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Month: August 2014

Preconceived notions about the weapons that heroes carry

Posted in Characters, and Heroes

Iron – Utility or Rarity?

Golden dagger & sheath of Pharoah Tutenkhamun (d. 1327 BC)
Golden dagger of Pharoah Tutenkhamun (d. 1327 BC)

Ceremonial weapons are all very well. They look splendid when you ascend the throne. The goldsmith was probably the best in the land — look at all those animals on the sheath (click on the image to enlarge it).

What insights can we draw from this dagger from Tut's tomb? The blade is gold alloyed with copper to harden it, but it can't have been a practical weapon. So the boy Pharoah who carried this never had to defend himself (or didn't expect to need to after death) — that's what he had guards for.  Judging from his physical remains, he may have been unfit and walked with a cane. The cause of his death at 19 is disputed.

So, this dagger defended his reign, the right of his dynasty to rule (but he had no issue, so the 18th Dynasty ended with him). It was a beautiful, treasured, symbolic weapon.

The pair of daggers from Tut's tomb - gold and iron.
The pair of daggers from Tut's tomb – gold and iron.

But before we jump to conclusions, there was a second dagger found in his tomb, this one with a meteoric iron blade. (Notice that the haft for the iron blade can't be the original, since it's shorter than the tang of the blade requires.) Given the similar haft and sheath treatment in gold, there is speculation that the iron blade was valued as highly as the gold one.  Certainly it's more practical as a weapon, being able to take an edge.

Learning from the mistakes of others – 2

Posted in Irritated Reviews, and Just for Writers

Another Irritated Review™, this time for an Historical Scottish Romance work. (No, the unnamed author is not Diana Gabaldon.)

Things not to do when simulating a time period remote from the present…

The sanitary 1300s

Wouldn't catch him bare-chested -- it's cold!
Wouldn't catch him bare-chested — it's cold!

Our heroine has escaped from south of the border into the highlands on horseback.  Considering that probably half the children would have died of disease in childhood, we encounter remarkably few smells, no lice, nary a bit of spoiled food, etc.  Why, it's just like now.

In fact, it's warm in Scotland, see, and apparently free of biting insects, for our hero is bare-chested for his initial (and several later) encounters with the heroine. With his sword slung over his back. All those blisters from the leather sling chafing his bare flesh must be really attractive.  Sort of surprising that he never does anything about it, like put on a shirt.

Dances have a history, too

This is what dancing was in the 1500s, two centuries later
This is what dancing was like in the 1500s, two centuries later

Couple dancing, with men lined up to ask for the next dance weren't really a feature of the 1300s. It would appear that someone read Jane Austen or some derivative Regency romance and assumed those dance settings applied five hundred years earlier.

The best part was when the heroine is taught by the hero how to dance and she carefully counts “1 2 3, 1 2 3” to help remember the steps.  I hate to tell the author, but the waltz is a dance from the late 1700s-early 1800s. (There's that Regency thing again.)  200 years ago, 700 years ago — what's the difference?

The motivations of alien beings

Posted in A Writer's Desk, and Characters

Ever wonder what an alien thinks? Well, aliens may be in short supply in our daily experience, but life in the country recognizes alien beings all the time.  It's just that they typically have four legs.

So, today we're driving along the road on top of the holler and we see a good-sized goat trotting diligently down the middle of the (deserted) pavement. We pull alongside and ask it what it's doing, and it pauses to consider the question, but continues on its determined way.

The next driveway belongs to a neighbor, and we think he may keep goats, so we pull in and, sure enough, the goat (following us) turns in, too. So we head to the house to let the neighbor know he's got a goat loose, but no one's home. Meanwhile the goat trots into the one-stall barn, and takes up his post next to the horse there, good buddies that they clearly are.

It's those horizontal slit pupils that betray their alien heritage
It's those horizontal slit pupils that betray their alien heritage

We shrug, head on home, and later give the neighbor a call to tell him about his goat's travels. Only it turns out, it's not his goat. It belongs to one of his neighbors and is in the habit of paying his horse a visit from time to time.

That goat had places to go and people to see.  Wasn't lacking for motivation at all.  Wonder if it borrowed a cup of oats while it was there?

Get your hero into trouble, and then make it worse

Posted in Just for Writers, and Plot


Good advice for all adventure writers.

Translation of the Italian:

In the middle of the Indian forest, a man waiting for the train to stop just near the line. Suddenly, a boa attacks its victim, squeezing with its powerful coils. But then a tiger hurls itself upon the huge reptile which wraps, then, even the beast in a stranglehold. A monstrous tangle occurs, meanwhile, along comes the train. The whole tangle winds up bloody and broken by the wheels of the train.

See NeverYetMelted for more details about Achille Bertrame and links to more bloodcurdling illustrations.