Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sword Blogging

Normally I don't buy movie tie-ins just because I like the movie. I've made an exception on some of the Lord of the Rings merchandise, particularly some of the weapons. There are a few reasons for this. First, I like both the movie and weaponry. Just as important, the weapons are well-made. These are real swords. Finally, I found a really cheap source.

The weapons I have gotten are not licensed movie reproductions. I suspect that they are identical to the licensed ones except without the licensing costs and huge mark-ups. I have a whole collection for what one licensed sword would cost.

Here's what I have and my impressions.

Ranger's sword
In the book, Strider only carried one sword and it was broken for half of the first book. In the movie the idea of a ranger running around with nothing but a broken sword to defend himself was rejected. They gave Strider a rather plain sword and he carried it until Elrond presented him with the reforged sword in the third movie.

This is a copy of the sword that strider carries most of the time. It is a solid broadsword. Like many of the LoTR's swords, it has a two-handed grip. This gives it a good balance when used one-handed. It's a bit short for a two-handed sword but it works well as one.

Ringwraith's sword
The edges of this sword are uneven. The idea was that the Ringwraiths left their swords sitting around, unattended for hundreds of years. This sword was originally wider and some of the edge has rusted away. Regardless, the sword is still sharp and dangerous. You can see this sword held by the flying Nazgul who confronts Frodo in The Two Towers.

This is a real two-handed sword. It is longer than the Ranger's sword but made with a thinner blade. Even though the edges are uneven, they managed to arraign it so that the sword is still perfectly balanced.

I have two complaints about this sword. One is that there are points going up the blade from the pommel. These do not touch the blade but the blade is flexible enough to bang against them.

The second complaint is that the blade is a bright stainless steel. It does not look like something that rusted away. I fixed this by treating it with soldering flux multiple times. This is a mild acid that is corrosive. After several treatments it started to look rusty.

Witchking's sword
In my favorite scene in the book, the orcs have broken the gate to Gondor. Instead of rushing in, they fall back so that the Witchking can be the first in. He is riding a horse. His hood is pulled back and his crown appears to be floating atop his invisible head. He draws his sword and pale flames flicker along the blade.

Opposing him is Gandolf. Before they can meet, the horns of Rohan are sounded. The Witchking hurries back to his flying steed.

In the theatrical version, this is cut completely. In the extended DVD, Gandolf is hurrying to save Faramir when he is confronted by the Witchking with his flaming sword. He shatters Gandolf's staff but hurries away at the sound of the horns.

This is the sword. It's a bit shorter than the ringwraith's sword but it is still a two-handed broadsword. Like the other swords, it is light enough and well-balanced enough to be used one-handed.

Unlike the ringwraith's sword, this one has a special finish that looks just right.

Since hobbits are so small, what passes as a sword for them was originally a long elf-made dagger. Unlike all of the other elven weapons in the movie, this has a straight, leaf-shaped blade.

The reproduction is about right as a long dagger. This was the first LoTR weapon that I bought and I was surprised that it was a real weapon. The shape of the blade gives it enough weight for cutting.

The handle is painted (as it was in the movie) and I assume that this would rub off eventually. A bit of elvish starts on the cross-guard and runs down the blade naming the sword.

There is also a convincing plastic version of this sword. When you flip a switch the blade glows blue. I've never seen this for less than $50 so I don't have one.

Aragorn's dagger
Galadrial presents gifts to the nine as they leave Lothlorian. Strider gets a dagger. This is used several times. In the fight at the end of Fellowship he loses his sword and uses the dagger. Later an orc throws the dagger at him. Finally, he re-sheaths the dagger as he says, "Let's hunt some orc." In The Two Towers he stops Eowyn's sword with the dagger.

The dagger is a cross between an over-sized bowie knife and a short scimitar. The handle is a nice red wood. Elvish is painted on the blade and it came with a nice leather-covered sheath.

Daggers of Legolas
When he is not using his bow, Legolas draws a pair of daggers. The rest of the time you can see them sticking up from his quiver.

These are unusual-looking daggers. I mainly got them because of the greenish wood handles. For daggers, these are pretty long. If you put your thumbs along the handle they have the feel of a machete. There is enough weight in the blades for cutting as well as stabbing.

Saruman's staff
The top of Saruman's staff has points duplicating the top of Orthanc. It has a marble ball that is reminiscent of the tower's Palantir.

The reproduction took a few shortcuts. The points are made from thinner metal, they used a glass ball instead of a marble one, and the ball is loose.

I considered replacing the ball. Instead I used a felt furniture pad to keep it from bouncing around. I put a red LED in the pad with a hidden battery and wires so I can press on the right place and it lights up.

To make shipping easier, the staff unscrews into two parts. The joint is not obvious.

Gandolf's staff
Gandolf actually has four staffs in the movie. The first one looks like a small tree grew out of a hill. The roots that form the top all go in one direction. There is enough room in between them to hold his long-stemmed pipe. You can see it clearly when he is talking with Saruman. There is also a thong hanging down that he can tie his bag of pipeweed to. Sauruman takes this staff.

Later Gandolf has a similar staff but without the thong.

After his death and resurrection, Gandolf has a new, white staff. It appears to be carved from wood and has a fancy head. In the book, his white clothing was given to him by the elves of Lothlorian. Presumably they made this staff, also. During siege of Gondor, the Witchking shatters this staff. Gandolf grabs a lance from a soldier for a bit but he has a new white staff by the time they attack Mordor.

Mine is based on the white staff. The head it cast metal, screwed into a steel shaft. Like Saruman's staff, this one splits in half. Unlike that one, the seam is obvious.

This was the most disappointing reproductions. The head is made of four cast pieces and they do not fit together well. The seams are obvious. On top of that, it was painted in a high-gloss white paint that made it look cheap.

I fixed a lot of that. After filling the seams with putty, sanding the paint, and putting on a new coat of flat white it looks a lot more like it should.

I may mount a blue light in the head.

Update: I should make it clear that I have no illusions about ever using these weapons for real. It is more fun to get a workout practicing weapon drills than doing calisthenics. I do get satisfaction from going to Renaissance Fairs and beating up people half my age with practice swords but that's as far as it goes.

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