The Archer’s Tale

The Archer’s Tale or Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell tells the story of the Battle of Crécy, fought in 1346 between the English and the French. It is however, much more the story of an archer, Thomas of Hookton, who joins an English troop of archers operating as mercenaries in France, after the destruction of his village. During the course of the novel, Thomas learns about his family history, of his father’s flight from his family and of his family’s Cathar heritage. He also learns of the primacy of the longbow in fourteenth century warfare.

The Battle of Crécy occurred towards the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War. The English were generally victorious, relying on their virtual monopoly of the longbow, against the French who relied on their knights and the crossbow. Eventually, canons and muskets would replace the bow as the primary weapons used for killing the enemy in warfare from a distance. The skills that enabled the English to dominate the battlefield were no longer required and archery went into decline.

Archery has been part of most camp programs forever, as it has at Nominingue. Archery was likely included as an activity in camp programs because of its use by the First Nation communities in Canada, but its use certainly pre-dates European arrival in North America. At camp, we teach the use of a re-curve bow as well as a compound bow. We shoot at targets. The goal is not to practise a hunting skill, but to practise a sport that requires concentration, aim and some strength, and a sport that is included in the summer Olympics.

In 2012, with the release of the movie Hunger Games, many bow shops noticed an upward spike in the purchase of bows, and archery clubs have experienced an increase in membership. I’m not sure that archery at camp will change much – we will continue to replace old and well-used equipment; we will continue to teach the skill of the archer; and campers will continue to enjoy the thrill of hitting the target…dead centre!

My library does not have the subsequent novels in the Grail Quest series, so I guess I will have to buy them. I am hooked!