Monday, 31 March 2014

A is for Archery

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/




So, it's the A-Z. My goal in these posts is to look at the bits of medieval history that are useful to writers of fantasy. I’m going to begin with archery. Descriptions of medieval battles have a couple of oddities to them. The numbers in armies (another A word for you) were usually massively over inflated. At the same time, the impression given was that knights did most of the work, being effectively invulnerable.


Archers were written out, perhaps because the bow wasn’t seen as a weapon for a noble man. Yet they were effective. Agincourt didn’t come out of nowhere. Curiously, fantasy writers also have problems with bows. Book after book has shown the big, muscly types at the front avoiding their use. Bows are for elves. Or girls, because it is another issue with fantasy fiction that women are often stuck at the back in fights, shooting stuff while the men get on with swinging swords. Even in the Hunger Games, what weapon do we see the main character using? It says something about both our attitudes to female characters and our attitudes towards archery. If you’re writing fantasy, it’s probably worth looking hard at both.

9 comments:

L.G. Smith said...

My girl uses a bow in my stories. She also uses a blade, and definitely isn't stuck in the back of the fight. :)

Enjoy the A to Z.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Are you kidding? Yes, a broadsword is the ultimate cool, but if I could shoot like Legolas, give me a bow.

stu said...

Good to hear, L.G. but it still feels like a lot of authors leave their female characters lurking at the back, shooting stuff or throwing magic. Or indeed waiting to be rescued in a lot of cases.

Kristin Smith said...

Very interesting. I'd never thought about that. A bow is a very powerful weapon and takes skill to use. Wonder why people wouldn't consider it a useful tool for anyone, muscly or not. Hmm, something to consider.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

A. Catherine Noon said...

STU! What an awesome theme idea!!!

Thank you for coming by my blog and visiting and you can be sure, I'll be back for more medieval history!

Mich said...

I never thought about that, with women in fantasy being so often armed with bows. Thank goodness for Eowyn--I think it might be because of her that I arm all of my women with swords. And the occasional battle axe.

Rusty Carl said...

I guess my fantasy epic where the archers are shooting broadswords from their bows might be a bit wrong. But... Magic!

Kate Larkindale said...

My son tried archery at his school camp last week and is now eager to learn more. Unfortunately, it's not really the kind of sport you can just set up in your back yard... But it does look cool. I was such a Robin Hood fan as a kid.

Richa Singh said...

Archery has a way with writing, it denotes a lot of things metaphorically too..

Richa