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Joe Maccarrone




Location: Seattle, WA USA
Joined: 19 Sep 2003

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Fri 22 Sep, 2006 7:26 pm    Post subject: King Harald Hardradi, archer.         Reply with quote

This from chapter 63 of King Harald's Saga, the Battle of the Nissa (9 August 1062):

It was late in the afternoon when the armies clashed, and the battle continued all night. King Harald wielded his bow for hours on end. In the words of the poet Thjodolf:
Norway's king was bending
His bow throughout that night,
Raining a shower of arrows
On the white shields of Denmark.
Bloody spear-points opened
Holes in iron armour;
Shields were pierced by arrows
From Harald's deadly dragon.


I'll bet that bow was made with a draw commensurate with Harald's legendary strength. Interesting description of his bow as a 'deadly dragon,' and I suspect that 'spear points' here refers to the type of arrowhead, since the passage is otherwise entirely about Harald's use of his bow. Perhaps these were similar to 'bodkin' points, or it was translated as 'spear' for lack of another word...

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Alex Oster




Location: Washington and Yokohama
Joined: 01 Mar 2004

Posts: 410

PostPosted: Fri 22 Sep, 2006 8:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm really too tired to look it up, but there seemes to be at least one mention of a hero with a great bow in Japanese history books as well. Something about him using it to sink some of the landing crafts the mongols sent over. My thoughts wander to the fact that there are similar tales in different cultural histories. I wonder how many other referances claim similar tales.

I'm with you on the translation thoughts. The "8 man" bows must have been incredible to see in use. I can only imagine the shock impact on moral when such wounds were inflicted from such distances.

The pen is mightier than the sword, especially since it can get past security and be stabbed it into a jugular.
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Joe Maccarrone




Location: Seattle, WA USA
Joined: 19 Sep 2003

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Fri 22 Sep, 2006 8:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Alex!

I don't get the impression that the author of King Harald's Saga, Snorri Sturluson (writing 150 years later), was given to great exaggeration to pump up the mythology surrounding Harald. His neutral tone lends an intriguing air of credibility to the whole saga. This account of Harald's skill with the bow may be apocryphal, as some other tales in the saga likely are, but it feels authentic enough in its context. However, the court poet Thjodolf, whom Snorri is quoting, was an Icelandic poet in the employ of Harald, so even if Snorri is not exaggerating, we can't account for Thjodolf.... Big Grin
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Patrick Kelly




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

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PostPosted: Fri 22 Sep, 2006 11:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Harald Hardrada is one of those fascinating characters that the 11th century seems to be so full of. I honestly don't think he's received the recognition he deserves. Like many of that age, he's been overshadowed by William the Conqueror and often unjustifiably so.

Regarding this poem: I think we moderns often tend to put too much literal translation into old writings like this. The term "spearpoints" may very well have been a descriptor of a specific type of arrow head, or it may simply have been the writers way of evoking an image in the mind of the reader or the audience, we simply don't know. Modern writers and entertainers are constantly criticized for making huge technical errors in their work, as well as taking quite a bit of creative license. There's no reason to believe their forbearers were any different.

By all accounts Hardrada was an above average man, both in physical stature and conniving mind. Too bad he was a big sissy at Stamford Bridge by letting his men leave their mail on the ships. Wink
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Alex Oster




Location: Washington and Yokohama
Joined: 01 Mar 2004

Posts: 410

PostPosted: Sat 23 Sep, 2006 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick just brought a horrifying thought to my mind this morning: what if the old scribes were as bad at "historical accuracy" as our modern hollywood "scribes" (and I use that label loosely)
Eek!

Where I am not familiar with this saga your referencing, I have to say, if its much like the nordic sagas my freund refers to all the time, then artistic license might be a heavy influence.

Wasn't it established that armor was commonly painted and blued? Yet we have the term "shining armor" in our language today. Lots of good thoughts come from this topic of "was it real or artistic license".

The pen is mightier than the sword, especially since it can get past security and be stabbed it into a jugular.
This site would be better if everytime I clicked submit... I got to hear a whip crack!
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Sep, 2006 11:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"knights in shining armour", as far as i can guess, refers to 16th cent. "white" Lancer cavalry, as opposed to "black" pistoliers or cuirassiers. (Everyone knows you have to be a lot more bad ass to charge into close combat at 30km/h, on top of about a ton of psychotic barded Destrier.)
Lancers DID polish their armours to mirror polish, as a part of the image. (or rather, their squires polished their armours to mirror finish)

As for archery in the sagas, there are several accounts of high ranking archers, Especially during ship to ship combat.
In Sverre's saga, King sverre and Earl Filitus both use crossbows during a naval battle in 1198.
Archery is among the "sports" that a kingsman should master, according to the kingsmirror, (about 1250)
High ranking kingsmen and wealthy levies are required to own a "bow or crossbow, with two dozen arrows". (Law of King Magnus LagabÝter, and Hirdskraa, both ca 1270)

As for the wording in the poem, norse skalds used a LOT of metaphors, to make the words rythme; skaldic poetry rytms on the first sylable in the word, rather than the last.

"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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Joe Maccarrone




Location: Seattle, WA USA
Joined: 19 Sep 2003

Posts: 161

PostPosted: Sat 30 Sep, 2006 4:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree -- the 11th century was a fascinating time, with some inspiring characters. That century has been the focus of a lot of my reading in the past year. As a side note, two books I recommend highly are the Atlas of the Year 1000 by John Man, and The Year 1000 by Lacey and Danziger.

I'm still working my way through King Harald's Saga (I tend to read many books at once, so it takes me a while to finish any of them...). Here's an interesting comment from chapter 79, referring to the Housecarls of King Harold Godwinson of England, compared with the men of King Harald of Norway:
...but there were others who said that England would be very hard to conquer -- it was very populous, and the warriors who were known as the king's Housecarls were so valiant that any one of them was worth any two of the best men in King Harald's army.
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