On shield shapes...

Western(esse) Martial Arts / Numenorean Martial Arts....

Combat and self-defense in Middle-earth

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Elleth
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On shield shapes...

Postby Elleth » Tue Nov 17, 2015 7:47 pm

Working on a leather project, I've spent a lot of time looking at the straps on WETA's interpretation of Boromir's shield - and it struck me how different his round shield was from Gondorian infantry shields in the films.

Now clearly, the films are just one team's vision and we can't and shouldn't take them as gospel - but that does lead to a question.

You see lots of different kinds of shields in different contexts in history and the reenactor world: early Imperial Romans have their large rectangular scutums, 14th c. Englishmen their bucklers, Norsemen their round shields: but in a SINGLE time and place, would a man with the means to do so have multiple shields for different purposes?

That is, would he pick one shield were he standing on an infantry line or riding to a pitched battle - and choose a different form entirely if he were roaming the wildlands with a small Fellowship? If so - what would those different preferences be like, and why would he choose them?
Last edited by Elleth on Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Greg » Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:22 pm

I would lean towards the round shield of Boromir as being easier to ride with. Kite shields can be worn on the back and ridden with, but the ones the Gondorians had were a bit taller, like a hybrid miniature tower shield and kite, so that's the reason I see for them having two styles in the films. I actually think Boromir's shield was described as round once, though I could be wrong.

As for cultural differences...I'm not sure I see a purpose in the manufacture of multiple shield styles within one isolated cultural center like minas tirith.

UNLESS.

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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Ringulf » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:03 pm

In most of the ancient world's armies, such as the Roman and medeival European armies, different sheilds were used for different purposes or different Positions within the battle formation. the round shield of varying size saw use in many cultures and time periods. the rank and file infantry soldier benefited from a large interlocking shield like that of the Romans and the Gondorians but archers had their own types of shielding as did cavalry. The biggest question for using a shield was the ratio, "how much can I cover vs how much can I carry and still perform my assigned task. Borimer Chose a medium sized round shiel to give him good protection but as a strong warrior with a fairly good sized long sword, he was still able to carry it for travel. His shield was much better made and smaller than the viking round shield so he was looking for quality and familiarity in his defensive choice in my mind. The kite shield was a developement from the round shield that allowed a rider to protect their exposed leg, later it was found to be a very good shield for archer teams as it could be stuck into the ground like a pevense(sp). :mrgreen:
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Elleth » Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:04 pm

Greg wrote:You're the steward's son, captain of the guard, and you get what you want. Now.


Ha!

Normally in a city the size of Minas Tirith, I'd expect (if not prohibited by law) an average citizen on his own to be able to aquire a shield that wasn't necessarily of regulation pattern... but then again Gondor's been at war so long every man who COULD carry a shield already probably has one shoved into his hands from the armory, so perhaps not.

And if Boromir's is described in the text as round, that sort of sets the baseline for Men of the West I guess. :)
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Udwin » Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:06 pm

Yeah, unfortunately, from what I can find, Boromir's shield is never detailed. : (
...it doesn't even get a mention during the fight in Balin's tomb, nor the preparations for his funeral...but then again, That chapter also claims he had a helmet (first and only mention). So make of that what you will.

Elleth, I think you would be totally justified in a round shield, because here's what we have:

Each of Dain's dwarves from the Iron Hills had "a round shield slung at his back" (TH Ch 17)

Before riding towards Helm's Deep, Aragorn and Legolas pick up round shields from the armory at Edoras, and Gimli takes a "small shield", (Bk 3, Ch 6) which as we will learn later, was also round...
because at Dunharrow, Merry gets "a small helm, and a round shield, and other gear... [Eowyn] showed him the shield, which was like the shield that had been given to Gimli, and it bore on it the device of the white horse.” (Bk 5, Ch3)

And round shields aren't even Free Peoples-exclusive--even the Haradrim have "round shields, yellow and black with big spikes." (Bk4, Ch 3)
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby robinhoodsghost » Tue Jan 19, 2016 3:13 am

A lighter smaller shield would be preferable, if one was traveling long distance or through the woods. A heavier shield would be preferable if on horseback or traveling short distances....how tall or strong the carrier is, could also dictate the shield used. I also believe personal preference comes into play. Just like some here prefer the arming sword, over the long sword...some would have a shield preference.
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Kortoso » Wed Jun 08, 2016 5:32 pm

In our age, we have a mistaken tendency to think that designs, such as shields, would be a choice by any person in period. In reality, the shape of a shield would be generally more dependent on the era and possibly the place. In other words, Boromir would probably not be deciding which shield to use; he would use the one that his culture and his period in history preferred.

On the other hand, we see in the Bayeux Tapestry, round "Viking" shields as well as "kite" shields. Whether the choice of these was dependent on unit type (fyrd or huscarl) or on region (Anglo-Saxon or Norman, or even northern A-S versus southern A-S), but there's no way to be sure.

By the way, here's an excellent reference on Viking shields:
http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/shield/shield.html

PS: Note that Boromir rode to the meeting at Rivendell on horseback (in the movie). Round shields were used on horseback, but they were not ideal. Kite shields were evolved to guard a horseman's legs from infantry attack. Anyway, he wound up carrying his shield everywhere. (And I might add, he didn't make the best use of it when he had to!)
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby E.MacKermak » Wed Jun 08, 2016 5:59 pm

The Bayeux Tapestry is a depiction of events in 1066. During this time the style of shields was going through a change along with the style of fighting. Prior to this time, the round shield dominated most of England and Northern Europe and fighting was generally done on foot. Horses were for getting to the fight.

By 1066, the rise of cavalry comes into play and the shields begin to elongate to the bottom both for infantry and cavalry, largely to assist in the protection of legs on cavalry but has a lot of benefit for protecting the legs of infantry. The carrying method also goes through some changes from the center grip to the strapped.

My personal taste in shield is the center grip round, though the kite is a choice I am looking to try.
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Ringulf » Wed Jun 08, 2016 6:22 pm

I have used a center bossed, round shield for a long time during Norse reenactment fighting and even quite a bit of the SCA and Larp stuff.
I switched to a kite sheild for many of the reasons sighted by Eric, as it protects the legs.
I ended up trunkating the tail about 8 inches up, to give a flat edge. I did this for 2 reasons.
Firstly, and least important to this discussion, I needed to reduce the total area of my sheild to fit some of the rules perameters of the game I was playing.
Secondly it made the sheild a bit more acceptable a trade off for protection vs ease of carry. The kite that I use is center bossed and I enjoy using it to cut the angle of my attacker so I use it thrust forward from my body rather than "in close" as a strapped shield.
There is much to say about fighting in a line with a strapped shield and that little sheild movement is needed in that style of fighting. It is very much a game of inches in that case.
My style is more in keeping with personal combat and the need to defend from several attackers at times, so the "Hockey Goalie" reference is not far off.
I can create space, change facings and even go on the offensive with the shield itself by using it in this manner. I also enjoy slamming it down to block a low strike. This was also done with shields to break the leading foot of the opponent and believe me, if you have ever tried to walk or move, no less fight with a broken foot or even a fallen arch, you will know how devastating a strike like this can be. :mrgreen:
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Eledhwen » Wed Jun 08, 2016 7:27 pm

I have used many shapes, yet I have used a small round shield (24" diameter) for the huge majority of my reenactment and larp career. The learning curve is very steep...it is not a good shield for beginners despite often being used for such. Once mastered, however, it is formidable, especially when combined with the shortsword. It has to be used offensively, it is not a hiding shield like the larger ones are. I was always happy to face people with big shields...theirs worked as well for me as for them. The shield presses and pulls are far easier with a small round, although sadly, that sort of thing has become frowned upon in a lot of groups.

All of that said, I am also fond of the scutum, roman style. Surprisingly, it is also an offensive weapon. It, combined with the gladius, is a weapons system. It is, however, at its best in formation work rather than single combat.

Round shield is my main choice, with the scutum second. The large round is nice in formations too, I might add. The heater is okay in single combat, but I deem the small round better. The kite is good for protecting the legs, especially for mounted folk.

In the nearly 45 years I have been using shields, my main preference has never changed.

Set in my ways, I guess.

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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Rysgil » Fri Sep 02, 2016 1:01 pm

A knight I once knew had all his squires learn to use the round shield before any other shape. Said knight was known for a wrap-around butt shot. Once a squire could successfully defend against getting spanked consistently, he'd let them use shapes.
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Eledhwen » Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:01 pm

I taught all of my students the round shield first, specifically for the leg defense. As I say, it has a steep learning curve, yet once mastered is a delightful study in grace and violence.

Had a knight here who liked deep wraps. Fixed that problem for him...step back and hammer the forearm, then reverse up into face. Worked a charm. Still works. I never liked wraps, I do not use them myself, although I will use thumb leaders now and then. I prefer fluid, agile, fast, offense blended with defense. I also like to be really close in, which is why I love the shortsword so much. I am weird like that.

Eledhwen, training with sword and shield again. ;)
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Straelbora » Sun Sep 04, 2016 4:01 am

Ringulf wrote:I have used a center bossed, round shield for a long time during Norse reenactment fighting and even quite a bit of the SCA and Larp stuff.
I switched to a kite sheild for many of the reasons sighted by Eric, as it protects the legs.
I ended up trunkating the tail about 8 inches up, to give a flat edge. I did this for 2 reasons.
Firstly, and least important to this discussion, I needed to reduce the total area of my sheild to fit some of the rules perameters of the game I was playing.
Secondly it made the sheild a bit more acceptable a trade off for protection vs ease of carry. The kite that I use is center bossed and I enjoy using it to cut the angle of my attacker so I use it thrust forward from my body rather than "in close" as a strapped shield.
There is much to say about fighting in a line with a strapped shield and that little sheild movement is needed in that style of fighting. It is very much a game of inches in that case.
My style is more in keeping with personal combat and the need to defend from several attackers at times, so the "Hockey Goalie" reference is not far off.
I can create space, change facings and even go on the offensive with the shield itself by using it in this manner. I also enjoy slamming it down to block a low strike. This was also done with shields to break the leading foot of the opponent and believe me, if you have ever tried to walk or move, no less fight with a broken foot or even a fallen arch, you will know how devastating a strike like this can be. :mrgreen:


The hardest thing I found when learning SCA heavy sword combat was to rein in my instinct to smash the other person with my shield, when opportunity permitted. I get a little too 'blood lusty' in stuff like that.
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Kortoso » Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:05 pm

Straelbora wrote:
Ringulf wrote:I have used a center bossed, round shield for a long time during Norse reenactment fighting and even quite a bit of the SCA and Larp stuff.
I switched to a kite sheild for many of the reasons sighted by Eric, as it protects the legs.
I ended up trunkating the tail about 8 inches up, to give a flat edge. I did this for 2 reasons.
Firstly, and least important to this discussion, I needed to reduce the total area of my sheild to fit some of the rules perameters of the game I was playing.
Secondly it made the sheild a bit more acceptable a trade off for protection vs ease of carry. The kite that I use is center bossed and I enjoy using it to cut the angle of my attacker so I use it thrust forward from my body rather than "in close" as a strapped shield.
There is much to say about fighting in a line with a strapped shield and that little sheild movement is needed in that style of fighting. It is very much a game of inches in that case.
My style is more in keeping with personal combat and the need to defend from several attackers at times, so the "Hockey Goalie" reference is not far off.
I can create space, change facings and even go on the offensive with the shield itself by using it in this manner. I also enjoy slamming it down to block a low strike. This was also done with shields to break the leading foot of the opponent and believe me, if you have ever tried to walk or move, no less fight with a broken foot or even a fallen arch, you will know how devastating a strike like this can be. :mrgreen:


The hardest thing I found when learning SCA heavy sword combat was to rein in my instinct to smash the other person with my shield, when opportunity permitted. I get a little too 'blood lusty' in stuff like that.

Nope. Too realistic. Can't have that. ;)
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Re: On shield shapes...

Postby Eledhwen » Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:37 pm

The SCA, especially in combat, is not reenactment. It is a modern sport in medieval armor and, to some degree, clothing.

A Pas d'Armes, done properly, comes closets to behourd combat, to my mind. Those tend to be rare and the best ones are done by independent tournament companies whose members often play in the SCA, do things in the SCA, but often also do invitation only tournaments. The Company of St. George, as an example.

It used to be, in the time before dirt was invented, one could strike shins, one's shield edge could contact an opponent, etc. All of that stuff was done away with for safety reasons, insurance, and to a lesser degree, serious pain. Get smacked across the shins by the old grass cutter and you *will* be on your knees, like it or not.

When armor was mostly carpet, with some 12 gauge fence wire maile, helmets were whatever was to hand, and freon cans, etc.

So yeah. The round shield under current SCA rules is rather more difficult to master, in part because of the inability to use the shield as a weapon, such as lodging it in the elbow or armpit of an opponent. Of course, no actual ramming of shield edge into anything, although supposedly one can do it to another shield...despite having seen folk chastised for that. Shield hooks and presses are not so common as once they were. One of the things that made the round shield (small) so useful was the ability to swiftly execute presses and hooks.

So. This thread really isn't about the SCA so I will stop now. I will say there are plenty of serious medieval combat reenactments where they use both steel weapons and shield as they ought to be used. Especially in Europe. Check those out for some nice displays of shield use.

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