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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Ballista siege weapon question

PWOKristy
Bree

Jul 28, 10:22pm

Post #1 of 20 (4159 views)
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Ballista siege weapon question Can't Post

How realistic is that dwarf ballista siege weapon? Can you actually make a big arrow with a spinning chain to shred small arrows with? I wouldn't mind trying that out some day whenever I have the money to do so. Thank you!

I love the inclusion of Tauriel! There has to be a woman fighter in the Hobbit movies. I enjoy the romantic thing between Tauriel and Kili.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 29, 12:25am

Post #2 of 20 (4120 views)
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MythBusters! [In reply to] Can't Post

This sounds like a good question for MythBusters if the current version of the show gets another season.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


Lissuin
Valinor


Jul 29, 12:32am

Post #3 of 20 (4117 views)
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BREAKING NEWS: Army of elven archers advancing on Los Angeles. [In reply to] Can't Post

Myth Busters assisting National Guard in recreating Dwarf twirly whirlies.

Yeah, nah. Laugh

previous thread: http://newboards.theonering.net/...rly_whirlies_P880558


Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 29, 5:43pm

Post #4 of 20 (4007 views)
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Complete nonsense [In reply to] Can't Post

Despite John Howe being a student of medieval arms and armor, PJ's films are full of nonsensical fantasy weapons more appropriate to Conan the Barbarian. Your example is just one; Gimli's axe is another, as well as Minas Tirith's defensive trebuchets and the "ballistas" at Helm's Deep. Special derisive mention for the Uruk-hai's cast-iron swords. And the Witch-King's absurd flail, although that one is known to be PJ's fault.

Although in fairness, it must be said that Hollywood's track record wrt medieval arms and armor is exceptionally dismal anyway. Notable exceptions are Ironside and Outlaw King (except for the crappy hauberks)


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Jul 29, 5:44pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 30, 1:07am

Post #5 of 20 (3989 views)
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Don't forget Bard! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Despite John Howe being a student of medieval arms and armor, PJ's films are full of nonsensical fantasy weapons more appropriate to Conan the Barbarian. Your example is just one; Gimli's axe is another, as well as Minas Tirith's defensive trebuchets and the "ballistas" at Helm's Deep. Special derisive mention for the Uruk-hai's cast-iron swords. And the Witch-King's absurd flail, although that one is known to be PJ's fault.


To that list, I would add Bard's jury-rigged ballista that took down Smaug.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 30, 1:30am

Post #6 of 20 (3985 views)
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yes [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems that nobody in Hollywood or the videogame industry has the remotest clue that a ballista was a torsion engine, not a giant crossbow (which would have been utterly impossible for a metallurgy which hadn't even advanced to plate armor from mail; actually a spring-steel prod of such dimensions wouldn't have been possible until the Industrial Revolution)


The Dude
The Shire

Jul 30, 3:56am

Post #7 of 20 (3967 views)
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Defensive trebuchets [In reply to] Can't Post

One small correction here: some medieval sources inform us that trebuchets might have also been used for defensive purposes, at least occasionally. See for example the 13th-century Norwegian Konungs skuggská, an educational work for the prince of Norway:

"Those who have to defend a castle may also make use of these weapons which I have now enumerated and many more: trebuchets both large and small, hand slings and staff slings."

The King's Mirror. Speculum Regale - Konungs Skuggská. Translated from the Old Norwegian by Laurence Marcellus Larson (Scandinavian Monographs. Volume III; New York 1917), 221.
https://archive.org/details/kingsmirrorspecu00konuuoft/page/220

Now, an entirely different riddle is why the defenders of Minas Tirith did not use spherical projectiles for their trebuchets.



Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jul 30, 1:09pm

Post #8 of 20 (3910 views)
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Ballistae [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It seems that nobody in Hollywood or the videogame industry has the remotest clue that a ballista was a torsion engine, not a giant crossbow (which would have been utterly impossible for a metallurgy which hadn't even advanced to plate armor from mail; actually a spring-steel prod of such dimensions wouldn't have been possible until the Industrial Revolution)


Well, I would be perfectly happy to make allowances for the Númenóreans or the Dwarves to have developed the ballistae independent of the historical invention of the weapon. It's the idea that Bard could have cobbled one together using a broken bow jammed into a wooden beam that is utterly ridiculous.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 30, 1:14pm

Post #9 of 20 (3909 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

My mockery was really aimed at the "projectiles" -- although I also rather doubt the antipersonnel value of siege-sized trebuchets with a rate of fire measurable with a sundial.


Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 30, 1:36pm

Post #10 of 20 (3907 views)
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the [In reply to] Can't Post

thing is, we are looking at a world where even the most advanced metalworkers, the Dwarves and the First Age Noldor, wore mail into battle. OTL we can observe the gradual adoption of plate, right up through the full 'white harness' of the 15th century; and the drag on this progression was the limitations of smelting: bloomeries simply couldn't produce very large ingots, which meant that anything you wanted to make of one piece of iron or steel could only be so big. Hence pieced spangenhelms and riveted-together great helms, and the earliest implementation of solid armor being the jack-of-plates (or, if you want to look backwards, the lorica segmentata)

Now, if the Dwarves were still wearing mail (as was everybody else, Rohan, Gondor etc) then we have to conclude that nobody had come up with the Catalan forge or blast furnace, and nobody was producing ingots even big enough for a cuirass, much less a prod for a mega-crossbow.

But wait, there's more! Such a prod would have to be spring-steel, in other words carefully heat-tempered; and that is a process which as the piece gets bigger becomes increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible to keep consistent using pre-industrial judge-by-eye methods. OTL, even heat-tempered armor didn't appear until around 1420, which is well after the ca. 1050-1200 technological state of Middle-earth.


Paulo Gabriel
Rivendell

Jul 31, 12:48am

Post #11 of 20 (3869 views)
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OTL [In reply to] Can't Post

What does ''OTL'' stands for?


Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 31, 4:25pm

Post #12 of 20 (3841 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post

Our Time Line i.e. the real world.


Solicitr
Rohan

Aug 5, 3:49pm

Post #13 of 20 (3776 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post

A reproduction of a Roman field ballista (it differed from the medieval ballista only in the mounting construction):



The propulsive force was generated by the two springs made of twisted skeins of sinew, into which the arms were inserted. Pretty much nothing like a crossbow.


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Aug 5, 4:02pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 5, 3:55pm

Post #14 of 20 (3772 views)
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Nice description. [In reply to] Can't Post

The balista is not entirely unlike a crossbow, though the differences are certainly significant.

Wow, that image is huge. You might want to substitute a smaller one; this one is sure to be deleted.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


Solicitr
Rohan

Aug 5, 4:00pm

Post #15 of 20 (3768 views)
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Smaller image substituted [In reply to] Can't Post

--


Chen G.
Rohan

Aug 9, 9:44am

Post #16 of 20 (3667 views)
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I'd hazard against making robust comparisons between The Third Age and the Middle Ages [In reply to] Can't Post

To say that Middle Earth, in any point in time, in comparable to any point in time in our world, is never going to be particularly robust.

I've said it before, but Tolkien's work is as much about a journey through time as it is through land: The Shire almost evokes early 20th century, whereas Bree evokes the Middle Ages, Rohan evokes the dark ages and Gondor - classical antiquity.

And even those comparisons aren't perfectly robust; they certainly shouldn't hinder filmmakers who wants to make something visually interesting, or to create inventive action scenes.


Solicitr
Rohan

Aug 9, 5:47pm

Post #17 of 20 (3618 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

the Giant Crossbow is something which never existed, and moreover could never have existed before the Industrial Revolution, which is one time period Tolkien firmly excluded from his world.

"Inner consistency of reality." remember? filmmakers who want to make something visually interesting, or to create inventive action scenes could very well introduce jet fighter-bombers, but they shouldn't.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 9, 6:13pm

Post #18 of 20 (3615 views)
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Giant Crossbow? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
the Giant Crossbow is something which never existed, and moreover could never have existed before the Industrial Revolution, which is one time period Tolkien firmly excluded from his world.


I'm not sure what you mean by that. The ballista goes back to Ancient Greece, while handheld crossbows can be dated back even earlier, to around 650 BCE in China (showing up in Greece perhaps a century later). Yes, the similarities between the ballista and the crossbow are superficial, primarily their appearance, the ballista being a siege engine and operating on a different principle than its smaller cousin. The dwarven windlance should have been designed to be some variation on the ballista, though it did not seem to operate as one. As you say, it is very unlikely that the Dwarves would have developed the necessary materials for a literal 'giant crossbow'.

Bard's improvised crossbow was simply utter nonsense that ought to have placed him and his son in more danger than it did for Smaug.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Aug 9, 6:21pm)


StingingFly
Lorien


Aug 10, 9:27pm

Post #19 of 20 (3484 views)
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interesting is good, so long as it doesn't muddle the story. [In reply to] Can't Post

I have always loved the 'black arrow' scene from the book (and cartoon for that matter). That being said, I understand a considerably larger Smaug required a larger weapon to kill him.

The problem, for me at least, is if the dwarves developed the windlance as an anti-dragon weapon...why in Middle Earth do they only build one for Dale?

Seriously, Thror is sitting on a mountain of dragon bait, and he doesn't think of putting any at Erebor?

Mounted on the walls, those would have been effective not only against dragons, but against trolls and siege engines, and that's not even factoring in 'whirlie-twirlies'


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 10, 11:30pm

Post #20 of 20 (3472 views)
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Did Erebor have Windlances? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The problem, for me at least, is if the dwarves developed the windlance as an anti-dragon weapon...why in Middle Earth do they only build one for Dale?

Seriously, Thror is sitting on a mountain of dragon bait, and he doesn't think of putting any at Erebor?


I don't have time to look right now, but are you sure that we don't glimpse any windlances in the flashbacks to Erebor? Something in the back of my mind tells me that the Dwarves did have them, but didn't have time to deploy the weapons when Smaug struck.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)

 
 

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