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I'm asking this because I commonly see scythes in fiction. and people in fiction use them to cut people into bacon bits, but in reality, it is utterly useless. I've already been exposed to how bad of a weapon scythes really are, but my question is how did it even start? I understand the image of death holding a scythe in front of a full moon, but that doesn't speak "amazing weapon", that just speaks "threatening skeleton guy". it could be used for magic, but by then why not just use a mildly more efficient staff, or spear, or even a war scythe? just where did all the "scythe is a good weapon" come from?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Nov 15 '19 at 3:18
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It probably has more to do with symbolism of death. In western culture, death/ grim reaper has a scythe with which it reaps the lives of people like farmers cut wheat. This is symbolical connection. Scythe thus becomes symbol of death, and thus also deadly event like plagues and more on topic war. From there, it becomes a deadly weapon in our mind.

Of course, scythes were sometimes used by farmers after basic modifications, but as weapons, they were mediocre, and for example farming flail conversions were more sucessful. Yet converted farming flails have been pushed into background by far less historical 'war flails', while for scythes, opposite is the truth, the real successful war scythes being pushed into the background by militarily far less sucessful farmer scythe.

Thus I think the idea of a scythe as a deadly weapon has far more to do with symbolism of Death, reaping the souls, than with the real historical military use in wars.

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  • $\begingroup$ that. plus it was the only thing available to peasants that could get a mounted fighter off of his horse. $\endgroup$ – user20762 Nov 13 '19 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ once converted (realigning the blade) scythes become rather effective weapons, basically a glaive which were effective infantry weapons especially against calvary. but with the advantage of being something the farmer would be inadvertently trained to wield. keep in mind medieval scythes did not have curved poles so they make for good spears. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 13 '19 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardU : Swinging a heavy unbalanced object at a rider is far from the best way to dismount him, poking (surprisingly enough) can work just as well, if they're charging at you a pitchfork butted against your foot & pointed at the mounts chest can do wonders & is far more likely to result in a dismounted rider. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Nov 13 '19 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardU : If you're using a hoe you don't want to swing it, you want to hook the rider with it as he gallops past (which does mean you have to dodge him as well of course) to yank him off the back of his horse as it gallops on, same to achieve a dismount with a rake is probably your best bet to be honest. a scythe though? if you've ever swung a traditional farm scythe b4 (& aren't some sort of muscle bound giant of a man) you'd never consider using it as a weapon if there was anything else to hand, it's just too clumsy. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Nov 13 '19 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardU : But my issue was the idea scythes are the only farm implements you can use. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Nov 13 '19 at 17:16
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Scythes are the weapon of Peasant Revolts

They aren't bad weapons! As good as a sword - no, not really. But they're good weapons! An average farmer was perfectly capable of using one with practiced expertise (because they used them day in and day out), and they were sharp and kept in good condition. They had decent range if you weren't using a hand scythe, and if you were using one of those, then you were basically using a wicked knife. And, most important, a traditional scythe just had a very odd angle of cut, which the standing army wasn't trained against. A knight in full plate would cut down scythe-wielding farmers like stalks before a ... well, a scythe. But a lord's militia in leather armor with spear or short swords? They'd be in trouble, especially when you consider that they weren't trained against the scythe's odd angle of cut, but were in fact trained against normal weapons. And that's not even getting the variant which is the war scythe, which are very good weapons. (Link is to Shadiversity, fantastic content.)

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  • $\begingroup$ i know of war scythes, and i love making them in my art or stories just to represent the unknown weapon, but that is pretty interesting. although i'm sure after that they soon learned how to fight against it, or farmers could have used pikes. $\endgroup$ – michael griffin Nov 13 '19 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ One of ancestor were fightin in polish uprising that was famous for participating peasants to use war scythes. And my grandfather told a quick trick to use a regular one againt any knight or nobleman on horse (that wasn't using a polearm himself). You use the handles to push the pole into rider chest to throw him out and then you just stab him when he's on the ground. and there are few other peasants to help you with that. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 13 '19 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ @michaelgriffin they could not use pikes. Owning a weapon was a crime if you were not a noble man or his guard (I think similar case in China that's why they have all those blunt weapons). That's why with each war king called for forming a militia (and why in China army men were given a farm to act as a peasant). Not only the price of upkeeping an army was high but so was the danger of even more dangerous peasont revolt. And were they equipped with weapons? That end badly. So, no weapons for farmers, lower the danger of them killing you in your sleep. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 13 '19 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ Most of the times weaponized scythes involved remounting the blade to be in line with the shaft, which turns them into rather effective glaives. this took very little time. in the tool form the odd angle of cut is a disadvantage but the ability to reach around a shield is an advantage. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 13 '19 at 16:09

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