the misadventures of a finicky fanart maker

Everyone who knows what the hell witchers are and who the hell Geralt of Rivia is, everyone knows that witchers wear their swords strapped to the backs and draw them over the shoulder.

Now, there are threads on various gaming boards disputing this to death, but those threads annoy me since 99,9% of posters assume there was nothing before the games and so it’s a matter of art design just to look cool/different/whatever.

Tell ya what. The art department deviated from the books in the sense that they made Geralt haul along both the steel and the silver swords on full display (you sure you want all and sundry to know you have a silver sword? Okay we’re not in Karenta anymore, Garrett, so silver is not _that_ expensive, but still! Never mind the relative fragility of silver, albeit the core is steel… in short, in the books Geralt kept the silver one safely wrapped away, and for all the good reasons). Other than that, it’s not art design. It’s pan Sapek’s imagination.

Imagination that most of the time has good basis in what we call reality.

What we have to work with, in book canon, is that it’s a witcher-only thing, that way of wearing the sword, and it’s weird enough. Witchers are superhuman enough (if a witcher and a Nietzschean walk into a bar, how do you tell them apart? The answers depend on the version of Andromeda canon you stick to…) – and yet!..

Here’s a screenshot I stole from the net; it’s dark and kinda so-so, but it shows the process of drawing the sword:

As you can see, it looks damn awkward. And it’s a game. So the erm ergonomics can be a bit different for a living person.

For my artwork, I need to figure out the optimum scabbard/swordbelt design, the drawing angle and the sword length to make it all plausible.

This leads up to the question.

Were there any fighting styles in the history of this planet that made use of drawing the sword like this? I bet there were, pan Sapek couldn’t have just concocted this all out of thin air.


9 thoughts on “the misadventures of a finicky fanart maker

  1. About the sword: double-handed swords were worn on the back. Not many people used ’em, they’re really big. (Got one hanging on the wall. You do NOT want to try putting that thing on your waist.) No references to prove this, just general knowledge acquired over the years of loving swords and historical recreation groups. :)
    About the clothes: aargh!!! I really wanted to answer your dA poll “yes,” but I only have a book. A big, old, rather smelly book. And my scanner’s broken, so I can’t scan pages. It’s called “Medieval Costume, Armour, and Weapons” and covers the period from 1350-1450. If you can give me something specific you’re looking for, I can look it up and take pictures of it for you, if you want.

    1. Oh, and PS: If you’re drawing your sword over your shoulder, it’s a good idea to catch the tip of the scabbard with your other hand, if possible. Makes things go much smoother. :D

    2. About an hour ago I found that Pan Sapek was damn kind to actually provide the sword measurements in the latest book: 40.5 inches total, 27.25 inches the blade (perfect balance, as the book says). The blade length is gladius-like, the handle length is more in tune with that of a zweihänder. Both swords are of similar size.

      The trick is that Geralt makes a point of being able to draw the sword damn fast. And while it’s easier when it’s that short, and Geralt is supposed to be “tall” (whatever it may mean, but well over six feet, I believe), I’d still want to see a real working backstrapped scabbard. Thanks for the catching tip, it should be helpful when designing it. But the most difficult part is the actual opening. How to minimise blade damage? You’re basically drawing and sheathing it blindfolded…

      Oh, thanks a lot for the offer! You see, that pesky studded leather jacket that Geralt wears, it’s described as being “laced up at the front and on the shoulders”. The author never states explicitly that the sleeves are detachable, though I suspect it’s the case; but the laced-up front just doesn’t make sense to me; there’s a lot of other straps and buckles mentioned, why lace it up? Won’t it be cumbersome? How do you actually put it on? How does it look? On the other hand, that ancient forum thread I linked in the poll to says that those laced-up fronts did exist in martial doublets (not necessarily military, but something like, for fencing training). So if you manage to find anything that looks like that, I’d be very very grateful!

  2. Despite a history degree I could not think of any. I resorted to Google, who gave me a Wikipedia reference:

    “However in “The Ancient Celts” by Barry Cunliffe, on page 94 of that book, Professor Cunliffe writes,”All these pieces of equipment [shields, spears, swords, mail armour], mentioned in the texts, are reflected in the archaeological record and in the surviving iconography, though it is sometimes possible to detect regional variations. Among the Parisii of Yorkshire, for example, the sword was sometimes worn across the back and therefore had to be drawn over the shoulder from behind the head.””

    Being the owner of several Barry Cunliffe tomes I checked to see if I owned the one in question but alas no. So I cannot confirm this quote.

    That said, Wikipedia also showed a print of a samurai with a sword on his back.


    1. Thanks a lot, Greg! I will see what other sources I manage to find on that particular people of Yorkshire.

      A samurai makes sense – there is a curve to Eastern swords, and that should make it easier to draw. The game canon shows witcher swords as stick-straight, but the books never really seem to emphasise that their swords are straight… At one point, the result of a witcher sword in action is compared to using ‘a scythe attached apeak’ (i.e. like a spearhead instead of at a right angle, as customary) – and scythes do have a curve. On the other hand, it could be simply a reference to how uncharacteristically sharp the witcher swords are.

      Could I ask you for more history-related help?

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