and the view we have of him.

Cheers


I think we need a table historian now, did they have round tables around 600 AD? Doesn't seem like a practical item to put in a longhouse or greathall.
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Tyler Jordan





Joined: 15 Mar 2004

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Pollard wrote:

Tyler, Dan, I thought it was a logical story of the sword being taken from the stone but didnĎt think it would be so old then I had found this from Theseus and the Minotaur:
Before Theseus was born his father, Aegeus, left a great sword under a stone, telling Aethra that the boy was to have the sword when he was able to move that stone away.


I hadn't heard that one.

It seems plausible that echoes of that story could have made its way into the Arthur myth.
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Len Parker





Joined: 15 Apr 2011

Posts: 261

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 8:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Take a look at this: https://myArmoury.com/feature_stone.html
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Sancar O.





Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posts: 29

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2016 11:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm sorry but if I remember correctly, originally that sword in the Arthurian legends was not in the stone, it was in an anvil that was on a large stone.
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Mike Pollard




Location: UK
Joined: 22 Jan 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2016 3:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B.
I don't think I'll need a table expert as my round table isn't an actual table, but it is round and more likely to be associated to someone closely linked to Arthur.

Len Parker
Nice link, there are a couple of stories that look like they could be the source or have influenced the Arthurian legend.

Sancar O.
I think the Howard Pyle novel has it as a stone and anvil. That was written 1903, I'm not sure the anvil idea dates back earlier than that.

Cheers
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2016 6:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sancar O. wrote:
I'm sorry but if I remember correctly, originally that sword in the Arthurian legends was not in the stone, it was in an anvil that was on a large stone.

Dunno about originally. The 15th-century English Prose Merlin has it that way. It's based on the Merlin section of the Vulgate Cycle, but I'm having trouble finding the latter online. And that, in turn, is based on a mostly-lost poem from the turn of the 13th century, Robert de Boron's "Merlin," which is apparently also when the Sword in the Stone was first added to Arthurian legend.

FWIW, the English version of the Prose Merlin makes the anvil only a foot high. I've always pictured it as a sword stuck clear through an anvil into a stone.
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Mike Pollard




Location: UK
Joined: 22 Jan 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2016 7:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm, I found this:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/458530?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2016 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent! Sancar's right, then.
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