Weapons have long played a key in role in the fantasy genre, most commonly taking the form of swords, but everything from daggers to bows to magic rings and more have made their mark along the way. Many of these iconic tools of combat have been granted names, including those possessing no magical properties whatsoever (The Gray Mouser’s Scalpel for instance). So, for Sword and Sorcery month this year I decided to put together a list of some of these great fantasy weapons. Knowing I couldn’t do it justice on my own, I assembled a group of experts to consult on the matter. I offered up the question to the denizens of the Facebook page Swords and Capes ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/1656332547989256/?fref=ts ) where such subjects are regularly discussed. I also reached out to friends I knew possessed both a great love for and extensive knowledge of the genre.
I asked each of them to choose a favorite weapon, then briefly explain why they chose it. Listed in no specific order, here are the results:
– Stormbringer (Elric Series) – David T. Wilbanks – “Probably the most famous sword in all fantasy, Stormbringer is a black, rune-covered blade with its own intelligence, wielded by author Michael Moorcock’s antihero Elric of Melniboné. Elric was born sickly, but as his demonic blade sucks souls from its victims, it gives the albino emperor strength in exchange. He despises himself for relying on the foul weapon but it is his fate to wield it to the very end of everything.”
– White Gold Ring (Thomas Covenant) – Willie Meikle – “Favorite fantasy weapon? It has to be Thomas Covenant’s white gold ring – it has the power to reshape an entire reality. In that regard it’s much like Moorcock’s Ringstaff, but easier to carry around and with no pesky Chaos gods getting in the way. I promise not to be a whiny self-absorbed rapist if you let me play with it and I’ll even get round to doing the right thing in the end – after a short period of mayhem of course.”
– Sting (The Hobbit) and Wyrmslayer (The Iron Dragon Series) – Paul Genesse – “Sting from The Hobbit is at the top of my list. However, the weapon I’ve thought about the most and my true favorite is, Wyrmslayer, a long-handled battleaxe wielded by a Dwarven War Priest in my own Iron Dragon series. Wyrmslayer has part of the spirit of a slain Dragon King inside it. The axe wants revenge on its offspring, the new Dragon King, who betrayed him to the Dwarves.”
– Glamdring (Foehammer) – Bob Freeman “Glamdring served Gandalf the Grey for nearly a century. He used it to slay the Great Goblin and wielded it during The Battle of Five Armies. The wizard bore it in the Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul and faced Durin’s Bane at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. It was everpresent throughout the War of the Ring, a deadly companion to the great wizard during those dark and troubling times.” Read more about Glamdring here: https://diceuponatime.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/glamdring-the-foehammer/ .
– Conan’s Father’s Sword (Conan The Barbarian Movie). – Tom Doolan – “Suffer no guilt, ye who wield this in the name of Crom.” That is what is written on the blade of my favorite fantasy weapon. I speak, of course, of the sword crafted by Conan’s father during the opening credits of 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. The symbolism of the blade breaking while wielded by Rexxor is made all the more poignant by the powerful design of the this weapon.”
– Terminus Est. (Gene Wolfe “The Shadow of the Torturer” – the Book of the New Sun) – John Linwood Grant – “An ancient weapon from a master craftsman. Named, lethal and brooding. It’s not designed for combat, is too long for everyday use and it hasn’t got a piercing point. The man who wields it is not a warrior. No-one agrees what the name means, and it relies on hydrargyrum running down a central channel for its balance. And there isn’t a touch of sorcery about it. The greatest non-magical magical weapon in fantasy literature.”
– Grayswandir and The Jewel of Judgment (The Amber Series): – Shawn Michael Vogt – “I’ve been fascinated by Roger Zelazny’s Amber series since I discovered it in middle school, so my magical artifact is the silver saber, Grayswandir, also known as the Night Blade. It is carried by Prince Corwin of Amber, the main character of the first five books of the series, and has a number of useful qualities. Corwin is able to summon it to wherever he might be, across time, space, and dimension. It is particularly useful against creatures of Chaos, and against restless spirits, and has a piece of the Primal Pattern engraved on it. The second item I want to mention is also from the Amber series. It’s the Jewel of Judgement, and has almost unlimited power, and was used to create the universe out of the primal Chaos. It is an eye of the Great Serpent, ripped from its socket, now in possession of the Amberites.”
– Excalibur (Arthurian Legend) – Barry Jacobs –
“Mo ran into his friend’s yard, unruly black hair trailing behind. “Look Arthur! Lookit what I got! It’s the new lightsaber! Like in the movie! Wanna play with it?”
Arthur played with his sword. “Nuh uh. This is better.”
“Is too! My father said so! He pulled it out of a stone and it said he was the King. An’ when I grow up it’ll make me King!”
“But this lightsaber is cool. Whoo! Whoo! See?”
“That’s just a movie. Excalibur is real! Look at it shine!”
Mordred walked away. He’d have to find another way to get the sword from the future king.”
– The Heart Bow (Archer: Fugitive From The Empire Movie) – Matt Cowan – “After the Heart Bow permanently marks its chosen yielder, it draws on their life force to allow them to fire arrows that explode into a ball of eldritch magic on impact. New batches of arrows are delivered by a crow each morning. The bow’s ability to take out multiple opponents per shot at a distance is balanced by the risk of death one takes if they’re rejected as the weapon’s master.”
David T. Wilbanks:
David T. Wilbanks’ short stories have appeared in Horror Drive-In, Postscripts and other publications. Together, he and Mark Justice wrote the post-apocalyptic DEAD EARTH series. His non-fiction has appeared in Horror World, Hellnotes and The Book of Lists: Horror. David lives in Minnesota with his wife.
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, DarkFuse and Dark Renaissance, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines with recent sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra and Buzzy Mag among others. He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company. When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.
Paul Genesse is the author of The Iron Dragon series, over fifteen short stories, and is the editor of the five volume The Crimson Pact series. Find him at paulgenesse.com or friend him on Facebook.
Bob Freeman is an author, artist, and paranormal adventurer whose previous novels include Shadows Over Somerset, Keepers of the Dead, and Descendant. A lifelong student of mythology, folklore, magic, and religion, Freeman has written numerous short stories, articles, and reviews for various online and print publications and is a respected lecturer on the occult and paranormal phenomena. He lives in rural Indiana with his wife Kim and son Connor.
Mr. Freeman can be found online at occultdetective.com or twitter.com/OccultDetective
John Linwood Grant:
John Linwood Grant writes dark fiction. The only child of an eccentric lighthouse keeper, he lives with a beard and a number of lurchers. He may also have a family. He posts regularly on greydogtales.com.
Shawn Michael Vogt:
I’m 39 years old, born and live in Texas, and I’ve been an avid reader since I was a tyke. A former reviewer of genre fiction and indie comics, I’m now writing my own stories, all taking place in the same Multiverse setting.
A couple of my favorite things include puppies, kitties, and eldritch horrors from beyond the Black Gulf of the Void. Howdy!
Matt Cowan’s love for the horror genre stretches back beyond his earliest childhood memories. His primary literary influences are Ramsey Campbell, M.R. James, and Algernon Blackwood. He’s had several short stories published in various anthologies and read on podcasts.
Article by Matt Cowan