The Epic Battle That Began with a Weird Juggling Act

The Epic Battle That Began with a Weird Juggling Act

No one wants to fight a crazy dude. Even if youve already mentally prepared yourself to take some damage in a physical fight, if you figure out that your opponent is a certified freak, you might instead offer a ceasefire. You just know that biting and pulling of sensitive parts will be involved. Now imagine this on the grandest scale: Two sides gearing up for a historical battle, nerves at an all-time high, archers ready, when the opposition sends out a single man to do some weird shit. Your tactics melt like butter, replaced with a mixture of confusion and rage.

Thats exactly what happened at the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066. This wasnt some side-pot squabble, either. It was a showdown between English and Norman soldiers that would end with the Normans taking control of England. A battle in which the first blow was struck not by a brave commander, or charging foot soldier, but by a minstrel immediately after a juggling act. The madman in question was a guy by the name of Taillefer.

With troops at the ready, but the battle not yet begun, Taillefer saw his time to shine, and walked out solo into no-mans-land. He started singing a song called the “Chanson de Roland,” a modern performance of which is linked above, and is a certified banger. This wasnt entirely outlandish, given that its not like songs werent often used to motivate warriors into battle. What was weird was that, at the same time, he began a sword-and-spear juggling act, that, according to records, was extremely cool. 

Historian Geoffrey Gaimar offers a description of Taillefers little pre-battle show in his book History of the English: “His name was Taillefer, a minstrel-juggler of considerable courage, who was armed and mounted on a fine horse — an intrepid and noble warrior. Placing himself in front of the others, he performed amazing feats before the English: he seized his spear by the butt just as it if had been a little stick, threw it high up into the air and caught it again by its point as it fell. Three times he tossed the spear in this way, and by the time he raised it for a fourth time, he had come so close that he hurled it straight into the English, and wounded one of the English troops as it drove into his body. He then stepped back, drew his sword, threw it high into the air and caught it again as it fell. People who saw him do this said to each other that the feats he was performing before their eyes were nothing short of magic.”

The guy did the medieval equivalent of whipping around a butterfly knife and then stabbing it straight into a dudes gut. I have never been sadder that the video camera was invented so late. Of course, once hed hurled his juggling spear into the opposing forces, shit was properly on, and Taillefer was, unsurprisingly, overrun and killed. But we can be sure that upon entering Norman Valhalla (which I guess is just regular heaven?), he dropped a “that was pretty sick, right?”

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