Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Hard Kit is all other accoutrements that are not clothing, weapons or armour. This includes pots and tents, and flint & steel, and other things like that.

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caedmon
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Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby caedmon » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:58 am

"Unloose him Frodo!' Faramir took a small nail-knife from his belt and handed it to Frodo. Gollum misunderstanding the..."

No greater description given. So what is a nail knife? And in a Middle Earth context is it a Gondor thing, an Ithilen resistance thing, a Dunedain thing, or something else?
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby caedmon » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:58 am

After a bit of googling, there seem to be three possibilities.

One is a small folding pocket knife. (The type that 5 year olds get as their first knife. ) And about perfect for cutting some rope.
Image

Another seems to be a knife forged out of a 16 penny or smaller nail. (Mostly a blackmith's learning project?) Once again fairly useful in that regard...
Image


FInally , there is the 'French Nail-Knife', a field mod to a bayonet or tent peg made in the Trenches of WWI. Well this seems promising, Tolkien was in the Trenches, and would seem threatening enough to freak Golum out...

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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Elleth » Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:11 pm

I read "nail-knife" as describing more function than a particular class of blade. That is - a knife one might pare one's nails with. So the same general role as your first option, but not necessarily the tiny folder of the current day (or Tolkien's day, for that matter).

I doubt Faramir and his men have need of jury-rigged spikes to stick orcs with. The WWI implements come from an era that had largely abandoned stabby things as primary weapons, and then suddenly found need for them again. I don't believe the same constraints are in Ithilien, where the Rangers carry purpose-made spears and swords and such. It wouldn't be the first time the good Professor has imported a technology sans its real world context (mechanical clocks, Hobbit matches) - but nonetheless that's not how I'd guess in this case.

For what it's worth, my mental image reading the line is something like a small, thin, sharp paring knife - around a 3-4" blade and similarly sized handle, worn in a typically medieval belt sheath.

That's somewhat informed by (what passes for) my own woods experience. One tends to need three classes of blade: big, durable, and choppy (hatchet or seax/choppy knife), middling and general purpose (food preparation, general use), and small-and-scalpel like (digging out splinters, trimming fletching, etc). I read Faramir's "nail-knife" then as being of the last category.

While I'd normally think one would reach for the more "general purpose" belt knife to cut rope bonds, I can easily imagine Faramir choosing the smallest blade easy to hand, given he was handing it to a child-sized hobbit.

We've all got different mental images, though. :mrgreen:
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Udwin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:23 pm

caedmon wrote:"No greater description given. So what is a nail knife? And in a Middle Earth context is it a Gondor thing, an Ithilen resistance thing, a Dunedain thing, or something else?


I think it's a southern thing, based only on the fact that Tolkien’s only other mention of a ‘nail-knife’ also takes place in Ithilien:
“[Saelon] was humming softly, while he trimmed a whistle of green willow with a sharp nail-knife.” (The History of Middle-earth, Volume 12: The Peoples of Middle-earth, Part Four Unfinished Tales, Chapter XVI The New Shadow)

Personally, the preferred knife I use for cleaning my nails is the tiiiiny 1.5" blade on my 19th c. Pennsylvania folder (the other is 2" and used mostly for sharpening pencils).
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Greg » Tue May 01, 2018 12:52 am

Cool reference! I've never focused in on that description before...always glossed over. Definitely room for thought on that one.
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Ohtarvarno » Wed May 02, 2018 5:51 pm

Personally I would go with the third example. Tolkien 's wartime experiences would have given first hand experience of such weapons and I think it quite suitable for Faramir to be carrying such an item.

http://www.sofmilitary.co.uk/french-ww1 ... duct,16309

Think of it as an early Fairbairn-Sykes dagger.
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Peter Remling » Thu May 03, 2018 10:43 am

I'd have to go with Elleth's comment. Even in the 60's my Grandfather referred to a small utility folder as a nail knife.

Faramir wasn't handing over a weapon to someone he wasn't sure of, he was handing over a tool to someone, who he didn't feel threatened by. He saw no need deter his men to guarding prisoners of no value and didn't want to have them killed which is probably what his father would have ordered, if he brought them back to Gondor.
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Harper » Thu May 03, 2018 4:53 pm

^ What Peter said.

I think it was a small tool used primarily for paring fingernails.
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Ohtarvarno » Thu May 03, 2018 7:07 pm

"Fork handles or four candles?"

For me, there are some points that sway my thinking to the trench knife style.

I think the key is the word "small". I think if it was referring to a knife for trimming nails that "small" would have been omitted. It would have been understood that the knife was small and the word would have been superfluous. By using the word "small" it seems to be indicating a smaller version of a large implement. I think of it as something 6" long with a 3" blade, easily manageable for a hobbit.

The knife in the first photo would probably have been referred to as a penknife or pocket knife.

Thinking of what the knife was to be used for - cutting the cords binding Gollum - a small nail-knife (trench style) would have been more suitable. A nail-knife ( for nails) would have been inadequate , a small nail-knife even more so.

Of the two different styles of knife I think it more likely for Faramir, as a Ranger of Ithilien, to be carrying a small trench nail-knife.

But hey, having our own interpretation and vision of the books is what makes them so magical and appealing.
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Re: Faramir's Nail-Knife: Essential Kit or Ithilen field mod?

Postby Kortoso » Sun May 13, 2018 4:56 am

What comes to mind for me (mostly due to the usage rather than the name) is a small "patch-knife" as used by mountain men.
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