The first bit of business is to welcome Arabella, a book reviewer from Australia. First Peter, then Kristine, now Arabella, I have attracted (and hopefully still am!) a flock of book-oriented people from the Southwest Pacific region. Coincidence? That would be a hard sell. No matter what brought them here, I am thrilled to have them as Hideout denizens, and hope they continue to find my wide-ranging format entertaining. Time will tell. In any case, Arabella's reviews are deep and knowledgeable. I encourage all with any literary interests at all to visit her at her at The Genteel Arsenal.
Also signing on for the ride is Wil Branca. I know very little about him, not even whether he's really a "he." I woke up Friday morning, brought up the site, and there he was. He left no comment, and his profile links to no site. The sites he follows are predominantly those of artists and animators, so there's the only clue we get. Oh, here's an idea: I work for the U. S. Government, right, and a couple of weeks ago, a young lady who resides in a foreign country and whose last name is Muslim joined the site, so, could this be a cover profile for a covert government agency whose mission is to find out what sort of subversive activity I'm up to over here? Hardly. The government I work for defines "subtle" as driving a tank through your front door, but with practically no inspiration, I've laid out an opening premise for a conspiracy novel. Maybe that's why I used to think I was a writer...
So, with the introductions concluded, let's get on with the new material. Fans of fantasy will need no introduction to the Brothers Hildebrandt. Twin brothers Greg and Tim burst onto the world of fantasy art in 1975 when they collaborated on the first of three Lord of the Rings calendars. Since then, they made significant contributions to the art of fantasy and science fiction, both together and seperately, until Tim died in 2006 at the age of 67. Best known for their paintings, such as this work for a limited edition of the Sword of Shannara series, Greg also designed a series of fantasy daggers which were produced in a limited edition in the late 1990s, and I was fortunate enough to procure a complete set. They make a great display in my man cave, and also form the centerpiece of this photo essay. Without further ado, then, your attention is invited to the center ring for a shameless exhibition of fantasy cutlery.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE BEAST DAGGER
All powerful in legend and myth, the dragon has spread its repute through all cultures and all lands. Its enormous size and its fiery breath have shaped its renown and have instilled much fear in those who have attempted to subdue it. Yet in addition to this physical prowess, the dragon is also well known for its keen vision and shrewdness of intellect. Indeed, its strength, defenses, and cleverness have made the dragons ideal guardians throughout much of legend and myth. While their renown is for fierceness (except in Eastern cultures where the dragon is considered a creature of beneficence), dragons actually rarely take the offensive. The fiery breath is mostly used to defend itself or the treasure it guards, and it normally does not pester humans. Yet such have been the battles when dragon and brave knight have confronted each other, that these singular contests have become the very stuff of legend - and have cemented the dragon's reputation as a creature of awe-inspiring and magnificent powers. The power of the dragon is celebrated in Hildebrandt's magnificent work of art. The knife guard bears three intricately sculpted dragons, two at the handguard and one at the endpiece. The dragon scale grip features a warrior's crest emblazoned with dragon's fire, and a fire-bright stone is centered in the crossguard. The pommel and guard are richly coated in 24 karat gold, and the blade is crafted of polished stainless steel decorated with dramatic graphics.
THE TREASURE OF THE GRIFFIN DAGGER
The griffin is said to be eight times larger than a lion and a hundred times stronger than an eagle. The offspring of lions and eagles, griffins (sometimes spelled griffon or gryphon) have the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. Its hind legs are those of a lion, while its forelegs are those of an eagle, complete with powerful talons. And while some have claimed that the griffin's tail is a serpent, it is usually depicted as the normal tufted tail of a lion. The griffin also has pointed ears like those of a dog. Griffins perform two essential functions. First, the griffin was harnessed to pull the chariot of the Sun God. At times, it has also pulled the chariots of other gods. The griffins that pull the chariot of Nemesis - the Goddess of Retribution - differ from other griffins in their having black bodies and feathers. The other role for griffins was to punish humans for their greed. In an early time, when jewels were strewn across the desert regions of what is now Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, and Syria, griffins protected the area from the foolhardy poachers who came to harvest the jewels. In tribute to the extraordinary power, grandeur, and protected treasure of the griffin, Hildebrandt offered the Treasure of the Griffin dagger, crafted with two sculpted griffins, set with two blue cabochons, a black onyx, and a blue lapis. The handle - accented with sterling silver - depicts the Greek God Zeus with a crystal forming Zeus' crown. The blade is crafted of polished stainless steel decorated with acanthus design.
THE GUARDIAN OF THE FORTRESS DAGGER
The gargoyle. They have long fascinated the people who walk under their grotesque shapes and piercing stares. Orginally crafted in terra-cotta, wood, and ultimately stone, they were designed to serve as rain spouts, although by the sixteenth century (and the introduction of lead drain spouts) they soon became mere adornments. In fact, the word "gargoyle" itself comes from the French term for "throat" as well as an echo of the "gurgling" sound that the gargoyle/spout made. Usually, gargoyles had grotesque features, although some have included monks, animals, and humorous combinations of humans and animals. They appeared on all sorts of Gothic architecture, although they are most associated with the great European churches and cathedrals. Perhaps the most notable gargoyles are those that appear on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France. Gargoyles have been the subject of much superstition and legend. It was said that these misshapen creatures typify evil forced to serve God, and consequently, in constant struggle to release themselves from that power. Once released, they are free to choose the powers of virtue... or darkness. Another legend is that the menacing countenance and ferocious spirit of the gargoyle overwhelms the forces of evil and ensures the protection of all under its eternal vigil. In tribute to the supernatural power and fascinating appeal of gargoyles, Hildebrandt offered the Guardian of the Fortress dagger, crafted with a sculpted gargoyle set with two red cabachons and holding a crystal orb atop the handle, accented with 24 karat gold. The guard features two gargoyles accented with sterling silver and crystal spheres, and fully faceted cabachons. The blade is crafted of polished stainless steel decorated with acanthus and fleur-de-lis designs.
THE DRAGON'S FIRE DAGGER
Its fiery breath is its most formidable weapon, instilling fear in the most humble peasant and the bravest knight. With a single blast, entire villages can be reduced to cinders, a great lord's castle gates melted into a molten mass, and the clearest running stream transformed into an infernal cauldron. The fiery breath of a dragon is what the noblest and strongest warriors and knights must reckon with, attempting somehow to approach their quarry without instigating the dragon's flaming anger. Yet fire is also the warrior's boon, for the stone that the dragon guards, its great treasure, has been formed in the dragon's flames, and thus possesses great powers. Indeed, it has been said that whoever possesses the great firestone will enjoy immortality and a life of pleasure beyond all realms of dreams. The flames of the dragon and the prized possession of the firestone came together to inspire Hildebrandt's extraordinary work, the Dragon's Fire dagger. The knife guard is intricately sculpted as a dragon's head and set with two red cabochons. The grip, resembling the lattice pattern of a rope, is richly coated in silver and 24 karat gold, and the pommel is sculpted in the shape of the dragon's tail. In the center is a sparkling red crystal fire stone - the dragon's ultimate treasure. The blade is crafted of polished stainless steel decorated with a pattern replicating the dragon's fiery breath.
THE MYSTERY OF THE GARGOYLE DAGGER
It is a monstrous creature of stone that peers over the edge and gazes downward on the world of man. Depicted as human grotesques, beasts, and demonic spirits, the Gargoyle is an imaginary being with an interesting mythology whose image was first put to practical use more than eight centuries ago in France during the age of Gothic architecture. According to some legends, a race of Gargoyles lived hundreds of thousands of years ago during the age of Wizards, Giants, and Dragons. The Gargoyles were the successors of Gorgons and Hydras, and lived a quiet and isolated existence in their mountainous retreats. Shortly after the onset of the Age of Man, the Gargoyles were betrayed by one of their own. This traitor gave an evil Wizard access to their forbidden city. Desperate for the Gargoyles' treasure of magic and jewels, the evil Wizard cast a spell that turned all Gargoyles to stone and relegated them to the edge of the world for all eternity. Gothic architects adapted stone figures of Gargoyles as decorative drainspouts to protect the walls from rainwater. Projecting from the roof edges of cathedrals, these fierce creatures with their faces frozen in a grimace seem like vigilant sentinels guarding the world against an ancient evil. The fierce and protective nature of the Gargoyle is celebrated in Hildebrandt's magnificent Mystery of the Gargoyle dagger. The knife guard bears an intricately sculpted Gargoyle peering over a precipice with wings accented in sterling silver and 24 karat gold, protecting a hand-set crystal sparkling with the color of a blue sapphire. The handle, inspired by Gothic architecture, is also accented with sterling silver. The pommel, accented in 24 karat gold, supports two Gargoyles and a faceted blue crystal. The blade is crafted of polished stainless steel and decorated with dramatic graphics.
THE SENTINEL OF WISDOM DAGGER
It is an amalgamation of creatures of the sky and the earth. With an eagle's head and wings, and a lion's body, the Gryphon is a creature that has a long history in the mythology of mankind - and usually as a symbol of virtue. The Gryphon's antecedents lie in ancient Assyria, where the k'rub was a quite similar creature. Another like creature was considered the symbol of Persia and is found on many works of Persian art. By the time the Gryphon had evolved in ancient Greece, it had become a symbol of vigilant strength and was often associated with Apollo, and the Goddess of Retribution. Alexander the Great supposedly mounted a Gryphon and rode it to the edge of the sky. In the Christian age, the Gryphon's dual nature led to its being associated with Christ, and since then, the Gryphon has been seen as an enemy of serpents and basilisks, both satanic symbols to which the Gryphon is a fierce adversary. Hildebrandt celebrated the dual nature of the Gryphon with the Sentinel of Wisdom dagger. The knife guard bears an intricately sculpted Gryphon's head, accented with black nickel and 24 karat gold, and is set with amber crystal eyes. The guard is also accented with sterling silver and 24 karat gold, and set with two mother-of-pearl stones. The vine-patterned grip is richly coated in 24 karat gold, and the pommel, accented in sterling silver and 24 karat gold, is sculpted in the shape of a Gryphon holding a mother-of-pearl stone, "the pearl of wisdom." The blade is crafted of polished stainless steel decorated with dramatic graphics.
I began collecting these when I thought I was going to be the Next Great Writer. I was working in the fantasy genre at the time, and felt that these would inspire me at the same time that they classied up my work space. I never became that writer, and class... well, your opinion is as good as the next guy's, but they do look great. I would be remiss if I didn't show off how they fit into my decor. I have a long, narrow room for my personal space, with my desk and work-oriented gear at one end, and my TV, DVD player, and video game consoles at the other, and they do indeed help tie it together into one unified whole.
Other pieces help pick it up. The paintings of sailing ships, which I've long held in awe, combine with the ship's wheel clock to interpose a nautical feel to the room. There are other weapons that, inspired by the daggers, I collected as they caught my eye. The battle axe on the wall has a sinister black blade, and a leather-wrapped handle secured by two gold bands and a stainless steel skull-punch at the base. The knife on the stand on top of the grandfather clock is the Dark Demon Dagger. It has a 14-inch blade and a 9-inch handle. With your grip down by the crosspiece, its address is as delicate as pointing your finger. Let your hand slide to the end, and you have a decent length chopping blade. Take a two-hand grip, and you have the power to take the legs off a charging horse. It has no historical counterpart that I have ever seen, so it must not really work that way, but hey, I did say fantasy. The crow's name is Lucien; fans of Hunter: The Reckoning and its sequels will understand. I also have swords, but this has gone on long enough.
The painting depicts Columbus' ships sailing over the edge of the world. The little brass plate at the bottom reads, "I Told You So!"
I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of my humble digs. I had fun with it, and was honored to welcome you. I'm going to wrap this up and bag it. It's coming up on 2:00 AM, and the old gray dude, he ain't what he used to be!
In the continuing saga of my Steampunk adventures, I have tried two very different stories on for size, and my instinctive feeling is that I don't have the grounding in the genre to make it work. This science/fantasy animal is already being very well covered by a lot of talented writers and illustrators. There are enough wannabe hacks out there making fools of themselves in the delusional belief that they have talent; they don't need my help.
In other news, I'm taking Lady Bonnie to a jazz concert for Valentine's day, and if that show goes well, you can look for a review on the 15th. Beyond that, I've been remarkably uninspired in the field of post material lately; we'll just have to see what suggests itself. Maybe something will come up, or maybe I'll become a ghost in the blogoshpere, a man without a site, wandering the ether to comment on others. Watch this space. I'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, get out there and live life like you mean it!