I keep imagining it as one end scythe and the other end sword. Though, I couldn't imagine the practicality of using such a weapon. Are there any pictures or concept arts depicting what GRRM thought an Arakh should look like?
You're not alone in describing an arakh as half-sword and half-scythe. The Wiki of Ice and Fire suggests reading chapter 11 of A Game of Thrones. According to the Game of Thrones wiki, Jorah Mormont remarks that it is an effective weapon for a mounted warrior but poorly suited to infantry. The GoT wiki shows a (poorly framed) picture from the TV adaptation.
I do not recall any detailed description, but I would assume that it is a curved sword, simply because it is meant to be used as a slashing weapon by a mounted rider. Think of the curved sabers used by cavalry for centuries. What I do recall from the books is that arakhs are always described as very sharp.
Personally, I did not like the way arakhs looks in the series. They look much more like ancient Egyptian sickle-swords than cavalry sabers. And since the Dothraki did not plant crops, there is no reason for their swords to look like sickles.
I assume that the Dothraki were modeled after the Mongols and other Asian nomadic peoples, so I picture their weapons looking like this.
George R. R. Martin has confirmed that in his mind (at least in the book versions) the Arakhs looked like scimitars:
Actually... GRRM doesn't like HBO's arakhs. I thought, and HBO thought (I suppose), and many people thought, that because of the kh consonant group and the descriptions, he modeled arakhs after khopeshes, which is not an invented type of sword. HBO arakhs are basically khopeshes. It seemed to me personally these shape of sword would do well from horseback.I thought for sure I had it pegged down, all while reading I always pictured a khopesh.
I told as much to GRRM and he corrected me, in his book version, arakhs are more like scimitars, though what you may think of as a scimitar is far less than what he explained. Something more like this. A very significant curve.
If we have our way we'll do both versions.
From the text, this is the main description we get about Arakhs:
Dany looked away from the coupling, frightened when she realized what was happening, but a second warrior stepped forward, and a third, and soon there was no way to avert her eyes. Then two men seized the same woman. She heard a shout, saw a shove, and in the blink of an eye the arakhs were out, long razor-sharp blades, half sword and half scythe. A dance of death began as the warriors circled and slashed, leaping toward each other, whirling the blades around their heads, shrieking insults at each clash. No one made a move to interfere.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One - A Game of Thrones, Chapter Eleven (Daenerys II). [emphasis mine]
- Discussion post on Westeros.org
- Discussion involves Ran (Elio Garcia) as well as some industry professionals, including a representative of "Valyrian Steel".
I don't know what Martin had in his mind when he was writing the books, but the way these swords are depicted on the tv show is just wrong.
In the show they are basically really sharp HOOKs. Not exactly something you would want as a weapon for horsemen. Bone is tough, so even riding down an unarmored man and slashing at him with a hooked weapon like that, well, it would get HOOKED on him and either pull the arakh out of your hand or pull you off your horse.
There is a reason why cavalry sabers are swept back, it's so the blade slices while you and your horse are moving forward. That way they won't get lodged in bone and flesh.
Yes, there have been real hooked weapons like that used in the past, but they were infantry weapons. The Dacian's falx was something like the arakhs in the show. The foot soldiers would have the ability to hook around an opposing infantryman's shield, weapon, or legs and drag/slice him. But it WASN'T a cavalry weapon.
Just my two cents on the matter. I guess they wanted something unique for the show to impress gullible people; it's like how they sell all of those fantasy knives and swords at the headshop.
I always assumed they were very similar to scimitars:
as these were used by horseback fighters, especially Middle East (which the Dothraki reminds me a bit...)
Could it be similar to a Japanese katana? They are curved & long & a mix between a sword and a curved blade.
I believe that they really just look like a sword with.no hilt, but slightly up the blade it curves sharply into a crescent shape.
My take on the arakh is that has the blade form of a curved cavalry saber, much like that of a British 1796 Light Dragoon Pattern, with a grip similar to a katana or a Chinese "executioner" sword. Styling would be a cross between Turkic and Chinese. The cavalry saber blade is based on types used by the Ottoman Turks and the Mamelukes of Egypt, and the grip would be ideal for a two-handed stroke.