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efreysson
06-19-2009, 11:03 AM
During a pivotal scene at the end of my fantasy book, a character temporarily blinds his enemies by throwing stingy powder in their eyes. I'm wondering exactly what KIND of powder to use. This being a pre-industrial world, I'm thinking of just going with finely ground pepper, mixed with various spices, but if someone can suggest something else I'd appreciate it.

alleycat
06-19-2009, 01:52 PM
Lye would do it (and it was common in the old days). Or you could use hardwood ashes, which is what lye was made from.

dirtsider
06-19-2009, 04:27 PM
Heck, just ashes, fine dirt or sand would do the trick. Or fine sawdust. All common substances, even today. It's the grit that does the trick. And it depends on where the fight's taking place. If in or near a kitchen or apothocary, then finely ground herbs. The apothocary would also provide other strange ingredients for their medicines (could be described as "ground medicine" if you can't find an herbal close to the period you're looking for). Or if it's near/in an artist's workshop, then there are a lot of different ingredients for their paints or stone dust.

Wicked
06-19-2009, 05:35 PM
Howdy.

How temporary do you need the blindness to be? Just a moment's distraction, or something that would mess them up a bit longer?

I believe ground glass in a hollow egg shell was an old ninja trick.

Tarantula hair (urticating hair) mixed with something heavier, like fine sand, would certainly do the trick.

Good luck. :)

Calla Lily
06-19-2009, 06:00 PM
Tarantula hair (urticating hair)

Ew! ew! ew! ew! ew!

I am officially creeped out for the rest of the month. EW!

Wicked
06-19-2009, 06:41 PM
I am officially creeped out for the rest of the month. EW!

:( Sorry, about that.
I guess it's a good thing I can't upload my avatar yet.
-----

As for the blindness. Perhaps tiny metal grindings, or flecks of metal? Something that could be found around a forge. It would be heavy enough to throw with some accuracy, unlike powder that may disperse unless you are really close.

Kathie Freeman
06-19-2009, 07:05 PM
Lye would do it.

Lye is extremely caustic and would likely cause permanent damage. That's what they put in old-fashioned drain cleaner.

efreysson
06-19-2009, 11:05 PM
Howdy.

How temporary do you need the blindness to be? Just a moment's distraction, or something that would mess them up a bit longer?

For plot-reasons I need it to be fairly short-term. And given that the character travels a lot, I need the stuff to be non-perishable.

dirtsider
06-19-2009, 11:47 PM
The herbs would be a little more perishable than the rest of what's been suggested. Then again, the dried herbs work best as a powder and for your needs. That's portable. However, most of the rest of what's been suggested is readily available on hand at a moment's notice in a pre-industrial society. Heck, a lot of this stuff can be readily available even now, other than the stuff for making your own paints.

Wicked
06-19-2009, 11:59 PM
Sand, ground pepper, just about any fine, irritating dry substance would do. Since you requested a compound, and one that your character would carry with them for the purpose of blinding someone, I assume they have some pretty nefarious day to day activities.

Sounds to me like the choice of substance would reflect your character's personality.
Are they practical? Would they even bother making a compound when they can carry something simple, and easy to obtain, like plain ground pepper? Not to mention dual duty for cooking.

Or do they have an ego? Would they make their own "trademark" compound? Maybe some rare, highly identifiable pepper mixed with crushed caterpillar spines?

I still vote for tarantula hair. :D

alleycat
06-20-2009, 12:10 AM
Lye is extremely caustic and would likely cause permanent damage. That's what they put in old-fashioned drain cleaner.
I thought of that, but I don't think someone would let it stay on them long enough to cause permanent damage. I believe someone would immediately splash water on their face if there was any water nearby.

Cyia
06-20-2009, 01:49 AM
Salt.

It's non-perishable, easily carried, readily available, and won't do permanent damage.

dirtsider
06-20-2009, 05:32 PM
Just remember: in a pre-industrial society, both salt and ground pepper (i'm assuming peppercorns here) would be expensive, growing ever more expensive the further you get from their place of origin. They're both considered trade goods so the MC, who travels a lot as stated, could possibly be carrying both but would then bitch about having to throw away money - literally. I recall watching a Food Network documentary where a trade ship sank. When they recovered some of the bodies, the sailors were found to be clutching a handful of peppercorns, rather than silver or gold - it was that valuable. (And a lot lighter.)

Sorry for the lecture but I've been doing some side research on my own for a second story I'm thinking of doing when my current WIP is in the stewing, pre-edit stage. And I happen to be lucky enough to know several people who are very knowledgable about Colonial American Foodways.

Fenika
06-20-2009, 06:09 PM
I remember reading a thread or writer's article wherein they talked about throwing dirt, or whatever, in someone's face. They suggested you try it yourself and see how effective it is, because, according to them, it hardly ever worked.

Tsu Dho Nimh
06-20-2009, 08:49 PM
During a pivotal scene at the end of my fantasy book, a character temporarily blinds his enemies by throwing stingy powder in their eyes. I'm wondering exactly what KIND of powder to use. This being a pre-industrial world, I'm thinking of just going with finely ground pepper, mixed with various spices, but if someone can suggest something else I'd appreciate it.

Establish the use of a tongue-burning spice like chili powder, then fling that. If they inhale a bit, they'll be choking and gasping and eyes watering (pepper spray)

RunawayScribe
06-20-2009, 09:08 PM
Pepper would work, or some kind of spice. Ow. :/