How to be a Mythical Hero

Celebrate this World Book Night with an extract from my humorous (hopefully) history book ‘Escapades in Bizarrchaeology’.

It’s available in paperback and ebook from amazon.co.uk RIGHT NOW.

Yes, that’s RIGHT NOW.

Ever since Heracles first adorned his head with the mane of the Nemean Lion and realised that he looked both stylish, sophisticated and manly, everyone has wanted to be a Hero. In the modern day that love for the (Super)Hero has gone worldwide, with every other film released based on a comic hero who originated in glorious technicolour on the printed page. Yet the links between Super Hero and Mythical Hero are clear. Despite the intervening two thousand-ish years there recently isn’t that much difference between them.
Iron Man is a hero because he has loads and loads of money and technology to have the best weapons and armour, yet his main weakness is his pride and arrogance in his own abilities and intelligence. Agamemnon was considered a hero of the Trojan war because he had loads and loads of money and technology to ensure that he had the best weapons and armour for his army, yet his weakness and undoing was his hubris (I initially thought hubris was some kind of pate but it’s actually excessive pride)… and the fact that he killed his own daughter to get wind (not gaseous wind, that would be weird, wind to blow his ships to Troy).
Superman is unstoppable apart from his one weakness that EVERYONE knows about, an extreme allergy to Kryptonite. Archilles was unstoppable apart from his one weakness that EVERYONE knew about, his Archilles’ heel (seriously? If you don’t want everyone to know about the one weak point upon your body you should call it something else. Like Geoff’s heel (or Terry’s heel, he’s already got an orange, why not a heel too?), don’t use your own name, that’s just asking to be shot by an arrow).
Spiderman is a hero because he has magical Spider juice in his veins. Heracles was a hero because he had magical Zeus juice in his veins (that sounded weirder that I was expecting).
So, there are a plethora (I love my dictionary) of links between heroes of the modern world and the Ancient world. This means that we could have a hero of the ancient world being heroic in the modern world. Why not? All they need is the right guidance, a series of top tips to ensure that they know how to Hero with the best and the rest of them..
Who would be their teacher? Max Virtus of course. I have the agoge for training, I have the top tips, all I need is the student… and that could be you dear reader! So grab your Xiphos and get ready, as I transform you into a Mythical Hero.

Don’t learn how to Sword Fight

Despite the entertainment industry’s best attempts to convince me, the most effective way to defeat your opponent in a duel to the death is NOT by ensuring you always hit your swords together. The actual intention is to miss the opponent’s sword entirely and hit their body. Therefore as a mythical hero you should cut the following supposedly heroic moves from your repertoire.
Spinning
No Spinning. The Star Wars prequels may well have taught a legion of would be Jedi Knights that the best way to do battle is by furiously twisting like an alcoholic with a bottle of wine and a blunt corkscrew, but repeatedly exposing your back to your opponent and losing sight of what they’re doing is not the best idea for a Mythical Hero to stay alive.
Rolling
Why are you rolling around on the floor? Stop it. That includes backward rolls. It looks cool in film but that’s because they have plenty of attempts to get it right. Chances are that if you try that in a real sword fight that you’ll only impale yourself on your own blade or accidentally slice open a major artery. Either way this will result in awkward embarrassment and premature death.
Back Flips
That’s the equivalent of a spin whilst rolling and is frowned upon in the Sword Fighting community.
Swinging on Ropes
Despite the temptation, avoid swinging on a conveniently positioned rope in a sword fight (this includes chandeliers) it’s rather tricky holding on to your sword whilst doing so and unlike most actors you don’t have a wire work team to keep you suspended in mid air. Also, don’t do a pirate and hold your sword in your teeth, that results in sliced lips and a permanent smile.

Don’t Parry

Were you not listening before? Stop hitting your opponnent’s sword.
That was all pretty negative, if a Mythical Hero can’t do any of that stuff in a sword fight, what can they do? Well, they should take a leaf from a Greek Hoplite’s book and simply use the jab.
That’s all you need to sword fight like a Mythical Hero. The Jab. Simply extend your sword arm at rapid pace and embed it in your enemy’s flesh before they do the same to you. Your Xiphos sword is short (eighteen inches give or take) but it is ideally suited to be positioned behind your shield to be poked out from around the side to surprise your foe. Bring the pointy bit of the blade flashing out over the top, left, right, or bottom of the shield, keep your enemy guessing at to where your next attack is coming from. Incidentally that’s why you don’t need to parry, you have a nice round Hoplon Shield to hide behind (made of hefty wood with a bronze coating, the Hoplon or Aspis is going to keep your delicate and frail human body protected by covering up your shoulder all the way down to your thigh) you can even use the handle positioned at the rim to ram the shield into an unsuspecting warrior.
Your shield also proves handy at slamming down on an enemy’s toes. Regardless of how much armour resides on your opponent’s body their feet fingers will still be poking out of their sandals. What better way to greet them by slamming your shield down upon them? Sure to open up the defences of even the most sturdy of opponents.
In conclusion, to swordfight like a hero just practise the jab, each and every day and victory will be yours.

Have a Dark Origin story

Any superhero worth their salt has an origin forged in despair and suffering. Batman’s parents were murdered in front of him, Superman’s entire home planet was destroyed and Spiderman couldn’t save his Uncle’s life. To be a mythical hero though you have to go eighteen steps further. Your origin story has to be DARK (underlined, bold and in capitals to suggest how dark that origin story is).
Let’s look at the Hero of all Heroes; Heracles (or Hercules if you’re Roman). Disney teach children that Heracles had to prove himself worthy to live on Mount Olympus with his father, Zeus, by completing 12 labours, that’s because the real reason was not family friendly.
Heracles killed his entire family. The 12 labours (originally 10 but that pesky King Eurystheus kept changing the rules) were an opportunity for Heracles to seek redemption. It’s the equivalent of Bruce Wayne being the one who shot his parents rather than a faceless gangster.

Learn Pankration

All superheroes have their own fighting style, something distinctive that let’s the unfortunate villain know who’s pummelling him, just from the angle of the punch against his face. But all fighting styles pale against Pankration. And that is the fighting style you’re going to need to learn if you’re going to be a mythical hero. It was either Thesesus or Heracles who developed Pankration and the fact that it allows you to defeat Minotaurs, Nemean Lions and Cerberus means it is highly effective. It works so well by pretty much throwing everything at your enemy, even the kitchen sink (especially the kitchen sink, those taps can sting).
Virtually anything goes with Pankration, there’s only three things you can’t do. Bite your enemy, pluck out their eyeballs or damage their genitals. Other than that feel free to strangle, punch, kick and throw to your heart’s content.
That’s more than enough to get any would be modern mythical heroes started. With a combination of a dark and disturbing backstory, sword skills and fighting ability you should be well on your way to defeating heinous and fiendish monsters before ultimately dying in a tragic way (usually dying alone. Take Bellerophon. He was a hero who had defeated the chimera. He had a flying horse, he was the king and was happily married with four children. Yet he managed to mess that all up by trying to visit Zeus, who sent a gadfy to attack him, resulting in Bellerophon crashing to the ground and ending up crippled and alone for offending the gods).
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Front Cover Update: Escapades in Bizarrchaeology

I’m currently working on freshening up the front cover for Escapades in Bizarrchaeology, aiming for something altogether classier so when you’re sat reading it on the train you can feel all smug and intellectual as the other passengers stare at you in poorly disguised envy.

Here’s a preview of the first draft. Opinions and comments welcome.

EIB Cover 2

 

Bat Bombs – an extract from Escapades in Bizarrchaeology

Below you’ll find an extract from my humorous History book ‘Escapades in Bizarrchaeology’.

If you enjoy learning all about ‘Bat Bombs’ then please share the extract far and wide using all the usual social media.

You can also buy the book from Amazon for a mere £8 by clicking here. You’ll even get a free penny for every purchase.

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated as, quite frankly, I need the money.

The Cat Shield was an example of a defining ‘weapon’ in man’s military history, a device that for better or worse forever changed our view on the world and our place within it. But it’s not the only such weapon in the Zoo, take a sharp left when you get to the Bat enclosure and then I can present to you… the Bat Bomb.
First things first, I believe some clarification is in order. By Bat Bomb I do not mean the high tech compact explosive you would find on the utility belt of the caped crusader, no, I actually mean an incendiary device attached to a bat.
This idea came to be in the midst of the second world war and was the brain child of a Pennsylvanian Dentist named Dr Lytle S. Adams (Yes, that Lytle S. Adams, none other than the inventor of the fried chicken dispensing machine). Recoiling from the shock and horror of the recent attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese, Adams came to consider ways in which America could strike back at its faraway foe.
Dr. Adams knew that the vast majority of buildings in Japan were constructed from paper, bamboo and other very flammable materials. He had also witnessed the behaviour of bats during a recent holiday in New Mexico, particularly the manner in which the winged wonders found small crevices to shelter in during the day.
Taking into account these two factors Dr Adams had an epiphany; the results of this epiphany can be easily seen through a number of steps written as bullet points for easy digestion. I like to think this is how Dr Adams planned out his idea but there is no historical evidence to prove this to be the case…
TO DO LIST:
1. Get some bats.
2. Attach a bomb to the bats.
3. Drop bats over Japanese cities.
4. Bats spread far and wide before finally hiding themselves in the dark recesses of buildings.
5. After a period of time the bombs explode causing fires to spread rapidly across Japan creating chaos, panic, and destruction.
6. Back to work… 10.45am. Patient. Root canal.
It was certainly the case that Dr Adams’ idea was unconventional, but there were top bods in the American government who believed that despite the oddity of using flying mammals as an offensive weapon that the theory was sound. That the bat bomb actually could work.
Adams submitted the idea to the White House in January 1942, where President Roosevelt himself authorised the further development of the project. It fell to the inventor of military napalm, Louis Fieser, to devise an effective bomb which was also light enough for the bat to carry. Fortunately for Fieser bats can carry more than their own weight in flight, so the bomb he developed was roughly the same size as a bat and was an impressively diminutive 16 grams in weight.
Now that Fieser had bombs attached to bats the next problem to overcome was to actually get all of them to Japan. And for this there was created an elegant and cunning solution. A device so simple and yet so genius I will write the details of it in its own paragraph.
A big metal box.
Yes, a big metal box with multiple compartments in which could be housed the hibernating bats. A parachute was stuck to the back so when it was dropped by a plane at high altitude over Japan, the descent of the box could be slowed. At 1000 feet the bats were awoken from the hibernation, the compartments then opened and 1000 bat bombs were released.
So, how come the bat bomb was never used?
Well it was, only as a test admittedly, but the military were very pleased with the results of the bat bomb when it was deployed on a mocked up Japanese village built in the Dugway Proving Grounds of Utah. Yes, there were some setbacks along the way (the bats set fire to Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base when they roosted under a fuel tank, resulting in property damage and a high death count of bats) but none the less the effectiveness of the bat bomb appeared to be promising. Not only that but bat loving mathematicians also surmised that ten B-24 bombers could carry over one million bats to their target.
So, to ask the question again, how come the bat bomb was never used?
Essentially the atomic bomb rendered it irrelevant. The new weapon was so devastating in its power and so terrifying in its annihilation of life that the bat bomb was consigned as a foot note in history.
So, how best to sum up? On the surface the bat bomb seemed like a ridiculous idea, after all, attaching explosive devices to any sort of animal seems like something you would watch in a cartoon. However, what if the bat bomb was used before the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan? What if this seemingly absurd weapon managed to bring a close to the Second World War? What kind of world would we live in had an atomic bomb never been used on a civilian population?
Let’s leave the final word to the inventor of the bat bomb himself, when commenting on why his invention – ‘X-Ray’ – would have been a much better weapon to use on Japan than ‘Little Boy’ or ‘Fat Man’;
‘Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of forty miles in diameter for every bomb dropped.  Japan could have been devastated, yet with small loss of life’

The Day Eric the Witless Died

It was on a Thursday that Eric died.

Or, as he would have called it, Thorsday.

Eric really hadn’t been expecting it. The battle had been going so well up until that point. The heaving swarm of humanity that made up the Great Heathen Army had tumbled over the emerald green hill towards their prey. Eric had been propelled along with them, feeling unstoppable at the forefront of such a tremendous force.

Warriors clad in chainmail from neck to knee, each armed with spear, axe or sword. Their helms gleamed like pebbles on a beach, every single dane holding aloft a brightly coloured oval shield; imbued with painted or carved images of dragon, wolf and bear. They were the tide and the small force of Saxons, stood in disarray at the nape of the hill, were as inconsequential to them as the shore.

The Saxons had been caught unaware, trapped with their backs at the river and the sudden surprising arrival of the Danes at the top of the hill. Eric had stared down at the small force, a smirk twitching on his lips beneath his dull red beard. With a playful punch, he struck Sigfried on his armoured shoulder.

‘Look at them’ Eric muttered ‘do you think they’re ready to die?’

‘They’ll get to find out soon’ replied Sigfried, spitting a wad of yellow phlegm onto the blade of his sword, before rubbing it off against his leather clad wrist, and tapping hilt three times against his shield. The soft thudding sound it made, lost in the noise of the swathes of men around them.

Eric smiled at his friend ‘You know Odin cares not if you do that. If it is your time to die, then it is your time’

‘Maybe so’ rumbled Sigfried ‘but it makes me feel better.’

‘I leave my fate to the three sisters’ Eric raised his axe to glisten under the bright September sun ‘When it is my time, I will fall in battle and I shall journey to Valhalla to feast and fight with the gods. Mine will be a good death, a heroic death, with weapon in hand and a grin upon my face.’

There was a ripple of noise amongst the Danes as a mountain of a man strode forward from their ranks. He wore a gleaming coat of mail and his cruel war helm gave him a frightening visage.

‘It’s Halfdan’ whistled Sigfried ‘son of Ragnar Lothbrok’

‘I know who it is’ responded Eric, whipping a sheen of sweat from his brow.

‘You’ve seen him before then have you?’ teased Sigfried ‘Good friends are you?’

‘Like brothers’ replied Eric ‘If it were not for the fact I was stood behind Rulf the fat, and that his bulk was blocking Halfdan’s view of me, than I’m sure he would embrace me at once. We would probably hold each other tenderly for several minutes, I would expect’

Sigfried laughed ‘You’re full of pig shit Eric’

‘It leaks out of my ears’ smiled Eric ‘thank the gods for this helmet otherwise shit would be pouring all over you right now’.

Before Sigfried could respond, Halfdan raised his fist aloft and silence spread amongst the assembled men. The only noise to be heard was the panicked cries from the Saxons far below.

‘Rulf’ whispered Eric ‘Rulf. Could you move a little? You’re too fat and I can’t see my brother Halfdan’.

‘If you’re not careful’ rumbled Rulf, his massive frame shifting slightly as he spoke ‘I will rip off your cock and use it as a tooth pick’

Eric stared blankly for a moment. ‘That makes no sense’.

‘Of course it makes sense’ Rulf said ‘For your cock is so tiny it would prove just perfect for removing the gristle between my teeth’

Eric smiled, his missing teeth likes black holes in his face.

‘I’ve been thinking about saying that for three weeks’ said Rulf ‘No clever responses Eric? It is not like you to be so witless.’

‘Well’ began Eric ‘you’re fat.’

Halfdan dropped his fist. And as one, the Great Heathen Army snapped their shields up to protect half their own body and half the man to the left. A shield wall was formed.

Halfdan pointed to the Saxons.

‘Here we go’ said Eric.

With a roar the army surged forward.

 

Eric will return next week. We all know that he dies (mind you, we all know that about each other I suppose) the question is… how?