I'll come up with something in a minute.

Swords and Knives

When I did this thing, I found my comment for #5 was unlike a Snickers as in it didn’t really satisfy. I’ve also had a few questions over the years and I’m going to boil them all down here.

What’s with all the swords and knives and things?

Swords, knives, axes, spears… they pointy! What else do you need?

Okay, okay, I’ll elaborate, since that’s what the idea of this post is. Swords are important in our history and our culture. I can make a blanket statement like that because pretty much where ever you’re from that’s true. When steel was rare and a good sword was rarer than an honest politician is now, the Vikings imbued their blades with a spirit, giving it a name and treated them like single most prized object in the world. It’s such a powerful emblem of strength that our military still presents swords to their soldiers for some occasions and the sword is often seen in Brigade patches and other insignia. In the west, the sword has always been a mark of office. Far more than the gun has ever tried to be, the sword is a sign of bearing. The gun is a popular weapon, always has been, the sword is for the select few.

Samurai attached a near religious status to their swords, treating them as an extension of their bodies. A man with a sword was SOMEONE, someone who was allowed to carry a sword for a start. There were all sorts of rules and regs behind the military class, as there is in all of Japanese society, but a samurai was above the normal people. A man who used to have a sword but no longer had it was less than no one, which is why so many of them would rather spill their guts than risk loosing their samurai status. It’s more complicated than that, all of this is, but bear with me.

The Sikhs are supposed to carry knives as part of their religion. Via Wikipedia… The kirpan is a tool to be used to prevent violence from being done to a defenseless person when all other means to do so have failed. Symbolically, the kirpan represents the power of truth to cut through untruth. It is the cutting edge of the enlightened mind.

Knives and swords are an important part of lots of cultures is my point.

There is a lot about honor, strength, and nobility wrapped up in a blade. The symbolic aspects of blades can, and has, filled several books. I’m not going to relate all of them, because I’m not writing a book today. I do want to talk about a few things though, so maybe you get a few things about my non-movie obsession. I’ll break it down into swords of the western world, swords of the eastern world and knives.

Western Swords
Let’s face it, I’ve got a thing for knights in armor. Not shining armor, dirty, used functioning armor that does a job. Something that gets thrown off and into a closet, not something you stand up in the hallway. I’ve got a dented armor fetish. No, not a sexual one, but if there was an influence on how I try to be with people, the idealized codes of Chivalry have a lot to do with them. Note that I used the word idealized there. Real knights were little more than armored thugs, and even when they had honor it was only honor among the landed classes. Those who weren’t worth a ransom could be killed on the spot, no question. What can I tell you about how I feel about that? My collar is… well missing, but IF I had a collar it would very likely be a sort of pale blue. I’ve been blue collar, I’ve been white collar, and my roots come from blue, white and green collars. I am also an American, so there is a deep abiding feeling of “Fuck! Class! Distinction!” that runs through my veins.

So something got imprinted on me a LONG time ago. A vision of a lone warrior, wandering the land, righting wrongs and pwning evil doers. That sort of always stayed with me, the vision of the strong, noble, true and valiant knight who lived by a code and didn’t take kindly to people fucking with the weak. I don’t care how unrealistic it is, it’s in my head and it won’t leave. Some of you have religion, I’ve got Arthur and Lancelot. Let’s just walk away from there.

Holding the blade, learning how to make cuts, knowing what a sword can and can’t do is a way of touching that spirit. It’s in a sense, proving that in some small way you can live by those principals. Protect the weak, defy evil, stand in the face of a dragon and pwn that fuckin’ n00b. There are things about fealty and honor and other ideals in there too, but we’ll get to that later.

Speaking on a purely weapons angle, the classic cruciform sword of legend (see Oakeshott) is a great sword. A good point for thrusting, a nice edge for cutting, a sharpened edge on each side so you can get mofos on the back swing or turn the sword around if one edge gets dull. The falcata and later decendant the falchion are nice and all, but they’re more for hacking and don’t pull chicks like one of these will.

Eastern Swords
By which I guess I mean the katana. Samurai are more mythologized and bullshitted about than even the knights of old. Again, samurai were very noble and very proper, but only to people who were at or above their level, everyone else they could and did treat like shit. They abused their position, took over the government, stole power from the rulers of the nation, while pretending they hadn’t, and only let the rulers look at it when the Shogun was in a very good mood. HOWEVER! If all you’ve done is read the Code of Bushido* it sounds very nice.
*It’s down below the history lesson.

Still though, reading those codes, it’s hard not to get drawn in. Divorcing the realty from the code is easy and many people have done it. It sounds like all the things that a European Knight is supposed to be really. Boil it down to the basic precepts and you’ve got yourself one noble ass motherfucker. And you get to play with swords too! Hell, if you threw thrifty* in there that reads like the Boy Scout oath. And the samurai approved of buggering pretty boys so the Boy Scout thing still holds, just so long as you do it in secret. Fucking Boy Scouts, fuck those closeted assholes.
*I know, it’s under the Honesty and Sincerity bullet point, but it seems to be a tangent to me because he never talks about honesty or sincerity under that bullet point. So I’m going to say it doesn’t count and besides I like insulting the Boy Scouts of America for their habit of shielding child molesters while claiming gays can’t join because they might become child molesters.

Samurai were very into the ideas of fealty, loyalty, and the weight of that loyalty. You get a lot of talk about absolute right with samurai, a lot of absolute loyalty. Read up or watch a movie based on the Chūshingura which accounts the tale of the Forty-Seven Ronin for what the Japanese regularly see as the ultimate example of samurai loyalty. Once again, using the sword is a way to spiritually touch that world.

Of course the fact that the swords themselves are absolutely gorgeous helps. A properly made katana is like a sandwich of steel. Soft metal makes the cutting edge, while harder steel forms a rigid coating that gives strength and support to the blade. The katana is properly the finest cutting weapon ever made. Maybe not so hot for thrusting, but they had a different view of fighting. When there were samurai needing swords all the time it was like an assembly line. One man would make the blade, then hand it over to a man who would carve the perfect scabbard for it, then it would go to a man who only made the handle, just the handle! That’s all the guy made, handles. Each piece was often made by an expert who was as artist, working on only this one part of the final weapon. I can’t afford a sword like that, I get mass produced stuff. Nice stuff, but not that nice. Actually I still don’t have a properly differential tempered blade yet, they expensive! I do have some nice forged swords though.

If you need a final reason, swords just look nice. They had a good aesthetic to them that I enjoy.

HOWEVER! Cheap swords make the Baby Weirdo cry. Wall hanging bits of crap just make me despair the future of the race. Get something too cheap and you end up with a case hardened piece of crap. Case hardening is when they pour a blade and then only heat the outside so that you’ve only got strength for maybe a millimeter or two and then you’re down to metal you wouldn’t use for a pot. These days though, you don’t even need to be very expensive to avoid case hardened crap, so that’s nice.

Knives are less tied up with honorifics than swords are because they’re more populous. Knives can be decorative, utilitarian, specialized or general purpose. However, a knife can also be seen as a sword that fits in your pocket. A knife can also be a symbol though and a powerful one.

There is sometimes the idea that a knife is the modern sword, which is why in movies knives are so ridiculously big. They want to come as close to swords as they can while still being knives. The bayonet is still around even though one might suggest it’s totally useless based on the simple premise that give the high power rounds that shoot from the gun it’s totally useless. Still, we like to know it’s there. Something about steel. Something about having that last item, if it comes to that.

There is also the point that was raised in the most recent question and comes down to why I started this post in the first place…

When this last VEWPRF came along, I was giving less knives away as I often do and Syd claimed that a knife is supposed to be a symbol of wanting to sever relations. I had never heard this, and I suspect it’s something the Victorians came up with. Victorians were always assigning moronic symbols to things that already had symbolic status and getting it terribly wrong. Fucking Victorians, fucking everything up.

I am not a Victorian though! In truth I am more an antique Norseman than a Victorian*. I have always been more into the idea of a present of a knife as a symbol of trust and fealty. “I am giving you this weapon, and I am now going to turn my back. See? See how much I trust you?” There is also the acceptance aspect of “You are one of us now. You are part of my army and I will arm you.” So it’s like… the complete opposite of that dumb ass Victorian non-sense. Besides, you wouldn’t want to send a break up letter with a weapon attached, that’s just asking for it!
*Three points, who wants ‘em?

So yeah, knives are part of my lexicon and giving them is a big part of my personality. And after four pages, that’s all I have to say about that.

March 6, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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