Dr. William Short’s “Viking Weapons and Combat”: A Review

I expected to enjoy Dr. William Short’s Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques (Westholme Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-1-59416-076-9), and I was not disappointed. I am a historical fencer and martial artist who has spent many hours sparring with weapons very similar to those Dr. Short describes, and I have long had an active interest in the Viking era. I had previously read many of the primary saga sources (such as Njal’s Saga Egil’s Saga, and the Saga of Grettir the Strong) that Dr. Short mines for information on Viking weaponscraft, but I had not realized how informative they can be when the many descriptions of fights in them are set beside each other and correlated with the archeological evidence.

For those who don’t regularly follow my blog, my wife Cathy and I train in a fighting tradition based around sword and shield, rooted in southern Italian cut-and-thrust fencing from around 1500. It is a battlefield rather than a dueling style. Our training weapons simulate cut-and-thrust swords similar in weight and length to Viking-era weapons, usually cross-hilted but occasionally basket-hilted after the manner of a schiavona; our shields are round, bossless, and slightly smaller than Viking-era shields. We also learn to fight single-sword, two-sword, and with polearms and spears. The swordmaster’s family descended from Sicilo-Norman nobles; when some obvious Renaissance Italian overlays such as the basket hilts are lain aside, the continuity of our weapons with well-attested Norman patterns and with pre-Norman Viking weapons is clear and obvious. Thus my close interest in the subject matter of Dr. Short’s book.

Dr. Short provides an invaluable service by gathering all this literary evidence and juxtaposing it with pictures and reconstructions of Viking-age weapons, and with sequences of re-enactors experimenting with replicas. He is careful and scholarly in his approach, emphasizing the limits of the evidence and the occasional flat-out contradictions between saga and archeological evidence. I was pleased that he does not shy from citing his own and his colleagues’ direct physical experience with replica weapons as evidence; indeed, at many points in the text, .the techniques they found by exploring the affordances of these weapons struck me as instantly familiar from my own fighting experience.

Though Dr. Short attempts to draw some support for his reconstructions of techniques from the earliest surviving European manuals of arms, such as the Talhoffer book and Joachim Meyer’s Art of Combat, his own warnings that these are from a much later period and addressing very different weapons are apposite. Only the most tentative sort of guesses can be justified from them, and I frankly think Dr. Short’s book would have been as strong if those references were entirely omitted. I suspect they were added mostly as a gesture aimed at mollifying academics suspicious of combat re-enactment as an investigative technique, by giving them a more conventional sort of scholarship to mull over.

Indeed, if this book has any continuing flaw, I think it’s that Dr. Short ought to trust his martial-arts experience more. He puzzles, for example, at what I consider excessive length over the question of whether Vikings used “thumb-leader” cuts with the back edge of a sword. Based on my own martial-arts experience, I think we may take it for granted that a warrior culture will explore and routinely use every affordance of its weapons. The Vikings were, by all accounts, brutally pragmatic fighters; the limits of their technique were, I am certain, set only by the limits of their weapons. Thus, the right question, in my opinion, is less “What can we prove they did?” than “What affordances are implied by the most accurate possible reconstructions of the tools they fought with?”.

As an example of this sort of thinking, I don’t think there is any room for doubt that the Viking shield was used aggressively, with an active parrying technique and to bind opponents’ weapons. To see this, compare it to the wall shields used by Roman legionaries and also in the later Renaissance along with longswords, or with the “heater”-style jousting shields of the High Medieval period. Compared to these, everything about the Viking design – the relatively light weight, the boss, the style of the handgrip – says it was designed to move. Dr. Short documents the fact that his crew of experimental re-enactors found themselves using active shield guards (indistinguishable, by the way from my school’s); I wish he had felt the confidence to assert flat-out that this is what the Vikings did with the shield because this is what the shield clearly wants to do..

There are one or two curious lapses in the book. On page 177 Dr. Short speculates on the nature of a weapon called a “fleinn” or “heftisax” attested in Grettir’s Saga. Since the saga describes it as equally suited for cutting and thrusting, Dr. Short is obviously correct to deprecate the usual translation of “pike”. But he stops there, missing an obvious etymological cue: “sax” is the Old Norse word for a single-bladed knife, and “heft” is a transparent cognate of Old High German “heft” and the English word “haft”, both commonly used of spear and polearm shafts. Beyond reasonable doubt the “heftisax” is what is called in English a “glaive”, a bladed polearm – probably with a relatively short (5- to 7-foot) shaft (Asian-martial-arts types can think “naginata” and not be far off). Having fought duels in holmgang with this weapon myself, I can attest from experience that this weapon is well suited to the sort of fight described in the saga.

Dr. Short parses some fragmentary evidence that the Vikings may have known of and occasionally used Central-Asian-style composite bows in addition to the European-style self-bow and longbow. He appears to be unaware of an important fact bearing on this debate, namely that the animal-tendon-derived glues in composite bows degraded fairly rapidly in humid climates. Thus, these bows dominated warfare in the hot dry Central Asian steppes for more than a thousand years but never gained a serious foothold in the cooler and moister climate of Europe. As far north as Scandinavia and Iceland, they would have been ruined after a few winters.

Despite these minor nits, this is an excellent book certain to be interesting to any martial artist or historian of weaponscraft with even a glancing interest in the Viking period. One could wish it were thicker, but that would be possible only if we had more primary evidence than we do. The combination of careful textual analysis with consideration of archeological evidence and a healthy dose of experimentation with replica weapons could, I think, serve as a model of its kind. This book suggests, along with some costume histories my wife has been reading, a recent tendency to take the lessons of re-enactment more seriously than historians have in the past; I think this is a positive trend that will lead to a deeper understanding of how our ancestors actually lived.

58 thoughts on “Dr. William Short’s “Viking Weapons and Combat”: A Review

  1. It occurs to me to ask: Is Spike TV’s “Deadliest Warrior” of any interest to you? With their computer “simulator” analyses, it would seem to hit your sweet spot for fighting and computer programming. I’d be interested to know if you thought there was merit to what they were doing, or if you thought the premise and/or the outcome was rubbish. Seems to me to be difficult to match people up based on calculations and statistics. I would think it would be much more realistic to just try to get experts in each field to actually fight each other over the course of a couple or few days, but getting equally-skilled-in-their-arts fighters would seem pragmatically difficult.

    ESR says: First I’d ever heard of it. I don’t watch TV.

  2. Does this book say anything about armor or do you have any idea of what armor, if any, wore the Vikings? The “popular” history depicts the Viking as unarmored, usually with a bare upper body, with a shield and battle axe and a horned helmet. What I find strange in it is that usually you would be crazy not to wear armor: it protects much more than it limits your movement, after all, a real battle is not like precise fencing in a duel but about two groups of men rapidly slashing at anything that looks like an enemy in the midst of an utter chaos. In this situation everybody would be glad to put as much armor on him as he can, and even the poorest warrior can afford some sort of leather or hide armor. So I think this naked upper body stuff must be actually bullshit. (Yes I know they were “marines” but in a leather armor usually you can swim if you can swim at all, and actually at that time even maritime folks weren’t very big swimmers. There isn’t much point in swimming in the North Sea, you freeze to death before you’d actually get anywhere.) What do you think?

    What about the other typical accessory of the “popular” Viking icon, the battle axe, was the use of that really that widespread? IMHO it makes sense to carry an axe with you if you want to be able to fell trees to build a new drakkar or something, but I’m not sure it’s actually an effective weapon, it’s just too imbalanced, isn’t it?

  3. [Hit post a bit too soon because I had to make a phone call]

    Hank unfortunately died last year with the book nearly but not completely done. His wife Toni Weisskopf of Baen finished it off and published it. It covers swords throughout history and has lots of practical data to back up the assertions made in it. From the introduction
    My research into the actual use of the weapons has been helped a great deal by the study of original sources, such as Icelandic sagas, Froissart’s Chronicles and many medieval manuscripts. In addition to this I have engaged in many experiments, such as cutting into mail, cutting armor, and testing weapons to see just how effective they are. Along with several friends, I have engaged in a great deal of sparring combat. However, this time we used padded weapons. (Wives can put an end to scientific inquiry as well as parents.)

    There have been many excellent books on the sword, particularly its development and history. The European sword has been well studied, so too the Eastern weapons, particularly the Japanese katana. Other authors have approached the study of the sword from a historical viewpoint, from Ewart Oakeshott, who wrote with an eye to classifying different types of medieval swords, to Richard Burton, describing swords around the world.

    So it may be presumptuous of me to feel that I can add to the work. But I do feel that my own experimentation and its results are well worth recording. What I intend to show in this volume is the result of a lifetime’s practical research into swords, how they were made and how they were employed, and to correct some of the incredible amount of misinformation given about swords, all types of swords.

    In addition there is this droolworthy webpage about the sale of his weapons collection – including at least 3 reproduction viking swords: http://www.hankreinhardt.com/Sale/

  4. >Does this book say anything about armor or do you have any idea of what armor, if any, wore the Vikings?

    Yes, the style of Viking armor is well known from contemporary descriptions and the book covers it in some detail. Those who could afford it wore a tunic-shaped chainmail garment and simple steel helmets (no horns – that was a 19th-century error). However, mail was expensive enough to be uncommon. Swords were uncommon as well, only being found in 16% of weapons burials in Iceland. Shields and axes were common; so were spears.

    Some Vikings did in fact fight bare-chested or clad in animal pelts; they were called “berserks”, and the word etymologically means “shirtless”. They relied on superior mobility and sheer aggression to compensate for lack of armor, and period sources confirm that they were not ineffective. Moreover, your notion that battle technique consisted of mere “rapid slashing” in the midst of chaos is very mistaken. I have fought in melee with simulated period weapons and that sort of behavior would be a fast trip to the grave-mound. Saga sources confirm that Vikings fought skillfully – picking their shots, and using formation tactics such as the shield-wall when appropriate.

    >What about the other typical accessory of the “popular” Viking icon, the battle axe, was the use of that really that widespread?

    Extremely. And there is plenty of evidence that it was an effective weapon in duel and battle, which the book also covers. You should bear in mind that the Viking axe was a much lighter and faster weapon than the American-style heavy tree-felling axes people think of nowadays when they hear the word. Most period specimens weigned less than a kilogram.

  5. >Have you read the Emberverse series? You’d be a hero among men there! That is if you weren’t eaten first…

    I think I read the first two of those around the time I started Western-sword training. Dunno about hero, but I’d certainly be what the Bearkillers call an “A-lister”. In my school’s tactical language, I’m a line fighter with command ability and some shock-trooper tendencies; that’s exactly the skillset needed for the commander of an A-list squad, and I would very likely have ended up as a Bearkiller officer (and probably one of their unarmed-combat instructors as well) if I were there and survived the initial die-off. A prospect aided by the fact that I’m a Wiccan of a kind that clan McKenzie would instantly recognize and accept. :-)

    Not that I want to live in that world, mind you. I dropped the series because I found it grim and depressing. Good on Stirling for not romanticizing low-tech life, but the result is cumulatively unpleasant.

  6. Moreover, your notion that battle technique consisted of mfere “rapid slashing” in the midst of chaos is very mistaken. I have fought in melee with simulated period weapons and that sort of behavior would be a fast trip to the grave-mound. Saga sources confirm that Vikings fought skillfully – picking their shots, and using formation tactics such as the shield-wall when appropriate.

    Exactly. If the Vikings’ fighting style were anything like this, they wouldn’t have been so successful in conquering and proliferating in so many areas in Europe and North America.

    The popular misconceptions of horned helmets, uncleanliness and general barbarian-ness are entirely incorrect. In fact, their Anglo-Saxon neighbors often commented on what they saw as “excessive cleanliness” amongst the Viking Anglo-Danish peoples.

    Basically, just like popular misconceptions about the Celts in Ireland and Wales, it’s a result of the victors getting to write the histories. Christian Monks recording details of pagan cultures almost always referred to the people of those cultures as ‘noble savages,’ and that goes for the Vikings as well. Ethnocentricity at its finest once again.

  7. What’s your opinion of Clements’s “Medieval Swordsmanship”, if you’ve read it? I thought it was pretty good, if poorly organized, and the info seemed a little spotty, but I have only a casual interest in history and didn’t feel it worth my time researching it; the reviews on Amazon were pretty divergent. I thought it better than the earlier historical sections of Burton’s much earlier “Book of the Sword”; and while I have Oakeshott’s “Archaeology of Weapons”, I haven’t read much in it, he keeps going on about details, especially of decoration, that don’t particularly interest me.

    ESR says: Haven’t read Clements. Have read Burton and Oakeshott, and agree that the the former is historically shaky and the latter doesn’t address the martial side very well.

  8. >In fact, their Anglo-Saxon neighbors often commented on what they saw as “excessive cleanliness” amongst the Viking Anglo-Danish peoples.

    Yup. We have record of Anglo-Saxon complaints that excessively well-groomed Vikings were scoring all the hot chicks. No joke.

  9. Thanks. I’ll read up on that melee thing. Too much Hollywood, like, 300, I guess. Another queston if you don’t mind: what made swords the most popular melee weapon of history given that spears 1) are cheaper 2) have distance advantage (and a close-distance disadvantage but I suppose you could mitigate that with a different grip) 3) can be thrown if you really need to (not a good idea to become weaponless but if you see a real juicy target, like, a king…) 4) easier to learn to use 5) suit better to formation tactics as opposed to individual fencing 6) penetrate armor better.

    If you’d be against a clone of yourself, you wielding a sword and the clone wielding a spear (and the clone given same amount of training in spearfight as you have in swordfight), which one should I bet on and why? What would you do to overcome the distance disadvantage and how would the clone try to prevent that (other than obvious things like stepping back or changing grip) ?

    (Sorry for the many questions, I suppose it’s fun for you to talk about these stuff, feel free to ignore them if not.)

    BTW of course I’ve heard about berserkergang but I remember something much more dramatic, like, totally naked, painted, high like a kite on mushrooms or something, wearing a wolf’s head and pelt and having been widely believed by superstitious population to be actually werewolves (or am I conflating them with similar types amongst Gauls? Anyway.)

  10. “Basically, just like popular misconceptions about the Celts in Ireland and Wales, it’s a result of the victors getting to write the histories.”

    OK, that one I know about. Britannian Celts were, for example, over-obsessed about cleanliness even by modern standards: they rubbed the hair down from their bodies with ash before every daily bath because they were afraid some dirt can be stuck under the hair, they wore no beards for exactly the same reason, and they used a different kind of soap (actually, they were the ones who invented soap itself) for the moustaches. Oh and they had a surprisingly “modern” non-tyrannical political system: elected kings, who were merely warlords, plus elected judges, who enforced the laws, and the new laws made by voting by the assembly of judges. (For these reasons I wanted to learn a bit more about Celts in a personal, not-just-books-and-internet way when I lived in Britain but I found too many superficial clowns in the Celt-fandom circles. At least in England. Some people told me I should rather try it in Scotland but I was too lazy.)

    I’m not so sure it’s just the victors writing history. Partly, yes. But I’d also chalk some up to technological/engineering awesomeness, i.e. the lack of it. They built excellent roads, but from wood, because they could not make good enough iron tools in order to build them from stone, and the wood has rotten away but the Via Appia stayed there. That’s how it works.

    But I’m not entirely convinced the Vikings were as civilized as the Celts. Too much piracy and stuff like that. How can you civilized without understanding that there is some stuff that rightfully belongs to other people? No, this isn’t anachronistic, the Celts did understood that fairly well.

  11. >Another queston if you don’t mind: what made swords the most popular melee weapon of history

    Spears are a good weapon for formation fighting in open terrain, but sword-and-shield gains the advantage in single combat – once you get past the head with a shield block the spearman is dead meat unless he’s got buddies or a backup weapon. Heck, you can take a single spear with bare hand and dagger – I’ve done it more than once despite my poor mobility, and my wife is better at the technique than I am. Yes, spear guy can choke up on the weapon but if he does that his range advantage is gone and he’s in a losing battle against a weapon much more dangerous at short range.

    Spears also lose advantage in rough or forested terrain. The Romans proved that with the right tactical doctrine, shortsword-armed troops can reliably take formations of spear-armed hoplites to pieces by exploiting superior mobility. Given equally trained and physically similar combatants at spear vs. sword, bet on the sword to win.

    >BTW of course I’ve heard about berserkergang but I remember something much more dramatic, like, totally naked, painted, high like a kite on mushrooms or something, wearing a wolf’s head and pelt and having been widely believed by superstitious population to be actually werewolves (or am I conflating them with similar types amongst Gauls? Anyway.)

    Part of that is in fact your classic picture of a Viking berserk, and not inaccurate. Foaming frenzy, check. Wearing wolf pelts and being conflated with werewolves, check. These are well established for the Viking period – there have been attempts to pooh–pooh them as literary inventions, but I don’t buy that for reasons I’ll explain in a bit. Scholars are divided on whether drugs were involved (I doubt it; no mention in period sources) and on whether berserk frenzy was in part a form of mysticism associated with the cult of Odin (there is suggestive evidence for this).

    As you seem half-aware, you have elements from pre-Vikng periods mixed in here. Fighting totally naked was more an early Gaulish thing – it was definitely associated with the cult of their war god. Vikings, as far as we know, did not paint themselves for battle. Early Gauls did, but by AD 1 that custom had been abandoned everywhere but Great Britain (British Celts also retained chariot warfare long after their continental cousins switched to horses).

    I don’t buy the drug-frenzy or literary-invention theory mainly because there is plenty of battlefield evidence for berserkergang under modern conditions. It’s a state some men enter when they’re hyper-adrenalized, especially if their culture has told them to expect it. Heck, if I picked up a sword, started chanting the name of Odin, and tore my shirt off on the battlefield, I’d half-expect to berserk myself; I have some of the traditional indicators for that capability.

  12. >Oh and they had a surprisingly “modern” non-tyrannical political system: elected kings, who were merely warlords, plus elected judges, who enforced the laws, and the new laws made by voting by the assembly of judges

    Early Viking society worked much like that, too. Later, the kings became more powerful, but Viking society never became as stratified as was normal in continental Europe.

    >But I’m not entirely convinced the Vikings were as civilized as the Celts. Too much piracy and stuff like that. How can you civilized without understanding that there is some stuff that rightfully belongs to other people? No, this isn’t anachronistic, the Celts did understood that fairly well.

    Heh. Are you really under the delusion that the Celts didn’t raid each other and their neighbors as enthusiastically as the Vikings did? The entire nation of Scotland is the result of centuries of Celtic raids on the Picts.

  13. According to some historical documents, Vikings were invited to help the Slavs stop raiding each other. That’s how Russia was born.

  14. Thanks. Very interesting. I disagree only with this part:

    “The Romans proved that with the right tactical doctrine, shortsword-armed troops can reliably take formations of spear-armed hoplites to pieces by exploiting superior mobility. ”

    The popular figure of the short-sworded Roman legionnaire is somewhat distorted. What actually made the Romans so effective was flexible combined-arms warfare and not reliance on a single kind of unit: short-sworders (who also threw javelins), spearmen, archers, siege machines (ballistae) in battlefield roles, cavalry, you-name-it. The undisputed elite of the Roman legions were the spearmen, the Triarii, consisting of the most experienced soldiers who were often kept in reserve and sent in only at decisive points of the battle. The was even a general saying in everyday life, “to have come to the Triarii”, meant the situation is really dire.

    What the hoplites used weren’t spears if a spear means something 2-3 meters/yards long. For those much longer stuff a pike (or a lance? although IMHO a lance means a cavalry pike/spear, so it’s not appropriate) would be a better term. These pikes were an entirely different story – no possibility to choke up, they were just too long, for the same reason, almost useless in one-to-one combat, and it took too long to change the facing of the unit, making them vulnerable for outflanking by nimble short-sworders or (much shorter) spearmen. These hoplites weren’t spearmen, they were pikemen.

  15. >What actually made the Romans so effective was flexible combined-arms warfare

    Depends on what period you’re talking. You’ve got yours rather jumbled up, I’m afraid.

    The Romans defeated the Alexandrian successor kingdoms (and their spear phalanxes) with armies consisting almost entirely of infantry maniples, with some token medium cavalry and no archers to speak of. Combined arms didn’t really enter the picture until the Empire imported the cataphract model from the Persians two centuries later, well after the hoplite phalanx was dead. The Marian reforms had abolished the triarii/hastatii/principes distinction in the few years after 107BCE, before the wars against the Successor dynasties reached their critical phase.

  16. > Dr. Short documents the fact that his crew of experimental re-enactors found themselves using active shield guards
    > (indistinguishable, by the way from my school’s); I wish he had felt the confidence to assert flat-out that this is what
    > the Vikings did with the shield because this is what the shield clearly wants to do..

    Since i’ve started looking into some of the sword manuals(mostly Fiore), I’ve become a bit more dubious about using the feel of a modern re-enactment bout as evidence. About 6 months ago Bob Charron came to Australia to do a workshop on the techniques in Fiore’s treatise and my one big takeaway regarding re-enactment was that our safety rules (legal blows, striking areas etc…) all act to distance it from what would have been the reality of combat at the time. It’s not like I can thrust at someones face safely with a metal weapon.

    Having said that this applies more to weapons than shields. Though i find as shields get smaller the greater the instinct to bash somone in the head with them becomes.

    > But he stops there, missing an obvious etymological cue: “sax” is the Old Norse word for a single-bladed knife, and
    > “heft” is a transparent cognate of Old High German “heft” and the English word “haft”, both commonly used of spear
    > and polearm shafts. Beyond reasonable doubt the “heftisax” is what is called in English a “glaive”, a bladed polearm –
    > probably with a relatively short (5- to 7-foot) shaft (Asian-martial-arts types can think “naginata” and not be far off).
    > Having fought duels in holmgang with this weapon myself, I can attest from experience that this weapon is well suited
    > to the sort of fight described in the saga.

    This would be worth the price of the book to me right here. One of the major “living history” gatherings in my area has historically been very anti-glaive under the premise that it’s hard to document in the dark ages (actually I think its because historically cut and thrust polearms have been very effective there). I’m just ornery enough to want to thumb my nose at them.

  17. >It’s not like I can thrust at someones face safely with a metal weapon.

    Which is why we don’t use metal weapons, but rather boffers weighted to swing like them. Our swords are built with blades of pipe insulation foam around a PVC core, all wrapped in strapping tape and duct tape. You can strike with power with these and nobody will get hurt unless you “flat”, that is hit them with the PVC core in the blade flat. Upper specialty students sometime fence with blunted steel at quarter speed, but that’s more an exhibition than a training technique. Intermediate and advanced students are trained to do a touch strike with little brute force but enough focus to sting.

    Glaives and greatswords are a different matter, they’re massive enough to be dangerous even with boffer blades. You have to have excellent force control before we’ll even think about qualifying you to use one, which is why getting cleared to use the weapon unrestricted last month was a happy-making achievement for me.

  18. ESR, have you had a chance to read stephen pressfield’s “gates of fire”?

    ESR says: I have, and enjoyed it.

  19. Thanks for the review Eric. I’ll have to put that book on my wish list.

    Now, speaking as an instructor in the style ESR studies….

    > Which is why we don’t use metal weapons, but rather boffers weighted to swing like them.

    “Boffers” would imply an SCA type weapon, which has no flats, and thus lacks the aerodynamics of a blade.

    > You can strike with power with these and nobody will get hurt unless you “flat”, that is hit them with the
    > PVC core in the blade flat.

    Sched 40 PVC will break before major bones do. Finger’s, toes, ribs, and some portions af the skull can be broken. Students in this style could seriously injure someone if they were to strike these type of targets without controlling power. Sched 80 PVC will break major bones. This is why we don’t allow student to go to Sched 80 until they have mastered control.

    > Glaives and greatswords are a different matter, they’re massive enough to be dangerous even with boffer
    > blades. You have to have excellent force control before we’ll even think about qualifying you to use one,

    You can say that again!

  20. Sched 40 PVC will break before major bones do. Finger’s, toes, ribs, and some portions af the skull can be broken.

    Bruising, however, is an entirely different matter. ;)

    Sched 80 PVC will break major bones. This is why we don’t allow student to go to Sched 80 until they have mastered control.

    Ouch. I occasionally build things with PVC pipe and roofing materials, like, for instance, the solar collectors used to heat and cool my swimming pool. For those that don’t know, Schedule 40 is the rigid pipe commonly found in household plumbing, while Schedule 80 is more common in higher-pressure and industrial applications. (There’s an even stronger material, Schedule 120, which is designed to withstand somewhat higher pressures than Schedule 80). Schedule 40 can withstand ~120-800psi while Schedule 80 can withstand ~240-1200psi.

    Schedule 40 is rigid and strong, but will break in deference to big bones like a femur. Schedule 80 is strong enough to break a femur.

    (FWIW, I started with Schedule 40, but later switched to Class 200, which is used for irrigation systems, due to the fact that it has a thinner wall and therefore better heat transfer properties than Schedule 40, aside from the fact that carries more water. Class 200 also tends to be rather cheaper than Schedule 40).

  21. Unless you have pictures or anything giving more detail, the heftisax could also be a long-handled sword, like the nagamaki or Chinese long handled broadswords, a standard sword blade with a 2 to 4 foot handle.

  22. >the heftisax could also be a long-handled sword, like the nagamaki or Chinese long handled broadswords, a standard sword blade with a 2 to 4 foot handle.

    As the Wikipedia article on the nagamaki points out “It is very much like a glaive.” Total length 4-7 feet, with the blade constituting a larger portion of the length than a European glaive – more than half the total length of the weapon, typically. So the question you’re raising isn’t really “Is it a glaive?” but “What were the blade-to-haft proportions and total length?”

    Of course, the saga does not say. But I think a form resembling a naginata or European-style glaive – long haft, short blade – is much more likely simply because saxes were short blades. The longest recorded style of sax was 24-30 inches; 12-15 inches was more typical. And Iceland was a metal-poor country. They’d use the least amount of iron they could to make it an effective weapon, Very likely the blade actually was a short sax with the tang driven into a hole in the end of the haft and bound in place, or perhaps de-tanged and welded to a riveted socket; either would produce a business end difficult to distinguish from later European glaive heads.

    Total length is harder to guess, but I’ll stick with 5-7 feet on the basic of my own experience with glaives. Shorter than that you give up more range than you want to, longer gets unwieldy and is mainly useful for formation-fighting from behind a shield-wall. Some nagamakis ran shorter but that’s probably because pre-modern Japanese were shorter, not just shorter than modern Japanese but shorter than their Viking contemporaries.

  23. > Unless you have pictures or anything giving more detail, the heftisax could also be a
    > long-handled sword

    What would be a Rhomphaia in other sources(specifically Thracian, Roman and Byzantine).

    Another reference that talks about the Heftisax in the Grettis saga says the saga describes it as having a “wooden shaft” whereas if it was a sword, I’d argue they would call it a hand grip or something similar. “Wooden shaft” to me implies a polearm or spear like weapon. Of course that all assumes nothing was lost in translation.

  24. Thinking about it, a shaft could also imply an axe weapon (one or two handed). However I’d argue against that possibility due to the “sax” in the name.

  25. A little bit off regarding swords, but regarding Vikings: one thing I’ve never fully understood about history is that first, there is a people, who are pretty much like any other people, not very numerous nor having a large land to live on. And then there is a sudden bang, an explosion of military power and they conquer half of the world. The Vikings are one example of it. What I don’t get is – how can they keep up the birth rate to do so? For the Vikings to conquer Normandy, Britain, Sicily, the land that later becomes Russia, Greenland, Newfoundland, to rob pretty much the whole coast of Europe and Africa and so on, had to increase their numbers by at least tenfold in a few generations. Just how is that possible, how could they be that fertile? And if it’s possible by normal fertility rates, then what happened before the conquest or after having been beaten, and what happened to other people who had no such boom, just where did the excess population go in these other cases? Just how doe sit work? You live for centuries in some relative small land in Scandinavia and have no more than 3-4 children reaching adulthood, and then you begin to conquer some land and suddenly you have 6-8 children reaching adulthood? Or what? Does anyone understand it?

  26. >The Vikings are one example of it. What I don’t get is – how can they keep up the birth rate to do so?

    The Vikings didn’t export a lot of population. Typically they didn’t displace the people they conquered – instead, relatively small numbers of them took over as the local elite, usually adopting the local customs and language. Type cases are Normandy, the Rus, and Sicily.

  27. Ah, now this is interesting. The Magnusson-Morris translation of Grettis Saga from 1869 says this: “the giant leapt up and caught up a glaive and smote at the newcomer, for with that glaive might a man both cut and thrust; a wooden shaft it had, and that fashion of weapon men called then, heft-sax.”

    I’ll need to check with an interlinear translation (if I can find one), but I’m going to guess that Magnussen/Morris translated “fleinn” as “glaive” and that the term “heftisax” only appears in the original saga’s gloss of the term “fleinn”.

    Looks like they drew the same inference I did a good century and a half ago. I wonder why this isn’t more generally known among saga scholars?

  28. Slightly off if you don’t mind:

    I wonder if this swordfighting stuff could solve the paradox of fitness: that obesity is such a big problem in an age when the fitness industry is so big. One of the many reasons is that the fitness industry assumes you have infinite willpower and are willing to do dull and boring exercises for the grand goal of losing weight or being fit and healthy. The idea that people would exercise more if exercise would be _fun_ doesn’t seem to occur to the fitness industry. Of course it’s not exactly a new idea – you could just, for example, play basketball or pursue the other 1000 “traditional” sports-activities, but finding enough people amongst your friends to form a team, renting a place etc. can be a headache. The ideal fitness-acivity would 1) mainly be cardio and weight loss but also it would put a bit of muscle on the arms and shoulders 2) fun like hell 3) require no bulky equipment 4) neither a lot of training 5) you could do it alone 6) even in a small hotel room.

    For swordfighting, 1-3: check, but 4-6 nope. Any ideas about this one? Would it be possible to develop the solution for the paradox of fitness as outlined above from swordfighting? Of course 2) and 5) – 6) seem like contradictions, I know that, but perhaps there is a solution.

  29. ESR, have you had a chance to read stephen pressfield’s “gates of fire”?

    ESR says: I have, and enjoyed it.

    oh, now you decide to be terse.

    did you find it a historically accurate depiction of combat in that era? did you agree with its representation of the spartan warrior ethos? do you think the latter retains any relevance in modern times?

  30. > they were called “berserks”, and the word etymologically means “shirtless”

    That’s one of two competing etymologies: the other one reads the “ber” bit as cognate with “bear” rather than “bare” and so glosses the word as “clad in bear-skin”. The editors of the OED don’t seem to consider the “shirtless” reading convincing enough to bother mentioning, but I’m not familiar enough with that particular sub-branch of Germanic philology to be able to decide one way or another. Any views?

    > We have record of Anglo-Saxon complaints that excessively well-groomed Vikings were scoring all the hot chicks.

    Something that will come as no surprise to any student of the history of the English language. What happened to Old English when the Vikings came over is regularly cited as an example that proves it’s possible for two languages to creolize in a more or less completely adstrate relationship. De-jargonized: creolization is what happens when speakers of two different languages develop a pidgin in which to communicate with one another, and then teach it to their children, and an adstrate relationship between two languages is one where neither is particularly considered to be the “prestige” tongue. You can tell that the creole spoken by the children of Anglo-Saxons and Vikings is more or less adstratal because not only do you have basic items of core vocabulary borrowed from the newcomer (“egg” and “sky” are the two classic examples) but also grammatical function words (most notably “she”; when people from the Black Country or my own native Devon say something like “her did it”, their dialect is actually being more conservative than Standard English). The usual explanation for this is that the Vikings didn’t just import a new ruling class that retained its language and didn’t mix much with the locals, but rather had great success picking up Saxon women and so immixed themselves throughout social strata.

    Contrast with this the second creolization that English underwent, this time with Norman French after William the Conqueror came over: in this case the speech of the Norman nobles formed a definite superstrate, and there was much greater violence done to noun and verb morphology. My favourite example of this: notice that most the English words for meats are French-derived – beef, mutton, venison etc. but the words for the animals that bear them remain Germanic – cow, sheep, deer.

  31. I think the idea that ancient Vikings might have some style other than what modern humans find ideal with the same basic weapon is another subconscious manifestation of the idea that humans in the past were simply dumber than humans today, an idea that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny of course but is still deeply ingrained in many of us. (It’s not entirely irrational, after all; we made all these awesome things they didn’t, it’s just that it’s wrong.) I would agree that if you hand the weapon to modern, skilled people and they tend to agree there’s a certain technique afforded, then it’s a reasonable guess the skilled people of the past came to a similar conclusion. Perhaps not proof, but very solid evidence.

  32. >did you find [gates of fire] a historically accurate depiction of combat in that era? did you agree with its representation of the spartan warrior ethos? do you think the latter retains any relevance in modern times?

    Historical accuracy with regard to combat: quite good, insofar as I could judge. However, we know almost as little about period combat techniques in that period as we do about those of the Vikings – contemporary accounts are not very informative about the details.

    Representation of the spartan warrior ethos: they left out the ugly parts. The Spartan warrior class treated not only the conquered and the helots but their own children with what we would consider appalling cruelty. There’s a recent fictional treatment of the era that doesn’t gloss over this, but it wasn’t Pressfield’s.

    >do you think the latter retains any relevance in modern times?

    Hell, yeah. “Molon labe!” is a phrase that will toll like great bells whenever men stand between overwhelming force and what they hold dear. Weapons change; tactics change; the contingencies of warfare change; the nature of courage (its instinctive ground) does not.

  33. @JonB : The long-handled swords I was referring to have wooden shafts, they were just shorter than most polearms; most descriptions and illustrations I have read or seen suggested the handles were about the same length to a little longer than the blades, and the blades were usually about normal sword lengths for the area; for example, the Chinese long-handled broadswords tend to be about 4 to 5 foot overall with an 18 to 24 inch long and fairly wide blade. The romphaea I heard described as a saber-halberd, one drawing I saw showed something with about a 25-30 inch double-edged curved blade, like a saber, and a small axeblade on the front of its base and a fluke on the back, on a fairly standard 4 to 6 foot shaft.

  34. > > In fact, their Anglo-Saxon neighbors often commented on what they saw as “excessive cleanliness” amongst the Viking Anglo-Danish peoples.

    > Yup. We have record of Anglo-Saxon complaints that excessively well-groomed Vikings were scoring all the hot chicks. No joke.

    English has been described as a language invented by Norman knights for picking up Saxon barmaids.

  35. > > Oh and they had a surprisingly “modern” non-tyrannical political system: elected kings, who were merely warlords, plus elected judges, who enforced the laws, and the new laws made by voting by the assembly of judges

    > Early Viking society worked much like that, too. Later, the kings became more powerful, but Viking society never became as stratified as was normal in continental Europe.

    Iceland is often cited as an ideal model by anarchists.

    > > But I’m not entirely convinced the Vikings were as civilized as the Celts. Too much piracy and stuff like that. How can you civilized without understanding that there is some stuff that rightfully belongs to other people? No, this isn’t anachronistic, the Celts did understood that fairly well.

    > Heh. Are you really under the delusion that the Celts didn’t raid each other and their neighbors as enthusiastically as the Vikings did? The entire nation of Scotland is the result of centuries of Celtic raids on the Picts.

    Someone clearly hasn’t read much ancient Irish literature. Cattle raiding seems to have been something between a religous ritual and an artform.

  36. > I think the idea that ancient Vikings might have some style other than what modern humans find ideal with the same basic weapon is another subconscious manifestation of the idea that humans in the past were simply dumber than humans today

    I’m not sure who you think is assuming that. My assumption is that people who were just as smart as we are, and who trained at this stuff from boyhood because their lives depended on it, would clearly have been clearly much better at it than anybody playing at (somewhat) safe simulations of it today is going to be. I’m not completely sceptical of the value of simulation to establish some idea of what is sensible/possible, but I think any differences between the simulated/reconstructed historical techniques and the real thing would go in the direction of Vikings quite plausibly having a somewhat similar range of techniques, but for sure being a hell of a lot better at them.

  37. I was actually referring directly to the stuff in Eric’s original post: “I think it’s that Dr. Short ought to trust his martial-arts experience more. He puzzles, for example, at what I consider excessive length over the question of whether Vikings used “thumb-leader” cuts with the back edge of a sword. Based on my own martial-arts experience, I think we may take it for granted that a warrior culture will explore and routinely use every affordance of its weapons.”

    I had read the conversation in the comments, but was not replying to anybody in the comments.

    I mentioned that because I’ve seen in many other contexts when it comes ancient cultures. Like the techniques that people managed to develop to raise up a Stonehenge with no modern tools; a lot of people seemed to think that anything that took us that long to work out was “obviously” beyond the druids, but it wasn’t, and if anything we should expect that people who only had the tools of the time, for their entire lives (unto several generations), would be expected to know and understand those tools better than we did. After all, they were just as intelligent as us, and had many fewer distracting topics to divert their focus from full mastery of what tools they did have. And this is also just an example of the subtle, subconscious incredulity modern humans have when encountering what the people of the past managed to pull off, not a complete list of what I’ve seen. It is a very pervasive attitude, and being educated doesn’t seem to be a prophylactic against it.

  38. if anything we should expect that people who only had the tools of the time, for their entire lives (unto several generations), would be expected to know and understand those tools better than we did. After all, they were just as intelligent as us, and had many fewer distracting topics to divert their focus from full mastery of what tools they did have.

    Excellent point. If you’ve ever sat in audience of people watching someone play the spoons, one thing you’ll notice is that people watch with incredulity the wide variation of sounds and rhythms that can be generated with that “instrument.” Even skilled musicians do that. Of course, to the spoon player, often at point in the player’s life, this was the only musical instrument he or she had access to, and therefore he or she learned to play them well. I think it’s kind of the same phenomenon and I think your point about education not being a prophylactic misses the point — education is often has the opposite effect.

  39. >After all, [our ancestors] were just as intelligent as us

    This may not be true. From the era of the earliest IQ tests to the early 1990s, psychometricians observed a steady, slow rise in average IQ that could not be accounted for by any known factors; in the literature it’s called the Flynn effect. The best guess about the cause is that quality of nutrition, especially in childhood, was usually limiting brain development to below each individual’s genetic ceiling until quite recently. If the Flynn effect is not pure artifact (and it probably isn’t), our ancestors averaged less bright than we do.

    However, I seriously doubt they averaged enough less bright to avoid exploring the entire affordance space of important weapons. They were highly motivated, and as you say had fewer distractions. So I agree with the thrust of your argument, though I think one of your assumptions is shaky.

  40. > Iceland is often cited as an ideal model by anarchists.

    Not an ideal model so much as a proof-of-concept example.

  41. Iceland Anarcho-topia:

    ‘ideal model’ is better – as in “Let’s idealize it and ignore the underlying conditions that made it work, and how even the minor alteration of those conditions changed it.”

    I’ve had this argument with David Friedman directly. Iceland’s ‘anarchy’ worked largely because until the Sturlingas, nobody could build up enough of a disparity of wealth to buy the Thing. This wasn’t some sort of anarchist ethos. This was a bunch of sheep and cattle farmers and cod fishermen living hand to mouth with negligible ability to store even basic food requirements from season to season. Even with that, as the standard of living rose, the more prominent families were coalescing into fairly conventional jarldoms; they were just too broke to do it quickly.

    This changed when Snorri Sturlingas swore fealty to the King of Norway in return for three boats of trade goods, and the exclusive right to trade to Iceland. This resulted in his family effectively controlling all aspects of Icelandic shipping, and the importation of any manufactured goods that couldn’t be made locally. The ‘anarchist utopia’ vanished within 10 years of him giving his oath, and the resulting civil war sputtered on for almost three generations.

    (I did research similar to the stuff Eric is enthused by in the topic of this blog post, and got to learn a HELL of a lot of Icelandic history from 800 to 1300 AD as a result of it.)

  42. >(I did research similar to the stuff Eric is enthused by in the topic of this blog post, and got to learn a HELL of a lot of Icelandic history from 800 to 1300 AD as a result of it.)

    There’s an active historiographic controversy about this – in which, entertainingly enough, the conventional account of the Commonwealth’s collapse favors the libertarian story. The rise of the Sturlungas appears to have followed from the gradual collapse of the go&edh;ar system, which was eroded by the Christianization of Iceland after AD 1000.

    I don’t think Ken’s account is wrong exactly, but he draws the wrong lesson from it by mistaking effects for causes. Libertarians see the go&edh;ar system of contract feudalism as a historical model of stateless law enforcement that is interesting precisely because significant external pressure from the Church and the kings of Norway was required to destroy it. The significant point is not so much that it collapsed in the end, but that it was internally stable for centuries even under that pressure.

  43. It didn’t occur to me to consider the Flynn effect because it’s not a matter of people thinking the “ancients” (a term that has become loaded by mystics, but is still literally descriptive) were just mildly stupider, but that they were radically stupider, dwarfing the Flynn effect.

  44. > From the era of the earliest IQ tests to the early 1990s, psychometricians observed a steady, slow rise in average IQ

    The era of the earliest IQ tests being however, also round about the high point of all kinds of nasty environmental factors and a nadir of nutritional quality for large proportions of the population in industrial cities. Could the Flynn effect perhaps, to some degree, be measuring a reversion to the norm?

    (I’m not *completely* discounting the possibilitiy of civilization also exerting upward selective pressure on intelligence in the longer term – the Cochran, Harpending et al argument)

  45. >The era of the earliest IQ tests being however, also round about the high point of all kinds of nasty environmental factors and a nadir of nutritional quality >for large proportions of the population in industrial cities. Could the Flynn effect perhaps, to some degree, be measuring a reversion to the norm?

    Whatever it is, it seems to’ve topped out in England, at least. They’re seeing a reversal of the trend. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/4548943/British-teenagers-have-lower-IQs-than-their-counterparts-did-30-years-ago.html)

  46. There is a strong correlation between how tall you grow and how well you are nourished. There is a similar correlation between nourishment and IQ.
    There are many accounts of the Vikings being taller and stronger than their contemporaries, while people in the Nordic countries were not taller
    than other Europeans in the middle ages.

    This is fairly strong evidence that the Vikings were better nourished than the people they raided and traded with. Viking society was without exception
    based around seashores and lakes, and they had excellent boat making skills. A staple part of the diet would consist of fish, and possibly shellfish as well.
    If fish was anywhere near as abundant as it was on my trip to Norway last week (near the arctic circle), you could eat fish every day, spending about an
    hour a day to feed your entire family. Essential vitamins and minerals would come from cereal, fruit, berries and vegetables. There would be sheep,
    pigs, goats and cows as well, supplementing with milk and meat.

    In large parts of Europe, cereal would dominate the diet. There were traditional, practical, religious and status reasons for this state of things.

    The end results were that the Vikings were stronger, smarter and bolder than their neighbors, and managed to set themselves up as a ruling
    class in many places. There is no evidence that I know of, that explains why the Nordic countries dropped back to the nourishment levels of the rest of
    Europe. I can only speculate that Christianity and an increased population pressure changed people’s habits. At any rate, the art of shipbuilding
    got lost, and in many places the understanding of how to build seaworthy small boats was lost as well.

  47. Two notes about Norse etymology; I’m not a scholar of that (or any other) language but I do speak modern Norwegian. First, in ‘berserk’ the second part ‘serk’ should be translated as ‘shirt’, ‘tunic’, and ‘ber’, modern English ‘bare’ and modern Norwegian ‘bar’, has in modern Norwegian also the meaning ‘only’, ‘alone’. So these are people fighting in “just the shirt”, rather than “bare skin”.

    Second, on ‘heft’; there are several words in modern Norwegian which look like they might be cognates:

    * ‘Skjefte’, ‘skaft’, some dialects ‘haft’ – the part of a knife or other tool (spades, rakes, spears) that you hold.
    * ‘Hefte’, noun and verb. As a verb it means to detain or delay someone, or (old-fashioned) to affix one thing to another, to stitch things together; as a noun it means ‘pamphlet’, from the way they are held together at the spine.
    * ‘Heftig’ – pronounced the same as English ‘hefty’, but meaning ‘passionate’.

    I include the last only for completeness, but the first two seem to support the glaive hypothesis. Fixing the knife to a shaft gives you the verb meaning of ‘hefte’, and then there are the nouns – a change from ‘h’ to ‘sh’ or ‘sk’ is, I think, not uncommon from Old Norse to the modern language. And as noted, in some dialects you don’t even need to change the initial consonant.

  48. >‘Skjefte’, ’skaft’, some dialects ‘haft’ – the part of a knife or other tool (spades, rakes, spears) that you hold.

    The word “haft” survives in English with the same or very similar meaning, I have no doubt it was borrowed from Old Norse via the Danelaw.

    In English, “haft” tends to be used mostly of weapons or weapon-like tools such as axes; a native speaker would know what you meant by “haft of a shovel” if you said it, but would be more likely to generate “handle” of a shovel. Furthermore, “haft” is more likely to be used if the referent is pole-shaped or at least needs to be gripped with two hands. Failing these conditions, the same object will probably be described as a “handle” or “grip”. (In connection with axes, the words “haft” and “handle” are both used, interchangeably).

    My wife points out that though bows and firearms are weapons, English “haft” is never used in connection with them; the words “stock” or “grip” are preferred instead. So usage of “haft” is not just associated with weapons, but with contact weapons.

    Does modern Norwegian “haft” have the same connotations?

    Also worth noting: “heft” survives as both verb and noun in English. To “heft” something is to lift it in an experimental way to find out how it feels in the hand; the heft of something is how it feels to lift it, a sort of subjective interpretation of mass. The related adjective “hefty” is of course common enough not to require explanation.

  49. I don’t have a strong feeling for the usage of ‘haft’; the difference between ‘haft’ and ‘skaft’ is, so far as I can tell by thinking about the matter for a few minutes, one of rural versus urban dialects. Being an urban boy myself, I would not naturally use ‘haft’, but I also do not often have occasion to refer to spades, rakes, and such. So it may be that the farmers use both and have the distinction you describe, but I cannot say with any confidence. One would not speak of either ‘skaft’ or ‘haft’ on a firearm, but rather the ‘kolbe’.

  50. If I were a rich man, and put on my armor and got together with my armored friends and killed some poorly clothed men? When I told it, they’d be berserks. Birkenleg Saga, for when that went wrong.

    Again, if the village idiot came along when we were on a raid, I might well suggest that he strip down and charge ahead of us. Beats trusting him behind me: the naked madman might well scare or even injure someone: I’d find out where the other side’s archers were.

    In Erik’s Saga he heals someone with runes. A master poet, using hypnotism and ‘magic signs’ that he believes in. Bet he could have made someone go berserk too.

  51. In my last comment I confused 2 distinct weapons:
    The romphaea was a classical Greek glaive with a two edged curved blade; visualize a double-edged naginata, probably with a broader blade, and
    The saber halberd was a 17th century German polearm, a variation of what is commonly called the Swiss halberd.

  52. I’ve been getting a 404 error on your blog’s home page all weekend. (esr.ibiblio.org). Just thought you might want to know. I don’t expect this post to appear in the blog.

    ESR says: It did, though. The 404 is a problem at ibiblio; I’be entered a trouble report.

  53. > If I were a rich man, and put on my armor and got together with my armored friends and
    > killed some poorly clothed men? When I told it, they’d be berserks.

    Could be, but when you look at the actual sagas, berserks don’t seem to work this way. I don’t believe there are any instances of berserks in raiding targets; they seem to show up mainly in the retinues of kings. Another point is that heroic poetry may flatter, but it cannot caricature. The intended audience are all warrior-class themselves, and know the difference between a peasant and a dangerous opponent; bragging is one thing, but claiming to have killed a berserk every time you ran into a peasant would set you up for laughter. Or so it seems to me; perhaps the psychology of the Vikings was different. It’s not as though they could read, just for one thing; perhaps they believed their own propaganda.

    On the subject of the size of the Norse: Modern Scandinavians are, on average, taller than other Europeans, yes. But I don’t think you can conclude from the existing historical evidence that the same was true in the Viking era. The chroniclers may be quite impressed with the size of the raiders, but what they’re not seeing is all the lower-class peasants who stayed at home when the elite, well-fed warrior class went out on raids. Conceivably, if you got together thirty Frankish noblemen, and thirty Viking warriors, the height difference would disappear; but what made the Vikings so dangerous in the first place was that they had the strategic mobility to concentrate their thirty warriors against *one* knight’s fief, and his twenty-nine scrawny peasant militia! Notice that when the battles scale up to have a few thousand men on each side, the Vikings frequently do rather badly. One longship against one village, they’re deadly; the army of the King of Norway against that of England, Scotland, or even several kings in Ireland, and as a general rule the Vikings retreat in disorder.

  54. Once Thor came back from the east and reached a river; Oden spoke to him across it. ‘Where have you been, wearing out your britches, showing your ass?’
    Thor said, ‘Breaking trolls. You?’
    Oden said, ‘I’ve been going up and down in the world, and walking to and fro in it- oh, killed those berserker witches.’
    Thor said, ‘Killing women ain’t what I call man’s work.’
    Oden said, ‘BERSERKER witches!’

    But Rolf knows his sagas and I don’t.

  55. Pingback: Pictures of vikings weapons

  56. I am trying, not very successfully, to research Viking weapons. Please don’t delete when I say this: I am an American Tribal Heathen Witch responsible for Naming our fellow members. Ordinarily this is not a problem for me. 2-3 years ago, while looking for a new member’s name, I had the impression of a sort of slender weapon, not long like a sword and not commonly used, though it required some knowledge to use properly, and seemed to be not a thing often used, either. I am frustrated. My impression was that it was probably a bladed weapon, and that it definitely existed. My impression at the time was also that it was not used by all, and that those who did wielded it most expertly. Does this sound familiar to you at ALL? My mental impression was what I have described to you. I lack the knowledge or word for such a thing. Did it exist, or am I confusing his personality with how it would be expressed in weaponry? my email address is ashgreymane@aol.com

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