The Swiftest Arrow Ever Shot By Casper the Medieval Knight

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Casper, the medieval knight of old wanted to shoot the fastest, swiftest, sharpest arrow that even flew as far as an arrow had ever flown. He went to the top of the hill and launched his missile into the direction of the rest of the world. He did consider other weapons – a slingshot, a cannonball, a peashooter, but the bow and arrow had always been his favourite. He had heard about other great archers in history – like William Tell – but Casper wanted to leave his mark on mankind as the “greatest shot” that had ever lived.
Much better than … the Bushmen of the Kalahari Dessert – tiny people who lived in mud huts but great hunters and much, much better than the Australian Aborigines with their boomerangs. The Trojan warriors against Mycenacens in 1250 B.C. and the Ancient Greeks who had defeated the Persiansin the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. had indeed been renowned for the velocity of their arrow shooting skills. But Casper wanted to be better than them too. History showed that arrow shooting techniques had also advanced a lot since the Old English Saxons and even more since the Knights of Templar in France. Elsewhere in the world, other great warriors had also been famous sharp shooters … Navajho Red Indians in North America’s Monument Valley in
South – East Utah.

Not forgetting Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 4 B.C. There had been many other great emperors whose warfare skills had been talked about throughout the world, like Ethelwulf, Alfred the Great, Atilla the Hun, Vincent the Vandal, Eric the Red and Ethelred. Casper remembered studying about them in history in the castle as a mini – knight. He had heard tales of Otto of Germany, the first Crusader who sought to take the Holy Land in 1069 to 1099 from the Muslim Saracens. Of course, there were the many arrow shots of the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) between England and France which left only Calais in British hands. Throughout the Renaissance, there had been many battles to mention – with the Turks in Constantinople, named after Emperor Constantine, his arrows were so swift. Back on his hill, Casper took aim and drew back on his bow with almighty strength.

He carefully spied his target – the rest of the world on the horizon. Whoof ! Wham ! Off the arrow burst – cutting through the wind and slicing raindrops. The arrow narrowly missed a tree and meandered on the wind, curving over the crest of the fence. The arrow almost got caught up in wheat fields, picked up speed on a Northern gale and over a local church steeple. The target was NOT the clock face, however, nor indeed the raven perched on the parapet … but off towards the castles and monuments that a medieval arrow might wish to visit. The first stop on his around the world tour was Edinburgh Castle. He spurted at full pace up the hill and dashed through the prison dungeons before getting caught up in the War of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York (1455 – 1485).

The arrow flitted and flirted his way around Balmoral Castle – which had belonged to the English Crown for over 900 years – He took care not to get his feathers singed in the disastrous fire of the 1990’s. The arrow traversed around the grounds of Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.

bow-and-arrow.jpg A Quick Arrow Shot Quiz

1. How high is the hill on which Edinburgh Castle stands ?
a) 445 feet
b) 4 450 feet
c) 345 feet

2. Edinburgh is the capital of which of the British Isles ?
a) Wales
b) England
c) Scotland

3. When was the Chateaux of Langeais on the Loire valley built ?
a) 1625
b) 1465
c) 1259

4. Who did the Chateau of Chenonceaux belong to ?
a) Princess Monaco
b) Catherine de Medici
c) Queen Elizabeth II

5. Who did the Cavaliers fight against in the English Civil War (1642 – 1648) ?
a) Roundheads
b) France
c) Spain

That was a dispute over territory – the next battle was over religion. The arrow got caught up in the French Wars between the Hugenauts and spared with the Catholics (1562 – 1598). The arrow fleeted as quick as lightening to some of the European historical chateaux sites – like, for instance, the Chateau of Langeais on the Loire Valley with a menacing air built by Louis XI. The arrow took snapshots of the tapestries and paintings and other famous bastions like the Bastille in Paris and the Chateau of Chenonceaux spanning the River Cher, where the arrow bobbed on a torrent friskily in the Loire Valley. Back in England, by 1642, the Civil War had broken out between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads but the arrow headed off towards Germany where the Thirty Years War had been going on since 1618. Whilst in this part of Europe, arrow decided to visit some traditional Bavarian castles like the Cat and Mouse Castles on the River Rhine and the Neuschwanstein fairytale castle built by Ludwig II – these days, one of Germany’s top tourist attractions. Arrow sprinted on to an Austrian castle on the River Lahn, near Wetzlar overlooking the town of Braunfels, formerly the seat of the Princes of Solms – Braunfels. Against the background of the Alpine valleys, at a gallop the arrow clipped the castle of Werfen in the valley of Salzach, South of Salzburg showed stark on the panorama – a medieval fortress in a commanding position.

In 1701 – almost 300 years after the medieval knight originally shot his arrow, the Spanish War of Succession erupted, though many of the European powers also got involved – France and Russia, Denmark, Poland and Holland. Some of the castles the arrow visited stood on guard over clusters of villages, like the castle of Almanza in Spain. The life of these communities revolved around the church, castle and local nobleman. It was a long, uphill flight for the arrow to reach the stony bastions but he managed to thanks to the gust blowing him in the right direction. Ooops ! Some of his feathers almost got clipped on the pinnacles of the Palace Castle near Madrid – built by the Duquesae Infantado Catholic monarchs. There were many stylish Baroque and Moorish examples of art from the 1200 and 1300’s throughout the Spanish countryside such as the Alhambra at Granada – the citadel of Moorish kings of Spain with it’s exquisitely decorated halls, rooms and alcoves surrounded by open gardens and courts – the most famous of which is the Court of Lions with it’s delicate marble arcades. In neighbouring Portugal, the thirteenth century castle in the walled village of Obidos

Times were changing rapidly. By 1775 – troops has taken arms across the Atlantic Ocean and arrow almost got broke in half in the American War of Independence. But it wasn’t nearly as much as arrow got truly stars and striped – caught up in the thick of the fray between the Confederate states and Unionists in the colonies – almost 100 years later in the U.S. Civil War. Whilst on the western side of the Atlantic Ocean, the arrow visited the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the terraced fortress of Ollantytambo, narrowly missing a llama. The famous Napoleonic Wars soon followed – a decade later between ancient rivals France and Britain during the period 1793 to 1815. Troops had taken arms in battlefields North of the River Seine and there were a number of victories until the French Emperor was finally defeated at Waterloo by Prussian and British forces. In 1848, revolutions broke out all over Europe – arrow was very useful in the farmyards and back alleys of the French countryside to calls of “Libertie, Fraternitie, Paternitie !!!” He shot through a red, white and blue tricolour.

Meanwhile, the battle banner had been raised in Greece against the Ottoman Empire as the Greeks fought for independence in the period between 1821 and 1829. 1854 – Crimean War – Swords were crossed and fists came to blows in Russia against Britain, France and Turkey. The arrow sustained many cuts and bruises but thankfully Florence Nightingale was there to patch up his splinters and ease his wounds. Embattled, arrow decided to convalesce in Russia’s capital city, Moscow, flying in and out of the windows of the Winter Palace of the Tsars in Russia. The real troublemaker of the time was Prussia – an aggressor against Austria and France. Arrow took combat, whilst on the other side of the world, Japan was busy doing battle with the Chinese (1894 – 1895) and later against Russia (1904 – 1905). “What was this newly created country called Germany ?” wondered arrow. Miltarily bored, arrow headed for more wrestling adventures in the Boer War against the Dutch in South Africa (1899 – 1902)… Now for the BIG ONE … World War One. Arrow was feeling a bit old, these days, well since medieval times, weaponry had developed, new advances in warfare, guns and all kinds of arms had taken place in battle of the humble bow and arrow. But he headed off the trenches on the Western Front to meet poets like Seigfreid Sassoon and volley a bit with the German troops. Arrow celebrated victory with the troops and the defeat of the Central Powers by the Allies – Arrow was pleased to see the abdication of the German Emperor. Perhaps a Bolshevik Revolution was more in keeping with what arrow was looking for, shortly afterwards (1918 – 1921). In October, fighting broke out and arrow joined in until a new Socialist state was established. The Polish Palace of Culture in Warsaw clearly demonstrated to arrow the post – war influence of Russian grandiose style.

World was not at peace long before the might of Hitler’s regime rattled and battled and World War Two broke out. When peace was finally settled, arrow couldn’t decide which of the zones to stay in – Russian, British, American occupied areas. Against a backdrop of the Black Forest in the South – West, and towering above the beautiful Rhine and Mosel valleys, vine – covered and castle – crowned, arrow blew down an old street in Bad Wimpfen, on the River Neckar in Baden – Wurttemburg. The Blue Tower formed part of the medieval palace of the Hohenstaufens. He looked up to the highest peak of the Bavarian Alps – Zugspitze rising 9 720 feet where the scenery was amongst the most beautiful in Europe. Martial war lasted for six days between Israel and the Arab States- one of the world’s new hot spots. Oil was the greatest issue for nations to dispute – not much interest to an ageing arrow.

Then it was the turn of Asia to show it’s factions in Korea (1950 -1952) and Vietnam (1964 – 1973) in war against the United States. By Armistice Day on November 11th – arrow found his final resting place at the Cenotaph in London. Throughout his journey, there had been many war cemeteries and monuments to fallen arrows, bows broken and soldiers lost in combat. The arrow was now aged and ready for something a little more tranquil – like a dove of peace, like that described in the Bible after the Great Flood and a grove of great elms, like in Spain’s Alhambra, planted by the British statesman the Duke of Wellington, during the Peninsular War – symbols of harmony in a quarrelsome world.

bow-and-arrow.jpg recipe
Meltaway Chocolate Mint Arrows
Ingredients
1 lb/450g plain chocolate
2 level tsp /30ml soft blended white vegetable fat
150 ml (1/4 pint) of double cream
15 ml (1 tsp) peppermint

Line an 8″ square tin with waxed paper. Bring some water to the boil and break the chocolate into small pieces – to be melted with the fat in a bowl above the water. Once melted, bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 54 C (130F) and is completely smooth. Replace the hot with cold water and cool the chocolate slowly above – stirring constantly until it is about 30 C (83F) and thickened slightly. Bring the cream to the boil in a separate pan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and peppermint essence. Beat until well blended for about 2 minutes. Pour into a rectangular, flat baking tin and refrigerate – leaving to cool for two hours or more until quite firm but easy enough to cut into the following pattern to be pieced together in arrows before serving.

bow-and-arrow.jpg Straight Arrows

Write ten sentences that include the word “straight” and “strait”. Do you know the difference ?

© Jacqueline Richards 2005

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