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    Hans Hellinger

    The German word for “Kite” is “Drachen”

    Behold these kites from 15th Century War-manuals, starting with Bellifortis by Konrad Kyeser, 1405

    Here is a better drawing from a later version or hack of the same book

    And another

    And finally this very realistic one, where you can see what it actually is pretty clearly

    Of course, what these are actually FOR, what they did exactly, we have no idea.


    This is quite interesting, honestly. I assume “drachen” first and foremost meant dragon; if you run it by Google Translate, that is in fact exactly what you get! What is more interesting, however, is – if I may make some assumptions here – that the word “kite” may have very well been derived from dragon-themed kites, which is pretty cool. I’ve mused about some of my own settings in the past, and one of the items of interest was the language. In part, some of the things I thought about is where words came from or derived from. The example you have here is probably a real-world example of that!

    Next, is there an available translation of the caption beneath the image? If not, I’d assume with this being a war manual, it was either used for signaling or for psychological operations. The latter is actually fairly plausible if you have a set of adversaries who have never seen a kite before. Add in a few extra ploys (like arson), and you could cause a good bit of mayhem – as long as the ones running the ploy don’t get caught.

    Hans Hellinger

    Yes that’s exactly what I think – apparently dragon and kite are synonymous not only in German but in several West-and South Slavic languages too.

    Hans Hellinger

    Oh and yes, in the original Bellifortis it says:

    “This flying kite may be made of leather on the head,
    The middle of canvas, but the tail of silk,
    The colors are different. At the end of the head there is a three-part rotating body,
    Assembled from wood, with a blown in the middle.
    The head will be directed against the wind, and when it stands”

    May two lift their heads, a third may carry the blower. Follow him on horseback, the movement of the leash determines the flight,
    Up, down, right and left.
    Let the head be painted and reproduced with red paint,
    In the middle of lunar silver color, different at the end.”

    As is typical, he doesn’t explain that much about what it’s for, just how to make it and how to use it.

    Hans Hellinger

    On a HEMA FB group I posted it to somebody suggested it might have been to scare horses. Another person pointed out that the Ming Dynasty Chinese had a kite-weapon which had explosives on it.


    It could be the ancient Chinese equivalent of the Goodyear Blimp

    Hans Hellinger

    So what it doing in a 15th Century German-Czech war manual then?

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