On Sunday I bought some arrows.
Three arrows with pointed heads, long wooden shafts and feathered fletching. They are hand-crafted replicas of old-style arrows I came across at the Old World Arts and Blacksmiths Fair I went to yesterday, and I completely fell in love with them.
They look awesome standing in a glass jar on my bookshelf. They truly do. But that’s only partly why I bought them.
The other reason I coveted the arrows — desperately, the moment I saw them — was because I thought it would be fabulous to have real, tactile examples of old fashioned weapons to examine up close and personal…
I spend a lot of time in fantasy worlds — in books, in my own writing, and more recently playing Dungeons and Dragons. And many of these worlds feature good old bows and arrows. (Not to mention… Legolas!) So it’s fascinating to learn more about old-style arrows — such as how heavy they are, how they are balanced, how the heads and fletching are attached to the shaft…
The arrows were made by Master Blacksmith Dietmar Fleckhammer, who started making replica arrows upon request some years ago and found them to be rather popular. He has a long history of participating in modern archery as well, so has good understanding of balance and flight.
Many of the arrows he makes are ‘fake’ ones that wouldn’t fly — such as replicas of the arrows used in the Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies. They look pretty, but are not ‘authentic’. For instance, the head on the LOTR ones is too heavy for flight.
However, the ones I bought are replicas of styles that were actually used. Two are hand-crafted replicas of arrows found on the Mary Rose, King Henry VIII’s flagship that sank in 1545. It was raised from near Portsmouth Harbour in 1982 with an amazing array of artifacts remarkably well preserved — including scores of arrows. I actually remember seeing the retrieved arrows on display when I visited Portsmouth four years ago.
Dietmar said he forged the arrow heads as per those found on the Mary Rose, used ash for the shaft (commonly used for arrows throughout Medieval Europe), and even matched the number of stitches on the neat, white fletching. These would fly. Not that they’re going to.
The other is a replica of an older-style arrow, before forged arrow-heads were used. It has a carved stone head and the feathered fletching is more mussed and ragged. It’s shorter, more for a short bow, and is typical of those early arrows used throughout Europe and North America before the Europeans arrived bringing forged steel.
They make me very happy.
There was a lot of other cool stuff on show during the Old World Arts and Blacksmiths Fair, which was held at an old homestead just outside Melbourne. Lots of blacksmithing going on of course. (In fact, they have blacksmithing there every weekend.) And there were swords and knives and wooden shields and cloak pins to look at. And textile weaving — mainly producing round and square ‘cord’ out of multiple strands of wool. There were also quite a number of interesting people from havardr — the dark ages society of Melbourne.
And one guy wandering around demonstrated how to wear a bow, quiver, sword and dagger all together with leather armour… our D&D characters get around like that and I had been wondering!
I really did enjoy myself. I’ve always loved a spot of experiential research and now to have some arrows of my very own is brilliant.