Sunday, 27 October 2013

First Knight

By Duke Finnvarr de Taahe

Please note: This article was written by Duke Finnvarr for The Ursus in the mid-90s and highlights important people and events from the early years of the SCA in Ontario. It has been kept as originally published; hence the references to the Principality of Ealdormere, 13 kingdoms, etc.)

In these columns I have tried my best to avoid such anachronistic terms as Ontario and Toronto.

The point of this column is lost, however, if I don‘t use one of them. The first native-born Canadian knight, who was also the first native-born Canadain king, came from Septentria. He was Hugo von Feuerklippe, whom I had the honour of having for a squire.

Septentria was not the first Canadian barony, but it was less isolated from the rest of the kingdom then Castel Rouge in Winnipeg or Lion‘s Gate in Vancouver, which was then part of the West. So it makes a certain amount of sense that the first fighter to gain our ultimate recognition came from Septentria.

This is to take nothing away from Hugo‘s personal achievement. It was considerable.

Many of us earlier fighters - and I most definitely include myself - had never done any kind of physical activity with any skill or success. We were skinny and flabby, or flabby but not skinny. We had no wind, and no concept of how to get any. This is before jogging made anaerobic condition ing a common topic of discussion. Few of us had taken part in martial arts, so movement was a mystery to us. We were all in worse shape than that mythical 60-year-old Swede that Participaction invented to shame us into a healthier lifestyle.

I can imagine some of my readers saying ― Hey, that‘s me now!‖ No doubt - but believe me, back then the average new fighter was far more out of shape and physically clue less than the average new fighter today.

For an early fighter to excel was in some ways easier that it is now, since even the old fighters were relatively new at it. In some ways, however, it was harder. One had to overcome, the habits, the self-image, of a lifetime and re make oneself into a formidable human being. And since required armour stopped at helms, gauntlets, and joint protection - arms and legs were mostly covered with cloth - it was a painful, bruise-filled process.

Hugo first saw fighting at Pennsic IV. Somehow, the sight of us rolling in the mud and wearing chainmail in thunder storms did not discourage him. Probably far more discouraging was the effort of acquiring armour. We hardly had any, back then, but it was just as tough to aquire as it al ways is - some unknown natural law? Then there was the disadvantage of having only one experienced fighter with whom to practice, and him a knight and count.

Adversity must have been good for Hugo, though, for when he finally authorized in May of A.S. XI, it was noted that he was as good as his experienced opponent.

During the next two years, Hugo took part in a big change in the way we fought in the Middle Kingdom. Techniques with sword and shield became more sophisticated , thanks in large part to Duke Paul of Bellatrix, who pointed out that using your whole body was superior to using just your arm. Also, more fighters began to experiment with bastard sword and glaive.

It was the young hot-shots who pushed those innovations the furthest. One of these was Laurelen Darksbane of Cleftlands; another was Hugo. What they had in common was the ability to kill their opponents with shots so fast and tricky that people couldn‘t understand them. At the Three Rivers Crown Tourney of May XIII, both Laurelen and Hugo one-shotted several opponents. Both were eventually wiped out by the terrific heat - as was everyone except the winner, Lord Nathan von Daritz, who had spent more than a year working in the mountains of Guatemala.

Then as now, an aspiring knight had to travel much in the Kingdom to gain recognition. Hugo was willing to do this. One of his favorite resorts was North Woods, then the un disputed centre of fighting in the realm. In his questing days he won three tourneys there, which was very impressive. He also began to shine with two-handed weapons, notably the glaive. Since he worked hard for the Society, too - he found a new coronation site at the last minute, among other accomplishments - there was just one thing holding him back. He wasn‘t very humble. Not that he was a braggart, he just wasn‘t humble. Hugo was caught in a dilemma that the about-to-be-knighted often find themselves. He inspired respect on and off the field, and was regarded by many as a leader. If he acted the part, however, others thought he was getting above himself.

In Hugo‘s case, the knot was cut by another man who had been thrust into a leadership position - King Nathan. An experienced Midrealmer but not yet a knight, Nathan decided at Crown Tournament in North Woods to dub the four most worthy candidates - more than had ever been knighted at one time. To do this he had to face down considerable opposition among the Chivalry. Eventually, however, he won his point, and Hugo was knighted along with Laurelen, Alen Eligil, and Corin du Soliel, all four future kings. And since Nathan was not a knight, my hand was on the sword that knighted Hugo.

Originally published in The Ursus #189, October1995 A.S.

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