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efreysson
07-17-2018, 07:54 PM
I know that leather can be hardened enough that it was sometimes used as armour. But can it still be cut apart with a knife?

I'm planning a fantasy series that includes a culture of tribal barbarians. One of the main characters is a member of one of these tribes, who has been captured and enslaved by another tribe.

Collars have historically been used to identify slaves. I thought that instead of iron these tribesmen would use ones made of hardened leather, fastened in place with a rivet, since they don't exactly have metal growing on trees.

But how secure is that? If a runaway can just cut the collar off with relative easy there doesn't seem to be much point. Should I just go with iron?

Alessandra Kelley
07-17-2018, 08:05 PM
It’s a long time since I held boiled leather (really it was soaked in melted wax, as I recall). I remember it being tough, but relatively easy to cut.

A quick look online using the term “cuir boulli” suggests that since then people seem to have decided it was really boiled in water, not wax, and that water boiled leather is pretty hard and sturdy.

PyriteFool
07-17-2018, 08:41 PM
From what I know, leather can be made pretty tough. And iron being so hard and rigid could really hurt someone in short order. Leather is easier to pad and generally more flexible. Especially in a tribal civilization without regular access to metal, I'd find it believable your character doesn't have a hard or sharp enough tool to cut the collar. And even if they did, trying to cut something tough off your own neck? Not my idea of a fun (or safe) time.

I think either works, though, depending on the vibe you want

AW Admin
07-17-2018, 08:59 PM
Historically, if chains weren't an option, tattoos, branding, and head-shaving were all used.

NateCrow
07-17-2018, 09:00 PM
If it was thick boiled leather, with multiple layers stitched together, I'd imagine it would be very difficult to cut off, but not impossible, given enough time or help.

If you think it's a big issue that people will pick up on, just stick to iron. Maybe they stole them on one of their conquests. Who's to say otherwise?

Jaymz Connelly
07-18-2018, 02:57 AM
I'd have a difficult time believing the character couldn't cut the leather collar off if he managed to escape. More believable - and more challenging should he escape and make it back to his own tribe - would be the branding, tattoo, or head shaved as Medi mentioned. The easiest one of those to get rid of would obviously be the shaved head - he'd just have to hide out until his hair grew back.

But if you want him to have a collar, I think you need to make it some kind of metal rather than leather.

cmhbob
07-18-2018, 07:03 AM
With it being a fantasy series, I wonder if you might be able to have some sort of rune carved into the collar and attach some (real or imagined) mystical power or danger to the rune, such that anyone cutting the rune is subject to the wrath of this tribe's god.

Kjbartolotta
07-18-2018, 07:13 AM
since they don't exactly have metal growing on trees.

This is gonna bug me, because most steppe cultures I've read about were prodigious smiths and used metal pretty regularly. They has to get it from somewhere, via trade, mining, or, (my theory) enslaving mountain settlements and forcing them to do their mining for them. But I don't see why iron, and even steel perhaps, wouldn't be available, if scare. Also, steppe cultures never exist in a vacuum, and interacted with civilized cultures throughout their whole history. Trading & raiding.

*Falls down research hole*

snafu1056
07-18-2018, 01:18 PM
Good time to point out that Genghis khan's given name meant "iron worker", so yeah steppe people were no strangers to metal working. But geography played a big role in that. The most proficient smiths came from the more mountainous areas in and near Siberia. Those tribes did their own small scale mining and raided for what they needed (selling iron to nomads was often illegal for obvious reasons). Ancient and medieval blast furnaces have been found throughout Siberia, and some tribes, like the original Turks, had reputations as great ironworkers.

efreysson
07-18-2018, 01:59 PM
If it was thick boiled leather, with multiple layers stitched together, I'd imagine it would be very difficult to cut off, but not impossible, given enough time or help.

But wouldn't cutting at the stitches be a relatively simple matter?


With it being a fantasy series, I wonder if you might be able to have some sort of rune carved into the collar and attach some (real or imagined) mystical power or danger to the rune, such that anyone cutting the rune is subject to the wrath of this tribe's god.

The more I think about this idea the more I like it. I could do some worldbuilding around it, such as giving the tribal god a holy rune used to seal off certain things, and no-one dares break it except on a specific holiday, during which slaves are watched closely. Or maybe only a high priest can do it.

Thanks for the suggestion.

AW Admin
07-18-2018, 04:20 PM
With it being a fantasy series, I wonder if you might be able to have some sort of rune carved into the collar and attach some (real or imagined) mystical power or danger to the rune, such that anyone cutting the rune is subject to the wrath of this tribe's god.

Using magic strikes me as a much better approach.

efreysson
07-18-2018, 04:34 PM
Using magic strikes me as a much better approach.

I'm going for a magic-light setting.

AwP_writer
07-19-2018, 04:14 AM
You can cut through cuir bouilli with a knife, but not like normal leather. It'd be more like shaving away at a hard plastic. Not something you could do quickly or sneakily, but with time you could get through.

efreysson
07-19-2018, 01:18 PM
You can cut through cuir bouilli with a knife, but not like normal leather. It'd be more like shaving away at a hard plastic. Not something you could do quickly or sneakily, but with time you could get through.

And I assume wearing something like that around your neck is going to chafe quite a bit?

CameronJohnston
07-19-2018, 03:51 PM
I foresee a number of practical problems with leather collars.
-It degrades, especially when exposed to acidic sweat. Not a problem if replaced at times.
-It can expand if soaked for a decent length of time.
-It can be cut, pierced and even chewed through if two slaves have enough time.
-The leather holes in the rivet join could be deformed and weakened fairly easily using force and water, creating a weak point.

AwP_writer
07-20-2018, 04:09 AM
And I assume wearing something like that around your neck is going to chafe quite a bit?

Most likely, yes.

CWatts
07-22-2018, 05:22 PM
It would make sense for a magical enhancement to tighten the collar to cut off air. This could usually be non-fatal like a sleeper hold but escalate to lethal strangulation if say a slave attacks their captors. Damaging the collar could activate the magic, and the slaveholders may be able to activate it at a distance when they realise he's escaped.

harmonyisarine
07-23-2018, 02:10 AM
I've tested scraps of boiled leather before. I used the water method, not wax. You don't actually boil it, but place the leather in very hot (not boiling) water for only a minute or two. The leather shrinks a bit in surface area and thickens instead, and becomes very soft and elastic in the immediate aftermath. A collar like this would have to be held in place until it dries, which can take up to a day. However, after it dried, it was literally rock hard. We tried to stab it with knives and it only scratched the surface.

I'm sure this result varies on the type of skin, type of tanning, and length/temperature of the hot water bath. But it's totally probable to have very very hard items made of boiled leather.