Decorative or Functional
People keep fantasy swords for many different reasons. Some people just want them for decoration or because they enjoy collecting them. In this case swords may not always be constructed to withstand actual use. These would be built purely for decorative purposes and usually meant to be kept in a case or hung on a wall. Personally, I would want as sword to be sturdy and usable even if I do just keep it hung on the wall. Others participate in renactments, simulations, and games such as LARPs. For these people, functional doesn’t mean that it could be used as a real sword in an actual real battle. For this purpose a sword would need to be sturdy enough to withstand mock battles and a lot of actual use but would actually be designed specifically not to hurt someone. Depending on the game the specs for these could vary a lot.
For some, a sword needs to be functional. Whether or not they intend to actually use the sword, a lot of people just don’t feel right about having a sword that isn’t functional. Even when a fantasy sword is meant to be hung on a wall, people will still want to make sure that it has greate build quality. Personally, I fall into this category myself. I just don’t like the idea of having something that isn’t ‘real’ or usable hanging on my wall, even if it is something out of the world of fantasy. The exception of course being boffer swords but they are designed that way on purpose because the have to be.
Specific / Realistic Fictional Swords
One category of fantasy sword would be fictional swords that never existed but could have existed. These are useually specific swords that often had names, for example the Excalibre. This class of usually comes from medieval literature ( or earlier periods ). These are found in legends, poems, and historical writtings. These swords wouldn’t necessarily have strange designes that differ from real, historical swords. Instead these would for the most part be normal except that they were owned by someone very important or maybe had some type of magical or legendary power. These were found in stories that were a little bit closer to reality and usually have a great historical significance.
Styles of Swords That Didn’t Exist
Another category of fantasy sword would include styles of swords that didn’t exist and couldn’t have actually existed in real life but are purlely from the world of fantasy. These are swords that could have existed in a give fictional setting. These settings would be something along the lines of “The Lord of the Rings” or from “A Song of Ice and Fire”. These take place in completely fictional worlds with mythical creatures and all sorts of things that are much too interesting for real life. While swords found in these settings could be ( and a lot of times are ) generic and similar to real historical swords, they are often times more interesting that that. This type of fantasy setting opens the doors to all sorts of variation that you otherwise just wouldn’t be able to find.
This is where you start to see fantasy swords with ornate complicated carvings and designs. These include dragons, skulls, and other fancy decorations. In a fantasy setting you would be that much more likely to find a sword with a skull on the pommel or a dragon wrapped around the handle or blade. Sure, you might find some of these decorations in real swords but they won’t be anywhere near as common and definitely will not stand out anywhere near as much. Also, you will find swords where the entire design is unique to something you would find in a fantasy world. These swords will have extra curves and twists that are completely made up.
One specific instance of this category of sword would be elvish design. Elves basically only exist in made up stories and fantasy but we can all imagine what we think their swords would look like. We have seen enough movies and picutres of elves that most people have a pretty good idea of how they are likely to design their weapons. Examples of these are found in LOTR and any number of other stories. These are very unique compared to something would have existed in real life but still have a very distinct style. This is the essense of where fantasy swords are thought up.
What is the first sword people think of when they talk about fantasy swords? Excalibur of course! While it isn’t anything crazy or over the top, it is pretty much the most iconic design there is. This sword is taken from medieval fiction and is probably one of the most well known swords to have ever existed ( or not existed, who knows ). What do we know about Excalibur? It was said to be the finest sword and it was said that it could cut through iron as if it were wood. It was owned by the legendary King Arthor. It is interesting to note that Excalibur is usually seen as different from The Sword in the Stone and only sometimes considered the same weapon. This all depends on which version of which story you follow though.
Another fantasy sword with an interesting history is Hrunting. This is the sword that Beowulf wielded when he went to fight Grendel’s mother. It was a gift given to him by another warrior named Unferth. Hrunting was made of iron. It was ancient and it was said to be “tempered in blood”. It was a rare sword that was said to never fail anyone who used it. This didn’t work out for Beowulf when he went to fight Grendel’s mother. The sword failed to cut her. He was only able to actually defeat her with a sword he found in her lair that was crafted by giants in times long past.
Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting
All three of these swords had been lost for thousands of years until eventually being found in the hands of trolls. All three of these swords are excelent examples of fantasy swords. Glamdring, like the other two, is an old sword. It had existed for thouseands of years before the events of LOTR and the Hobbit. During the events of ‘The Hobbit’ Glamdring was one of three swords found together in the trolls’ cave by Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves. Gandalf kept this sword and continued to hold onto it for the remaineder of the story and throughout the events in LOTR. All three of these were High-Elven swords. They had the property that, if they were close to an Orc, they would glow slightly. They could be used to detect the presence of evil close by.
Another of the three swords found in the trolls’ cave, called Orcrist ( goblin cleaver ), was kept by the dwarf named Thorin. Orcrist, was crafted by Elves and had a long history of killing thousands of orcs ( goblins ). It was well recognized by goblins. Notably, the goblins reacted violently as soon as they saw it in ‘The Hobit’ when the group had been captured.
The third sword and probably more famous of the three was called Sting. Bilbo claimed this sword in the same cave as the other two. This sword was only the size of a dagger for a human or for elves but for a hobit it was about the size of a short sword and served Bilbo well. This sword was known more for being feared by spiders, particualrly the ones in Mirkwood. This makes sense since Bilbo killed so many of them with this very sword. The legacy of killing spiders with this sword lived on. Bilbo passed the sword to Frodo at the beginning of LOTR. He caried it with him until eventually, he was attacked by the spider Shelob at the entrance to Mordor. Sam took sword from Frodo and killed her with it. This sword was able to cut giant spider webs that couldn’t be cut by normal swords. Having special powers like this is what makes this such a great example of a fantasy sword. It did still have the same qualities that the others did in that it would glow if orcs were near. Also interesting to note, Gollum was also afraid of it.
The Master Sword
The Master Sword is a terrific example of a fantasy sword. All sorts of interesting elements come into play with this weapon. This sword is from the video game series “The Legend of Zelda”. It doesn’t actually show up in the very first, original game in the series. It is first seen in the third game of the series titled “A Link to the Past”. The original game did include a sword refered to as the “magic sword”. This was a more generic sword without any real back story but I believe that it was the inspiration for the Master Sword found in later versions of the game. By the time the third game had come out, the game had developed a more involved story and needed something less generic. I think that the creators wanted to have something that basically paralleled the “magic sword” but they wanted to put more thought into it. So, while it first showed up in the third game, the sword’s history, or at least it’s inspiration can be traced back to the very first game.
The master sword has a history or back story that has been built up over the years from game to game. It has been devinely crafted and has the power to repel evil. It is the only sword that can be used to defeat the usualy antagonist, Ganon. The sword is of great, epic importance in the battles between good and evil. It is almost always a key recurring element of each story. This is a weapon that needs to be wielded by the hero in order to prevail. Obtaining the sword requires requires completing different trials and being worthy to wield it. There are differing and conflicting stories about how the blade was originally formed. In “Skyward Sword” it is shown to be created by Link, Fi, and Zelda. In “Twilight Princess”, Zelda mentions that it was created by ancient sages. In the comics based on “A Link to the Past”, it is said to be created by wise men. Often times people speculate about this and try find ways to make the stories fit. Many explainations actually do fit.
Changing pace a little bit, this sword isn’t exactly medieval but it definitely does count as an important fantasy sword. Even if you never played Final Fantasy and you have probably seen pictures of this sword at some point. It is the weapon wielded by Cloud, originally in Final Fantasy 7. This is basically a really, really big broadsword. It is six feet long from end to end. It is basically a long, wide strip of metal with an angled tip and a single edge. It is so big that it looks like it would be far to heavy to carry much less actually use. On first sight it almost seems far too exagerated but for people who have played FF7 most people develop a love for this weapon. It is iconic and has come to almost stand for Cloud and FF7. The sword has become immensely popular and has been reused in multiple sequals and spinoffs. People love this sword. If there is any one thing that can be said about it, it would be that it is incredibly distinctive.