Sunday, October 31, 2010
What do butcher knives have to do with bowie knives? Well, in every eyewitness account of the Sandbar Fight in which James Bowie made his name, his knife is described as a butcher knife. Keep in mind that while today we don't use a butcher knife for much more than slicing up a roast, in the 1820s and 1830s a butcher knife would be used to slaughter and dress game or lifestock, and thus had to be heavy enough to break up bones and joints. We even read of men carrying a butcher knife in a "case"--a sheath. So what was called a butcher knife was often a large sheath knife, intended to be worn on the belt.
The Sandbar Fight was publicized nationwide, and within a year or two the term "Bowie knife" came into common use to describe a large knife carried primarily as a weapon.
L. Vincent Poupard gave his thoughts on the "Symbolism of a Knife as a Weapon in Horror Movies and Horror Literature." Among his suggestions as to why the knife is so often seen as the weapon of the monster or maniac are:
--It produces a copious amount of blood.
--It is a weapon associated with human sacrifice, and thus has a ritualistic element.
--It has phallic symbolism, as it penetrates the body. Villains prefer a big knife.
Another reason was given by the Joker in "The Dark Knight Returns": "Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can't savor all the... little emotions."