3 Captain John Smith of Jamestown Survived by Beheading Three Challengers
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John Smith was the founder of Jamestown, the first successful colony of English settlers in America. You might also remember him as the chiseled blond dude who banged Pocahontas in that one Disney movie.
Pictured: Chiseled. Blond.
But before Smith became famous for settling in America, he was a soldier of fortune in Romania, fighting for Austria against the Ottoman Turks. After fighting and seizing a Turkish stronghold, their leader, Lord Turbashaw, issued a challenge to meet any Christian foe in a one-on-one horseback death match. Smith stepped up to the plate, donned his armor, saddled up his horse, and rode through blares of trumpets and showers of bras and panties to meet the challenge -- all 22 years and 5 feet 3 inches of him (did we mention that his actual appearance probably didn't match your mental picture?).
John Smith: Actual size.
The match was a quick one. Smith proved himself a shoe-in for a position as a Medieval Times performer when he bull's-eyed his lance straight through the tiny target that was the eye hole of his opponent's face visor. But Smith wasn't quite done ravaging his enemy just yet -- he allegedly hacked off Turbashaw's head, slapped a bow on it, and presented it to his general as a gift.
Apparently, head-gifting was a big faux pas in Ottoman society, and Smith's actions seriously pissed off a friend of the recently departed Turbashaw: the sinisterly named Grualgo. So, the story goes that Smith rode against him the next day, this time knocking his opponent off his horse with a well-timed pistol ball after his lance failed to do the job. And just to give him one final kick in the balls, Smith took Grualgo's head, too.
He invented bowling later that night.
In what's starting to sound like a particularly convoluted Game of Thrones subplot, Smith, balls inflated to near-basketball levels from his two previous victories, issued an open call for another challenger. This time Mulgro stepped forward and, presumably having seen Smith's flair for mounted murder, chose to mix things up ... with battle-axes.
All signs pointed to Smith's third time being whatever the opposite of a charm is, because Mulgro handled his battle-axe about as well as you'd expect from a dude named Mulgro. With one big Conan-esque grunt and swing, he knocked Smith's ax out of his hands, leaving him with only a small sword to defend himself. But you know what they say: all's fair in love and battle-ax duels, and when Smith dodged a swing from Mulgro, he didn't hesitate to pull a dick move and stab him in the back. And before you ask -- yep, he added Mulgro's head to his growing collection. He also received a reward in the form of "an insignia bearing three Turk heads," which probably came in handy for proving he didn't pull this entire story out of his ass.
2 George Frideric Handel Survived a Sword Duel Thanks to a Lucky Button
If you're not familiar with George Frideric Handel, you've certainly heard his work:
Handel went down as one of the greatest composers in history, influencing music and opera in ways on par with Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. But, thanks to a sword duel early in his career, Handel may have never influenced millions with his music if he hadn't been blessed with an amount of luck that can only be described as "cartoonish."
Though German-born, Handel moved to London and became friends with Johann Matheson, a composer who, as Handel would later find out, had a severe case of the unable-to-calm-the-fuck-downs. You see, Matheson had written a little opera called Cleopatra, in which he himself was to perform the dual roles of Marcus Antonius and conductor of the orchestra (which wasn't a role, per se, but you catch our drift). Handel, being somewhat of a purist, didn't think it was proper for Antonius to reappear as the conductor after the character had been killed off (spoiler alert!), so he took the conductor's seat at the harpsichord and started shredding it like Eddie Van Halen in silk stockings. This is the sort of thing that makes a composer want to kill a motherfucker.
Johann Jacob Haid
"You're about to get your ass Handeld to you."
Sure enough, when he found Handel's ass warming his seat, Matheson was pissed. The two launched into a full-on rock star fistfight, right there in front of the audience ... but apparently they fist-fought about as well as you'd expect two classical composers to, and the battle soon resorted to pulling each other's powdered wigs and dropping bombs about whose momma could hit the highest C. The audience, however, was thirsty for blood by that point and ushered the two outside for a friendly game of Stab Each Other in the Heart. If you're wondering where the swords came from all of a sudden, this was the 18th century -- the swords had always been there.
Madly swinging one of those little conductor batons is seemingly good practice for sword fighting, and Matheson soon showed Handel that he had fucked with the wrong dude's harpsichord. Matheson didn't toy with his opponent for long, though -- he quickly made a furious lunge to shish kabob Handel's heart meat ... and instead hit a brass button on Handel's coat, deflecting his death blow and snapping off the point of his sword. Having just witnessed an irrefutable miracle, the two then embraced each other and cried, just like good classical composers should.
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Kind of makes Nas and Jay-Z look like pussies in hindsight.
Handel went on to create his most influential works after that day in 1704 -- all thanks to his fabulous fashion sense.