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In The Final Empire, noblemen are mentioned frequently to have “dueling canes” on them. What were these used for? Were they just canes, or did noblemen use them in duels, as the name suggests?

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The "dueling cane" is simply a sturdy wooden cane. There are similar weapons in our world in Canne de combat and Bartitsu. A cane is of practical use when walking, can be wielded like a sword, and, being made of wood, wouldn't be vulnerable to allomancy like a sword would.

Confirmed at Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 (Sept. 4, 2014):

Questioner
In Mistborn Elend carried dueling canes.

Brandon Sanderson
Yes.

Questioner
And I didn't understand why people would be scared of sticks. So is a dueling cane a deadly weapon, a melee weapon, inaudible

Brandon Sanderson
Yes, they use dueling canes in martial arts on Earth, so you can look up-- look for these. They are sticks about long, made of a hardwood, and, I promise you, if hit with one of those, it's going to hurt. So yeah, I mean you can go find my references for various types of dueling canes in various martial arts. They are real things. But we needed a weapon that was not metal and that was the best one, I felt.

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