WHO IS BARD THE BOWMAN?

 

Trevor Wheate (Longshanks), a member of our Brisbane Tolkien Fellowship, gives a comprehensive presentation of Bard the Bowman, his background, his yew bow and the black arrow he used to slay the dragon Smaug. Trevor has given a presentation for a BTF meeting at the Brisbane Central Library on this Subject.

Bard was a Northman, the race of men who lived between Mirkwood and the Iron Hills.
Born and raised among the Lake Men of Esgaroth, Bard was an exile of Dale, which had been destroyed by Smaug, the Golden Dragon. He was a strong, grim faced man who was descended from Lord Girion of Dale.

This is reinforced by Tolkien’s introduction to Bard on page 249 of the Hobbit, where Bard is initially introduced as, ‘the grim faced man,(Bard was his name) who ran to fro cheering on the archers and urging the Master to order them to fight to the last arrow.’

Bard can be seen as a precursor to the Aragorn character: Both are of royal breed; both show great skills in leadership, courage and combat; both restore a line of kings and both lead their countries to prosperity and peace. Being a Northman, he was believed to have been descended from the same group of Men as the Edain.

I had originally thought that Bard was a Blacksmith, but further research on-line has revealed him to be employed as a Soldier Bowman of Laketown and Leader of a Company of Archers. To be of Bowman Rank, you have to be able to pull a Great Bow, a skill which can only be gained by at least 15 years’ experience. This means Bard was over at least 25 years of age when he shot the arrow which killed Smaug.
BARD’S GREAT YEW BOW:

During the Battle with Smaug, Tolkien describes on page 250 of The Hobbit, that Bard
“Shot with a great yew bow, till all his arrows but one were spent”.

This description is very important. To a man of JRR Tolkien’s cultural heritage, the term ‘Great Yew Bow’ has a specific meaning. It describes a specific Medieval Weapon, carved from a single stave of seasoned Yew Wood, and stressed to the poundage which would allow a suitably tipped Arrow to penetrate Armour, or to cast a standard arrow several hundred yards. A Great Bow was only issued to a Master Bowman, whose skill and strength had been developed over at least a dozen years service. For Bard to be described as having a ‘great yew bow’, he must have been a Master Bowman and a man of some vintage, say mid to late 20s. It makes Bard the equivalent of one of Henry VIII’s Bowman of the Guard, a figure which is well known to Historians.

The strength that a Master Bowman had to develop to pull the 120-150lb Great Bow gave them a characteristically top heavy physique. Massive chests, with prominent dorsal plates and back straps (steady on, girls!). And on many occasions, asymmetric build due to the compression of the shoulder bones on the Bow Arm. The actor playing Bard in the next Movie seems to lack these characteristics.

Luke Evans is set to portray Bard in the next two Hobbit Movies directed by Peter Jackson.

 

wbard - Copy

Additionally, the Publication ‘The Lord of the Rings-Weapons and Warfare’ by Chris Smith 2003 give a diagramatic breakdown of ranged weapons of Middle Earth on page 31. In this article it is shown that both Mirkwood and Numenorian Arrows have an effective range of 250 yards, the same as a Trebuchet. Elves can further these by 100 yards, and Legolas’ special Bow can range out to 400 yards (amazing). Note the mentioned link between Numenor and Mirkwood.

THAT BLACK ARROW.

Page 250-251 of the Hobbit describe Bard selecting, drawing and shooting the Black Arrow. He even speaks to it as he is drawing,

“Arrow!’ said the bowman. “Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and I always have re-covered you. I had you from my father and he from old. If ever you came from the forges of the True King under the Mountain, go now and speed well.”

 

Bard - Copy

The Arrow is described as being a family Heirloom and had been shot on many occasions, making the arrow still serviceable. A wooden arrow would not have lasted this long. It’s spine would have long since perished, making the shaft un-usable. Only a metal arrow would have lasted as long. Hence it has to be a metal shaft.

Page 142 of the Weapons and Warfare book state that the Ancient Numenorians made Bows out of Hollow Steel. My own Archer’s experience tells me that these would require a hollow metal arrow as well. As most wooden arrows would have not coped with the forces of launch. The Ancient Numenorians had similar metalworking abilities as our Modern Day!

Bard’s reference to the Black Arrow being forged by the forges of the True King under the Mountain can be directly taken as describing a Metal Arrow, forged by the Dwarven Master Smiths of Erebor back in their glory days.

I find it ironic that Smaug the Golden was finally struck down and killed by a relic of a people whom he had defeated and devestated many years before. Struck from beyond the grave of those he had killed when he drove the Dwarves from Erebor.

3 Responses to WHO IS BARD THE BOWMAN?
  1. […] Who is Bard the Bowman? Trevor Wheate (Longshanks), a member of the Brisbane Tolkien Fellowship, gives a comprehensive presentation of Bard the Bowman, his background, his yew bow, and the black arrow he used to slay the dragon Smaug. Trevor has given a presentation for a BTF meeting at the Brisbane Central Library on this subject. (Alice) […]

  2. proudfoot
    June 24, 2013 | 8:35 am

    Thank you Alice, for your comment and the post on Middle-earth Network. I am sure Trevor will be most grateful as is all of us here at Brisbane Tolkien. We will have other posts coming up on a regular basis and any links you give to us will be most appreciative. There will be an article coming up soon on “Dragons” and also look out for our article and video on “Archery in Middle-earth’ that we will be producing for a release at the end of July…. Proudfoot.

  3. […] Who is Bard the Bowman? Trevor Wheate (Longshanks), a member of the Brisbane Tolkien Fellowship, gives a comprehensive presentation of Bard the Bowman, his background, his yew bow, and the black arrow he used to slay the dragon Smaug. Trevor has given a presentation for a BTF meeting at the Brisbane Central Library on this subject. (Alice) […]

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