Rocks and Atlatls: Two More Secrets of Toxic

One of the challenges of writing Young Adult Christian fantasy is finding or creating names that fit into the story well. My previous post Five Secrets of Toxic Revealed: What’s in a Name? talks about five names and the meanings behind them.

I want to continue that with two more. The first one is a person by the name of Alyn. The second one is a fascinating weapon.

1. Alyn

I struggled with Alyn’s name. I wanted something different and exotic for him without being too crazy. Somewhere, and I can’t remember the source now, I saw that the name Alyn in Welsh means rock. I liked the meaning for several reasons –

  • The Sentinels are extremely traditional in their beliefs and stand against a culture turning away from God, much like a rock that doesn’t shift with the wind or rain.
  • In the Bible, Simon is one of my favorite disciples. Outspoken and bold, he normally says the wrong thing. But when he gets it right, he nails it! One of the reasons that I am fond of him is that Peter is proof of how badly we can mess up, but God is loves us and uses us in ways we can never imagine. Jesus renames him Peter, which in Greek means rock.
  • In fiction, one of my favorite characters is Peter in The Chronicles of Narnia. As High King, he’s come under criticism for being too perfect. In fact, he’s the one character that doesn’t make mistakes or get reprimanded by Aslan. I’ve studied the books closely and realized that he does make errors. However, whenever he sees Aslan, his first response is to take on the responsibility of whatever went wrong and say that it was his fault for not leading correctly.

Alyn is a character that we will see more of as time passes, and this history of his name is certainly one that he will live up to.

 2. A Norsaq

If you’ve read Toxic, then you know that Lizzy receives a norsaq from Alyn. But what is it?

I first came across this weapon when I started teaching English as a Second Language in Boise, Idaho. We took our students on weekly field trips, and my favorite spot was an all day trip to Celebration Park. Nestled along the Snake River south of Nampa, it contains countless petroglyphs from the Paiute Indians who wintered there and etched the pictures into lava boulders. Our tours showed us how the Indians survived, a guide through the petroglyphs, and then a chance to try our skills at atlatls. (Use this link to hear the pronunciation.)

I was fascinated by this weapon and never forgot it. When it came time to give Lizzy a weapon, I didn’t want to give her a bow. In fantasy, the guys get swords, and the girls get bows and arrows. After thinking for some time, I remembered the atlatl.

What is it? Pictures are worth a thousand words. Look on my Pinterest board called My Armoury for medieval weapons, but this picture is a great close up. (Click here to view the atlatl.) Another great picture is this one (click here to view) which shows the atlatl in action.

Now that you’ve seen it, what is it? The atlatl is the stick part while the spear part is called a dart, very similar to an arrow. The darts can be up to seven feet long. It disappeared from usage because a bow and an arrow are more compact and easier to carry.

I’m not a physics person, but they tell me that the atlatl and darts are springs that store energy. As the arm moves forward, both gather energy and spring back when released. It can easily deliver 200 times as much power and 6 times the range as a spear. It can be thrown at 100 mph and is as powerful as an arrow fired from a 60 pound compound bow. The longest distance was set by Dave Ingvall at a distance of 848.56 feet! It is so effective that it’s what they used to bring down the Wooly Mammoths. In the 16th century, the Aztecs used atlatls to beat back the Spanish since it could pass through their steel breastplates – both front and back! Now that’s a weapon to put into a girl’s hands! I used the Northern Europe word for it, norsaq, instead of atlatl to give it a bit more of a foreign feeling.

I have to admit that I’m curious. Have you ever heard or seen an atlatl?

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