Battleaxe Mount Royal

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Most Montrealers know about the tam tams. Hell, the weekly drum circle, market and gathering around the Sir George Étienne Cartier Monument on Mount Royal is even used by Tourism Montreal to promote the city. But what about the fighting that goes on in the woods behind the tam tams?

Every Sunday, just a few minutes’ walk from the traffic of Park Avenue, past the trinket vendors, dancers, drum players, drug dealers and picnickers that sprawl across the park lawn, is a weekly mock battle between dozens of people dressed as medieval warriors. They fight with elaborately weapons — swords, daggers, lances, shields, battleaxes and more — crafted entirely from foam and duct tape. Most of the warriors are young men, but every week, as the battle draws more attention, it seems to attract a more diverse crowd that includes some women.

I have no idea how this battle got started. When I wrote an article on the tam tams for the Gazette, in 2003, I can’t recall that it existed. It must be fairly recent, then. In any case, it’s hugely entertaining and it takes place with the same spontaneous organized chaos as the tam tams. In fact, it feeds on the bizarre energy that the tam tams bring to Mount Royal and Jeanne Mance Park every Sunday, a kind of energy that turns normally exclusive activities into large, welcoming and communal ones.

Yesterday, I went down to Mount Royal to check out the fight with some friends. It turns out that anyone can join the fight; there’s even a guy who will loan you weapons. Armed with a couple of makeshift swords from the dollar store, one of my friends charged in only to stand in the dust, bewildered. He was, of course, killed. As he walked back, a man with a shaved head, clad in leather armour, turned to him and said, “I will avenge your death.”


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This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Monday September 10 2007at 10:09 pm , filed under Canada, Society and Culture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

6 Responses to “Battleaxe Mount Royal”

  • french panic says:

    When I moved to Montreal in September 2004, one of my friends took me to the tam tams the first Sunday I was here.

    Me: um, isn’t this going to be just a bunch of hippies dancing around with their bongo drums? You do remember that I, like Eric Cartman, hate hippies.

    Her: well, yeah, but this is DIFFERENT! Trust me, it’s completely different from any other hippie exposure you’ve had!

    It wasn’t different. I’m still trying to rebuild the trust my buddy destroyed that day. But I remember looooooving the warriors mere steps away from the writhing, stinky hippies and their ooglers. (Though I do admit it is an excellent venue for people watching.)

    What’s my point? I dunno how recent the medieval warriors are, but they are at least 3 years old, or more like 4 if my hippie-tolerant friend is to be believed.

  • Chances are the battle has been going on a lot longer than I realized. I could have sworn I didn’t see it in 2003 but others beg to differ.

  • Jimmy Zoubris says:

    It has been going on for four years that I know of. In fact 4 years ago, the battles used to take place in the Park on Mont-Royal Ave., right in front of the tennis courts. It seems they have now moved to more battle friendly surroundings in the Park.

  • Jimmy Zoubris says:

    Mount Royal Park in the Summer !

    I coach football at Sun Youth. Most of our games are played on saturday, but every year there are 3 or 4 which are on Sundays at Jeanne Mance Park (Mont-Royal). Imagine the other team shows up to our field and we have a band (tam-tams) going, the midieval battle guys running around with swords in their hands, the extreme frisbee people jumping all over the place, there is always a festival going on at the corner of Park and Mont-Royal (Latin, HariKrishna, etc….), and quite a few other eccentric characters in the Park.
    Talk about home field advantage.

  • The Gazette published an article by John MacFarlane on the medieval battle in 2005. Here’s an excerpt:

    On Sundays in the Plateau, it isn’t unusual to see handfuls of youths pedalling toward the mountain on their bikes, carrying jousting poles.

    Nor is it odd to cross the street next to someone wearing chain mail and wielding a battle axe.

    In the summer, on any given Sunday, there will be as many as 200 similarly attired people, mostly male, mostly (but not exclusively) around 20 years old, fighting medieval-style in a dusty area a few hundred metres from Park Ave.

    The weekly battle in the park is more or less an unstructured, amateur version of much more serious combat re-enactment that takes place in locations both urban and rural around the world.

    What happens on Mount Royal isn’t exactly this thing called larping (live action role playing) – it’s like a practice session for a larping farm team.

    “On the mountain, all you need is a foam sword,” said David Ip, 30, a bespectacled part-time student with a thick, courtly goatee, who co-captains a troop of Sunday warriors called Knights of the Lion.

    “It’s very loosely based. There’s no organization that runs it.”

    It’s safe to say that most of the participants on Sunday afternoons are Dungeons and Dragons fans, or Tolkien fans, or Star Wars fans, or all of the above. Tens of millions watched Lord of the Rings and, in the darkness of the theatre, yearned for a life more heroic. These are the people who have acted upon that yearning.

    It’s also safe to say that a considerable component of the Plateau/Mile End population – as well as others who happen to be in the vicinity of the mountain on Sundays – tend to instinctively dismiss the fighters as geeks or outcasts in the same way that anything “not normal” generally tends to get dismissed.

    Everyone has a way of escaping from reality, Ip observed.

    “Some people collect stamps,” he said, sounding like he has had to explain his hobby on more than one occasion. “Some people go out and get wasted on Saturday nights.”

  • Didge says:

    Well its a first
    ive been fighting on the monutain in 3 different spots in the last 10 years.
    But most peapole only started to get in the crowd as more and more tolkien adaptation are made.
    My name is Didge ,
    In the last years i have set an example to let every one try the battlefield.
    One quickly understands that he holds just as much chances to kill as everyone.
    whether your a guy or a girl, old or young.
    French canadian ou anglophone ;)
    I HATE MEDIVAL
    there i said it
    i just wanted a place where i could fight in respect of other and whitout monthly fees.

    Me and a handfuul of friends ( we where about 6 back then) started this group that today is a loyal and frendly bunch that will do all they can for complete strangers, tourist and drug addict to have fun together…
    its not always easy but its my only reason 4 it.
    My Name Is Didge
    i am a Warrior of the Mountain
    I fight whit a bandana on my face
    and the sword tattod on my chess can let anyone see me.I will gladly show you around, rules,, and other safety tips.
    see you on sundays
    Didge