The Swashbuckling Press

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The History of Swashbuckling


The world of swashbuckling is perhaps larger than what most people realize. It is a subject (and yes, I am calling it a subject!) that contains many paths of extremely interesting, and not to mention "adventurous," subjects within this main subject of which I am going to discuss. When I started upon this long road many years back, I had absolutely no idea of how far I could go within its massive boundaries (the which I have yet to find an end to; and that, I am now fully convinced, I shall never find an end!) I must inform my readers that I do not know everything about this large subject, and if I told you that I did, I would not be too honest with myself or to you, for it is absolutely positive that no known person (in past or present) could know everything about this vast world of Swashbuckling. Just to give a small example of what I am attaining to, I will name just a few subjects within this world of swashbuckling that is filled with such detailed histories, that they themselves will never be fully understood and learned - these include: the complete subject of Musketeers (of all European nations), Robin Hood, Pirates (throughout all history), weaponry history, Medieval England (and all Europe), Knights, King Arthur, and we can even get into the Swashbuckling History of other nations as well, such as the Orient and the Arabian nations - but shall I go on? - and history that covers nearly every corner of the globe, from the most ancient of times, biblical times, the time of King Arthur, the Medieval ages, the Renaissance period, the Seventeenth through Nineteenth centuries, the turn of the twentieth century, our present time, and the time that is to come!

Within these mentioned subjects, a whole history is embedded in each one; and of course, histories are embedded within each unmentioned subjects as well. I have found, during my years of studying, that not all fictitious stories are based totally on fiction - as if truly thought completely up by an author. What I have found, had only increased my interests! When learning that my favorite heroes were actually based upon the exploits of actual people, I became more excited than as if I had discovered another wonderful story from my favorite authors. When these actual personages were realized, the interests of only fiction had slowly started fading away, in place of an even greater story - real life! To me, as to many of this present time, real life history can be even more exciting than well written fiction. I do not want to spoil what lies ahead to my readers, of which we will try to fully explore on this website: , so I will merely say that what will be presented before your eyes is not a dedicatory introduction towards well written adventurous fiction by some fantastic authors of past and present - no! - but even greater, I will present real life Swashbucklers in real life Swashbuckling situations, and compare them to their fictitious counterparts. This is a very exciting subject study, and as I present this, I will try to categorize the presentation as it actually happened in time; from the most ancient, to the present day. Please keep checking back for updates.

As they are being presented to the public, I will try, within what can only be a brief analysis, to give a well documented introduction to the reading public of what the large world of Swashbuckling is all about, giving full detail of what it contains. It is a subject that has been ignored or neglected long enough, and I have talked with Swashbuckling enthusiasts, and read a large quantity of books, and I feel that I am ready to present this before the public at large. This being said: "En garde!," grab ahold of your sword, look lively there!, and be prepared, you adventurers, to be swept amongst mighty Galleons, witness steel crashing against steel combats, the loud ringing of cannonade, and be startled by a "Z" being carved on a Californian-Spanish village wall, or be taken totally out of wits with the presence of the black flag of skull and cross-bones - that is called the "Jolly Roger!," and let us begin this fantastic adventure . . . .

But first, just what is Swashbuckling?

Perhaps a good introduction would be the relating of a practically unexplored subject - namely Swashbuckling! Those who know nothing of Swashbuckling will find this informative, and those who have known this subject all their lives will find this interesting.

The English word "Swashbuckling," "Swashbuckler," and "Swashbuckle," does not even appear in the English language until about the early or middle sixteenth century. Even though the English language (the developing of the modern dialect we speak today) was slowly coming into existence near the end of the Middle ages - a combination of Norman French and Anglo Saxon languages, the word itself does not appear until the 1500's; although at the time of its appearance, it was already a well known word. From the few samples we have handed down to us today, it is clearly seen that what Renaissance people considered a "Swashbuckler," is somewhat different from what we consider today.

Clearly, in our modern eyes, a Swashbuckler - referring to an individual - is a person who is reckless, brave, fearless, a bold speaker who always delivers his threats and promises, and one who is extremely adventurous, and is excellent with some type of weapon; if not a sword, then with a bow and arrow, or some other type of military style weapon. But this is not what the sixteenth century individual considered a Swashbuckler. A Swashbuckler at that time was considered a braggart ,who never came through with his over-boastful promises. In other words, after he has threatened, he would tuck tail and run when his challenge was met! A sixteenth century Swashbuckler would walk with a proud air about him, be very boastful, was a swaggerer, but not as adventurous as we would certainly have hoped. But, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the term had already transformed into what was quoted at first - namely a boasting swaggerer who followed through with what he boasted.

The modern term has several meanings, including being an application to a movie with a swaggering nature. Just because a hero carries no sword, it does not mean a movie will not be a swashbuckler. But considering Indiana Jones a Swashbuckler would be a mistake! He's an adventurer, granted, but he is no Swashbuckler. The Swashbuckling period pretty much lasted from the beginning of time until the end of the Nineteenth century, and was only carried over into the Twentieth Century by film and a few real life individuals, who wielded swords in dueling and modern war with sword and horse. But the real life Swashbuckler had by then all but ceased; but they live on, as was just said, through our modern movies.

The word Swash means to dash against (modern dictionary meaning), and the word Buckler means a small shield. Around about the time the word first began to appear (again, in the Sixteenth Century), soldiers were yielding sword and buckler, and in dueling both men would swing their swords and dash them against their opponent's buckler (or small round shield). The use of sword and buckler can be seen all throughout history. Even the Holy Bible mentions the Mighty Men of Valour carrying Sword and Buckler. So, considering the combination of Sword and Buckler, one can presume it was the formation of the terminology of the modern "Swashbuckler!" And considering that not all Swashbucklers carry sword and shield, a Swashbuckler (especially considering today's meaning) can carry a whole host of different types of weapons, and sometimes (if he was good with his fists) did not need to carry one at all. Just consider the Knight, mounted rider, who did wield a sword and a shield; but then also consider the English, who loved to battle each other with their fists (a practice that carried over to the early United States - deriving into our modern prize fighting).

But not only these will be considered a Swashbuckling situation; sometimes (considering our modern movies) a Swashbuckler can be presented in the form of an exotic colourful location, like the Western Indies or the Southern Seas. So, movies such as Robinson Crusoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Mutiny on the Bounty are definitely Swashbucklers. Also, so are Arabian Knights tales, who wield odd shaped swords in Baghdad. The subject sometimes becomes a little confusing, but if you look at all these type of Swashbuckling films (especially the films), a pattern will begin to be noticed, and an identifiable Swashbuckling situation will be seen.

For your benefit, I will name a few good Swashbuckling movies, that if watched, will begin to develop a situation that will be an identifiable Swashbuckler (or, rather, a grand Adventure):

(These titles will include both older versions, and newer as well)

Robin Hood

The Black Swan

The Three Musketeers

The Sea Hawk

The Man in the Iron Mask

Mutiny on the Bounty

The Master of Ballantrae

Sinbad the Sailor

Treasure Island

The Son of Ali Baba

Pirates of the Caribbean

Rob Roy

Knights of the Round Table

First Knight

The Kingdom of Heaven

Captain Blood


The Prince and the Pauper

Demetrius and the Gladiators


and much, much more!!

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