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The Sword – Fantasy’s Weapon of Choice

Sword by SarafielIf you open a fantasy book, or even think of watching one of the fantasy epics on TV, you will know that fantasy is not complete without some form of weapon. Many people out there tend to ignore the weapons that their favourite heroes use in the genre. To me the weapons actually make up half of what I would call fantasy.

You just have to think of all the swords, axes, warhammers, bows, knives and spears, and in a few instances staffs. But the most common weapon is the sword. It is the weapon o’ choice of many characters ranging from Aragorn, King Arthur, Eragon and even Beowulf. Swords show more menace than other weapons, but that is not to take anything away from the other weapons out there. (After all Legolas used the bow and arrow mighty well.)

Swords in fantasy, when put down in a list, can fill a passageway in Westminster. Of course the main one being Excalibur, or Caledfwlch, the great sword of the ideal fantasy hero, King Arthur. This is a sword that is so sharp and dangerous that it can defeat any opponent. Add its scabbard and you get to see the significance of the weapon. Even King Arthur saw how powerful his sword was, and rarely used it, most times resorting to his lance. Sometimes it is even assumed that Excalibur is the Sword in the Stone but many people, myself included believe that the Sword in the Stone is just that; the sword in the stone, the sword of Britain and the sword that symbolizes the power of the king. Besides it seemed as if this was the sword of all leaders of Britain from Magnus Maximus, or Macsen Wledig in some texts, to Arthur’s true father Uther.

The Lady of the Lake by thejeffsterSome of the heroes in King Arthur’s saga like Sir Lancelot also have swords that are well known and dangerous. His Christ-blade or Tanlladwyr “Brightkiller” is known for slaying his friends and foes alike; just ask Sir Gawain and his two brothers (or sons).

Andúril forged from the shards of Narsil, was extremely important to Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, both in the books and in the movies. This was a sword used as a beacon of hope and light for people that seemed to be lost. And if you are like me, the moment in the movies where Aragorn becomes one of my favourite characters is just as Elrond hands him the sword of his people. That was some inspiring stuff. I could not help feeling a little inspired at that point when everything seemed bleak and pointless.

If you are not into the Tolkien like fantasy, you might associate more with swords such as Joyeuse, Almace, Curtana and Durendal…swords of heroes like Charlemange, Bishop Turpin, Oiger the Dane and Roland respectively. All these swords are inspirations to the men that wield them and the ones that fight behind these men.

Arya Stark by pardoartThere are more swords in fantasy like Ice, Needle, Longclaw, Oathkeeper, Dark Sister, Hearteater, Lightbringer and Widow’s Wail in A Song of Ice and Fire. All these swords have significant meaning in the world of George R. R. Martin. These swords represent family and power and in some instances memories of fallen heroes.

Even Dalinar Kholin’s sword Oathbringer is seen as a deadly tool in the all events of war. If you go as far as Chinese literature, you will find out that the Qinggang sword and Heavenly Sword are just as precious as all the swords above. Even the Vorpal sword made famous by Lewis Carroll is one of my absolute favourite swords in fantasy.

Other swords that deserve a mention include the Sword of Truth, Brisingir, Dragnipur, Chance, the Sword of Martin, Callandor, Rhindon, Blakfyre, Brightroar, Zar’roc, Ringil, Sting, Glamdring, Guthwine, Anglachel and the Sword of Gryffindor.

I might have forgotten some, but to fantasy a sword is a little bit of extra seasoning. It is one of those ingredients that is needed, and almost every hero has one or at least something akin to the sword.

What is your favourite fantasy sword? Let us know in the comments!

Title image by Sarafiel.

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One Comment

  1. Moisés says:

    I love weapons in fantasy, and as much as a sword enthusiastic I am, I do not like how swords have become staple in SO much fantasy as well as medieval-inspired media. True, a sword is a balanced weapon, but it has many disadvantages. First, it is more expensive due to the quantity of metal in it. Unless there is a really great mine or something, I do not believe that many exist in the first place. More tools can be done from that: say, two axes. Then, the blacksmith needs to have a really great skill and LOADS of time to make one, not to say a hundred, while other things, like again, axes, need less care to make. I don’t think there are that many that could do it. In addition, swords are rather brittle due to the blade usually being quite thin and long: and if it’s thick it will be quite heavier and not as useful. On top of that, to use swords well one needs at least a couple of months with a sword-master (ALSO not common -_- as most of them would fare better in the battlefield). Spears and axes use less metal and a really common resource in many places: wood; and are easier to wield half-decently. Not to mention that to fight plate armour you either half-sword to target openings or use a blunt weapon or something with weight such as an axe. To top it off, if the handle of an axe or spear is broken, you only need to put the head on another one.

    So, yeah. Arguably there could be a place with a lot of steel, maybe some industry and skilled smiths to make good swords in a small period of time. But in a medieval setting this is most often not possible. Good lord that in fantasy there are dwarves and other more ‘specialist’ races, else LOTR would not have the same battles ;P. (Orcs’ swords were more like cleavers, dwarves had plenty of ‘industry’ and elven weaponry was scarce. But I don’t know how we could argue the human settlements there).

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