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Good and evil weapons

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    Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 19:38

Good and evil weapons

In the world of Hollywoods historical movies about the middle ages one can after a while discern a difference in who have which weapons. One can see that the heroes often have swords,  lances or longbows. The crooks in their turn often has crossbows or hillebards. According to an article I recently read this has its roots in the view of the world that is a legacy from the knights and the nobility. In their ideals war should be fought man against man with swords and lances. And the longbow earns some of its status to the fact that Robin Hood (who also belonged to the nobility) used such a weapon. The weapons that were used by non nobility have become the weapons of the crooks, that were weapons that historically posed a real threat against the knights as flails, pikes, crossbows (a weapon the nobility and the church now and then tried to outlaw) and halbeards. The halbeard has almost become a ridiculous weapon in many movies and one has to look hard to see anyone ever killed by halbeards. In reality it was of cource different, in the hand of for example the Swiss peasants it was a tremendous weapon that killed many knights.

The crossbow only seems to have real high status in Switzerland where it is seen as a weapon of freedom that in the hands of people like Wilhelm Tell crushed the opressors.

One can also notice that the galant musketeers of novels and films mostly use their sword in their fights against the evil, one never see them use muskets.

Even in the space saga Star Wars the lasersword is considered a more noble and civilized weapon than the blast gun.

In Japan this is mirrored in many samuri movies where the sword is the good, traditional weapon and guns are considered a sort of foreign evil that threatens the order of society.

In other genres like westerns and modern war movies there it is of cource different, here has the gun at last came to be considered also as a weapon of the heroes.

It is interesting to discuss what weapons through history, in different places had a high status and which had not. So I hope you all have some good examples of such.

 

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 19:41
Note that guns were a 'foreign evil that threatened the order of society'. The total destruction of Shingen samurai armies by gun-armed peasants proved that well enough.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 20:23
Braveheart immortalised the use of giant spears... I think it changes from film to film and one easily look at it as mere coincidence. I can't think of any historical films where the crooks used only crossbows, but I feel that medieval based films popularise the use of sword and lance because... well... the major characters tend to be Knights... Who used swords and lances.

I think its coincidence.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 20:24
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Note that guns were a 'foreign evil that threatened the order of society'. The total destruction of Shingen samurai armies by gun-armed peasants proved that well enough.


Yes, the weapons of the crooks have also that in common that they were rather effective.

Edited by Carcharodon - 01 Sep 2009 at 20:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 20:28
Parnell, note though that if we have a terrible and evil character in a medieval society, he will have a mace... very likely.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 20:29
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Braveheart immortalised the use of giant spears... I think it changes from film to film and one easily look at it as mere coincidence. I can't think of any historical films where the crooks used only crossbows, but I feel that medieval based films popularise the use of sword and lance because... well... the major characters tend to be Knights... Who used swords and lances.

I think its coincidence.


Yes, but in Braveheart the heroes are not the knights but instead the common people (mostly). Both the English and also the Scottish nobility are described in a rather crookish way in that film.

Many Hollywood movies about knights have their roots in books (from people like Sir Walter Scott or Howard Pyle) who romanticised the world of the knights. This romaticizing can probably be traced back to old ballads and medieval novels.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 20:34
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Parnell, note though that if we have a terrible and evil character in a medieval society, he will have a mace... very likely.


Like the witch king Angmar in the Return of the King (although it is set in a fantasy world it has strong elements of the middle ages).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Sep 2009 at 20:47

And one shall not forget the chain and ball weapon, a meteor hammer, that is swung by crazy and evil Gogo Yubari in Tarantinos Kill Bill. Gogo is played by hot Chiaki Kuriyama.

Chain weapons and similar are in Japanese movies often wielded by ninjas and other assassins and thus is weapons of the crooks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9iIKn1Bl6c


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Sep 2009 at 20:03
Well, in all honesty, the most common weapon in a Japanese movie is the sword (differentiating types, but still the sword as a general type). In the western movies, sure that bad guy might have a sword but it's rather unlikely in most cases. The Japanese other weapons (such as the naginata) don't appear much at all in the movies (only instance of a naginata I can think of at the moment is a peasant in the Seven Samurai).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Sep 2009 at 16:29
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:


Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Parnell, note though that if we have a terrible and evil character in a medieval society, he will have a mace... very likely.


Like the witch king Angmar in the Return of the King (although it is set in a fantasy world it has strong elements of the middle ages).


And of course the super villain himself, Sauron, also wields a mace in the beginning of the first movie.




Edited by Carcharodon - 07 Sep 2009 at 16:30
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Sep 2009 at 20:25
Hmmh. Yes. I think in the books, Sauron had a sword though. Can't remember for sure at the moment, but that's what seems to be the case.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bernard Woolley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 02:12
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Well, in all honesty, the most common weapon in a Japanese movie is the sword (differentiating types, but still the sword as a general type). In the western movies, sure that bad guy might have a sword but it's rather unlikely in most cases. The Japanese other weapons (such as the naginata) don't appear much at all in the movies (only instance of a naginata I can think of at the moment is a peasant in the Seven Samurai).

The vast majority of samurai movies are set during the Edo period, and the heroes spend much of their time whipping out their sidearms to defend themselves from sneaky attacks. So the reason for the preponderance of swords in samurai flicks is the same as the reason for the preponderance of pistols in westerns (on which they are largely based): the hero is forced to defend himself with the weapon at hand, he doesn't prepare to go out looking for a fight.

I'm happy you brought up the Seven Samurai, though, since Kurosawa never put much stock in the whole swashbuckling thing (for proof, watch 'Rashomon'). Of the seven, only Kyuzo is the archetypal samurai swordsman - and he gets shot dead. Gorobei is an archer, Shichiroji uses a spear. The old veteran Kambei seems to be comfortable with several weapons, and of course through the film Kikuchiyo fights with numerous swords, his fists, a switch, a log and a length of rope (if memory serves). He also shoots a musket once. I'm not sure Heihachi or Katsushiro kill anybody at all. The samurai are mainly there to serve as lieutenants, and the villagers kill most of the bandits with bamboo spears (except Yohei, who owns a proper spear - I don't think it was a naginata, though).

This gets me thinking about Kurosawa's other period films, many of which are set before the Edo period and feature a wide array of weapons. Kurosawa's Macbeth, 'Throne of Blood', comes to mind: Macbeth and Banquo spend the first part of the film in full battle array, and perform a mounted charge in which Macbeth wields a two-handed spear and Banquo uses a bow. There's also 'The Hidden Fortress', which includes a rather unusual spear duel, which I don't think I've seen elsewhere (actually, scratch that - I did have the misfortune of watching 'Troy'). I remember 'Ran' being a lot of pike and 'Kagemusha' being a lot of shot.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 09:10
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Parnell, note though that if we have a terrible and evil character in a medieval society, he will have a mace... very likely.
 
Curious when one considers the mace was the weapon of choice for militant clergy prior to the church reform movement in the high middle ages. As you may know clergy were not allowed to shed blood and to get around it they wielded blunt weapons, as f.ex. Bishop Odo of Bayeux did at Hastings.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dolphin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 09:27
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Curious when one considers the mace was the weapon of choice for militant clergy prior to the church reform movement in the high middle ages. As you may know clergy were not allowed to shed blood and to get around it they wielded blunt weapons, as f.ex. Bishop Odo of Bayeux did at Hastings.
 
That's interesting. I didn't know that. The bow and arrow to me doesn't shout heroics either. Robin Hood did most of his fighting in the forest, and was a guerrila fighter, he never fought head on and loved to ambush, and, apart from the occasional flighty trick with his weapon of choice, it could be viewed as a cowardly weapon - he would be a back marker and could attack without fear of direct retribution. In fact, the more I think about it, Robin Hood was a bit of prick.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 10:20
Quote Curious when one considers the mace was the weapon of choice for militant clergy prior to the church reform movement in the high middle ages. As you may know clergy were not allowed to shed blood and to get around it they wielded blunt weapons, as f.ex. Bishop Odo of Bayeux did at Hastings.

That little fact just made my day.

I think this is a great thread, and I'd like to contribute more. But not at the moment, just had to drop past and congratulate this comment.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 11:14
Originally posted by Dolphin Dolphin wrote:

That's interesting. I didn't know that. The bow and arrow to me doesn't shout heroics either. Robin Hood did most of his fighting in the forest, and was a guerrila fighter, he never fought head on and loved to ambush, and, apart from the occasional flighty trick with his weapon of choice, it could be viewed as a cowardly weapon - he would be a back marker and could attack without fear of direct retribution. In fact, the more I think about it, Robin Hood was a bit of prick.


On the other hand, if you put a sword in the hand of a beginner and ask him to fight a trained swordsman, he doesn't have much bigger chances than one of Robin's targets either.



Edited by Styrbiorn - 16 Sep 2009 at 11:14
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 15:38
If you consider the recent weapons as well, I nominate the atomic bomb as the most evil weapon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 18:04

Bernard Woolley, I might say that Kagemusha isn't that much about fighting at all. We don't see a single combat sequence in the entire movie, if my memory serves me well. However, the main perpetuator of the movie could be named as a musketeer/arquebusier (the man who shot Takeda Shingen). After that, we only see the demise of a 'proper' samurai army under volleys by gunmen.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 21:03
In English literature/movies the longbow has a place of honour as an English (and Welsh of course) weapon, whereas the crossbow is only used by foreigners. Later on it gets replaced as the symbolic British weapon by the cutlass.
 
Granted of course that in real life both the cutlass and the longbow were used by others.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chookie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 21:47
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Braveheart immortalised the use of giant spears...

I'm almost tempted to start a thread on utterly diabolical "historical" films. But I won't let my detestation of Braveheart distract me.

Really though, both the "white hats" and the "black hats" used the same basic technology, so they were using the same basic weapons. When it came to close quarters battle they all used sharpish pointy things (of various sizes) or heavy club-type things.

On the point about Robin Hood being a prick, well yeah, but he was an effective prick, as were longbowmen when used as area denial weapons.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 22:46
Dagger/hunting knife: that for me is the archetypal baddy weapon (ancient and modern) because of it's portrayal as a weapon for the sly.


Edited by Zagros - 16 Sep 2009 at 22:46
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bernard Woolley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2009 at 23:00

Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Bernard Woolley, I might say that Kagemusha isn't that much about fighting at all. We don't see a single combat sequence in the entire movie, if my memory serves me well. However, the main perpetuator of the movie could be named as a musketeer/arquebusier (the man who shot Takeda Shingen). After that, we only see the demise of a 'proper' samurai army under volleys by gunmen.

True, there's no personal combat in Kagemusha. I mainly mentioned it simply because I like it, but also because it's one of the many samurai movies that, being set outside the Edo period, doesn't revolve around heroic swordsmen.

I don't know that I agree with you on the perfidity of the musketeer in Kagemusha, however. I thought he was depicted as no more than a professional man doing his job. There was also nothing in the movie to suggest that Shingen was especially good. The tragedy was not that Takeda was defeated, but that thousands of lives were wasted by a dying regime in a futile and hopeless attack.



Edited by Bernard Woolley - 16 Sep 2009 at 23:01
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Sep 2009 at 07:20

 

Originally posted by Bernard Woolley Bernard Woolley wrote:

I don't know that I agree with you on the perfidity of the musketeer in Kagemusha, however. I thought he was depicted as no more than a professional man doing his job. There was also nothing in the movie to suggest that Shingen was especially good. The tragedy was not that Takeda was defeated, but that thousands of lives were wasted by a dying regime in a futile and hopeless attack.

Shingen died in the opening scenes, might be Katsuyori you are thinking about :)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bernard Woolley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Sep 2009 at 10:27
Originally posted by Styrbiorn Styrbiorn wrote:

Shingen died in the opening scenes, might be Katsuyori you are thinking about :)
 
Now, now, I picked my words deliberately. Katsuyori was Takeda as well, and the Takeda clan as a whole was defeated.
 

(And I forgot Katsuyori's name.)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Sep 2009 at 12:04
In Korean movies and films it can look a little bit different. For example in the TV series Immortal Yi Soon Shin the Korean heroes often use bow and arrows to fight against Japanese using mousquets and swords. And the Koreans also make heavy use of cannons, wiping out many Japanese swordsmen and soldiers armed with mousquets.

In the movie Musa the Warrior, set in 14th century one of the heroes have a spear and another have bow and arrows and someone also has sword. The enemies also have spears, bows and swords. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Sep 2009 at 18:43
Well, it does seem to me that Kurosawa emphasizes the measures of Shingen in comparison to Katsuyori and suggests that Shingen might have been a better leader than anyone else. Might be just wishful thinking though.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Sep 2009 at 16:21
Originally posted by Chookie Chookie wrote:

Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Braveheart immortalised the use of giant spears...

I'm almost tempted to start a thread on utterly diabolical "historical" films. But I won't let my detestation of Braveheart distract me.

Really though, both the "white hats" and the "black hats" used the same basic technology, so they were using the same basic weapons. When it came to close quarters battle they all used sharpish pointy things (of various sizes) or heavy club-type things.

On the point about Robin Hood being a prick, well yeah, but he was an effective prick, as were longbowmen when used as area denial weapons.
 
"Historical films" and films with historical themes are two different birds but, as with "Robin Hood", neither are in the least bit concerned with reality. Braveheart was as historically accurate as 300 but then neither history nor weaponry is the focus of interest. Interestingly, it comes down to an analysis not of military prowess but of characterizations and associations. Weapons characterized as either good or evil? Knives are for cut-throats and cut-purses, while only gentlemen carry epees!?! Shades of Snidely Whiplash!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2009 at 15:20
As I mentioned before chain weapons, flails and similar are often weapons of the crooks in many films. Here is a picture of earlier mentioned Gogo Yubari from Tarantinos Kill Bill, beautiful but lethal:


Pic from: http://blogs.watoday.com.au/executive-style/allmenareliars/gogo-yubari.jpg



Edited by Carcharodon - 19 Sep 2009 at 15:22
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2009 at 15:40
Weird.
 
What could be a "good" weapon? It is the Neutron Bomb a "good" weapon because saves cities?
It is a sword a "good" weapon because usually only maim people?
 
Give me a break. All weapons are evil, as the Spanish proverb says:
 
"Guns are loaded by Satan (himself)"
 


Edited by pinguin - 19 Sep 2009 at 15:40
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Sep 2009 at 17:57
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Weird.
 
What could be a "good" weapon? It is the Neutron Bomb a "good" weapon because saves cities?
It is a sword a "good" weapon because usually only maim people?
 
Give me a break. All weapons are evil, as the Spanish proverb says:
 
"Guns are loaded by Satan (himself)"
 


It's not a thread about whether the weapons themselves are intrinsically good or evil, but how they are commonly perceived. F.ex. the sword and shield are common heroic weapons, honest and straightforward, whereas the dagger is seen as an underhand weapon and often associated with an antagonist. The interesting part is to find out how people in general feel about different weapons and why, not how we feel about them personally.
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