Archive for December, 2011

Furniture Used in the Middle Ages

Posted in Writing with tags , , on December 31, 2011 by Dawn Ross

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

What sort of furniture did people use in the middle ages? What did they call the furniture? They probably didn’t have a love seat or a futon, but they had something similar. They probably didn’t have closets so what sort of furniture held their clothes? Here is a list of furniture used in the middle ages. This list came from various books which I researched when writing a fantasy novel.

-bed decor of the wealthy – “hung with black velvet with gold fringe”, “plain corded bedstead”, “elaborately carved”, “with more than one mattress”
-bed furnishings – mattress (of straw, feathers or down, wool), blankets (sheets, coverlets, blankets of fustian or wool), bolster (long cylindrical pillow), cushions instead of pillows, valance (fabric cover for a bed base)
-bedrooms of the wealthy might have had a bed, wardrobe or armoire, chair, writing desk, vanity, standing full-length mirror, benches, dining board, chests and trunks (could double as benches), coffers (chests made of cedar which contained linens and such), cupboards instead of dressers (no drawers)
-bed types – canopy, pallets (straw mats), barded bed (shallow wooden box standing on four short legs), flock bed (like a boarded bed but had a stack of chaff for the head), stump bed (bedstead with no valances or curtains), bed with a mattress on interwoven strips of leather that rested on four posts, trestle bed, trunkle bed (had wheels), field bed (portable folding bedstead), curtained bed
-dais table – grand table of fine wood and carvings used by the wealthy during social gatherings
-ottoman – low upholstered stool for the feet
-sitting furniture – chair, bench (most common amongst the middle and lower class), chest, trunk, stool
-studies of the wealthy had a desk and bookcases
-tables and chairs of the wealthy usually elaborately carved of dark wood such as walnut or mahogany
-tester of a bed is the canopy which suspended from the ceiling
-trestle table – a supporting framework consisting of a horizontal beam held up by a pair of splayed legs at each end

If writing a fantasy novel based on how people lived in the middle ages, you can’t use modern terminology. For more information on furniture used in the middle ages as well as other things about the middle ages check out our a-store “Guides to Writing a Fantasy Novel“. Some of the great books at this a-store include “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England” or “Life in Medieval Times“.

“A Dog’s Christmas Story” by Dawn Ross

Posted in Other Stories with tags , on December 24, 2011 by Dawn Ross

"A Dog's Christmas Story" by Dawn Ross

Some time ago I write a story for Christmas. It is not a literary masterpiece. It is just a touching story about a dog finding a family for Christmas. Click HERE to visit my American Dog Blog to read “A Dog’s Christmas Story“.

Arms & Armor Reference Information for Writing a Fantasy Novel – Part IV

Posted in Writing with tags , , on December 17, 2011 by Dawn Ross

Studies in European Arms and Armor: The C. Otto Von Kienbusch Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Here is our final post on arms and armor of the middle ages. In the first three parts we covered armor, weapons, siege tactics, and military organization. Now for the final part:

Fighting Information and Strategy
-a good fighting strategy is to cut the back of the opponent’s leg (hamstring, ankle, knee)
-a knight could be stabbed downward or thrust from below
-approaching the enemy on horseback quickly provides more force to your blow but allows the enemy to maneuver easily out of the way, but if you have a well-trained horse which adjusts quickly you have the advantage
-ascending and descending blows
-a warded blow should be immediately converted into an attack
-beware of feints, using feints yield a time advantage to the opponent
-by letting the opponent strike first, there are many defenses which can be simultaneously used as an attack or turned into a counter thrust
-combination attacks
-cuts and thrusts almost invariably used in swift combination of two or three strokes
-cuts and thrusts should follow one upon the other without pause
-cuts – downward from a high position (vulnerable), upward cuts from a low position, horizontal cuts
-cuts followed by thrust
-cuts which require greater movement are easier to read by opponent
-cuts intended primarily to force an opponent to defend the threatened part of the body leave the real target uncovered
-cuts open the way for the decisive use of the thrust point
-cuts which might be instantaneously converted into thrusts are the best
-defend by offending, offend by defending – no defense without good offence, no offence without good defense
-fighting on horseback requires good horsemanship
-fighting terms – ward or ward a blow, thrust, cut, lunge, feint, riposte (quick deft thrust made after parrying a lunge, dodge, blow, stance, leading with the right or left foot, deflect, counter-attack or counter-strike, downward blow, divert, strike, guard, counter, jab, duck, fend or fend off, parry
-fighting with a quarterstaff or staff-fighting
-fighting with a sword and buckler (small shield)
-fighting with both right and left hand (or being able to lead with both) can be a great advantage
-fluid movements require less strain, when your sword is deflected use the momentum it was hit away with to circle it back around in a cutting motion to continue the flow
-for stability in foot fighting have weight resting on back leg
-horses were an easy target in battle, a foot soldier can aim for the horse rather than the rider
-in foot fighting or fighting on horseback a rapid change of direction could muddle the enemy
-intentions can be easily red if the opponent’s stance is generally static
-keep opponent guessing
-large war horses break through a crowd and by shear weight could overthrow an enemy mount
-no two men fight the same way so the more you practice with different fighters, the more you will be ready when your opponent does something unexpected
-offensive guard vs defensive guard
-some men like to wait to see what an opponent does before they make the move to attack while other men like to make the first move so as to force their opponent to be on the defense
-sword carried on the left hip, left hand holds the scabbard while the right hand removes the sword
-swordman’s intention should be to strike rather than parry
-the pommel of a sword could be used as a weapon if needed in close quarters
-to cause the enemy tolose his horse, try cutting the horse’s nose or cut the reigns
-watch the opponent’s sword point, hil, his body, arm, or wrist while seeming to look into his eyes
-when fighting someone on horseback approach on their left side to force him to fight across his own horse
-when fighting with a sword against a staff, use sword as a staff by gripping the sword with your left hand near the pommel as usual and placing the right hand between the great and small guard of your sword
-when sword fighting, try not to expose your flank (side)

Other Information
-barracks – temporary housing for soldiers
-corporal punishment reserved for certain offenses such as violence towards a superior officer, insubordination, mutiny, theft, and drinking on duty
-corporal punishments were usually a flogging or whipping of 25 lashes
-farriers were assigned to each troop of soldiers to brand horses, dock their tails, and shod them
-farriers generally had two mules with them, one for carrying a small anvil and bellows and one for carrying charcoal and iron
-instead of fighting, unlawful activity was encouraged, called privateering
-mesnie – military personnel of the castle household
-only officers were allowed to marry and only with permission
-pel or palum – wooden post used to practice on with a sword
-practice swords were wooden swords or staves
-soldier’s meal consisted of boiled beef and potatoes, bread, and beer
-teachers of fighting were called masters of defense or masters of arms

I know I haven’t covered everything you need to know on arms and armor for writing a fantasy novel. But this is a good start. For more helpful reference information, check out all the great books on Guides to Writing a Fantasy Novel.

Arms & Armor Reference Information for Writing a Fantasy Novel – Part III

Posted in Writing with tags , on December 10, 2011 by Dawn Ross

Medieval Life (Eyewitness Guides)

I’ve covered armor and weapons terminology but what about the actual fighting part and the organization of an army? Knowing how weapons were used and how armies were organized is just as important when writing a fantasy novel. Here is some more information on sieges, recruitment, ranks, and general organization:

Battle and Siege Information
-an average siege could take months
-escalade – scaling of a castle wall
-moat could be filled with brush and dirt to allow besiegers to reach the wall
-sheep, goats, and cows were gathered and kept on hand during a siege
-strategic locations included for those being besieged included river crossings, river confluence (point at which two rivers combine), stretch of navigation, coastal harbor, mountain pass, castle or fortress
-strategy in besieging a castle is to cut off supply lines by interrupting road or river traffic from a distant point, cut off water supply, dig a hole under the wall, before a siege begins soldiers dressed as peasants or merchants to gain access to the inner wall and take over the gatehouse
-the ground in front of the castle wall was cleared of trees so that the defenders can see the besiegers

Army Information
-2-3000 fighting men not including servants was a common army size in medieval warfare
-bulls and other livestock marched along with an army for fresh meat
-cavalry officers were obliged to hunt, pay for their own horses, hounds, and equipment
-commissions and promotions were often purchased, the money paid was given to the retiring officer or the crown
-field beds for officers were portable folding bedsteads
-field hospitals were rare
-fighting men included body guards and other household warriors, magnates, conscript forces, auxiliaries (soldiers from outside the kingdom), and mercenaries (professional soldiers paid to fight for an army other than that of his/her own country)
-soldiers were generally only half-armored, full armor was only worn in tournaments because it would have been too cumbersome to wear in battle
-soldiers who did extra work such as carpentry, tailors, roadwork, or bridge building received extra pay, wives were paid for doing laundry and such
-troops housed in barracks or at inns requisitioned by the army, officers might have rooms in an inn or private residence
-towns and cities rung bells to call to arms or for festival days

-commoner occupations – cavalry and infantry or footmen, spearmen, archers, engineers, farriers, fletchers
-officer ranks – general, lieutenant general, captain, commander, lieutenant
-regular ranks – sergeant, regulars

-artillery, foot soldiers, engineers came from all walks of life
-poverty was the greatest incentive for enlistment
-sometimes soldiers recruited from criminals about to be punished
-vagrants and other men were apprehended in city streets and given a chance of serving or being punished
-women sometimes dressed as men in order to join the army
-when war was over, many soldiers and sailors were abandoned to the city streets

For more information on war in the middle ages, check out some reference books such as “Medieval Warfare” by Helen J. Nicholson, or “Medieval Life” by Andrew Langley. “Viking” could also be useful.

We have one more part to the arms & armor reference information. Check us out next week for miscellaneous fighting and other information.

Arms & Armor Reference Information for Writing a Fantasy Novel – Part II

Posted in Miscellaneous, Writing with tags , , on December 3, 2011 by Dawn Ross

Last week I gave a bunch of information about armor and helmets. But there is more to writing a fantasy novel than just knowing about the armor and helmets of the middle ages. Here are some good things to know about bows and arrows and other medieval weapons:

Bows and Arrows
-arrow parts – point, shaft, fletching, nock
-bodkin point arrows used to penetrate chain mail or plate mail, otherwise the point would break or bounce off
-bows made from yew, elm, or ash
-crossbows easier to use, have longer range, but take longer to load as compared to a longbow
-crossbows use heavy arrows called bolts or quarrels
-leather bracer – used to protect archer’s forearm from bow string
-leather tab – used by archers to protect fingers from bow string
-quiver – leather case for holding and carrying arrows
-sheaf = 24 arrows
-steps in shooting – standing, nocking, drawing, holding, aiming, releasing, and follow-through
-stringing a bow is not an easy thing to do, takes well over 100 pounds of pressure
windlas – needed to drawback cord on some bows

Medieval Weapons
-balistas – large siege bows
-battering ram
-caltrops – three-dimensional spikes that have standing points no matter which way it lies on the ground
-gross-guard – as on a sword, keeps hand from sliding to blade
-cudgel – short heavy club
-falchion – a foreign shortsword with a broad slightly curved blade
-halberd – ax or pole-ax
-lance, javelin, spear
-lance – long wooden staff with sharp metal head
-pole-ax – battle ax with 6-8 foot handle
-pommel – sword end
-quarterstaff – could be all wooden or tipped with metal pointed edge
-quillons – cross-guard on a sword
-short sword or dagger
-testudo – armored roof on rollers used during a siege
-trebuchet or mangonel – sling catapult, more accurate than a catapult
two handled sword had a four-foot blade and foot-long handle, was designed for wide cutting strokes

This is just some basic information. For more information, check out some great reference books for writing a fantasy novel. There is “European Arms & Armor“, “Studies in European Arms and Armor“, and “Arms & Armor“.