Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wonder. Wonder Wonders, “What is a fight to the death?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonder!
Have you ever issued a challenge? If you're like most kids, you've probably mastered a video game and wanted to show your friends or parents how good you are. If you've ever dared someone to take you on, then you've challenged them to a duel!
For hundreds of years, dueling has been a part of many different societies, from knights to cowboys. These one-on-one showdowns took the basic fight to another level. Instead of raucous, lawless fighting, duels pit two people against each other in a controlled environment with set rules. And in the musical Hamilton, the song, "Ten Duel Commandments" does a pretty good job describing what the rules were for this deadly face-off.
You may have seen an old movie or cartoon at one time or another in which two cowboys dueled at noon in front of a crowd. As they walked away from each other with their backs turned, someone would shout “Draw!" and they would turn to fire at each other. This was the classic Wild West cowboy duel.
Why did people do this? Although sometimes duels stemmed from what people believed to be serious violations, at other times they arose out of meaningless situations. When someone felt his honor had been questioned, a duel often followed, even if it didn't seem like a matter of life-or-death!
Long ago, honor and respect was very important. One of the easiest ways to lose honor was to be considered a coward. The best way to avoid being considered a coward was to accept all challenges to a duel — and to challenge anyone who insulted you to a duel!
An official set of dueling rules — called the Code Duello — was developed by the Irish in 1777. These rules were actually included by the U.S. Navy in official handbooks up until 1862 when dueling by naval officers was finally banned.
Dueling was ultimately about recovering honor, not necessarily injury or death. To that extent, duels became a model for other forms of modern competition. Today, duels aren't commonplace like they used to be hundreds of years ago…and many don't include weapons at all!
For example, musical instruments can now be used to duel. There are dueling banjos and dueling pianos. These duels pit two instrumentalists against each other in a friendly competition of skill. The winner? The audience! These types of duels are now a popular form of entertainment.