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For the defense of Caste Black, the Night's Watch shot their foes with burning arrows. The fight was happening at night, therefore the fire made the arrows more visible in the air and what I think: easier to be dogded. A good example is Ygritte who actually evades a shot in a short scene in the series.

What reason would you have to shoot arrows that are burning, other than to set things on fire, which most likely was not the case, as an arrow that hits a human body would probably get its flame extinguished.

  • 'Cause it looks cool – Gallifreyan Mar 19 '17 at 18:29
  • So the audience can see the arrows. – Verdan Mar 19 '17 at 18:56
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TL;DR:

  • For the show it was more for the audience sake than anything, to see where they landed.
  • Fire is always a great intimidation tactic in combat, even if it offers no real decisive advantage beyond simply intimidating your enemy.
  • Flaming arrows are tracers for the archers to adjust fire when needed.

Flaming arrows were used in medieval battles, but not as often as tv/movies would like you to believe. The primary use was to burn towns/defenses and force the defenders to have to fight a battle on two fronts (defend against an enemy and put out spreading fires).

On the side of the offender ignited arrows were pretty much used as an intimidation tactic. Throughout history you can see and imagine the fear that 'fire' would bring to the battlefield. However, the arrows were typically no where near as accurate; even worse when some had a small jars, boxes, and tubes filled with oil or somethings that would break upon impact in the hopes to spread the flames across the target.

But the other benefit to flaming arrows at night is for the archers themselves. Flaming arrows were likely the first instance of tracer rounds. Shooting arrows during the day it fairly simple to see where they are landing, but at night they would disappear. Fire solves that problem.

And while it is possible the enemy would see the arrows coming and avoid them you have to remember that:
1. They can see arrows during the day... did it really help?
2. There are a hundred or more of them coming at you and you are likely bunched up in a formation.
3. Arrows are cheap to produce and it is worth the waste if you miss; and totally worth it if you hit...
4. The fact that they are shooting arrows at you means you can't hit them with a sword and you need to run from a to b while avoiding them, causing more stress/pressure/fatigue.

But yeah... it was pretty much so that you could see them.

  • 1
    I'd like to challenge the point that "Shooting arrows during the day it fairly simple to see where they are landing". I've done quite a bit of archery and it is a massive pain in the arse to trace your own arrow, especially whilst aiming so you can effectively hit your target. – TheLethalCarrot Mar 21 '17 at 12:57
  • True but en masse I would expect them to be much easier to see. – Odin1806 Mar 26 '17 at 1:58
  • Easier to see the general fall of the arrows, much harder to find your own – TheLethalCarrot Mar 26 '17 at 8:58
  • haha, but personal success is not important for an archer. They value group effort. When was the last time you heard of a famous archer really?! It's all about the knights, no one ever cared to remember the archers... – Odin1806 Mar 30 '17 at 16:29
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    Robin Hood, Spoiler alert: I live where he allegedly lived... – TheLethalCarrot Mar 30 '17 at 16:30

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