30 Comments

  1. I think “log in” here refers to bashing the “log” that they are carrying into the door. Wordplay joke…

  2. I suspect that oil suffers from a coloring error. Take away the green and it’s a respectable outline of oil. Perhaps the oil in the country where the colorist lives is moldier than here?

  3. But password and logins are modern technology! Refer modern trends in traditional settings is funny! It says so in my copy of “How to be a cartoonist by rote and formula”.

    @1 “I think “log in” here refers to bashing the “log” that they are carrying into the door. ”

    Oh…. yeah. That works too.

    ….*mutter* … *it works better*…. *mutter*….

  4. My question is why assume it’s oil being dumped? Wouldn’t boiling water be more practical?

  5. It is said that, during the middle ages, besieged people used to pour boiling oil on their assailants but actually, it was pitch.

  6. @ Olivier – Another such substance supposedly used for the purpose was lead. None of these defensive methods are particularly likely. In addition to the simple difficulty of obtaining and storing (and then wasting) the (fairly valuable) material, there was the supreme logistic hurdle of trying to heat and then transport the stuff to a position from which it could be deposited on the attackers.
    I vaguely recall touring a castle in which the (heavily fortified) entrance gate had holes that were allegedly used to pour hot material onto any intruders below, but the guide said that heating such a pot over an open fire in the guardroom above would probably have fried the defenders before the stuff was liquid. His guess was that the material dumped was probably far more profane (trash and/or excrement).

  7. Boiling oil would perhaps easily ignite when poured over the attackers (if you threw a lit torch down as well). But I guess the idea of pouring boiling oil is a modern invention — Oil would usually be vegetable oil, and how many barrels of that would you store in your castle? And assuming you were in for a long siege, would you really pour it over the ramparts?

    I’d guess they rather would pour down the contents of their cesspit.

  8. @ Oliver – Both materials are flammable (especially when heated), but pitch would probably be even harder to obtain (in large amounts) than oil. It’s true that it is not edible, but it is far from “useless”, it was employed in a variety of ways (such as glue, or caulking), which is why it was collected in the first place. I would agree with the article that the strategy probably was used (at least in isolated cases), but I doubt that it was ever a standard line of defense.

  9. Did the boiling oil get taken from naval battles? (Yes, I know that wasn’t oil either.)

  10. [simpsons flashback to 1970s]
    Young Carl: Have you heard about this inter-net thing?
    Young Lenny: Internet?
    Young Carl: Yeah, its the inner netting they invented to line swim trunks.

    …later after being scared

    Young Carl: “I think I just logged onto my internet.”

    [/simpsons flashback]

  11. I love the Charles Addams cartoon that was made into the opening scene of the Addams Family movie. You know the one, where the carolers are singing in front of the old Victorian mansion.

  12. From what I have been told hot tar (as in tar and feather) – will burn one’s skin off – that would stop me pretty quickly. (We have a fellow in our unit who says he knows what to use instead of real tar that would not hurt and can be removed easily and if the unit wants to – we can tar and feather him at an event.)

    Boiling water – I presume this would combine with the idea of stuff from the cesspit – why waste the limited “good” water when you can get rid of the “used” water.

    Then again, as the one who has to clean up after all the all projects at home – who has to clean up the boiling water/oil, cesspool, tar, pitch, etc. after the those who were hit with it pack up and go home?

  13. “Who has to clean up”? Nobody as the bottom of the walls (outside) is a no man’s land for security reasons.
    In time of peace, dirty / dangerous industries are set there (tanneries…) and burnt down to clear the lines of sight at the enemy’s approach.

  14. If it is a city wall that is true. If it is a castle wall, as I thought from the top of the wall – it is not a no man’s land – it is where the city around the castle is located.

  15. The point of a castle wall is that it is the smallest circle that the defenders can defend, and still have all they need to survive beseigement. Anything outside the wall is expendable if it’s necessary to protect what’s inside. Generally, you’ll get concentric rings… inner keep for the king’s family, outer keep for the king’s army, town fortifications for the king’s subjects.
    If an invading army comes, the towns folk come into the town and stay while the army tries to defend the whole thing. If they can’t, the army falls back to the castle and the towns folk are left to their own… the army will strike the enemy from the castle, but if Joe Peasant gets run over by a horse because he was camping outside the sally port, well, we have plenty of peasants. If the castle falls, the king’s family and most loyal guard fall back to the inner keep, and hope that peasant uprisings keep the invaders too busy to crack the keep.
    ALL of this is technologically obsolete approximately as of gunpowder, which is why modern “kings” have bunkers and evacuation plans but not heavily-fortified castles to live in nowadays. Mostly.

  16. “ALL of this is technologically obsolete approximately as of gunpowder”: not really: the form changed but the spirit stayed. The Vauban fortifications of Lille were demilitarized in 1919 (only !) and until then, only wooden constructions were allowed around the outer walls, so as to be quickly disposed of in case of a siege.

  17. “the form changed but the spirit stayed.”

    The form changed because stone walls are not effective against cannonfire.

    1919 brought some other military technologies into obsolescence. Mobile armor and air power being the new advances (plus chemical attack).

    Of course, being obsolete does not keep military technologies from continuing to be built. There’s a tendency to prepare to fight the last war again rather than preparing to fight the next one. See, e.g., battleships, the Maginot line, and the poor results of both the French AND the Americans in French Indochina.

  18. But would the king be dumping his garbage and “sewage” out on the townspeople day to day when there is no battle going on, which was the original idea of my comment. And tanneries were located on the downwind side of town – far from the castle so it did not offend the noses of those in the castle.

  19. What comes out of a garderobe is nothing other than what people would ordinarily otherwise chuck into the middle of the street, in that era.

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