Monday, November 9, 2015

The Iron Hand of Gotz von Berlichingen

Germany is a country with a reputation. Its tribes stopped the advance of the Roman legions, its swordsmiths created a two-handed rapier, and if certain schools of musical thought are to be believed, gave birth to the ancestor of heavy metal with creation of Richard Wagner. It's a nation whose mythology is bloody, whose fairy tales are terrifying, and whose warriors are legendary.

With that said, Gotz von Berlichingen is unique even among the hardcases coming out of Germany in the 1500s. He started his career around the turn of the century as a mercenary, and he was marked as a particularly tough man. Good if you were the one paying him and his company, not so good if you were on the receiving end of things. According to Atlas Obscura, in 1504 Gotz lost his hand, courtesy of a cannonball. He did not, however, let such a minor inconvenience get in the way of his continued, paid-for rampages.

So he did what any self-respecting, hard-bitten soldier of fortune would do. He stopped by the blacksmith, and told him to make an iron hand so he could keep pummeling the living hell out of his enemies.

Years later some British guy is going to write a heavy metal ballad about this shit.
The model you're looking at above is the second installment, which Gotz had made for him after he'd roused a significant number of rabbles, collected a metric butt-load of plunder, and along the way gotten himself knighted. While the initial hand was little more than a crude metal clamp holding his sword, the later model could hold a quill, his reins, and perform a range of other tasks as well.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Anyway, in addition to smashing teeth, wielding a sword, and likely doing some awesome saluting, this iron fist became Gotz's symbol. He, and his hand, grew so popular that it was made a part of his home city's flag. Because they wanted to advertise to anyone who thought about starting trouble that they would have to bring some serious A-game to survive an encounter with the man who lived there.

Anyway, that's this Monday's update, I hope you all enjoyed this little bit of history. If you want to make sure you get all of my future updates, then make sure you follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Also, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then stop by my Patreon page to throw a little bread in my jar. Even better, if you become a new patron before the end of November, there's some sweet swag in it for you!

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