Weapons in Shroud (Part 1)

It’s been some time since I last blogged, and I hope this extra lengthy post makes up for my tardiness.

First off though, I’d like to thank those who’ve read Shroud and also those who’ve indicated that they’d like to read it. You don’t know how much this means to me. If you have read it, I’d be so honored if you’d leave a kind, constructive review, and perhaps recommend it to your friends. Readers make my day, and anytime you want to reach out to me, you can do so at twitter.com/marisamohdi.

OK, so I’d like to introduce you all to the weapons I chose to include in Shroud. As the story is set in the fictional Southeast-Asian country called Nusantara, I decided that the weapons should be ones common to this region. I’m not an expert, but I did do some research about them before writing. Images used in this post are borrowed and you can click on the links to learn more.

The weapon mentioned most often is the machete or parang (huge knife) in Malay. The parang is usually shorter than 24 inches, and anything longer than that would be considered a sword. Traditionally used as a household and agricultural tool, the parang is a single-edged hard steel blade that’s extremely sharp at the front (for peeling), slightly wider in the middle (for chopping), and fine at the back end (for whitling). The best handles are usually made of solid wood or water buffalo horn, and some come with a wooden or leather sheath. These wooden components are sometimes beautifully hand-crafted, often depicting runes that are thought to be amulets.

Image from Tourism Malaysia

Of course, there’s also the ordinary parang, like these old, oft-used ones I found amongst my dad’s things:

As handy as the parang is, I wanted a cooler, more exotic weapon for some of the characters in my book. I decided on the keris or kris, which is a double-edged dagger that is wavy, straight, or both, as shown below.

Image from Hmetro (article in Malay)

Image from Sunday Times

I think the keris is absolutely gorgeous and wicked, and it has a special place in Malay myths and legends. The most famous keris is probably the Taming Sari, which belonged to Hang Tuah, a 15th-century warrior from the Malay sultanate of Melaka. The Taming Sari was believed to have been bewitched, could do things like fly through the air by itself, and make its owner undefeatable in a fight.

The Taming Sari on Wikipedia, pictured 3rd from the left

A more recent picture of the sheathed Taming Sari in Utusan Malaysia (article in Malay)

So, anyway, I chose to arm some characters in Shroud with the asymmetrical or wavy-bladed keris. The waves, or lok, are always odd-numbered and are meant to cause great injury because they allow the blade to slip in between bones and puncture inner organs more easily compared to straight-edged swords. The deep wound inflicted would also be difficult to suture or heal. Pretty vicious, don’t you think?

Now, what about the hilt and the sheath of the keris? Well, they’re made from a variety of hard wood, bone, horn, ivory and even gold. The knobby hilts are usually slightly curved, like a pistol hilt, and are elaborately carved to resemble animals or supernatural beings. Sometimes, precious gems are used as additional adornments. When the blade is sheathed, the hilt sticks out from a slot in the boat-shaped crosspiece of the finely-detailed sheath.

Some view the keris as a living thing, something that has a spirit. They say that owning a keris means having to care for it using special, mystical methods. This includes reciting mantras over the blade, cleansing it in sandalwood oil or kaffir lime juice, passing it through the smoke of special incense, and keeping it wrapped in red, yellow or black fabric believed to increase the power of the keris.

Okay, here’s a quick quiz for you. In Shroud, Gemma uses a special dagger or keris belonging to the Healer to complete a task. What was the hilt made of, and in what shape was it carved? The first person to answer correctly via twitter (twitter.com/marisamohdi) will receive a souvenir from me.

I hope you stay tuned. Weapons in Shroud (Part 2) will talk about one of the deadliest traditional weapons ever invented and one of the hardest to wield. See ya then.

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