Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab



Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Fantasy Concept: The Sword


I saw a poster for 47 Ronin on a bus the other day and that got me thinking about the sword; the fantasy warrior's favoured weapon. From Arthur's Sword In The Stone to The Lord of The Rings, magical swords are the most iconic devices in fantasy.

In fantasy, the sword is really the only noble weapon of choice. Why? It can end someone's existence just as surely as a chainsaw, right? But the sword has a symbolic resonance in the fantasy genre, and swordmasters therefore provoke a sort of reverence.

Swords come in all shapes and sizes, they are made from all kind of materials (often in fantasy, a mystical and fictional metal), and they often have their own "personality". The most sacred of swords are named and treated with respect. Sometimes they are never even used, even if they have magical properties; what it represents is more important that what it can be used for.

Let's look at some fancy-pants swords.

The Legend Of Zelda (Game)

The legendary Master Sword symbolises justice and balance, which is why its rightful owner is the Hero of Time. It's the ultimate symbol of light, the only weapon that can defeat Ganondorf, the king of darkness. Across the TLoZ games the Master Sword has had a range of powers and abilities, from time travel (Ocarina of Time) to harbouring spirits (Skyward Sword) but its most powerful and important trait is being able to vanquish evil.

Death's Sword (Concept)

Why does Death need a sword to kill you? IT'S DEATH! But as I said earlier, there's something about a sword that makes murderers seem humane; more noble, less heartless. It's bizarre, really.

Cloud Strife (Character)

The Buster Sword - 6 combined swords. Wielding a sword wider than his waist and heavier than he could realistically carry, Cloud Strife is one character who I now literally nothing about. Let's move on.

Heavenly Sword (Game)

Often, the sword is seen as having an elegance that other instruments of violence lack. Fantasy has seen a rise in the trend of women swordfighters, while carefully sidestepping the issue of many of these heroines not being muscular enough to carry or fight with them. Logically, many characters who fight with swords would struggle to use them well, unlike young Arya of A Song of Ice And Fire, who has a sword specially made for her that is deadly, but much thinner, lighter and easier to use.

Sword-fighting, it seems, is just as much about glamour as it is about killing.

Kill Bill (Film)

The Bride, in Kill Bill Vol. 1, seeks out Hattori Hanzo to request one of his swords. Hanzo's sword is superior to all others and only one of his swords will give her a fighting chance against Bill and co - indeed, it slices half of somebody's head off. Often in fantasy, there is one particular sword or type of sword that is heralded as being special of having some unique mythical trait. Coming into contact with the sword increases the user's ability to tap into its power.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Film)

Some swords only allow its power to be accessed by a worthy fighter, The One, as it were. Others, like Green Destiny, do not differentiate. Whether the fighter's intention is pure or corrupt, the sword does what it does. The sword featured here, Green Destiny, is the most beautiful and lethal of fantastical swords, and destroys most weapons that are pitted against it. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of my favourite films. In the picture above, Yu Shu Lien holds her own against Jen, who is armed with Green Destiny. Skill is just as important as the quality of the instrument. Unless the sword is magical, a weak or untrained fighter often can't use the sword to its full potential.


Ashana Lian .

Further reading: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Swords

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