Tough Traveling: Named, Famous, or Sentient Weapons
The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan ofReview Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.
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.
Today’s Tough Traveling is a little different as we’re straying a bit from the themes in the book. My thanks to Nathan for picking one of my ideas for this week! I hope folks will have a fun time with this one, and won’t find it too challenging. After all, to quote a famous bastard, “All the best swords have names, you know.”
Dragon’s Child by M.K. Hume
EXCALIBUR!!! Because the featured weapon can be either a) Named, b) Famous, or c) Sentient, there are a lot of contenders to choose from. The challenge for me was to narrow it down but also get some variety at the same time, but I could not pass up this legendary sword. It’s hard to get more famous than Excalibur. I’ve read quite a few Arthurian fantasies, but I decided to use the first of M.K. Hume’s King Arthur Trilogy, which tells the story of the myth using a more historical eye.
Bloodsounder’s Arc by Jeff Salyards
Like Salyards said in an interview, medieval flails are just damn cool. While a lot of weapons in fantasy are either holy or magical, “Bloodsounder” is actually the name of the cursed and unholy flail that Captain Killcoin wields in this series, A flail can also be as dangerous to the user as to the opponent, which is quite appropriate given the nature of the curse.
Damoren by Seth Skorkowsky
Knights in a secret society called the Valducans wield sentient weapons in the world of this book. No one knows how these holy weapons came to be, the love a wielder feels for his or her weapon can become a deep bond, one that is even more powerful than any attachment to another human being. Even though the weapons are unmoving and unspeaking, the wielder is aware that their weapons are alive and speaking to their souls. In case you’re wondering, in this book Dämoren is a wicked cool gunblade — a magical revolver with a bayonet attached.
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
You gotta love Devi Morris, the protagonist of this series. She’s kick ass, in-your-face, loves herself some good action, and names her guns as well as her plasma blade. Sasha, Mia and Phoebe make plenty of appearances as Devi takes the fight to pirates, mercenaries and aliens in this rollicking space adventure. Devi loves her weapons like they’re her children, and same goes for her suit of combat armor which she’s dubbed the Lady Gray.
The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes
The Palace Job features a magical sentient warhammer that also talks! So um, when was the last time you read a heist book in which one of the crew is a talking weapon? Wielded by a death priestess, the warhammer also reveals later on in the story that he used to be a king, which explains some things about his nature.
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
It never occurred to me before, but named and magical weapons are actually pretty common in urban fantasy too. Slayer is Kate Daniels’ saber which kills undead by releasing secretions that liquefy their flesh before absorbing it as food. We find out that Slayer has to be fed at least once a month or the weapon will become brittle and break. When no undead are on hand, Kate makes a mixture by grinding flour, metal shavings, shells, bonemeal and chalk into a fine dust before adding water and immersing the blade into the mush.
Even though we’ve ventured off the beaten path a bit with Mogsy’s recommendation, good old Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit still lay claim to the road with numerous named weapons. Many of them are swords, but the most famous include Orcrist, the goblin-cleaver, wielded by Thorin Oakenshield, and Glamdring, its mate, which was acquired by Gandalf. Not quite as creative with the names, the orcs just knew them as Beater and Biter. Meanwhile, Bilbo Baggins names his elvish dagger, Sting. And we can’t forget Andúril, reforged from the shards of Narsil, the “blade that was broken,” thus signifying the return of the king.
There are so many books about King Arthur and his famous sword that it would be easy for us to populate this entire list with them–but one each is more than enough, especially when the third book in Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles is actually called EXCALIBUR.
The King Arthur influence is heavy in Roger Zelazny’s Great Book of Amber, from a son named Merlin to a best friend named Lancelot. But Prince Corwin’s sword isn’t named Excalibur. Corwin prefers his sword to go by the name Grayswandir.
Once wielded by the infamous Knights Radiant, Shardblades are the weapons of the Shardbearers, usually won in battle by defeating another Shardbearer.
But as Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives takes us deeper into this mysterious world, we learn that, while the elaborate blades may not have names, their connection to certain other magical creatures is more than just coincidence.
Fabled, named, and sentient, the Arameri’s weapons have got it covered. The Arameri rule The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms because they happen to have the gods themselves bound to their commands. As far as weapons of mass destruction go, threatening to unleash Nahadoth, the god of chaos, is enough to end any war quickly. For a price.
“The Nightlord cannot be controlled, child. He can only be unleashed.”
Stjepan Black-Heart and his little posse are off to find a treasure: the fabled sword of a long dead king, buried in Mark Smylie’s The Barrow. But the road to bad intentions is always paved with, well, more bad intentions, and the sword might not be worth the cost.
I got bored pretty quickly when I read this years ago, but I figure if it’s called The Sword of Shannara, that sword must be pretty special right? According to the blurb, it would seem so, what with Shea being the last of the Shannara bloodline and the only one capable of wielding the sword that will, um, do important stuff…
Lessons learned from World After: When an archangel loses his sentient sword and it decides to claim you instead, you should think long and hard about what you will call that sword, especially if it is meant to command the respect of the swords of all the other angels. So, you know, don’t name it something like “Pookie Bear.”
Rytlock Brimstone refuses to speak of where he got his flaming sword, but Logan Thackery is pretty sure he looted Sohothin from the ruins of Ascalon in The Guilds Wars 2 book, Edge of Destiny. Legend has it that, if ever Sohothin and its sister sword, Magdaer, are returned whole to Ascalon, then the ghosts that guard the region will finally be laid to rest.
In Terry Brook’s Wizard’s First Rule and the subsequent TV show, Legend of the Seeker, Richard Cipher is the Seeker of Truth whose sword has been guarded by the wizard Zed, until Richard was ready to start seeking them truths.
“The Sword of Truth‘s power comes from the righteous anger of its wielder, and glows red when this anger turns to rage. “
As Mogsy pointed out, all the best swords have names. The really good ones are made of Valyrian steel, including Ice, which was used to chop off its wielder’s head. It was later reforged by Tywin Lannister, who gave it to his one-handed son, who in turn, gave it to Brienne of Tarth. She now wields it as Oathkeeper. But whether the swords of Westeros are resting in scabbards, forged into uncomfortable thrones, or drawing blood on the battlefield, they all adhere to the same first lesson: