Prosthetics are hot! That’s how I’ll console myself if I ever lose my hand in a terrible accident. I picture a long-fingered, razor-nailed chrome hand for everyday wear; a sleek jeweled hand with fingertips that project light (or film!) for the evenings; and for special occasions, I want a sock puppet that’s also a flamethrower. In my toolkit, I would also like to have something Ye Olde. Ideally I’d love to get my remaining hand on the following, eloquently written up for us by guest blogger David Forbes (aka Coilhouse commenter ampersandpilcrow). – Nadya
Götz Von Berlichingen had a problem. It was 1504 and, at the tender young age of 24, the plundering knight, mercenary and all around bastard had the upper part of his right arm torn off in a cannon blast. As someone who made his living off war and already had a sizable enemies’ list, Götz needed his killin’ hand.
So he got another one. Made of iron.
However, this was no crudely shaped hunk of metal — it was a mechanical masterpiece, centuries ahead of its time. The iron hand not only allowed Götz to return to battle, but later helped lay the foundation for modern prosthetics. Complete with articulated fingers, spring action and an array of levers and buttons, the hand allowed a degree of control that’s stunning even today. Fitted with it, Götz could do the following:
It also gave him one hell of a right hook. All this in an era where steam power was still a distant dream and Copernicus had barely begun to deduce that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe.
Götz (and his iron hand) would go on to great infamy. He was twice outlawed by the Holy Roman Emperor, once for mugging a particularly loaded group of merchants. He pillaged towns, helped lead (and later ditch) a peasant revolt and slaughtered Turks, scores of fellow Germans and the French. When a Bishop once demanded his surrender, he thundered back: “Er kann mich im Arsche lecken!” Roughly translated, that’s “Kiss my ass!” The phrase became somewhat popular.
He accomplished another feat often denied to his ilk: he retired and died in bed. He actually preferred his new hand, saying the mechanical wonder had “rendered more service in the fight than ever did the original flesh.”
In no record I can find is the unknown genius who ever made the damn thing mentioned.
Götz’s larger-than-life persona and deeds lived on, however, as did the now-famous hand, preserved today in the museum at his old Jagsthausen castle. Goethe wrote a five-act play about his life called Götz Von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand, though denying him the peaceful retirement part (not enough DRAMA!, Romantics like their antiheroes dead dammit). Sartre portrayed him as a ruthless butcher/existentialist symbol. As science marched forward, physicians from around Europe would study his metal limb and get some ideas of their own.
And, of course, “kiss my ass” is still shouted loudly and proudly the world over.