Weapon & Armor systems; Tactical Styles in Middle Earth

MithLuin

Well-Known Member
I recognize that the First Knight scene you included above was a pitched battle, where the focus was on the two antagonists. Everyone else in that scene is incidental background - the audience does not care what is happening to any of them, and their actions are used to further the story of the two main characters. So, in that sense, it is a duel in the midst of a battle. And while there are sequences where the other combatants get in the way and serve as obstacles driving the two apart....as Nick points out, there is the issue of...why is no one intervening? Why does no one decide to help either of these guys and just leave them to fight each other? If they are the leaders...they should have some back up!


Contrast that with this scene from The 13th Warrior, where the battle consists of characters we know on the good guys side, and a bunch of guys in bear skins on the villain side. That is more the type of situation we will have - main characters against monsters, not one-on-one heroes vs villains. It's not that you can't show them fighting an individual opponent, and it's not like we're never going to take down the leaders - but a battle is a group activity, and it should be portrayed as such. Not just king vs king with a bunch of red shirts dying. I feel that the 13th Warrior battle shows the group effort much more convincingly than the First Knight battle. Even if they are (technically) telling similar stories of leaders facing off in battle and killing one another.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
What's our lineup?
The Season 2 tournament takes place in the first act of Episode 10. Here is the thread for that episode: https://forums.signumuniversity.org/index.php?threads/season-2-episode-10-script-discussion.382/

I haven't watched the script outline discussion for that episode yet, so @Nicholas Palazzo or @MithLuin could probably tell you more about what they had in mind for that scene.

The goals of the duel in Episode 4 of Season 4 are to show Fingolfin's people getting along with the Feanorians and that Maedhros has recovered from his time in Angband.

Here is the scene I wrote:

EXT. TOURNAMENT ARENA AT HIMRING – DAY
An aerial shot shows Himring. Music from the tournament is heard. The camera moves down to the arena, showing the SPECTATORS and COMBATANTS. Everyone is dressed in fine clothes, and it is easy to tell from the heraldry they wear which side the Combatants belong to.
A short montage shows Fingolfin’s people winning some matches and Maedhros’s people winning others. Neither side is clearly ahead in the tournament.
MAEDHROS and FINGOLFIN are watching a duel between one of Fingolfin’s Soldiers and MAGLOR from a high vantage point. Fingolfin’s Soldier is losing. Fingolfin twitches slightly each time his Soldier should have made a move. Maedhros notices this. The duel ends with Maglor as victor. Amidst the cheering and applause, Maedhros turns to Fingolfin.


MAEDHROS
You miss this.

FINGOLFIN
Yea, so much. I have not been able to participate in such games since I became king.

MAEDHROS
Wherefore?

FINGOLFIN
A king cannot fight his own men. It would demand that they attack him, which any of honor would deem, at best, needless endangerment of their lord, and, at worst, treason. They would be obligated to lose.
(Long pause. Fingolfin looks longingly out at the arena.)
I would dearly love to fight, though.

MAEDHROS
Perhaps ... I can fight you.

They hear laughter. CELEGORM stands behind them.

CELEGORM
I thought thou hadst forfeited the kingship, Maedhros. Is this a challenge?

MAEDHROS
(to Fingolfin)
I mean it not as such. The kingship is yours by right. I merely propose an exhibition match, an opportunity for you to participate in a way that would not be improper.

FINGOLFIN
I thank thee for thy offer, but I fear the match would still be improper. Thou hast but one hand, and surely that doth put thee at some disadvantage.
(Celegorm smirks. He knows Maedhros’s handicap is no disadvantage.)
Perhaps ... Wouldst thou like me to fight with one hand tied back?

MAEDHROS
Not at all. Your offer is kind, but our Enemy to the north will never be so generous. And though this tournament is fun, it serveth also to prepare us for that war.

FINGOLFIN
Very well. I will take thine offer. Though still we must be careful of the message this duel shall send to our people.

Maedhros looks at Celegorm. Celegorm shrugs.

CELEGORM
I will do my best.

EXT. FLOOR OF THE ARENA – DAY

FINGOLFIN and MAEDHROS are dressed in their armor and carry their swords and shields. CELEGORM serves as announcer and co-judge.

CELEGORM
And now ... a duel between Lord Maedhros of Himring and High King Fingolfin. Our lords participate in this tournament in celebration of the comradeship and solidarity between our houses. They will be using blunted weapons ...
(Maedhros and Fingolfin hold up their swords, which are not their regular swords, and are indeed blunted.)
and scoring points for touches rather than hard blows. The first to five points shall be the winner. Points shall be awarded based on the joint decision of representatives from both houses.

Maedhros and Fingolfin square up. Celegorm stands on one side of them, and a SOLDIER from Fingolfin’s house stands on the other.

CELEGORM
Begin!

Maedhros attacks with a ferocity that catches Fingolfin off guard and scores the first point. The Soldier from Fingolfin’s house and Celegorm nod at each other to confirm that they both saw the point, and Celegorm holds up one finger on his left hand.
Fingolfin quickly scores two points against Maedhros. Celegorm keeps track of these for the audience by holding up fingers on his right hand.
Maedhros scores another point by sheer skill.
Fingolfin scores the next two points.
Maedhros, in a desperate and unexpected move, drops to the ground and scores a point on Fingolfin’s leg. He tries again, but Fingolfin leaps nimbly away.
Fingolfin scores the winning point against Maedhros before he can get back up. The shot of Fingolfin standing over Maedhros foreshadows a certain duel that is to come.

CELEGORM
Fingolfin is the winner!

Fingolfin smiles as he reaches down and helps Maedhros to his feet.

FINGOLFIN
Good fight. The fire of thy life burneth hot within thee.
(Maedhros looks concerned. The fire of his father’s life caused Fëanor to spontaneously combust.)
But it is a different fire than thy father’s.

Maedhros look relieved. He and Fingolfin turn to the crowd, arms clasped and upraised. The crowd cheers.
 

MithLuin

Well-Known Member
This is a neat test showing the interaction between a British long bow and a French breastplate, circa Battle of Agincort. Definitely an impressive effort put forth to recreate the items, and a frank discussion of the limitations of what we know and don't know about these materials.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I grew up with movie-swordfights by people like erol flynn, rock hudson, robert wagner... pretty much swashbuckling, but very entertaining, though admittendly not very realistic!

I still like japanese samurai movies too, like lone wolf and cub or ran, or the seven samurai... all very swashbucklerish.
 
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Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Certainly, duels are fun to watch, and some of the most dramatic moments in a story. Even in the novel format, it would be possible to argue that Eowyn's confrontation with the Witch-king is one of the most memorable moments in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Not the only dramatic moment, of course, but still a moment that sticks in many people's memories after reading the scene, in a way that other moments from that battle may not.

There is a scale of martial arts sliding from sport to combat, with most models fitting firmly on the sport side. Even when used to deadly effect, some martial arts-style moves are more for executing prisoners who aren't fighting back rather than for actually fighting an opponent who is trying to kill you. It's a martial art, it's meant to train someone for combat, but that doesn't mean they can all realistically be used in a warfare situation.

We do have some tournament-style duels in Silm Film already. Fingolfin competes in Tirion, prior to the incident where Fëanor points a sword as his throat. The obvious background there is that Tulkas likes to train, and would certainly invite the elves to train too - and it's all in good fun until someone pulls a real weapon in anger. Similarly, there is a tournament at Himring in Season 4 Episode 4, where Fingolfin and Maedhros do duel one another for fun.

There are plenty of movies that have found ways to incorporate dramatic duels. All of the Star Wars films, The Princess Bride, the first two Narnia films, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc, etc, etc. Stage fighting is a thing for a reason.

And not all films go for 'realistic' in their depiction of fighting. Some go for 'cool and dramatic looking' without attempting much realism at all.
So, in the 2018 Robin Hood film, we get a weirdly steampunked quasi-medieval/quasi-industrial setting. And for the fight scenes, we get this:

Now, this archery style is clearly based on something very specific (and therefore 'real'):
May I introduce to you...Lars Andersen:

So, here's the deal - it's not 100% unrealistic that Taron Egerton's Robin Hood, a master archer, could pull off the stunts and trick shots depicted in the film. Firing four arrows in rapid succession or firing in two different directions as he falls through the air? Scavenging arrows on the run? Sure, why not. What becomes ridiculous is that these trick shots are successfully taking out armored opponents in a one man against a fortress scenario. Yes, arrows go through chain mail with any reasonable force behind them (chain mail is for stopping slicing, not stabbing). But we don't see him shoot at the gap where the eyes are - we see him shoot a guy dead in the center of his forehead through a helmet and skull. His enemies crossbows are powerful enough to do actual structural damage to the building they are in, but of course he can still run at the end. That's more in the 'oh, come on!' category.

I'm not suggesting that's the most egregious thing about this film (for that, I'd say the total absence of Sherwood Forest really angered me), or even this scene (the perfect timing needed to ignite the oil from a getaway cart driving perpendicular to the oil line really bothered me), but it's certainly a depiction of 'fantasy' fighting, in the sense that the audience is meant to be entertained, not assume anything that is happening is realistic.

The problem is...the more fantastical your setting, the more effort you have to put into realism to convince the audience that your story is real enough to invest in, or go the humor/slapstick route. Our characters are all (prior to Season 5), not human. Not a single human being on screen (outside of the Frame). Now granted, the elves are clearly our human-proxy-stand-ins. So that's fine. But...we really do have to be careful with :Dany 'video game' fighting or stuff that seems low stakes and flashy. We have to make sure the audience is always at least a tiny bit concerned that the characters could die here. They're not superheroes and they shouldn't appear to have plot-based immunity.

So, can we have a flashy/'trick' swordsman? Eh, I'd rather not. Can we have duels during battles? I think there are several places in the story that call for it, but I think those scenes should be very tense. I want to make sure all of the choices made serve the story being told in that scene first, and a desire for 'cool' or 'flashy' moves is a secondary concern. The grim meeting between Gothmog and Fingon on the battlefield at the Unnumbered Tears ends with Gothmog cleaving his helmet in half and bursting his head open. That's raw power, not skill. It's not a duel between two roughly evenly matched opponents. It's someone outclassed fighting for his life against a fire demon...and losing.

I recognize that swordfighting on film involves a lot more twirls and spinning of the blade then would be realistic. I'm okay with some of that creeping in to keep the audience happy. But I don't want to plan whole fight sequences around some cutesy move, either.

Basically, I want nothing at all like this to appear at any point in our story:
Leaving aside some of the silly waving around of swords that is happening in this clip, the whole concept of an 'honorable duel' between enemies only works if your enemy is not an evil creature. You can't do this between an elf and orc! And in our story, there are very few cases where elves kill one another (well, okay, there's 4 kinslayings and the death of Aredhel and Eöl). But at no point could someone send a message to the Sons of Fëanor saying 'if you can't defeat our champion in a duel, then give up your claim to the silmaril!' That...isn't an option. There just isn't a place for 'let's settle this with a duel to the death' outside of Fingolfin's challenge to Morgoth, and that...shouldn't feel like this in any way. There, all Fingolfin is asking for in the duel...is the opportunity to kill Morgoth. The stakes aren't in exchange for anything else - this is after the battle, and he's not expecting to walk away alive.

So, yes, I've been told the sword-fighting in the film that clip is from is more or less historically accurate for the Polish saber, and a fencing society was involved in the production. I'm not complaining about the sword fight...I'm complaining about the entire context of the sword fight.
I thought that Fingon vs. Gothmog was pretty awesome on Fingon's part, because Gothmog required the help of another Balrog to get him into a position where he could end the fight. It looks like he couldn't defeat Fingon without help, and that's a point for Fingon.

So if Elves are our "human" counterparts, how do we differentiate them from Men in subsequent seasons (aside from the ears of course)?
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
The Season 2 tournament takes place in the first act of Episode 10. Here is the thread for that episode: https://forums.signumuniversity.org/index.php?threads/season-2-episode-10-script-discussion.382/

I haven't watched the script outline discussion for that episode yet, so @Nicholas Palazzo or @MithLuin could probably tell you more about what they had in mind for that scene.

The goals of the duel in Episode 4 of Season 4 are to show Fingolfin's people getting along with the Feanorians and that Maedhros has recovered from his time in Angband.

Here is the scene I wrote:

EXT. TOURNAMENT ARENA AT HIMRING – DAY
An aerial shot shows Himring. Music from the tournament is heard. The camera moves down to the arena, showing the SPECTATORS and COMBATANTS. Everyone is dressed in fine clothes, and it is easy to tell from the heraldry they wear which side the Combatants belong to.
A short montage shows Fingolfin’s people winning some matches and Maedhros’s people winning others. Neither side is clearly ahead in the tournament.
MAEDHROS and FINGOLFIN are watching a duel between one of Fingolfin’s Soldiers and MAGLOR from a high vantage point. Fingolfin’s Soldier is losing. Fingolfin twitches slightly each time his Soldier should have made a move. Maedhros notices this. The duel ends with Maglor as victor. Amidst the cheering and applause, Maedhros turns to Fingolfin.


MAEDHROS
You miss this.

FINGOLFIN
Yea, so much. I have not been able to participate in such games since I became king.

MAEDHROS
Wherefore?

FINGOLFIN
A king cannot fight his own men. It would demand that they attack him, which any of honor would deem, at best, needless endangerment of their lord, and, at worst, treason. They would be obligated to lose.
(Long pause. Fingolfin looks longingly out at the arena.)
I would dearly love to fight, though.

MAEDHROS
Perhaps ... I can fight you.

They hear laughter. CELEGORM stands behind them.

CELEGORM
I thought thou hadst forfeited the kingship, Maedhros. Is this a challenge?

MAEDHROS
(to Fingolfin)
I mean it not as such. The kingship is yours by right. I merely propose an exhibition match, an opportunity for you to participate in a way that would not be improper.

FINGOLFIN
I thank thee for thy offer, but I fear the match would still be improper. Thou hast but one hand, and surely that doth put thee at some disadvantage.
(Celegorm smirks. He knows Maedhros’s handicap is no disadvantage.)
Perhaps ... Wouldst thou like me to fight with one hand tied back?

MAEDHROS
Not at all. Your offer is kind, but our Enemy to the north will never be so generous. And though this tournament is fun, it serveth also to prepare us for that war.

FINGOLFIN
Very well. I will take thine offer. Though still we must be careful of the message this duel shall send to our people.

Maedhros looks at Celegorm. Celegorm shrugs.

CELEGORM
I will do my best.

EXT. FLOOR OF THE ARENA – DAY

FINGOLFIN and MAEDHROS are dressed in their armor and carry their swords and shields. CELEGORM serves as announcer and co-judge.

CELEGORM
And now ... a duel between Lord Maedhros of Himring and High King Fingolfin. Our lords participate in this tournament in celebration of the comradeship and solidarity between our houses. They will be using blunted weapons ...
(Maedhros and Fingolfin hold up their swords, which are not their regular swords, and are indeed blunted.)
and scoring points for touches rather than hard blows. The first to five points shall be the winner. Points shall be awarded based on the joint decision of representatives from both houses.

Maedhros and Fingolfin square up. Celegorm stands on one side of them, and a SOLDIER from Fingolfin’s house stands on the other.

CELEGORM
Begin!

Maedhros attacks with a ferocity that catches Fingolfin off guard and scores the first point. The Soldier from Fingolfin’s house and Celegorm nod at each other to confirm that they both saw the point, and Celegorm holds up one finger on his left hand.
Fingolfin quickly scores two points against Maedhros. Celegorm keeps track of these for the audience by holding up fingers on his right hand.
Maedhros scores another point by sheer skill.
Fingolfin scores the next two points.
Maedhros, in a desperate and unexpected move, drops to the ground and scores a point on Fingolfin’s leg. He tries again, but Fingolfin leaps nimbly away.
Fingolfin scores the winning point against Maedhros before he can get back up. The shot of Fingolfin standing over Maedhros foreshadows a certain duel that is to come.


CELEGORM
Fingolfin is the winner!

Fingolfin smiles as he reaches down and helps Maedhros to his feet.

FINGOLFIN
Good fight. The fire of thy life burneth hot within thee.
(Maedhros looks concerned. The fire of his father’s life caused Fëanor to spontaneously combust.)
But it is a different fire than thy father’s.

Maedhros look relieved. He and Fingolfin turn to the crowd, arms clasped and upraised. The crowd cheers.
Are Fingolfin and Maedhros using shields? If so, what type as this will impact the choreography.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Are Fingolfin and Maedhros using shields? If so, what type as this will impact the choreography.
A good question. Up to this point we've been having the Noldor use variants of Greek shields, but this being a sporting event, they might be using something more akin to a buckler. It certainly would make the fight more dynamic, and sword/buckler fighting is surprisingly rare in cinema.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
The noldor use shields akin to reverse teardropshields, at last that's the variant Tuor finds at vinyamar.The Sindar use Targes so i guess some noldor could use ones too?
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
The noldor use shields akin to reverse teardropshields, at last that's the variant Tuor finds at vinyamar.The Sindar use Targes so i guess some noldor could use ones too?
It'd be a pain to carry. Imagine Tuor lugging a shield that's almost as big as he is, and those things aren't meant to be lugged around on foot; they're meant for mounted cavalry.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
They marched there with the shields. Just like the Romans did with the scutum, which is certainly no lighter.
I guess I'm a little surprised that Tuor would be able to do it, considering we have other characters who travel light as Tuor would be, but not carrying shields (ie Aragorn and Beren).
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
A good question. Up to this point we've been having the Noldor use variants of Greek shields, but this being a sporting event, they might be using something more akin to a buckler. It certainly would make the fight more dynamic, and sword/buckler fighting is surprisingly rare in cinema.
I'm surprised considering the genre known as "swash-buckling". Perhaps there's a temptation to use the buckler more as a punching implement?
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Well tuor's shield is described as "light" so in any case i guess the Elves had their ways to produce large, yet light shields.The historic celtic shield is not a kite-shield but of similar size and replicas are usually made as quite light shields.... without all elven fine-smith magics.The roman scutum is also not a kite shield in form, but quite large, ca 4 ft in length, and with an average weight of 13 lbs also relatively light.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
So have we decided whether or not Fingolfin and Maedhros are using shields in their bout? It'll impact the choreography.
My vote is for buckles or targs. This was probably what they were using for combat sports in Tirion and it makes sense to do so now. Bigger shields would be ok, but likely not as interesting to watch for in-universe spectators as well as our viewers.
 
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