Getting stuff right about swords

Anyone interested in maintaining swords? Here’s a helpful post Eric Lowe pointed me to: Resharpening damaged swords.

A few paragraphs of text plus a video. This is about how Medieval people would have resharpened notched swords, not about how anybody today would do it, which is why it’s relevant to me, and possibly to some of you. It’s also just interesting.

I never plan to write a character who’s a smith, but this is a nice bit of research to kind of have in the back of my mind.

While on the topic, we do have a handful of fantasy novels where the protagonist IS a smith, in particular a bladesmith, including The Swordsmith by Eleanor Arneson and (a duology I’ve mentioned before and loved) Powers and Dominions by James Burton.

Also, the protagonist in Merrie Haskell’s delightful MG novel Castle Behind Thorns is a blacksmith’s apprentice. Not specifically a bladesmith as in the above examples, but still.

Anybody got a suggestion for other fantasy novels where smithcraft of any kind, or bladesmithing in particular, is dealt with in detail?

Please Feel Free to Share:


21 thoughts on “Getting stuff right about swords”

  1. Michael Scott Rohan’s Winter of the World features a mage-smith. The greatest of them all. he makes three swords, all different: One – normal/damascus-steel-ish for his friend; another of ropes of metal braided & enchanted to control men’s minds; lastly I’m not sure what… maybe monofilament? hair fine fibers go into it. He also invents electro-plating.

  2. Thanks, Elaine! I’m pretty sure you’ve mentioned this book before AND I’m pretty sure I have either a sample or the full book on my Kindle. But you know how it is, who knows whether I’ll get to it in this lifetime?

  3. The picture at the top of the page suggests that sharpening was done a bit faster than with a metal file. (In fact, metal files are pretty intricate devices; I’d expect whetstones of differing coarseness were used when grindstones weren’t available.)

  4. Yes, Eric commented to me about exactly that — whetstones of differing coarseness as part of a potential kit an average competent soldier might carry. I’m just going to go through and add a bit here and there about strops and whetstones and oil and whatever, just indicating that routine maintenance of swords is going on. Not something to spend a lot of time on, of course, just occasional comments as seems reasonable.

  5. One of the secondary characters in The Return of Fitzroy Angursell, formerly of the Red Company, is a master smith. Smithcraft probably isn’t dealt with in great detail, but it’s more than mentioned in passing.

  6. I fear the only thing I remember about Inigo’s father is that the six-fingered man killed him. Oh, I guess it’s coming back to me a bit. Right, he made a special sword.

    Well, probably not, as smithcraft isn’t exactly important, only the fact that Inigo’s father made that sword and was murdered. But a good mention!

    That’s right, OtterB, I remember the smith. Matteo, something like that. We don’t get to see him act as a smith, but we do hear about the wild things he’s made in the past.

  7. The Teen says one of the Eragon books went into great detail as the protognist made a sword, down to how to get the metal out of the ore. … Thinks it was book 3, as remembers reading it before #4 was out, and he broke/lost his old sword around the end of the second.

  8. Narl from Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End is a smith, but I don’t remember much smithcraft being discussed. (But I also haven’t re-read the book in over ten years, so I could be wrong.)

  9. There’s also a major subplot about forging a royal sword for the kingdom’s leader in Water Horse by Melissa Scott. The Master Smith is a major character.

  10. There are (sword)smiths all over the place in fantasy, going back to Norse dwarves on the one hand, and Haephestus on the other. Tolkien followed suit with Feänor, Aule, Eöl, Telchar, &c.

  11. The main character in The Blacksmith Queen by G. A. Aiken is a female blacksmith (as was her mother).

    Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller is about a bladesmith mage with social anxiety who regrets a commission she’s taken. The blade she makes is too powerful and she doesn’t want to sell it as agreed.

  12. Not to get too esoteric but I think Robert E. Howard’s Kull books had some blade forging. If I can cheat a bit by mentioning a non-fantasy series, one of dDonna Andrews’ mystery series features Meg Langslow who is a blacksmith.

  13. I am reminded of the epilogue of “Apprentice to Elves” where not two but *three* female smiths discuss the difficulties in making a magical sword. (Monette and Bear just had to be laughing when they wrote that.)

  14. Alanna learns some blacksmithing in the Tortall books, but that’s pretty tangential. In the Tea Dragon graphic novels one of the main characters is an apprentice smith.

  15. Always thought that my years of battle re-enactment were time well spent. If nothing else, listening to the ‘blokes who knew everything’ (there are always some) sounding off about all the crazy things writers did who’d never held a sword. Second only to the horrors of Gladiator opening with a foot in a stirrup about 500 years before they were used… And shortly before they all defaulted to singing Monty Python’s Philosopher’s Song.

    But yes, getting it right is good. And practicing sword fighting while telling ourselves we’re working has to be one of the perks of the game…

    Loving your books. Can’t wait for the new one in the Tuyo series. And then another Black Dog. :)

  16. Thanks, Manda! I’ll have Tasmakat up for preorder Any Day Now … and then be thinking, yes, about the next Black Dog book. Among other projects!

  17. Perrin in The Wheel of Time series is a blacksmith, and there’s one book where he’s doing smithing work, not specifically bladesmithing but making hinges and nails and such, just enjoying doing the work he chose instead of all this questing and fighting, where there is more detail about the smithing. I can’t remember exactly which book, maybe number 4?

    In the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs, the old garage owner Zee who is an “iron-kissed” fae is a legendary mage-smith, but though he is an important secondary character and his old makings are talked about, we don’t really get to see him doing any smithing.

    As Pete Mack says, the “Wayland Smith” trope seems to be quite widespread. I first remember him from one of the chapters in Puck of Pooks Hill by Rudyard Kipling, and the little old books of abridged mythology for children had a story about Hephaestus; then the dwarven smiths who made extra-good metalwork and swords seem to be a fairly standard idea in fantasy.

    But if I try to think of other fantasy books where the blacksmith and the smithing are really important and get a lot of attention, only The Spirit Ring and the Powers and Dominion duology come to mind. That seems way too few for how omnipresent that trope feels.

  18. Alfgyfa is surely a blacksmith in “Apprentice to Elves”, though she is a number of other things as well, and spends little time in the forge in the book. Yet she remains my best candidate, as apparently blacksmiths otherwise bring out the very worst in fiction writing. From JV Jones “worse than Shanarra” on the one hand to a thousand mediocre-at-best steamy Western romances on the other–never has a trope spawned such uniformly awful slush.

    Perhaps my least edifying dip into Goodreads ever.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top