The Truth about Medieval Swords

Okay, A.S. Akkalon and Thomas Weaver busted me. I have been researching many things in the Middle Ages and the Roman era. I’ve studied a lot about politics and daily life. One thing I did not think to question was my belief in large, heavy swords being the norm for knights.

She’s got nothing on any paladin I’ve ever played. And I’ve played a lot of them.

I am going to blame it on years and years of D&D, video games, and some bad information from the History Channel. I stupidly thought these were researched. I know. Stop laughing.

Here is the truth.

The weapons of the Middle Ages were light, strong, and well-designed. They were agile weapons designed to kill, and they did a fine job of it. They were not clumsy or heavy. They were not “clubs with edges”.

According to the Wallace Collection Museum in London that has dozens of actual swords from the Middle Ages, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any that weight more than four pounds. Most weigh less than three.

Perhaps a bit more accurate. Picture from Pixabay.

Yeah. Three pounds.

Even the large “hand-and-a-half” swords rarely weighed more than 4.5 pounds.

All of these swords would be easily handled by a man who’d been training with them since the age of seven.

Perhaps popular media (and my RPGs) were thinking of special “parade” swords when they came up their weights. However, they only weighed up to eight or nine pounds, not the forty you regularly see in popular culture (or on the History Channel). Even so, you’d really have to be stretching to make this mistake. These swords were show pieces, not fighting weapons. Their blunt edges should bring home that point.

This idea is perhaps older than Hollywood. Hey, misinformation isn’t just for TV and movies.

Land of more misinformation than even the Mythbusters can bust.

In a fencing booklet from 1746, the author already talked about how heavy and unwieldy earlier swords were, stating they were designed basically for brute force. Perhaps the author felt that way as he was used to using a foil instead of a sword, but I’m going to guess a foil isn’t nearly as deadly on a battlefield or more soldiers would’ve used them.

In the 1870s, a historian describes earlier weapons as ponderous and requiring both hands. Getting back to the Victorian hubris Thomas Weaver spoke of where the Victorians assumed all things that came before them must be inferior.

There are other example, but the one thing we have to remember is that much of this was documented by people who were not swordsmen or otherwise trained in battle. Perhaps a man who has survived a half-dozen battles will find a certain sword light, well-balanced and agile when the scholar who has never left his library will find it heavy and unwieldy compared to his quill.

When I step back and look at this logically, of course it makes sense that knights and soldiers of the Middle Ages had finely-crafted blades that were light, sturdy and agile. War tends to bring about inventiveness as nothing drives innovation like survival.

I admit my ignorance on this, but I’ve learned and will go back and rewrite accordingly. Reminds me again to question everything.

How about you? Ever believe something you later learned was Hollywood magic? Any other common misconceptions held by the general public that could make me go back and rewrite?


Games: Cooperative vs Competitive

I never liked games much as a kid. Most of them were boring with little strategy. The ones that did engage some strategy seemed designed to make one person feel awesome for winning and everyone else had be losers.

Sums it up nicely. 

So, I avoided games for years. Still don’t like board games, although I’ve since discovered things like D&D that are technically a game but are cooperative and a lot more fun.

My husband has loved board games his whole life, so he really wants our little ones to love games with him. Then, he’ll finally have someone to play with.

He introduced DD1 to Candyland. Which, she promptly cheated at. She got bored quickly because she knew her colors and how to count to two, so DH started trying to make up new rules to help her learn strategy. For example, she could pick two cards instead of one and select whichever card she wanted to play.

This lasted for a little while, but she quickly grew bored of the game. So, he got her My Little Pony chutes and ladders. We all know how much DD1 likes MLP.

Again, her interest lasted for a short while. Her learning curve was well past counting to six (she’s always been precocious), but the real issue was when she started looking at the pictures. She stopped wanting to play the game because she didn’t think the ponies would do all the bad things they were depicted doing to get sent down the slide.

Santa brought her some more games for Christmas, most of which were not terribly interesting to her. She played Guess Who for a while, intrigued by the differences in hair color, costumes, and faces of the people. But after a few months, even that wore off.

Then I stumbled across a game called Hoot Owl Hoot.


I’d never heard of it, but the premise was intriguing. A cooperative game where children play with their parent on the same side, and in the process, learn more advanced strategy instead of just basic numbers and colors.

I bought it, and it arrived in two days.

My daughter loved it! She would play three or four games of it before getting bored, and you could see her progress with strategy. When we lost, which we sometimes did depending on the difficulty level she chose, we’d say something like, “Those silly owls didn’t make it home before dawn.” Then, we’d set the game up to play again. No tears. Sometimes a little frustration, but never anger. Losing tended to make her just want to try again, with an adult’s help, of course.

This company makes other games as well, and she enjoys most of them. Hoot owl Hoot, though, is a favorite.

Doing a little research told me that she was behaving perfectly normal for a child of her age. Most kids aren’t ready to be okay with losing until they’re at least seven or eight years old. Even then, it can be a tough lesson.

I can see that she has the makings of enjoying games, especially games like Zelda. DH could probably even get her interested in role play games like D&D in a few years. But I think she might have too much of me in her to ever be willing to sit down and play Twilight Imperium.


And this is the express version. The manual is longer than novels I’ve read.

Sorry, honey, she got half my DNA.


How about you, do you love board games? Hate them? Do your kids or grandkids like them? Any good ones for precocious preschoolers I should check out?



What Should a Dragon Hierarchy Look Like?

I’ve been contemplating adding dragons to my world in the form of their own series of stories, but I’m wrestling with establishing a dragon hierarchy.

Why do I need dragons? Well, that’s self explanatory!

Why do I need a dragon hierarchy?

Because I fell like I can’t have every dragon in the world be a supremely powerful being with almost godlike status, though they all may think they have such status. Much like cats.

Yeah, about how my cats see themselves.

Organizing dragon “classes” along the lines of size makes some sense to me, and the larger the dragon, the more powerful it would be.

Depending on the source of your dragon lore, dragons do seem to come in all sizes, from some not much larger than a pixie, to some the size of a castle or small mountain. If a mountain dragon could swallow a pixie dragon without really noticing, well, yeah, it makes more sense that the mountain dragon is more powerful.

Yup, pixie dragon wouldn’t even be a snack.

I’d post some cool pictures of different dragons, but I’m not sure that’s allowed as most aren’t creative commons. So, here’s  link to my dragon page on Pinterest. You’ll quickly get the idea.

There’s a great deal of dragon references in my current series of novels. I try not to do an info dump, but you’ll see that while most people pay homage to Dracor, the god of justice, (who happens to take the form of a great gold dragon), most people also think dragons themselves are extinct.

Dragons of ages past are known to exist, and it’s widely believed they were made in Dracor’s image, but they succumbed to vanity, pride, and greed. Dracor smote the worst offenders, then cursed the remainder with nothing but male offspring, dooming the race to extinction.

Unless the dragons can figure a way around it, but I’ll leave that for the story.

About sums it up.

While the readers may not know it, I know the original dragons, known as the Shard of Dracor, still exist. At least one of them, anyway. Humans have given these original dragons the name Embershard as that’s what the draconic words sound like in the human language.

These original dragons are the size of mountains, supremely powerful, and highly territorial. They hated the humans and elves when the gods made them, seeing them as either rivals or insignificant playthings. As they were the first among dragons, the other races of dragons followed their lead.

I’m not sure my first dragon story should start with an Embershard.  Seems like he should be at the end of the dragon series, otherwise the others might seem less interesting.

And, I have yet to find an antagonist for an Embershard. Andertaemosian, Ander to us mere humans, believes he’s the last of the Embershard. And he may just be right. So what challenges the first creation of a god?

I’ll let that percolate some more, but I have a few ideas.

Thinking I’ll start the dragon saga with a distant cousin of the Embershards. A dragon that’s more the size of a large house than a mountain. Still terrifying. Still frightening. Still powerful. But not quite so over-the-top-powerful.

Kinda like her.

Yes, I know Ander is polishing his scales. Of course he is. Vain dragon.

Not sure if that works. Can you have varying sizes of dragons and make the world feel whole and real? I’m not sure. I’ve seen the color of dragons used a lot to delineate this. Anne McCaffrey did this and so does D&D. But that doesn’t feel right to me. I love the idea of a variety of colors of dragons, perhaps once considered jewels of the sky.

I could go with the dragon vs wyrm vs wyvern. But I sorta want them all to be like the traditional European dragon. Think Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. While I love the grace and beauty of the Chinese dragon, especially in the Zelda Breath of the Wild game, they need a different setting and context to shine.


Know of any good resources for creating dragon hierarchies? Could you believe in size as the determining factor? Or do you think Anne McCaffrey and D&D are on to something with color?

6 Reasons We Love Dragons

We train them, we fear them, and we mother them. These fictional beasts have captured our imaginations.

We all know the real reasons we all love Daenerys Targaryen: Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion.

I have liked dragons my whole life. While other little girls put up pictures of movie stars and rock stars in their rooms, I had posters of dragons. I still remember the first time I saw Maleficent turn into a dragon. I was awestruck. She was so amazing. So cool. I was hooked and a bit miffed when the prince and three fairies killed her.


It wasn’t until I met DH that my eyes were really opened to everything that was out there. I’d thought I was alone being an adult and still thinking dragons were cool. (I can almost hear your laughter from here. I know. I was naive.)

He introduced me to Tolkien, D&D, and all sorts of other dragon adventures. For someone that had never really known about any of this, it was like seeing a new world. It was my first forray into high fantasy, and I’ve never looked back.

I devoured everything I could get my hands on, but that was mostly books. If there was anything on the screen, we had to settle for cartoon dragons. It wasn’t until the advent of good, okay really good, CGI that the Smaug of my imagination made it to the big screen, or at least close to the Smaug of my imagination.

And CGI gave us Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion. Makes me wonder what they could do with the Anne McCaffrey novels I read in my youth.

So why do we love dragons so much? There are lots of reasons.


Here are the six main reasons I love dragons. 

1. Flying Mounts – Yes, you get to ride them. Into battle. They might be as large as a house or the size of a mountain. Doesn’t matter. I can’t think of a cooler ride.


2. Power – Dragons are frequently depicted as strong and powerful. Much like the alpha male trope, just scalier. If you are writing a D&D adventure, the dragon is always the end-boss. If you’re playing a video game, the dragon is that unbeatable end boss that an NPC can call a false diety with a straight face.

3. Magical – whether casting spells, deflecting them, or breathing fire, dragons are inherently creatures of magic. This feeds back into the power of point 2 above, but it’s more than that. There is nothing mundane or boring about a dragon.

4. Ruthless – Dragons play by their own rules. They are going to achieve their ends, even if it means centuries of manipulation. They are not bound by the concepts of good and evil as mere mortals are.

5. Ancient – whether an ancient force for good or evil depends, but there is an ancient wisdom and mysticism to them.

6. Epic – a dragon promises an epic story. Little things like armies do not slow them. They are the ultimate ally or the greatest foe. You can’t introduce a dragon into a story in a small way. There is nothing mightier than being the Dragonborn, Mother of Dragons, or Dragon Rider.


What do you think? Do you love dragons? Why or why not? What were your favorite ones?