I have long been troubled by the unarmored spear plays in Talhoffer's Königsegg Codex, as in the picture here, et. seq.:
The problem with these plays (and there are only a very few—ff. 45r- 49r in MS XIX.17-3—is that there are a few which show the spears being used to strike (as in the picture below). This is the justification a certain well-known but severely misguided HEMA interpreter to apply longsword striking techniques to the spear, which drives me pretty insane. It just wasn't done with spears, but a certain sector of the HEMA community just loves the ideas of taking techniques from one form and applying them to a different form the way Fiore sometimes did. Sigh.
One of the reasons spears weren't used for striking is that the spears were tapered, as you can see in this (and almost every other) spear pictured in the Fechtbücher:
I don't want to go too deeply into why they were tapered, but the short version is that by tapering the shaft you balance the spear against the weight of the spear head.
The problem with striking with a tapered spear is that they are therefore thin near the point at which you're striking, and so are extremely likely to break. And yet, there are those plates in Talhoffer, mocking what I thought I knew and understood (and justifying that HEMA fellow in his making up of nonsense techniques).
Looking at the striking spear plates, I saw that they are not tapered in the drawing, but it's a mistake to see too much in the bad art of medieval books, so I didn't want to just claim "But these 'spears' are different!" And yet, that's what I was thinking—as if they were really "quarterstaffs with benefits," like the ones in Silver that have iron caps on the end. “Why not a metal point?” I asked myself.
Now, however, I think I have the answer, and it also explains why these "spear" techniques are shown unarmored, and in an unarmored section of the book (sometimes armored plays are shown out of armor, but not usually in the armored section of a book): I think they are boar spears.
There is a very short section in “Fechtregeln” (“Cologne Fechtbuch”) (MS Best.7020 (W*)150), from c. 1500, which talks about techniques for boar spears. For example, “Item hy na volget eyn stuck ym swynspeyß.” (“Item: Here follows a technique in the boar spear.” fol. 20v.). The techniques described in the Cologne Fechtbuch are very vague (text only, too—no pictures), and it’s hard to see any connection to the spear/staff techniques in Talhoffer, so this is obviously something of a reach, but it does solve the question rather nicely.
After all, boar spears, if they were tapered at all, were usually tapered toward the butt, not the point, to make them stronger at the front end and so that you could push into the thicker part of the shaft for a better grip in a hard push (with the boar pushing back!). You can see this here:
The term used for the weapon in the Königsegg Fechtbuch is either “spüß” (which is just “spieß” or spear) or “glän,” a term which is more problematic, at least for me. The translation in Wiktenauer gives Glän as “glaive,” but the German word for glaive is “Glefe,” not “Glän.” Now, it could be a dialect issue, as with spüß for spieß, but it also might just be a different kind of weapon, too. But the fact that the identical weapon is described by two different names suggests that it’s more than just a plain spear.
Moreover, while boars were hunted in partial armor sometimes (Gaston Phoebus talks about wearing leg armor when doing so on foot), that didn’t apply to commoners, as the picture from Gaston’s book I posted above shows, which matches with what we see in Talhoffer.
Balanced against this rather complex argument (Occam’s Razor, anyone?) is the fact that the weapons in Talhoffer don’t look much like boar spears as they are traditionally depicted, with either a metal cross bar or a tied-on crossbar of antler to prevent sir swine from crawling up the spear to gut you. Nor are Talhoffer’s spears reverse tapered as the boar spears often are. Still, it’s a fairly crude drawing, so I don’t lend to much weight to this objection, even though it must be recognized.
I confess, however, that in spite of this weakness, I like the boar spear idea. It makes sense in a way in which just claiming spears were used as staves for striking blows does not, and it answers all the questions (out of armor, striking with the weak part, etc.) this issue raises. This will therefore be my working hypothesis for now.