Here’s a neat bit of info from The Composite Bow, by Mike Loades.
The naraca is an iron arrow. It is literally made of iron, from the welded head to the thin shaft that goes through flesh like a needle to the nock. The only part of it not iron is the fletching.
This makes the bunnies possibly irrationally gleeful. For two main reasons. First, talk about something that seems tailor-made for killing monsters. Second….
Second is a little more complicated. Partly due to reading things in translation, and partly due to just reading a story that was written centuries ago and was probably traveling around in oral tradition centuries before that. Put simply: how much of a description is meant to be accurate, and how much poetic hyperbole?
There’s a lot of poetic hyperbole in the Ramayana. I’ll spare you some of the most agonizing details; suffice it to say there are casual references to millions slain, and then all the rakshasas being wiped out – and then Vibishana is made king over the rakshasas, which would be kind of hard if all of them really were wiped out.
(And then there are plenty of more modern tales of rakshasas, so obviously there were some left!)
Which means when the saga says the arrows were “made of iron” – well. Unless you know where to look in your research, why would you think this was anything but hyperbole? After all, we see arrows from Hollywood all the time, and ancient arrows are always wood and feathers….
Only that’s not so. Not at all. Naraca were used in India in the time period most people match to when the Ramayana was probably written; they were used for centuries before that when the story would have been circulating. Which means if there was a historical basis for Rama, and there may well have been – then yes. Where it says iron arrows in the saga, he was probably using actual iron arrows.
And this is why I go hunting down odd books for research. *G* Through the library and otherwise. Because not all this info is out on the ‘Net, darn it, and nobody knows everything.
So if someone ever asks you if you should do all your research before you start to write your story… respectfully, I say no. You should do a lot of research, yes. Enough so you feel you’ve got a good general grasp on the situation, tech level, and characters you’re trying to set up for whatever nefarious plot the plotbunnies have in mind. And then write.
…And then put the rough aside and do more research. Because there’s always things you didn’t know you didn’t know!
Which, in case anyone’s interested, is currently what I’m doing with Princess Rama. I have the rough draft, I now have some more research materials on stuff directly related to the tech level and setting, and I plan to use that info to go back through things with a fine-toothed comb to rewrite and edit. After I have the rough of Seeds of Blood finished. 🙂
Speaking of research materials – I recommend Osprey Publishing books in general. They’re usually a good sum-up of what’s currently known about a particular weapon or historical warrior group, and they come with reference lists.
Now, back to writing….