Swords That Do More Than Kill

The most common weapon found in works of fantasy must surely be the sword. There are people who fight with one, people who carry one just in case they need it, and even some people who simply wear one as a fashion statement. Swordsmanship is often a key skill in many fantasy worlds.

But there are swords that go beyond simple weapons. There are legendary swords, such as Excalibur. There are swords that are legendary within a particular fantasy universe, including several in Tolkien's tales of Middle-earth. Some of my favorite examples of magic swords include the following:

  • Stormbringer. The sword used by Michael Moorcock's albino antihero, Elric of Melnibone', is an example of a sentient weapon. It gives him strength and prowess and frees him from the need for life-sustaining drugs, but it must feast on the souls of humans it cleaves. And sometimes these humans are not enemies, but friends.
  • Changeling. This sword, appearing in the Morgaine stories by C. J. Cherryh, is capable of tapping the power from space-time Gates to send its victims to a place and time they would much rather not be.
  • The Sword of Helsinlae. This sword is obviously a favorite because it appears in my fantasy novel, The Ban of Irsisri. It is pretty much an ordinary sword until its wielder, Visylon, chops down an evergreen growing from the grave of the ancient king Helsinlae. The sword is thus imbued with the power of this king, power that will play a critical role in the vanquishing of the sorcerer Raethir Del.

Though not an example of a magic sword, Terminus Est is a sword used by the executioner Severian in Gene Wolfe's series of science fantasy novels, The Book of the New Sun. This sword plays such an important role in these novels that it is almost a character in its own right.