Swords. Quite simply, they’re cool. Much cooler than any gun. They have a sense of honour attached to them that guns don’t and can’t. More importantly, they have stories. Whether they’re there to help develop characters, as plot devices, or a mixture of both, there’s no shortage of them from the realms of so many stories told. They’re symbols and embody so many ideals that people are fascinated by. For some, they’re phalluses and merely thinly-veiled substitutes for a certain brand of masculinity. Here, we take a look at five. They’re not ranked. We’ll leave that to you lot to debate.
1. Sword of Omen (Lion-O, Thundercats)
For some an unremarkable one to begin on. Whatever else it may be, it’s iconic for many of us who grew up in the 80s and watched Lion-O tell the famous blade to give him “sight beyond sight”, as the weapon did exactly that. The sides of the sword’s hand guard sort of curled up, as the gem-stone set into the sword (the eye of Thundera) allowed Lion-O to see into the future. For those adamant that it was definitely a phallus, the argument of it being able to dramatically “extend” from a small dagger type implement, into a much longer mighty weapon, will certainly be made. Perhaps they’ve got a point . . .
2. The Master Sword (Link’s Most Famous Weapon — Zelda Games)
The list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of this legendary sword. If for no other reason (and there are many), it’s important to recognize that as technology develops, cultural emblems are subsumed into new mediums and genres. Whilst there will be those out there who can provide a full insight into all of the sword’s abilities and features, one extremely cool one was that it let Link travel through time (and go from boy to man) in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998). Yes, the titular ocarina itself also helped, we know. The Triforce too. But this isn’t a feature on them. The Master Sword has been relied upon by Link for many a quest in the game series, over the years. It’s likely to continue to be.
3. Long Claw
Long Claw. John Snow’s massive, powerful weapon (I don’t know what you mean that sounded rude; it’s a perfectly factual statement – you’re the ones with gutter-minds, not me!). Ygritte knows just how massive and powerful, having seen it in action (again, you lot, not me!). It was always teased as being special, early in the series. When we finally see what it’s capable of we realize why it’s a huge part of the story. For those of you who’ve read the books (I haven’t), the sword may feature even more prominently. Its history and significance. In the series we’re told it’s made of Valerian steel, one of only a handful (Ice is another, Ned Stark’s weapon. That was melted down after he was beheaded) scattered amongst the families of nobility in Westeros. Thanks to the great success of the brilliant series (except the ending that we don’t talk of) it’s firmly embedded in popular culture now.
A sword that was broken into pieces, and then built new. The shards of Narsil are part of Anduril. Few, if any, made their worlds as detailed as Tolkien did. There’s a history to pretty much everything ever said. There’s something meaningful about a sword being re-forged, and something deeply psychological and spiritual too. The fact it’s broken means there’s a reason why. It ties in with Aragorn becoming the King. As his quest approaches completion he gets to wield it. It’s a powerful symbol of hope. The quest element is fun, as well as being important. Whilst Tolkien has always had a vast following, Peter Jackson’s incredible adaptations will no doubt be responsible for their being many replicas of Anduril in living rooms. Luckily, they didn’t need elves to re-forge them from shards. But that’s why they’re replicas. There’s only one genuine Anduril, and it’s up there with the coolest swords ever.
There’s even more been written and spoken about than this legendary sword than any Tolkien created. That’s saying something. It’s the most famous of the lot, and has probably influenced each sword on this list, and many, many more. The idea of worthiness and the transition of boyhood to manhood has permeated countless stories (Thor in the MCU), and may also go some way in helping to understand swords as phalluses, as discussed. The already mentioned Master Sword in the Zelda series played on the Arthurian legends in the game mentioned. Excalibur’s association with Merlin means that it’s also associated with magic. It’s the Lady of the Lake who keeps it. With that in mind, and her, maybe it’s about time we had a different sort of Arthurian hero, and challenge swords being overtly seen as phalluses and predominantly male weapons. Excalibur is referred to widely, by the influence of it in the other swords that have become famous. It holds an unrivaled place in the history of swords in stories. It’s the original and best. It’s not set to disappear any time soon; if anything, it should turn up in a century or two, according to all accounts.
Other honorable mentions that could easily have made the list include Blade’s sword, the dragon-head Katana used by Connor MacLeod in the Highlander franchise, and pretty much every light-saber ever made. Swords are even cooler when they’re not swords. In fact, cooler! Oh, and the folding samurai type sword of Sulu’s in the Kelvin Timeline. He got upgraded from a rapier. And He Man’s Sword of Power. So, so many! There’s plenty we’ve missed, so let us know which ones we have and why they should have made the cut (pun intended)!