Zelda Wiki:Zelda Weapons in the Middle Ages
|The following Wiki Exclusive article, published on January 10th, 2010, may be an opinionated and/or theoretical piece. It may not be a factual encyclopedic article, and reflects only the opinions of the writer, Midnafan321. It is not to be taken as a view of Zelda Wiki, its staff, editors, or viewers as a whole.|
The Zelda series may be well-known by the Master Sword, but various other types of weapons star in the games as well. Most of these are actual weapons from the Middle Ages, with interesting and complex histories. The Middles Ages is a period of European history covering roughly a millennium from the 5th century to 16th century. The medieval era is simply another name for a time period in the Middle Ages; the medieval era precedes the Renaissance era, which takes place during the Late Middle Ages. During this time, advances in technology and armor led to a variety of weapons.
The development of plate armor transformed weaponry. Complete sets of plate armor had been developed by the end of the 14th century, but were available in the late 13th century as well. Plate armor, large sheets of protective metal, could cover the chest or the entire body. Despite rumors that a full set of plate armor was cumbersome and heavy, full sets made of tempered steel could weigh as light as twenty kilograms (44 pounds). That’s less than the weight of modern combat gear of an infantry soldier, and the weight of a set of plate armor is more evenly distributed. The first material used to make plate armor was bronze, but was soon replaced by iron. As methods of making steel were perfected, iron was replaced by steel in most cases. Plate armor was virtually resistant to swords, and protected the wearer against most pike and spear thrusts, too. In addition, most arrows were unable to pierce plate armor, as arrowheads were made of cheap, inferior metal compared to the strong, high-quality steel of plate armor. Therefore, weapons such as pole axes, maces, and war hammers were developed to inflict blunt trauma through plate armor. However, swordsman learned to concentrate on weak-spots in the armor, such as gaps between plates. For this reason, most combatants wore a chain mail shirt under their armor.
The flail can inflict heavy damage, in the hands of Link or enemies such as the Ball and Chain Trooper. The flail is a weight or another piece of wood that is attached to a handle by a chain or hinge. Flails were originally agricultural tools used for threshing to separate grains from their husk. In the Middle Ages, flails were sometimes employed as improvised weapons for farmers or peasants conscripted into military service or engaged in uprisings who lacked better weapons. Flails were modified into superior weapons by embedding spikes or studs in the striking end. This modified flail was first used in the 16th century.
The flail, or ball and chain as it is known in the game, is received from a Darkhammer in Twilight Princess. This weapon is essential to clearing Snowpeak Ruins, as it is the only item able to break through icy barriers, destroy Freezards, and ultimately defeat the boss Blizzeta. This heavy ball and chain can inflict heavy damage to enemies, just as Ball and Chain Troopers are able to use this against Link in previous games.
The axe is a fearsome weapon wielded by several enemies from The Legend of Zelda. Most medieval battle axes had long strips of metal, called langets, along the haft to prevent damage to the haft during battle. Some hafts were completely made of metal, which made it impossible for enemies to cut. Some were wielded with one hand, while larger ones required two. When plate armor that deflected swords started appearing on battlefields, the axe was an ideal solution. By concentrating the weight on a wedge, it crushed through armor and dealt grievous injuries. Axes were also cheaper and more readily available than swords.
Iron Knuckles appearing in Ocarina of Time swing a mighty axe that deals devastating damage. Similarly to King Bulblin and his giant axe, iron Knuckles are powerful but not agile. Therefore, their attacks and movements are slow, but if hit, Link will lose quite a bit of life energy.
A form of axe called a pole axe is a type of polearm widely used by medieval infantry. Its design arose from the need to breach armor of soldiers in the 14th and 15th centuries. The poleaxe is long wooden haft, usually the length of the wielder, with a sharpened steel head mounted at one end. Gold Phantoms from Phantom Hourglass, among others, are armed with this weapon. One swing will terminate Link.
From its debut in A Link to the Past, the hammer is a reoccurring weapon in the Zelda series. It is used to smash, bash, and even stun enemies with mighty shock waves. Moreover, it can flatten miniblins, destroy rocks, and send Link's foes flying. War hammers have been in effect since the late medieval period, intended for close combat action. Hammers were effective at delivering full force to an enemy when armor became increasingly hard, and swords tended to ricochet. As armor improved, axes and swords were likely to land only minor, glancing blows to their rivals, thus a new weapon evolved. War hammers could deliver damage without having to penetrate the steel surfaces of wrought iron armors of late medieval battlefields. It was a formidable weapon, capable of crushing skulls through thick helmets and toppling war horses by attacking its legs.
One famous war hammer is Mjöllnir, the weapon of the Norse God of Thunder, Thor. It is depicted as being capable of leveling mountains, similar to the fearsome smashing power and shock waves of the Zelda weapons, which can flatten boulders and kill enemies in a single swipe, or radiate shock waves that stun Link’s foes.
A type of war hammer mounted on a long pole was used against riders, where the shorter variety was used on horseback for close quarters. Against mounted opponents, these war hammers could be used to grapple the opponents’ reins, shield, armor, or cause a horse to tumble by targeting its legs. A blade or spike could be attached to the end, and used to pierce armor on parts of the body where it was thinner. Another type of war hammer is a maul, which is an oversized war hammer or sledgehammer with an axe-like blade on one side of the head, used for splitting wood. Sledgehammers are often used for demolition, a reference to the role hammers play in Zelda as tools to destroy obstacles such as rocks.
A club is a primitive, heavy stout stick that is wielded by many enemies in the Zelda series. This is one of the most basic weapons used by different peoples and cultures universally. Clubs, similarly to war hammers, were able to deliver powerful blows without perforating the armor. Clubs were cheap, simple and easy to manufacture.
A Big Blin from Spirit Tracks takes slow swings with its massive club, but if hit Link will be sent flying or knocked dizzy. Big Blins can deal huge amounts of damage with a single whack. Their wide swinging arcs will even kill other enemies around it.
A similar form of a club is a mace. A mace has a strong, heavy wooden shaft like a club, but with a stone or metal head. Some had wooden heads with protruding spikes or metal studs for greater penetration of armor. A blow could be delivered equally efficiently with any side of the round head.
One of the most reoccurring enemies in the Zelda series, Stalfos sometimes carry clubs and maces. In The Wind Waker, Stalfos wield large, wooden, spiked maces. One swing from this heavy mace can cause formidable damage.
The slingshot appears in several Zelda games as a seed-firing projectile used to kill enemies and activate switches. It takes primitive resources and technology to construct a slingshot. The slingshot is an ancient weapon that dates back to early civilizations, having most likely developed from a sling. The Slingshot has been used all across the world. In the Zelda series, the main ammunition is deku or pumpkin seeds, though other objects such as rocks were more commonly used.
The slingshot from Twilight Princess is obtained early in the game, and can knock down a bee’s hive in one shot. It can be used as a projectile weapon, but has a shorter range and is weaker than the bow, found later in the game. The slingshot is unable to deal considerable damage to most foes, but the ammunition is cheaper than arrows and easier to acquire.
In Ocarina of Time, the Fairy Slingshot becomes Young Link's second most used weapon, as well as being his only projectile weapon. The Fairy Slingshot can be utilized to destroy enemies such as Skulltula, shoot far-off switches, play mini-games and to defeat bosses.
The sword is Link’s primary weapon. Names like the Master Sword and Phantom Sword are familiar to gamers, not to mention the numerous enemies which also wield swords. Swords are long, edged piece of metal that consist fundamentally of two parts, the hilt and blade. The blade of both the Master Sword and Phantom sword are imbued with power. The sword has become a symbol of warfare or power due to its widespread military usage. The sword remained a popular weapon throughout the Middle Ages as the most prestigious and versatile weapon for close combat.
As plate armor evolved, swords also evolved to compensate for the challenge enhanced armor posed. Longer swords with tapering points, such as the estoc, were quickly being employed as thrusting weapons capable of splitting rings of mail and finding crevices in plate armor.
As the Master Sword cannot be pulled from the Pedestal of Time by none other than the Chosen One, neither can Excalibur be retrieved from the stone unless by the rightful king. Both swords are legendary for their power to defeat evil, whether it’s the Blade of Evil’s Bane or the Sword in the Stone.
The boomerang has appeared in every Zelda game to date. It is typically used to solve puzzles and retrieve items out of Link’s reach, and stun or kill opponents. It is commonly a curved piece of wood that returns to its origin when thrown, but some varieties do not return. The oldest Australian Aboriginal boomerangs are ten thousand years old, used to hunt and kill small game. When hunting large game, the thrower would attempt to stumble or topple a large animal by hitting it in the legs. Non-returning boomerangs were used primarily as weapons and for hunting large game.
In Ocarina of Time, Link receives the boomerang inside Lord Jabu-Jabu’s Belly. The boomerang becomes Young Link’s most powerful ranged weapon, and is essential to defeating the dungeon’s boss, Barinade. Barinade is defeated using the boomerang to sever the tentacles attaching it to the ceiling. The boomerang is also used to destroy the electric jellyfish that surround Barinade, leaving it exposed. The parasite can then be attacked.
An earlier form of the boomerang is known as the throwing stick, which was a short stick or stave. The throwing stick is one of the first primary tools used by early humans and cultures all over the world. It was used for hunting fowl and other game. They were inexpensive to make, and the loss of a throwing stick was of little importance. Only the weighty, non-returning throwing sticks had any military value.
The spear appears in Zelda series as a weapon used by several enemies. It is a long, usually wooden, pole with a sharpened stone affixed to the top. The spear was one of the most common Stone Age weapons, and also used as a hunting tool. During the medieval period, spears required only a small amount of steel and were quick and economical to make. It remained the weapon of the common soldier.
Moblins in The Wind Waker carry long, crooked wooden poles with single-ended blades, alike to a glaive. A glaive is a form of spear consisting of a single-edged blade at the end of a pole. Moblins use these to swing at Link in an arc or stab forward.
Spears designed for throwing are often referred to as javelins. A javelin is a lighter, more streamlined spear designed for casting as a ranged weapon. They are hurled by hand. Javelins were popular weapons in the middle ages, and infantrymen were often equipped with a shield, small sword, and a couple javelins, or javelins could be thrown from behind a wall.
One example of a javelin-brandishing enemy is the icy Chilfos, found in Twilight Princess. They have long, pointed icicles that they thrust toward Link in close contact, but will toss as javelins from a distance.
A pike is a long thrusting spear used by infantrymen for both attacks on footmen and cavalry. The pike was an extremely long weapon, with an iron or steel spearhead attached to one end. Hyrulean soldiers are often equipped with pikes and spears. Hyrulean soldiers from Twilight Princess are seen with very long spears that resemble pikes, while the Castle Guards in Spirit Tracks and Ocarina of Time have shorter spears.
Lances are thrusting spears as well, a pole weapon similar in shape to the pike. Cavalry were frequently equipped with lances and shields and would charge enemies head-on. This lance-charge could shatter most opponent defenses and were tremendously effective. Lances would often be used in jousting as well.
The pitchfork is a weapon wielded by Miniblins, and was common in the middle ages. A pitchfork is an agricultural tool originally intended for farm labor, such as lifting and throwing hay and leaves. A pitchfork has a long handle and widely spaced tines at the top, like an oversized fork. Pitchforks have two to six tines so that they can lift and pitch loose material. Pitchforks were made of wood in the early middle ages, but eventually developed to have metal tines or be completely made of metal. Pitchforks were generally used as a weapon by those who couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to more expensive weapons such as swords. Accordingly, pitchforks are often associated with angry mobs or enraged peasants.
Miniblins from The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass use pitchforks to stab and jab at Link. Armed with these small pitchforks, Miniblins will vary strategies from charging head-on to attacking with a group at its side. Miniblins pose no real threat in terms of attack damage, but in large groups can overwhelm Link.
The bow is a crucial item that has been in Link’s arsenal since the very first The Legend of Zelda. Link uses this projectile weapon to attack enemies and hit switches. Arrows are projected by the elasticity of the bow, akin to a spring. As a bow is drawn, energy is stored in the limbs and transformed into rapid movement when the string is released, transferring the energy from the string to the arrow. Archery is the technique of using a bow. The main parts of a bow are the limbs and string.
The limbs of a bow must be able to endure repeated bending into a deep curve. Consequently, due to the strain on the limbs when drawn, durable material with tensile strength is required for construction. Wood is easily shaped and readily available, and therefore frequently used. The second main component, the bow string, must withstand considerable stress when drawn. Bow strings have historically been made from animal by-products such as sinew, intestine or hair, but plant fibers such as hemp and linen were also common. Bow strings also became resistant to moisture when treated with beeswax.
Arrows are the lethal ammunition necessary for bows. In the Zelda games, arrow quivers can be upgraded to hold more arrows, as well as upgradable arrows such as the Fire Arrow or Light Arrow. Arrows are fast, accurate projectiles used to injure enemies and trigger switches. An arrow consists of four main parts; the shaft, fletching, nock, and head. Most traditional arrows use lightweight material such as bamboo, wood, or reeds for the shaft. The fletching on an arrow provides a small amount of drag in order to stabilize the flight of the arrow, and to keep the arrow pointed in the direction of travel by reducing the tendency to pitch or yaw (change direction by moving up and down or side to side) during flight. Fletchings are typically made from feathers, specifically goose or turkey, bound to the shaft. The nock is a simple slot cut in the back of an arrow to keep the arrow in place as the string is drawn. Finally, the head is a sharpened, pointed piece of hardened material; metal is most commonly used. There are different types of arrowheads used in the Middle Ages. One kind, the broadhead, was frequently used for war and hunting. Medieval broadheads could be made with steel, and sometimes had hardened edges. Two to four edges function to deliver a wide cutting edge, which causes substantial bleeding and are intended to kill the victim quickly. This type of arrowhead was expensive, but damaged or killed most targets.
Fire arrows are, as the name implies, flaming arrows. Link can acquire these magic-consuming arrows in Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker. In Twilight Princess, Bulblin archers use fire arrows. The Chinese used fire arrows by tipping arrows with flammable material such as pitch, bitumen or resin and lighting it before launch.
Weapons from the Legend of Zelda series have intriguing histories from the Middle Ages. When playing the games, it can be easy to overlook the cultural backgrounds and structure of these powerful and unique items. Whether it’s the composition of a bow or the purpose of a flail, the history of these weapons can be fascinating and factual.