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Alatriste: Slaughterer's Knife

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by Piraticalbob, May 25, 2013.

  1. Piraticalbob

    Piraticalbob Well-Known Member

    In the 2006 Spanish film Alatriste, based on the series of novels by Arturo Perez-Reverte and starring Viggo Mortensen, the title character, "Captain" Diego Alatriste is shown in the beginning scene with a short, leaf-bladed knife which he uses for sentry removal:


    It's a very interesting looking knife, and Alatriste uses it throughout the movie, concealing it in his musketeer-style boot. It's a close quarters weapon; in other fight scenes Alatriste uses the rapier/main gauche or rapier/cape techniques common to the rapier period.

    Here's another pic, showing the knife in more detail:


    Perez-Reverte describes the knife in his books as a "slaughterer's knife," and indeed, this knife pattern is used in slaughterhouses, where it is inserted at the base of an animal's skull to sever the spinal cord. It is also used in the Spanish bullring for the same purpose: to put a bull out of its misery when a matador has failed to make a clean kill. In the bit of research I did for this thread I came across two names for this knife, the puntilla, which translates to "small point," or lengua de vaca, which translates to "cow tongue," which the blade somewhat resembles.

    You can actually buy these knives at Spanish websites, marked as bullfighter's tools:


    Anyway, I thought I'd introduce the THR audience to a very different sort of knife, one not common in the United States. In the movies and books it's used as a close quarters weapon, similar to how trench knives were used in WWI, and indeed, some of the scenes in the movie are very much trench warfare.

    The books, if you wish to give them a try, start with Captain Alatriste. A half-dozen have been translated into English, and all of them are also available in the original Spanish. They are very much in the cloak-and-dagger tradition of Dumas' The Three Musketeers. The movie is currently available in its entirety on YouTube:


    You know how YouTube can be about taking movies down, though, so watch it while it's available. (It's in Spanish, w/out English subtitles: be warned.)

    Last edited: May 25, 2013
  2. glistam

    glistam Well-Known Member

    Thank you for this. I'd always been curious about this knife. I have read many of the books and seen the film, and I thought I was the only person in the states who'd even heard of this series. It is a great series and a great film, especially for a rapier enthusiast.

    I recall the "captain" carried a small arsenal of blades, illustrated in one book scene where guards disarm him before a meeting, taking quite a number but missing the slaughter's knife in his boot (in the film, they show the guard finding it but deliberately ignoring it out of loyalty/respect to him).
  3. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you. I've had a somewhat similar knife in mind for some years, though it will have a wider blade overall, should it ever be made.
  4. ThorinNNY

    ThorinNNY Well-Known Member

    Just when I thought I`d seen it all.....................
  5. Dirty Bob

    Dirty Bob Well-Known Member

    I found the movie at my local public library. If yours doesn't have it, then ask about a service called "interlibrary loan," to borrow it from another library.

    It's a good movie, and Viggo's Spanish is quite good. I understand he learned the language early in life, although he seems to have a talent for language, as seen in "Eastern Promises."

    Thanks for a great post. I was intrigued by the knife but thought it was something cooked up by a propmaster to give the lead actor a distinctive personal weapon.

    Dirty Bob
  6. Adk Mike

    Adk Mike Member

    I've seen this type of knife used while butchering hogs when I was a kid. The ho g would be held on his back. A cut would be made next to his wind pipe and the knife would be turned to cut the heart arterys and then straightend to miss the wind pipe while pulling it out. They were normally homemade from a file that had been heated and hammered into the sharp spoon shape.
    This practice is no longer done and in my state. And is considered cruel and now illegel. But i still rember it very well.
  7. Piraticalbob

    Piraticalbob Well-Known Member

    I've read that they are still used in Latin American slaughterhouses, and probably elsewhere throughout the world.

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