I guess all of us get irritated when we are reading a novel, or worse watching a TV programme or film and see something which is just wrong! It might be an unintended error – a glimpse of a Roman gladiator wearing a watch, or visible train tracks before trains were invented, that sort of thing, or it may be carelessness or ignorance when especially these days it is much easier to check because we have the vast resources of the internet available.
There has been correspondence in the newspaper recently about whether in Edwardian times, someone eating a meal, for example afternoon tea, would lift their plate from the table and eat from it held in their hand… Some people said it absolutely would not have been done, others say, well, actually, it jolly well was done! I got a bit miffed when watching the series ‘Grantchester’ set in the fifties, men embraced each other to say goodbye – well, no… men absolutely would not have done that in those days! A firm hand shake, a clap on the shoulder or a grasp of the upper arm, that would have been it. However, did it really matter to have such a tiny inaccuracy? Did it affect my enjoyment of what was a very engaging fiction? No, no it did not!
However, if you are an expert in something, say swords and sword fighting, you might really cringe if you see stupid and careless errors in the prop department… such as the wrong sword! Wrong in terms of date, in terms of the type of sword used for a particular sort of fighting, in terms of how it was used, in terms of which country’s swordsmen were using it, in terms of whether there ever actually was a sword such as the one the character was wielding so dramatically.
I came across a very interesting video, which picked out five crashing errors in swords:
The 5 worst movie swords:
- Braveheart – a film not really known for its historical accuracy
- El Cid – the Hollywood version
- 300 – based on a graphic novel – but also a true event!
- Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc – a fun spoof
- Robin Hood Prince of Thieves – even if there wasn’t a real Robin Hood, there was a King John and a King Richard
This little video is really interesting, and is explained in a lighthearted way which even someone who knows nothing about it might find engaging – and even humorous (‘why is there a lack of armour, why are the Spartans so naked, they do seem to like wearing their little pants and not much else‘) It is informative and explains about the development of weapons, and how they were designed for specific types of fighting and warfare.
I know nothing about swords really, but my character Thomas Radwinter came across one in my novel ‘Beyond Hope’:
My phone had been buzzing from time to time and in a quiet corner of the hall, leaning against the newel post I glanced at it and saw Tanya had been trying to ring me, several times…
I was feeling quite hot so I opened the front door and escaped the racket to ring her; I walked into the middle of the front lawn and looked back at the house, full of all the people I love, and who were celebrating Paul’s birthday with such joy… and all the unpleasantness and uncertainty was in the past.
I stared up at the sky, full of stars, looking like Kylie’s face…
“Thomas! Where are you?” Tanya almost screamed at me. “Marius is coming looking for you! I’ve tried to ring the police but just have people taking messages… Thomas!”
“Good evening, Mr. Radwinter… I have a score to settle with you, my friend!”
Oh… fuck… Marius Hix was standing between me and the house and he had a spade in his hands… A spade! He could do a lot of damage with a spade, he could do me a lot of damage with a spade!
“Now, Marius… I think you need to put that spade down… I think we need to talk about this…”
“I’ve done enough talking, thank you, you – “ and he called me the rudest word. “I’m going to kill you, Radwinter, just like you killed my dreams and my life!”
What could I do…? I couldn’t run away, he’d be quicker than me, and his glasses were glinting in a really sinister way… this man is mad… and everyone is in the house and no-one knows I’m out here…
Even as I was working out my options, he made a stab at me, lunged at me with the spade as if he wanted to dig out my heart. I dodged out the way and he swung it round like a battle-axe and I ducked and I seemed to hear the blade whistle over my head… this man was going to kill me with a garden spade!
I was yelling now, yelling for help but I could hear Django’s electric guitar whine as his band began to play – no-one inside would be able to hear anything. Marius was taller than me, fitter than me, angrier than me and certainly crazier than me.
I daren’t turn my back on him and run…
I was dodging about, getting caught on rose bushes and screaming for help. The spade sliced down and honestly it would have cleaved me in two – clove me, cleft me… I tripped over and landed on my bottom as he was trying to wrestle the spade out of the ground.
“Here! Take this boy!” there was an old man beside me, a bundle of old coats and strange scarves, but I didn’t bother to take in what exactly he was wearing, just grabbed what he was giving me and sort of sprang to my feet… I am much niftier now, and I was terribly frightened and fear can make you do extraordinary things and I didn’t want to die and leave Kylie and our children, I didn’t want to leave my brothers and Marcus – I know writing this now it seems hilarious and cartoonish – I assure you it wasn’t, my life kept repeatedly flashing before my eyes and I really thought I was going to die, really, I’m not joking now… and fuck, I was very angry, very, very angry!
I rushed at Hix as he heaved the spade out of the ground showering soil and bits of plant everywhere and I thumped him straight in the face with my fist wrapped round the handle of a … of a scimitar… what? What the fuck? The old tramp had given me a scimitar…
Hix reeled back and blood was everywhere and he swung wildly with the spade and for the first time it made contact but luckily only the shaft, whacking me painfully on the shoulder.
I thumped him in the face again, and something crunched, his nose or his teeth and he was screaming at me, spraying blood which looked a weird colour in the light from the street lamps – where was everyone?
I daren’t look away from Hix but I could hear the old man shouting help, somewhere up near the house, but there was such a racket going on..
Hix thrust me away and I tumbled backwards landing on my bottom again. he lunged at me with the spade and I lashed out with the bloody sword thing as I rolled away, and there was a great crack and the spade broke in two as he jabbed it into the ground where I had been a moment ago… he might not have a nasty sharp blade any more but he had the splintered end, like a broken stabby thing.
Well, he could stab at me all he liked but I wasn’t going to have it… I was on my feet I don’t know how and I rushed at him sweeping the shattered spade handle aside with my weapon and then I slashed at him… and this is going to give me nightmares I know, I sliced into his arm and he screamed but actually at that moment I didn’t fucking care, and I bowled him over and straddled him, punching him in the face and anywhere to hurt him, to hurt him… and maybe to kill him…
“Enough, boy, enough,” and the tramp grabbed my arm… he was old but he had a strong grip and it brought me to my senses and I knelt there on top of Hix who was moaning and swearing but at least not killed by me… that really would have complicated my life, murdering someone…
Who is Marius? Why did he want to kill Thomas? Find out –
And to find out about swords in movies –