Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tough Travels – Named Weapons

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: NAMED WEAPONS

Surprise! This is not from the Tough Guide but fits the spirit of it well. So let us say for this topic the weapon either needs to be a) Named, b) Famous, or c) Sentient. Thanks to Mogsy for the idea!

Well, I don't know about you, but when I think named, famous, sentient weapons, the first thing to come to mind is Stormbringer! An agent of chaos, this is a black broadsword marked by blood red runes, which howls in battle, and which feasts upon the souls of those it slays. It bestows remarkable strength upon Elric, who is a weak and sickly albino sorcerer without it, but also betrays him at every turn, warping his mind and forcing him to kill friends and love ones in its insatiable bloodlust. It's a sword so famous, Blue Γ–yster Cult wrote a song about it, entitled (appropriately enough) Black Blade.

As cool as Stormbringer is, and as much as it defined my early fantasy reading, it pales (no pun intended) in comparison to Dragnipur. Wielded by Anomander Rake, it's described as a two-handed sword with a silver dragon-skull hilt, so black that it appears invisible, which bleeds power and emits a constant groaning sound. We learn a lot more about it throughout the Malazan Book of the Fallen, but it's essentially a magical warren, forged within a sword, that serves to imprison its victims in an eternity of back-breaking turmoil.

The next sword that comes to mind would have to be Callandor, the sa'angreal wielded by Rand al'Thor in the Wheel of Time saga. It's a a crystal sword that originally hung suspended in the center of the Heart of the Stone, until Rand withdrew it (a la King Arthur). Wielding it allows Rand to focus, magnify, and channel the power of saidin in an addictive flood of magical destruction, a flood that can become godlike in its magnitude when Rand allows himself to be linked to women wielding saidar.

The Sword of Shannara, meanwhile, is a Druidic talisman forged by Bremen (an outcast from the Druid council) to serve as a tool for destroying the Warlock Lord. The magic of the sword is such that it has the ability to confront those it touches with the truth about their lives, allowing Shea to kill a Warlock Lord who is immune to physical weapons, but not to the truth about himself.

That, of course, brings to mind a sword of similar power - the Sword of Truth. This is a sword that is not only fueled by truth, but guided by it. It allows Richard Cypher to easily cut through any foe he believes in his heart to be an enemy, but refuses to harm anybody about whom Richard has even the slightest doubt. For true enemies, it channels all of Richard's anger and rage, granting him inhuman strength and agility, but it also demands that he be able to release his anger, or else it will cause him immense pain.

Finally, just because I am a child of the 80s, I have to mention the Power Sword from He-Man. Also known as the Sword of Grayskull, it was actually two swords in the original toyline, with He-Man and Skeletor each wielding half (and which had to be put together to open the gate of Castle Grayskull). Most people, however, remember it as just the one sword, which transformed Prince Adam into He-Man (and Cringer into Battle Cat). Anybody who watched cartoons in the 80s remembers that iconic image of Prince Adam holding the sword high and being struck by magical lightning as he cries out "By the Power of Grayskull . . . I Have the Power!"


  1. He-Man - funny choice.
    The Sword of Shannara came to my mind first. I also thought of Sting from The Hobbit.
    And BOC's Black Blade - you are uber cool, Bob.

    1. It was their collaborations with Moorcock that made me a fan, Alex . . . same with Hawkwind.

  2. The Power of GreyStone!!!

    Two soul eating swords and a Blue Oyster Cult song. This list is so full of win. I know BOC but had not heard this song. Someone needs to catalog fantasy references in well known music. I'll add Led Zep to the list because it is obvious

    1. Moorcock did 3 or a songs with BOC and 2 full albums with Hawkwind (trippy prog rock stuff)

  3. I was told the sword in Malazan was a must for this list! I've only read the first book though and my memory of it is spotty. And you are awesome for including He-Man :D

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    1. Yeah, it's not until later in the series that we get to see inside Draginpur, but it's awesome stuff. As for He-Man . . . I just couldn't resist. :)

  4. Ha! LovE that you put He-Man on your list! Great picks πŸ˜„