Did you know…?

Bilbao, the capital of Bizkaia, was known for its steel. So well known that a type of sword popular in England and America was called a bilbo, after the Basque city. (In Basque, the name of Bilbao is Bilbo…)  In Basque, they were called Labana Bizkaitarrak. These swords were made in Bilbao and exported widely.

This sword was popular because it was typically well forged and very flexible.

Bilboes also refers to a type of shackles, put around the ankles to immobilize people. While it isn’t so obvious that the name of these shackles also comes from the Basque city, the fact that they were made of steel suggests it is possible. Joseba Zulaika, in his book That Old Bilbao Moon, suggests the same origin for the name. However, these devices were in use before Bilbao started exporting steel to England. In any case, these bilboes have a dark history, used to confine prisoners and slaves.

240px-Bilbo_Baggins_Tolkien_illustrationThe most famous Bilbo, these days, is Bilbo Baggins, of The Hobbit fame. While it isn’t clear where J. R. R. Tolkien got the name for his character, at one point Bilbo finds a sword, called Sting, that plays an immensely important role in the story of Mr. Baggins. It is possible that Tolkien named his character after the sword or, maybe more probable, was inspired by the name he had chosen for his character to outfit him with a sword.

The photo of bilbo, the sword, not Bilbo, the hobbit, linked to above is from this site. The image of Bilbo Baggins was taken from Wikipedia, but drawn by Tolkien.

2 thoughts on “Did you know…?”

  1. Bilbao [b_??_l_b_a?], [b??lba??], [b??lba??]
    Usage examples for Bilbao:

    “ During the two years he had been on the Madrid- Bilbao run he had never been called in for reprimand. ”
    – Their Son; The Necklace by Eduardo Zamacois
    “ Those who landed at Bilbao were received in the kindest and most hospitable manner by Mr C. B. Vignoles, the engineer- in- chief of the Bilbao and Tudela Railway, which was then under construction. ”
    – Autobiography of Sir George Biddell Airy by George Biddell Airy
    “ We were permitted to pass, and soon were safe within the walls of Bilbao ”
    – The Bible in Spain by George Borrow
    “ But after Our Lady was carried in procession through the streets of Bilbao not one died here, except a sinful man who would not turn his head to look upon her. ”
    – Spanish Highways and Byways by Katharine Lee Bates

    Rhymes for Bilbao:

    aue, bao, bough, bow, brau, brow, cao, chow, clough, mau, meow, now, ow, pao, plough, plow, pough;
    allow, avow, endow, liao, macao;
    disallow, disavow, mindanao;

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