How the Art of Sword Crafting Influenced My Dragonslayer Series
by Resa Nelson
I love doing research. When I wrote Book 1 (The Dragonslayer’s Sword) in my Dragonslayer series, I took a blacksmithing course because my main character Astrid is a blacksmith. Because she makes swords for dragonslayers, I also took courses to learn how to use medieval weapons. Finally, I did library research to learn about the steps to craft a sword. All of these steps became a huge influence on the entire Dragonslayer series.
While learning about blacksmithing, I discovered that every piece of iron has its own character, meaning it’s either strong or weak. The problem is that – just like people – it’s impossible to tell a piece of iron’s character just by looking at it. It’s only after you’ve forged it into a weapon and actually use that weapon that the iron will prove its character. If it’s strong, the weapon will hold up in battle. But if the character of the iron is weak, the weapon will bend of break, leaving its owner in a dangerous position.
Because I modeled the world on the beginning of the Viking era, I researched Viking weapons and weapon-making. I learned that the Vikings had a special way of making swords that was kept secret and handed down from generation to generation. This type of sword making is called pattern welding. The idea is to take several different pieces of iron, hammer them into long rods, and then twist those rods together – that’s what you use to make the sword. The idea is that if you use several different pieces of iron, the odds are good that some will have weak character but others will have strong character. And that if you blend them together, you’ll have a sword that’s both strong and flexible.
All of this information thrilled me. It gave me the idea to make the sword one of the most important characters in the series. In Book 1, I weave the information about how the sword is made (which is based on pattern welding) throughout the novel in scenes where Astrid makes her first sword. Her experience throughout the book parallels the process of sword making. By the end of the novel, she identifies with the sword she has made. She also learns that she can shape her own character similar to the way she shapes the character of every piece of iron she hammers. She sees that different people and experiences in her life have also shaped her.
Learning about blacksmithing and the craft of making swords had a huge impact on creating Astrid and therefore the plot of each book in the series. If I hadn’t done this research, the series probably would have been one book shorter and the story would have been very different. In other words, I felt like I twisted and welded my research together with the fantasy I created, just like a pattern-welded sword.
Resa Nelson’s first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award and was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in her 4-book Dragonslayer series, which also includes The Iron Maiden (Book 2), The Stone of Darkness (Book 3), and The Dragon’s Egg (Book 4).
Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."
She has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop. Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Resa lives in Massachusetts. Visit her website at http://www.resanelson.com.