King of the Craftsmen

by Geronimo Bayard

Published in the August 1999 Issue of Anvil Magazine

One hundred years ago, the village blacksmith’s role was well established throughout the world. His importance was far beyond that of a mere mechanic today. He was a leader of the community and a most necessary part of society.

It was the blacksmith’s job to make and repair and sometimes invent implements of iron, steel, bronze, copper, gold and silver; but mostly iron. Thousands of horses needed to be shod. Tools for industry, farm and home

had to be made. Vehicles for transportation needed to be created. Weapons for war had to be forged...

Because of his unique abilities as a craftsman and his artistic and creative mind, toiling at the forge enabled this man to have greater wisdom and knowledge concerning right from wrong. Therefore, he was respected and held in high esteem as an ethical leader by those in his community. His skill and character were most definitely immortalized for us in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Village Blacksmith.”

Going back to slightly more primitive times, the blacksmith was frequently looked upon as a magician. Being able to take a lump of unyielding matter and form it into useful and beautiful items without which society could not function was beyond the comprehension of the average person not long ago. Blacksmiths preserved this mysterious aura by jealously guarding the methods used in their dimly lit shops. Early blacksmith guilds actually had a vow of secrecy which was enforced by death.

All other craftsmen — the butcher, the baker, the stone cutter, the logger, the teamster, and others — had to go to the blacksmith to have their tools made. The blacksmith was known as the King of the Craftsmen. Without him to make their tools, all others could not do their jobs. He made the saw, the shovel, the needle, the baker’s pots and pans, the doctor’s surgical instruments, the soldier’s sword and lance, the church bells.

Without the blacksmith, we would today still be walking on our own feet for transportation, hunting and farming with sticks and stones, waging war with clubs, cutting trees down with stone axes, and shaping the wood with tools of bone and stone.

There are few people in today’s world who can claim to be as important to society as the village blacksmith was in his time.

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