Norman, is that you?

The Normans, as you may know, were descendants of Vikings (Northmen =>Norman) in France.  They spoke French but were basically vikings on big ass horses (for the time) with state of the art arms and armor.  One charming account of their diplomacy is mentioned by John Julius Norwich:

Calling a halt, [the Byzantine Catapan] sent a messenger across to them, offering the choice: either they could leave Byzantine territory peaceably and at once, or they must face his own army in battle on the morrow.

The Normans had heard communications of that sort before, and knew how to deal with them.  During the harangue one of the twelve chiefs, Hugh Tuboeuf, had approached the messenger’s horse, and had been stroking it approvingly; now, as the man finished, he suddenly turned and struck it one mighty blow between the eyes with his bare fist, laying the luckless animal unconscious on the ground.  At this, according to Malaterra, the messenger in a paroxysm of fear fainted dead away, but the Normans, having with some difficulty restored him to his senses, gave him a new horse, better than the first, on which they sent him back to the Catapan with the message that they were ready.

(So, if you were wondering where the camel-punching scene in Conan the Barbarian came from, it was probably ripped off a Byzantine chronicle, just as the “what is good in life” quote was ripped off of Genghis Khan, and so on.  Like almost everything but a few names, CtB was pretty much from anywhere but R.E. Howard.  And yet, in my mind, it still does Hyboria justice.  But I digress.)

Here is my Norman army (also standing in for Rohirrim or any late Dark Ages types like Franks).

The Archers are modified figures from the Lionheart board game.  The Crossbowmen are Ral Partha Normans.  I originally meant to use them as Half-orc crossbowmen for Warhammer but never did.

The spearmen are modified figures from a Weapons and Warriors set.

The knights are cast from a Prince August mold.  I had to add shields and in some cases arms and spears; the base figure has his weapon arm over his opposite shoulder and holding a short sword.

The generals are (left) a Ral Partha fighter and a plastic Zvedza Russian knight.  The Prince August models are pretty small for 25mm, like early Ral Partha.

Here’s another shot of the army

And there they go.

One last quote, which I think is actually from a bit later than the Norman period although I no longer have the source handy, but I think it was Infantry warfare in the early fourteenth century / by Kelly DeVries (an awesome book incidentally), and was said by a French knight:

“I love the gay season of Eastertide, which brings forth flowers and leaves, and I love to hear the brave sound of the birds, making their song ring through the thickets, and I love to see tents and pavilions set up in the meadows.  And I am overjoyed when I see knights and horses, all in armor, drawn up on the field.

“I love it when the chargers throw everything and everybody into confusion, and when I see a great host of armed men advancing all together behind them.  And I enjoy seeing strong castles besieged, and bastions broken down and shattered, and seeing the army all surrounded by ditches, protected by palisades of stout tree-trunks jammed together.

“And I love just as much to see a lord when he is the first to advance on horseback, armed and fearless, thus encouraging his men to valiant service: then, when the fray has begun, each must be ready to follow him willingly, because no one is held in esteem until he has given and received blows.

“We have seen clubs and swords, gaily-colored helmets and shields shattered and spoiled, at the beginning of the battle, and many vassals all together receiving great blows, by reason of which many horses will wander riderless, belonging to the killed and wounded.  Once he has started fighting, no noble thinks of anything but breaking heads and arms — better a dead man than a live one who is useless.

“I tell you, neither in eating, drinking, nor in sleeping, do I find what I feel when I hear the shout ‘At them!’ from both sides, and the neighing of riderless horses in the confusion, or the call ‘Help! Help!’, or when I see great and small together fall on the grass of the ditches, or when I espy dead men who still have pennoned lances in their ribs.

“Knights, you should rather forfeit castles, towns, and cities, than give up — any of you — going to war.”

Because that’s what’s Easter and spring time is really all about, yes?  And which perfectly sums up the Nietzschean “master morality” I always ascribe to the Normans, those brutal, arrogant, glorious bastards.  They aren’t really evil, they just love the fighting.

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 10:14 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Normans kick A$$. I would love to see them on Deadliest Warrior.

  2. My god you have a lot of miniatures, Mike! Killer collection!

  3. Am liking your miniature posts. Norwich is good fun.

    Some freebies: (podcast guy also has a book out)
    Norman Centuries podcast
    related podcast 12 Byzantine Rulers

    John Julius Norwich was an influence on them, and I find his work very entertaining. Have you read his book on the other Norman conquest? (that of Sicily et al) His Venice book might tie the two together, but I’ve not read it yet.

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