Potshots and Fantasy

On my recent research trip to Germany, I was kicked out of a couple of museums at closing time.  I wish I’d had more time especially in the Kolnisches Stadtmuseum, a wonderful place rich with history and helpful displays.  Also an audiotour available in English which was less informative than muddling through the German signage.

I was especially excited to find this:

a medieval cast metal cannon

German Cannon

In the series I’m working on, I wanted to introduce guns in warfare.  You don’t see many gunpowder weapons in medieval fantasy.  I think this happens for a couple of reasons.  In terms of distance weapons, during their early development, guns weren’t much good.  There’s a reason we make so much of the longbow during the Hundred Years War.  There were guns as well, but they were not that effective in killing people.

Also, to the fantasy fan raised on Tolkien and his contemporaries, guns are just not romantic.  They are noisy, smelly, impersonal compared to the bow.  And for many times when historical battles might have relied on guns, we substitute things that feel more fantastic, like dragons or fireballs.

But I’m writing from the perspective of a barber who finds himself working as a battlefield surgeon.  From that vantage, guns are fascinating and disturbing–as likely to blow up the user as to wound who he’s aiming at.  On the medieval battlefield, guns amount to Shock and Awe:  a stinking, smoke-belching, explosive beast.  To the man who’s never seen one fired before, or dealt with its aftermath, these weapons *are* dragons.  Rumor has it that a group of mercenaries fled the field at Crecy due to the use of guns.

I would love to find some more information about the early use of guns, especially handguns.  I’ll be posting more of my photos and research later–in the meantime, any suggestions gratefully received!

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About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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4 Responses to Potshots and Fantasy

  1. Pingback: Forms of Address: What’s in a Name? | E. C. Ambrose

  2. The standard reference, if any, for this subject is probably Bert S. Hall’s “Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe.” Despite the title, the book covers periods as early as the 1320s, and in fact its most important revelations tend to be about the medieval use of gunpowder and gunpowder weapons. You’d especially love the detailed description of the Battle of Roosebeke (1382) and the various sieges that involved significant numbers of gunpowder weapons as early as the mid-14th century.

  3. Pingback: A Brief History of Gunpowder Weapons in 14th Century England | E. C. Ambrose

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