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Eric Myers




Location: Sacramento, CA
Joined: 23 Aug 2003

Posts: 214

PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 8:25 am    Post subject: Shields Question         Reply with quote

I've been reading Bernard Cornwell's "Warlord Chronicles" about Arthur, set in 5th and 6th Century Britain, and wondered about some of his descriptions of shileds and shield use. Actually, I don't think he describes the shields shape much at all. At one point he talks about the double shield wall, with the front shields on the ground, so this sounds like a Roman tactic (which would fit the story). On the other hand, he also talks about carrying shields either reversed or upside down, to demonstrate peaceful intent. It seems any shield could be reversed (though I'm not sure how you would do it), but so many shields through history were symetrical shapes, and had only geometric designs, how would anyone know they were upside down?

I suspect some of the explanation for all this is poetic license, but I'm posting in the Historical Arms forum because I'm curious about the historical reality of some of these things. What were the pre Saxon British shields like? Round? Celtic oblongish? Roman squarish? Norse/Saxon round? Flat?

Also, was there any symbology about reversed or upside down shields?

And from a different time period, I noticed that Patrick's Norman shield has a boss, but no handhole behind it. When did this start happening?

Thanks,

Eric Myers
Sacramento Sword School
ViaHup.com - Wiki di Scherma Italiana
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
Joined: 17 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 8:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Eric,

While I love Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles (and all of his work in general) it's obvious that he isn't a student of arms and armor. There are many fine points of creative license, so I wouldn't take his work as any kind of interperative or definitive source. I saw the shields in WC as being of either oval or round shape. The story takes place roughly one hundred years after the final roman withdrawl from Britian so I wouldn't interperate the shields as classic square roman scuta. He does mention devices being painted on shields and I think this is the reference for turning the shield upside down, so not the shield shape but rather the device is shown to be upside down.

The boss on the kite shield is largely vestigal by the 11th century. There is no information to indicate that a center handgrip was used with the boss on this type of shield. By the mid-part of the 11th century we start to see the round shield being largely replaced by the kite design in the european context. The round shield was still around as is evidenced by sources such as the Bayeux Tapestry but in decreasing numbers. The boss with the center handgrip also falls out of use at this time.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Jeff Hsieh





Joined: 26 Jan 2004

Posts: 59

PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

The Warlord Chronicles is awesome, isn't it? I have a related question: There is one scene, where Derfel fights Liofa, where he describes the swords they use. He calls them heavy, clumsy and unable to hold an edge for long. The swordsmanship is wholly dependent on feints, since an attack that misses is very slow to recover. Is this accurate for swords of that time and place? I'm asking about period originals, not reproductions in modern steel.

Thanks!

"Tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum."
- The Knights Hospitaller, 1130 AD
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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Posts: 5,678

PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff Hsieh wrote:
Hello,

The Warlord Chronicles is awesome, isn't it? I have a related question: There is one scene, where Derfel fights Liofa, where he describes the swords they use. He calls them heavy, clumsy and unable to hold an edge for long. The swordsmanship is wholly dependent on feints, since an attack that misses is very slow to recover. Is this accurate for swords of that time and place? I'm asking about period originals, not reproductions in modern steel.

Thanks!


No, that's not accurate and is one of the points of creative license I'm referring to.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 11:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Turning the shield in hand, and holding the face towards your body is sometimes used as a "i'm dead!" sign in modern viking reenactment.
But I doubt it was used in real life.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Hank Reinhardt
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Location: oxford,ga.
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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 8:23 pm    Post subject: Shields-Cornwell         Reply with quote

I really liked all of his Sharpe series, although I think he has now started doing too many of them. That often happens with a successful series. Frankly I dislike all of his medieval stuff. I just couldn't finish the Warlord series. What is quite irritating to me is that he has researched his other stuff, why not these? The information is readily available, and all he has to do is look for it. His Archer's Tale series is really bad, and yet he states he got information about longbows. The then comments on the weight of his bvow. But not drawweight. He had a seen where someone picks up his bow and remarks on the weight? Its stick for God's sake. The difference in weight between a bow pulling 150 pounds and one drawing 80 is quite small. There is another scene where he misses, and later walks over a pulls the arrow out of a tree. I"ve missed and hit a tree with a common broadhead, and the only way I could get it without chiseling it out was to get my torch and heat up the head until it burned the wood, and that was with a 75lb bow. Have done the same with a 60,. and still couldn't get it out. He also has his girl friend who he teaches to shoot, and she is shooting his bow in a short while. When you get my age you are really tired of authors retelling the Arthurian legend again. Feel the same way about the innovative directors who cleverly do Shakespeare in modern dress and let it be a ganster or some scuy nonsense. Good thing I am not the Khakhan, I would have their heads.
Hank Reinhardt
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Steve Grisetti




Location: Orlando metro area, Florida, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Nov, 2005 4:45 pm    Post subject: Re: Shields-Cornwell         Reply with quote

Hank Reinhardt wrote:
,,,His Archer's Tale series is really bad, and yet he states he got information about longbows. The then comments on the weight of his bvow. But not drawweight....

While I've not read these books, I completely agree with your feelings on this sort of error. If a person is writing about something real, then s/he should write about it realistically.

Hank Reinhardt wrote:
...When you get my age you are really tired of authors retelling the Arthurian legend again. Feel the same way about the innovative directors who cleverly do Shakespeare in modern dress and let it be a ganster or some scuy nonsense....

In my mid-50's, I am not quite your age, but feel a little differently about such things as retelling Arthurian stuff. I really don't tire of the Arthurian legend. However, where the story has 'real' things, such as weapons and armor, they should be presented realistically for the time period that is represented. Situations should be realistic. The story, however, is a legend, so I am a little more flexible on the storyline, as long as it makes sense.
I feel that Shakespeare is yet a different situation. My understanding is that Shakespeare's plays were often originally produced in an anachronistic setting, e.g., using contemporary, Elizabethan clothing, rather than the correct stuff for the historic time period represented by the story. So, showing the play in the proper historic setting, or setting it in our modern time doesn't really bother me. Also, I have seen enough of those plays that I actually like it when the director mixes it up a bit.
just my 2 piasters.

"...dismount thy tuck, be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant is quick, skilful, and deadly."
- Sir Toby Belch
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Hank Reinhardt
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Location: oxford,ga.
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Nov, 2005 7:20 pm    Post subject: Shields-Cornwell         Reply with quote

Steve, let me explain myself a littel better. First, for a very good retellingof the Arthurian legend, suggest Henry Treece, The Great Captains. Well done and quite poignant. Fifteen years difference in ages (about) means a lot of books being read. In short, just bored with the subject. Edison Marshall, Rosemary Sutcliff, all did fairly good novels based on Arthur. Several delightful fantasies as well. But Cornwell offered nothing new, and didn't make any effort to research the period. As you pointed out about Shakespeare, the basic legend has knights in full plate, so that could be an excuse, but its one that I won't buy. As for Shakespeare, I have never seen a play that has been "changed" to suit some half-baked director's ideas that in anyway compares with the original. Heinz may have 57 varieties but I prefer only one. But each to his own taste. Before I forget, Rogert Zelasny (sp?) did an excellent little novelet on Lancelot, called. "The last Defender of Camelot", if you can find it, it's pretty good.
Hank Reinhardt
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Steve Grisetti




Location: Orlando metro area, Florida, USA
Joined: 01 Mar 2004
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Reading list: 28 books

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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2005 5:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the Arthurian recommendations, Hank. I will look for those. My reading list is getting lots longer, and I never seem to have enough time....
"...dismount thy tuck, be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant is quick, skilful, and deadly."
- Sir Toby Belch
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