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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
another sword question


Jul 27 2012, 10:27am

Post #1 of 7 (541 views)
another sword question Can't Post

I was looking through the thread on swords and something occurred to me. Theoden's sword was often cited as a favorite design but, to me, it looked more ceremonial than functional. I'm sure it was based on an actual weapon but it looks as if that rounded handguard would allow an opponent's sword to slide over, possibly inflicting some damage. I know there are a few people here with some knowledge of weapons and fighting styles. Any opinions?


Jul 27 2012, 2:01pm

Post #2 of 7 (280 views)
That seems to be a characteristic of all Rohan swords [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote from the book 'The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare':
"The Rohan used their sword in a distinctive slashing motion: when mounted this would be the only way it could be used but when on foot it suited their strong-armed and less sophisticated fighting style."

"What do you mean, good morning? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not, or that you feel good this morning, or that it is a morning to be good on?"-Gandalf the Grey, The Hobbit.


Jul 27 2012, 7:37pm

Post #3 of 7 (273 views)
The hilt design is inspired by actual Viking swords... [In reply to] Can't Post

That is, if my memory serves.

"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." - Aragorn


Jul 27 2012, 8:46pm

Post #4 of 7 (295 views)
Somewhere between Viking and Gladiator designs [In reply to] Can't Post

The cross guard functions as much to keep your sword hand from sliding up the blade as it does to keep your opponent's blade from slicing your knuckles off. This concern is even more obvious in Gladiator designs than in Viking designs.

For comparison: LOTR Rohan swords.

Eomer, Eowyn and King Theoden's swords all feature decorative cross guards that serve the same dual purpose,but their shape would deflect an opponent's blade away from the hand rather than stop it entirely. This is probably a nice effect when delivering sweeping circular blows from horseback. It would almost entirely eliminate the risk of binding, reducing the risk of losing your sword or being unhorsed (see below for binding).

Some would argue that a smallish cross guard is well suited to hacking and slashing because that style relies on a quick and unobstructed recovery stroke. A larger cross guard carries with it the risk of binding with the opponent's blade (ie their sword gets caught between the cross guard and the blade) which obviously would inhibit a quick recovery. On the other hand it is handy for disarming an opponent, especially when the cross guard is crescent shaped such as on Boromir's sword.

A couple other things to consider with the Gladiator or Viking designs is often the swords were used with a shield or buckler (or one handed in any event). As such they were not used as shields the way two handed (or hand and a half) European long swords, such as Strider's Sword or Gandalf's Glamdring. In fact a hack and slash style of fighting relies on blows aimed perpendicular to the target. Therefore the kind of grappling that might lead to a blade sliding down another is not often involved (rather if swords meet they rebound and recover for another blow almost immediately).

Finally -- and this is not immediately apparent if you've never fenced with straight swords -- often straight bladed swords bind at the point where they meet or cross. In other words, the blades don't usually slide along each other's length in the first place, but rather tend to bite into each other (depending for instance on the material they are made of, smithing technique, sharpness and the force and direction they are being pushed in). I think blades sliding along each other happens more with curve-bladed swords, where the stroke is more of a slicing, drawing motion. You will notice that among curve-bladed swords the cross guards are more obviously designed to protect the hand.

(This post was edited by Ataahua on Jul 28 2012, 12:32am)


Jul 27 2012, 8:53pm

Post #5 of 7 (298 views)
You are right... [In reply to] Can't Post

Many Greek and Roman swords are more similar, especially in their lack of a crossguard.

"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." - Aragorn


Jul 28 2012, 11:24am

Post #6 of 7 (222 views)
good to know, thanks [In reply to] Can't Post

Lots of interesting information there. I knew that the armorers and fight trainers spent a lot of time on weapons and fighting styles and I doubted that they gave Theoden a purely ceremonial sword by mistake. The idea that straight blades often stop at the point of contact explains why we occasionally see Aragorn with his sharpening stone.


Jul 30 2012, 7:59am

Post #7 of 7 (344 views)
Cross guards [In reply to] Can't Post

are a complex subject. I have seen knowledgable people comment on both sides of the argument as to the effectiveness of a simple cruciform guards role in protecting the hand from an opponents sword.

I think Herugrim in the movies is fine in this respect but where they did stuff up the Rohirrim sword designs was that the blades were too short for cavalry weapons meant to depict the influences Tolkien wanted for these people. I think Herugrim had a 27 inch blade whereas it should have been about 32 to 35 inches as single handed medieval cavalry blades tended to approach the length of those seen on shorter longswords.

(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Jul 30 2012, 8:03am)


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