Inspiring Fantasy Swords: History & Mythology

Explore the real-world origins of fantasy swords, delving into history and mythology to uncover their inspiring origins and significance.

Introduction Fantasy Swords:

Known by many as the ultimate weapon in books, the big screen and games, fantasy swords have amazed the world. These are swords which are believed to bewitch and possess beautiful carvings and engravings; they are so popular among heroes and antiheroes as they symbolize power, courage, and mystique. Despite the fact most of fantasy swords and axes originated in writers’ and artists’ imagination.  And many are based on the real world weapons and legends. Such a combination of what is real and what is fantastical enriches stories and makes them closer to life. In this article, I will discuss the use as well as the history of fantasy swords.  Both in mythology and history, in order to shed a light over the evolution of fantasy swords in real life swords.

Real-World Inspirations for Fantasy Swords

Historical Swords from Different Cultures

Fantasy swords often draw from the rich tapestry of historical weaponry, with designs.   That echo the past and pay homage to various cultures.

European Fantasy Swords:

European Fantasy Swords long swords Broadsword

The Broadsword:

The broadsword, a heavy weapon used with two hands, often portrays the swords wielded by orcs or barbarians in fantasy games. This common medieval European weapon had a wide blade and was heavier than others of its kind, making it highly effective in defeating opponents.Its fantasy counterpart generally embellishes these features to portray the rough, overt strength and savageness.

The Longsword:

The broadsword, a big, heavy weapon used with two hands, has inspired the huge swords that orcs or barbarians use in fantasy stories. The broadsword, known for its wide blade and heavy weight.  And delivered strong, crushing blows as a powerful weapon in medieval Europe. In fantasy, creators often exaggerate these features, making the sword look even more powerful.  And fierce, symbolizing raw strength and brutality.

The Rapier Sword:

Elegant and slender, the rapier is the inspiration behind the piercing swords often used by noble characters in fantasy. Originating in the Renaissance period, the rapier was favored for its speed and precision in duels. Its fantasy incarnations maintain this elegance, frequently wielded by cunning rogues or dashing swashbucklers.

Asians Fantasy Swords

Asians Fantasy Swords

The Katana sword:

Originally used by the samurai class in feudal Japan, the katana—a curved, single-edged sword—appears frequently in fantasy due to its association with Eastern culture. As a symbol of the two elements of warfare – the physical edge and the internal strength of the samurai, the katana is famous for its ability and refined workmanship. Tales often depict it as the nobleman’s rapier or the magician’s katana, giving it a mysterious yet deadly aura.

The Scimitar sword:

Tales often depict it as the nobleman’s rapier or the magician’s katana, giving it a mysterious yet deadly aura. This design, rooted in Middle Eastern and South Asian history, was ideal for horseback combat. Fantasy depictions of scimitars typically emphasize their exotic origins, often used by desert-dwelling nomads or skilled assassins.

Mythological Swords and Legends

Mythological Swords and Legends

Mythology offers a treasure trove of legendary swords, each with its own story and symbolism.

Excalibur (Arthurian Legend):

Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur, symbolizes legitimacy and divine right to rule. Said to be unbreakable and sometimes associated with magical powers, Excalibur’s legacy in fantasy literature is profound. It represents the ideal of a rightful, just leader chosen by destiny.

Durandal (French Song of Roland):

Durandal, the nearly indestructible sword of the hero Roland, symbolizes unwavering heroism and loyalty. In the epic poem, Roland’s steadfastness in battle and his refusal to let the sword fall into enemy hands highlight its significance as a symbol of strength and resolve.

Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (Japanese Mythology):

One of the most popular mythological weapons is the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the sword which has connection to gods and other Great powers. Traditionally, known as one of the Three Imperial Treasures of Japan.  This sword symbolizes the divine right and appears to have otherworldly powers, making it the object of reverence.

How Fantasy Reimagines Real-World Swords

How Fantasy Reimagines Real-World Swords

Fantasy literature and media often take inspiration from historical and mythological swords.  but add a touch of the fantastical to create weapons that capture the imagination.

Embellished Designs

Swords in the fantasy genre are often depicted as having elaborate carvings, symbols, or electrical-like glow which makes them to be beautiful pieces. These decorations also serve the purpose of beautifying them but at the same time also convey the idea of enchantment and history associated with the swords. These highly detailed designs are used in order to set these blades apart from run-of-the-mill weapons and gives them a sort of magical flair

Unrealistic Sizes and Shapes

In fantasy, swords often defy the practical limitations of real-world weaponry. Exceptionally large swords, like those wielded by anime characters or depicted in video games, challenge the boundaries of what is physically possible. These oversized blades, though impractical in reality, symbolize immense strength and power. Additionally, swords with unorthodox shapes, such as serrated edges or split blades, add to the unique and fantastical nature of these weapons.

Magical Properties

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of fantasy swords is their magical properties. These enchanted weapons might be capable of dealing elemental damage, such as fire or ice, or possess abilities like healing or teleportation. The magical aspects of these swords elevate them from mere tools of combat to legendary artifacts with their own lore and significance within the story.

Examples of Fantasy Swords and their Inspirations

Examples of Fantasy Swords and their Inspirations

While not exhaustive, a few notable examples of fantasy swords can illustrate the connection between real-world inspirations and their fantastical counterparts.

Frostmourne (World of Warcraft):

Frostmourne, the cursed sword of the Lich King, combines the elements of a broadsword with magical properties. Its icy appearance and soul-stealing abilities echo the embellished designs and supernatural powers seen in fantasy weapons.

The Sword of Gryffindor (Harry Potter):

The Sword of Gryffindor is a magical sword made by goblins. It only shows up for a true Gryffindor when they really need it. This idea comes from legendary swords with special powers. The sword is linked to bravery and being used by the right person, much like the famous sword Excalibur from myths.

Conclusion of Fantasy Swords:

Fantasy swords, even though they are made up, draw much of their design and meaning from real historical and mythical swords. By using these rich traditions, fantasy writers and creators make swords that connect with people, mixing things we know with imaginative elements. Fantasy swords stay popular because they represent power, honor, and magic, making them timeless symbols in stories.

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