What’s the Point of a Magic Sword?

What’s the Point of a Magic Sword?

Answer – The end you stick them with….

From Sting to Stormbringer, Gram to the Sword of Gryffindor, magical swords have always played a part in Fantasy stories and myths. Darkness Rising is no different as Bex of Samak is the keeper of Caladmorr, one of the five Weirdswords, blades forged millenia ago by a forgotten race.

Throughout history, swords were prized weapons and treasured for years. The very best were forged by master craftsmen over many weeks, in a process that must have seemed miraculous and mystical by many. When marinated with a well trained warrior, and served up with a huge dollop of luck, then the very blade itself may have seemed imbued with magical properties or even its own spirit. And, as stories and tales are embellished with every retelling, then the numbers of victims slain by the steel would increase and the escapades of its bearer would appear more miraculous, giving credulence to the notion of sorcerous (or holy) power.

1) My magical sword…..

Swords such as King Arthur’s Caliburnus or Excalibur had a durability and a cutting edge beyond ordinary swords. More magic was infused in its mystical scabbard which protected its wearer from physical harm. Perhaps King Arthur lost that when he fought at Camlann and fell to Mordred.

Not all swords were blessed, some were downright cursed from the ill omens or bad deeds dealt at their forging. In Norse mythology, swords such as Tyrfing (a blade with a golden hilt, a sword that would never rust and would cleave stone and iron as if it was cloth,) and Dainsleif (the wounds dealt by the blade would never heal). Both balanced by curses where each would have to kill a man each time they were unsheathed.

2) Not Tyrfing, but equally cursed. -3 to hit when spreading refrigerated butter.

Often the history and origins of swords were confusing. Ogier the Dane’s (Holger Dansk) sword Cortain, was maybe given to him by a saracen called Karaheut, or perhaps from Tristam, a knight of the Round Table. Now it is a ceremonial sword, kept as part of the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. Or is it under the mountain with Ogier, awaiting his awakening to save Denmark?

Magical Swords – A top ten list of nine.

Sting and Glamdring, in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, both glowed when orcs are near. A very handy property to have, though not so great if you’re trying to hide from a marauding pack of ravenous orcs in a cave.

Whilst not strictly magical but more demonically possessed, Stormbringer and Mournblade in Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, suck the souls from their victims like a ‘Health and Safety in the Workplace’ Powerpoint presentation. Stormbringer empowers Elric’s weak body and nourishes it with the souls it has taken. The true nature of Elric’s cursed blade is shown in ‘The Dreaming City’, when the blade kills Elric’s lost love Cymoril whilst he duels with Yyrkoon.

Prince Adam, he of the dubious hair cut in the 80s cartoon ‘He Man and the Masters of the Universe’, would use his Power Sword – or at least his half of it – to channel the power of Greyskull Castle in order to transform into He Man, and to turn his timid tigger, Cringer, into Battle Cat. It was also indestructible, could deflect energy bolts, and no doubt, annoyed the hell out of Skeletor. It did nothing for Prince Adam’s hair though.

3) Victorian Cricketer, W.G.Grace

Cloud Strife, from the Final Fantasy video game series, had cooler hair than Prince Adam, and also carried the Buster Sword. An unfeasibly large weapon, it was allegedly based upon Victorian cricketer W.G. Grace’s cricket bat. Not so much magical, but extremely scary, and with space to customise with magic in the form of materia.

4) Sephiroth’s arch enemy, Cloud Strife and the Buster Sword

The Green Destiny Sword is the whole reason for the fantastic, mesmerizing (IMHO) piece of art that is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A sword of such high quality, and such reputation (along with its famous ‘wobble’), that it becomes the focal point of the quest, and leads to many deaths.

The Sword of Omens. Who can forget (or maybe remember) the iconic – Thunder! Thunder ! Thunder Thundercats Ho! – the magical viagra incantation that extends Lion-O’s small dagger into the longsword that is the Sword of Omens? A super powerful sword, durable, indestructible, able to generate force fields and manipulate energy, granting the power of flight and transportation, and much, much more.

But perhaps the most powerful magical sword is the one which dispatched the ‘jaws that bite’ and ‘the claws that catch’ of the whiffling Jabberwocky. A blade so powerful, no one knows exactly what it does, except that it goes….


The Vorpal Sword.

A brief look at some swords in legend and fiction. There seems to be more magical swords than stars in the night sky, or grains of sand on the beach, or Manchester United fans outside Manchester.

What are your favourites, and which ones have I missed ?

Photo credits

  1. Carl Northwood
  2. Carl Northwood
  3. concept art by Tetsuya Nomura for Final Fantasy VII (from Wikipedia)
  4. photo unknown (please contact if used incorrectly)

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