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Home » Forums » The Books » Knights of the Black and White
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Catspaw
SWORDS & Knight physiology

Firstly, Mr. Whyte I thoroughly enjoyed the Dream of Eagles novels... visceral, gripping writing with a pragmatic & realistic drape for figures out of the myths & legends of Anglo-Saxon culture (& by default, highly influential on much of the culture of the 'western world').

I particularly enjoyed your creative treatment of Merlyn, the wizard who could do no magic, and the pragmatic Roman Publius Varrus.... wonderfully done.

So, I'm eagerly awaiting what magic you can weave with that ever-so popular topic in the post-DaVinci Code days - the Templar Knights.

Unfortunately, although I've enjoyed the plot & characters immensely so far in The Knights of Black & White, I do have two comments of a critical nature to level at your research. Me being who I am (I'll explain later), I found these 'inaccuracies' to be greatly damaging to my enjoyment of your Templar work so far. I didn't have this jarring shock in your Camuod series, in spite of some of the more fanciful creations you managed to work into your characters' story.

Firstly - on medieval swords: the term 'broadsword' is a complete misnomer in its application to ANY sword of the middle ages... in fact, it was only introduced in Victorian Britain in application to Scottish backswords & then inaccurately transposed onto medieval single-handed and hand & a-half (or bastard) swords. Such blades were only ever referred to as 'swords'. The 'long sword' always referred to a two-handed sword.
As for any medieval knight wielding a sword that weighed 14 lbs??? That is a complete & gross exaggeration of the real weight of medieval swords & seems to perpetuate the 'Hollywood' myth of swords being these grossly awkward & unwieldy slabs of iron (thus having the wielders staggering about in sword dragging exhaustion within minutes).

A REAL medieval sword of the type you've described on p. 28 (Knights of the Black & White, hard cover) would have historically & realistically weighed around FOUR pounds & no more. Also, only rarer double handed swords of the type used by infantry like the Swiss mercenaries & the German Landsknecht ever had blades longer than 3 ft. The typical & well-documented average weights of many 11th C. bastard swords was around 2.5 lbs only (not much heavier than a decent handgun interestingly enough)... AND such weapons were superbly balanced & quite 'light' in the hand. Even massive double-handed swords like the Scottish Claymore & Landknecht swords never weighed more than 5 lbs or so.

Secondly - on the Physiology of medieval knights - (p. 29) I appreciate much of what you say on the rigorous training & superb conditioning of the medieval knights... their only purpose in life was to train for battle & they often epitomized the greater size & strength that a more privileged lifestyle & diet offered in the Middle Ages. However, one of the anomalies historians have noted in comparing ancient men to modern is the size of modern man's THIGHS & buttocks has increased greatly since WW II. In fact, all mens' clothing manufacturers have re-patterned the cut of mens' pants to accommodate this development. Medieval knights would have undoubtedly had strong & capable legs, however, their thighs were significantly smaller than many modern men. This is clearly obvious in studies of medieval suits of armour (where it's rather obvious that the metal tube encasing the thigh is only 'so big').

To conclude: these two small 'hiccups' in what I believe to be a more accurate (& thus more realistic & believable) presentation of knights of the early Middle Ages are certainly not grossly damaging... they just took some of the shine off of MY enjoyment as I feel they perpetuate further inaccuracies regarding medieval knights & their lifestyle... especially the 14 lb sword comment. I just felt it altered to the negative the veracity of the wonderful tale you are spinning. Perhaps it's too late to alter any of the plots you've created to finalize the Knights' Templar works, but I just hate to see inaccuracies passed on.

For the record: I'm a martial artist who has trained continuously since 1977 in fencing, Wado Kai Karate, Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo, Kobudo, & Western Martial Arts... among a few other things. I'm a former officer & NCO in armoured reconnaissance regiments & a current High School English teacher (sound familiar ... :blink: ). I am regularly contracted to teach outdoor survival courses (to complement my interest in primitive life skills & tools). I currently live in Calgary AB & travel often to the Kelowna/Penticton area to visit a good friend & camp in the summers. I own several accurate copies of medieval swords (by Deltin, Paul Chen, etc.); I've handled ALL the swords in the very extensive Glenbow Museum archives on 4 occasions, and I've had the pleasure of learning many things to do with the swords & armour with men like Hank Reinhardt (North America's most respected sword historian), Peter Fuller (Medieval Reproductions - world class armourer) & John Clements (pioneer of Western Martial Arts in N. Am.).

I'm in Kelowna every summer... if Mr. Whyte would like to see & handle some accurate medieval swords I can certainly throw in with my camp gear & drop by when I'm soaking up the sun in the Okanagan.

Actually, I'm quite convinced I'd find Mr. Whyte & Dave Duncan (another of my favorite authors) sipping on a pint in some pub in Kelowna... ;)

whiteknite
Re:SWORDS & Knight physiology

I think it's only right to point out that the book states pretty clear that it is a fictional story of event's.....
So could you just read it and say if you liked it or not!
;) [img:]img413.imageshack.us/img413/1938/whiteknitepp7.jpg[/img:]

[img:]http://img481.imageshack.us/img481/1289/tophosly8.jpg[/img:]

jel
Re:SWORDS & Knight physiology

Rather too close to fact to claim much licence, though. Licence in faction may cover reasonable supposition, it should not be used to cover unsupported hypothesis.

Kiamichiteacher
Re:SWORDS & Knight physiology

I'm with you, that as many details as possible should be accurate when you are approaching an important historical subject such as the Templars. Although fiction allows for amping things up a bit and the visage of men with huge arms and thighs swinging massive swords exemplifies the brutality of the time. A simple three pound sword some 30 inches long is not as "dangerous" as the myth. In any case, thanks for your historical and technical observations!

deselere_primus
Re:SWORDS & Knight physiology

I understand and applaud your adherence to historical accuracy, however one must also take into account the times in which the story is set. Perhaps a Frankish knight's thighs would not appear to be all that large to us, but perhaps to someone of the period they may be massive, much in the same way that most ancient Romans would probably see the average Noth American or European as being abnormally tall. Today we think nothing of seeing a person whos height exceeds 6', but a thousand years ago that would be unique to say the least.

andersm
andersm's picture
Broadswords and Beefcake

It seems there's a widespread belief broadswords were part of medieval weaponry. I did a quick search on the internet and there were several hits that mentioned them in relation to medieval knights. Here's only one of many: http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/Broadsword.htm

I can't actually speak for Jack, but maybe he used the term 'broadsword' in the context of it being a generic style of sword most readers would be able to visualize. As for the physical description of the knights, Jack has a huge number of female fans and perhaps he generously gave us women some beefcake for our fantasies of medieval knights. :-) If so, thanks, Jack!

BTW, impressive essay on a couple of points in Jack's book.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
My 2 cents!

I just had to get in on this : ) First of all, to the OP, have you even considered that Jack may have in fact used an archaic form of the pound weight? The "pound" that you and I are familiar with in the modern day, did not come in to wide spread use until the time of Edward III of England who made it standard for commodity trading. Prior to that, a "pound" was ( depending on where you were of course....there were ALWAYS variations in weights and measures ) 12 ounces. Hence, a pound Troy as used by jewellers today. Even the word "ounce" , derived from the Latin "uncia" which means..."a twelth part" gives clear indication of the change over time. Therefore 16 ounces to a pound actually makes no sense if you think about it. So, having said that, Jacks 14lb sword would in fact have weighed a far more reasonable 10.5 lbs by todays weight standards. Still more than double what you are claiming as the norm, but far less than "our" 14 lbs. Mr. Whyte of whom I am a huge fan and admirer of, and he being a fictional writer, a story teller, is more than entitled to "go large" as it were if he so chooses. He also happens to be one of the most deligent when it comes to research. I'm pretty sure that because of his diving into such things, he in all likelyhood did in fact have the story's contemporary measure in mind.

Now, the physical make up of the Knights. All things being relative, if you do some serious research you will in deed find that such men were almost universally considered "massive" by the days standards. If the average grown man attained a height of 5' 2' ..... give or take ....and his weight was proportional, say 115 - 125 pounds? 16 or 12 ounces....no matter in this LOL Then you get a man say 5' 9"? And heavily muscled due to his constant training. Hmmmm 175 - 190 lbs, sound reasonable? That would be a massive man in that time period. His armour? 60-75lbs? Takes a big guy regardless of era to wear that and function in it. LOL

And finally, archeological evidence supports the theory of the sheer bulk of these men by their bone structure. They possessed wider hips and shoulders. Their joints, particularily the knees and hips were far more substantial than "normal" men of the day as were the ankles and wrists. In the 1100's just such a man would have been a sight. I myself am 6' 4" tall. No big deal today. But it was in 1979-ish when I attained that height. A thousand years ago? I couldn't get into a normal household without serious effort and discomfort. I know, I've tried! : )

So, on a final note to clarify my point. The "average" 30 year old man in the time of the Crusades was roughly the size of an "average" 12 year old boy today. Hell, I was 5' 10" when I was 13 -14 yrs old and that was in the mid 70's! Things change. If you want to really get into a story, you have to be open to those changes. Your perceptions of the world today do not in any way apply to the world of a 1000 years ago.

OK. All done : )

andersm
andersm's picture
Knights

Your points are well taken. By logic alone the medieval knight had to be substantially larger than the common man. The battle field was a brutally physical place. No lord would go to the expense of hiring a knight, possibly paying for his warhorse and armour only to have him taken down in the first skirmish. Body mass was a protective attribute in that it would be harder to be unseated. I read somewhere that professional gladiators would pack on fat before a contest to better protect themselves. These sculpted gods we see in the movies were likely not what the old Romans saw in their day.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
A Hard Days Knight : )

People seem to think that being a Knight was a career choice as opposed to what it truly was. A lifetime commitment that began at a very early age for the sole purpose of providing a certain young boy with everything he could need to become everything he could possibly be as a warrior. Better and more readily available food alone undoubtedly played a major part in their stature being so much more than the average man. The bulk and sheer muscle from training must have been substantial. And as how most Knights served one Lord, one family or one order...such as the Templars, their entire lives, the expense to keep them at the top of their game, physically and gear wise, must have been massive. I've heard that the cost of the "average" suit of armour in the 1200's would be akin to a new Ferrari today! Imagine having a retinue of 20 Knights on your books! They were a huge, on-going investment and most seem to not realise that these guys were NOT "soldiers".

andersm
andersm's picture
European Knights

My knowledge of western European knights comes from reading people like Jack. I’m more familiar with eastern European knights from studying my own family history in Poland. As elsewhere military service was an obligation of the nobility under the feudal system. The sons of noblemen learned to ride and wield a sword at a very young age. In Poland only a member of the nobility was allowed to wear a saber – it was one of those visual status symbols they cherished. Horsemanship was considered the primary skill for an effective mounted warrior. A good horseman with weak sword skills could outclass a poor rider who was better with a sword.

Poland had armoured knights until the 18th century. The Polish winged hussars were famous in their day and they fought with lance, sabres, pistols and carbines, even bows. They would sometimes hold the reins in their mouths so they could use both hands. I’ve seen a few Youtube clips of the winged hussars from various movies. One thing historians generally object to with movies is they show cavalry charges that are merely mob rushes when in fact they were very rigidly controlled. The armoured knights advanced at a walk in a chequerboard formation rather than a long unbroken front. It was only in the last 100 meters they went to a gallop to save their horses strength. Of course that doesn’t make for good movie visuals but it was certainly an effective military strategy.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Knights

Yeah, the Hollywood charges are fun to watch. Unrealistic but they look good! "Braveheart" was actually one of the few that ever showed the controlled, slow walk, to canter, to full on charge while crossing the field. This "staged" advance, from what I have studied was brought into play and became a standard procedure, in part, for two important reasons.

1. The fatigue issue. They were heavy horses, greatly weighed down. And were not as nimble, quick or as durable at speed as the smaller animals like the highland "ponies'.

2. The slow advance followed by the quick charge was to essentially bring them up to the furthest reaches of the opposing archers range and then quickly dash forward to be inside that arc.

And from what I have read and the way I see it, the fact that their advance was so controlled also tended to be the weak point. That's why a 1000 years or more before, Alexander was so successful with his Companions while later mounted companies led by men who revered his tactics, rushed into ruin. Alexander was a master at adaptation in motion. His men where a mobile, fluid, ever changing force where as the later Europeans tended to be more static...straight ahead kind of guys relying on sheer weight and foregoing flexability. That static type of warfare played into the hands of people such as Robert the Bruce. He ( among others ) was able to present something that the horsed ranks could not effectively counter because it was outside of their operational guidelines and training experience.

andersm
andersm's picture
Knights and Cossacks

This is where it gets into the finer distinctions. Knights go back to the days of the Roman Republic where they were known as the Equestrian class. A knight was a different animal from an ordinary armoured horse warrior in that they were members of the nobility - the gentleman warrior.

Cossacks were magnificent horsemen but not by any stretch were they knights. They originated as a collective of outlaws, serfs, outcasts and misfits who ran away to the infamous Wild Plains of the Eurasian Steppe where they operated as freebooters. They hunted Tatars and raided the Turks, even going as far south as the Black Sea, causing a lot of strain between the Turks and the Poles who were supposed to be controlling these people. The Tatars also hunted the Cossacks and Henryk Sienkiewicz has a very evocative description of these predators stalking each other in the tall steppe grasses in the first chapter of With Fire and Sword. One of the certain sign war was coming was when the Cossacks began to drink ‘na umour’ or ‘to the death’.

The Cossacks served as light cavalry in Polish and Lithuanian armies. Their job was to follow behind the armoured hussars who ruptured the enemy’s defensive line in the all or nothing charge. They chased down and killed the routed enemy. Prisoners weren't taken unless there was the possibility of ransom, at least back in the day of private armies.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Taras Bulba, but that’s a pretty good look at Cossack life. There’s one scene where the Cossacks are gathering for war that was memorable. Someone has used it in a Youtube clip with Ivan Rebroff’s song about the Cossacks. (Kosaken Mussen Reiten) It’s a great piece of music, sung in German, and it fits perfectly with the video. When I watch this video I think of Jack’s books. I believe it was book two of Clothar the Frank, The Eagle, when Clothar goes to Gaul to teach them the advantages of discipline instead of just going in with a mob rush. It’s all about the visuals of how these things must have looked.

Here's the video: http://youtu.be/kP8nqre54FQ

BTW I recently learned that a Scot named George Guthrie was ennobled in Poland and at his own expense organized a regiment of hussars he led in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Those Scots just seem to show up everywhere and anytime something interesting is happening.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
OOPS

You're right. If you'll notice I edited my original post ( probably around the same time you were responding to it : ) I was relating one to the other based soley on similarity of tactics. Fast, mobile shock troops. Not actual social standings or title. That's what happens when you are.....
Blonde.
Writing one book whilst editing another at the same time.
Searching on-line for auto parts.
Working on your car.
Rubbing a cats belly with one hand while attempting to type with the other. There-by reducing WPM to about 3. And two have typos!.
Easily confused because you are blonde.

I know. I mentioned blonde twice but it's a damn good excuse! : )

andersm
andersm's picture
John - not to worry

Yes, I see that my post on Cossacks relates to nothing else on the board. It looks like a random posting by someone who opened a bottle of wine and just started typing. I agree with your edited version.

Blonde is not an excuse. The most brilliant person I ever met was a platinum blonde Finnish woman. Distractions, however, certainly do impact one's ability to get the storyline straight. :-)

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Excuses, excuses, excuses....

Being a natural blonde may not be a viable excuse for scatter-brained actions.....but it's fun : )

Distractions are a definite hurdle when it comes to clear, concise thought. Especially my buddy Ben. My cat. He loves to flop beside me while I write and belly rubs are all part of the program. That is a major distraction right there. Then you add the two manuscripts among other things and I'm amazed sometimes that I even remember to eat. : ) Well, got to go. Lots of writing to do whilst my brain is relatively uncluttered!

andersm
andersm's picture
Reasons

A pet coming for attention is a legitimate interruption. :-) Who's gonna be there for ya rain or shine? Why Ben of course!

Hope the day's writing went well. I'll have to put mine aside for a few days - a crush of issues to deal with, including taking time out to earn a living. Winter is over and the construction season is yawning and stretching....makes me think that back long ago in the cold climates war used to go on hold during the winter - no forage for the horses. With the arrival of spring, look out - everyone was on a rare tear to get the game going again.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Ben, Ben, Ben!

Yup! My buddy Ben! First rate comedian. Personality plus and all round cool guy! He's a hoot to have around and he may slow me down at times........but that's fine by me. Unlike the complexities of human-human relationships, a cat ( dog, whatever ) loves you, you love them...that's enough...purrfect! See ya! Back at it!

Breaking News

Tonight, on the eve of the vote for Scottish independence, Gobal Okanagan TV caught up with Jack on his home golf course.

The video was not yet live at 6pm PST 9/17/2014

Surrey Writers

The International Surrey Writers Conference is coming up October 24-26, 2014 in Surrey, BC, Canada. Last year, members of the Forum here lead by user andersm presented to Jack the items pictured including a leather bound collection of stories from readers about Jack and his work.

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