14 Famous Fantasy Swords

By Jason F.C. Clarke in Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 8:05 am
Perhaps no weapon in human history has been as venerated as the sword. It is so simple in design, yet incredibly effective. It's a rich source of symbolism. Swords are found in nearly every culture, and play a major part in countless myths, legends, and folklore. Given the strong mythological roots of much fantasy fiction, it's not surprising that there are many famous swords in nearly every make-believe world. They're found in books, movies, comics, television shows and videogames.

For the purposes of this list we're going to stick to swords from modern fantasy fiction (i.e., the last couple hundred years) and skip "real-world" legendary ones such as Excalibur and Kusanagi. We're also skipping things without metal blades, so try not to freak out that lightsabers aren't on the list (and we'll see how many people failed to read yet another intro). That said, here are 14 of the most famous fantasy swords.

14) Sting, The Hobbit
While technically an Elvish long knife, to a hobbit like Bilbo it was a sword. He christened it "Sting" after using it to great effect on a group of spiders during his adventures, and later gifted it to his nephew Frodo. As an Elvish weapon, it glowed whenever orcs were near. Its most famous victim by far was Shelob, the giant spider who impaled herself upon the blade while trying to crush Samwise Gamgee in the most grotesque sexual metaphor imaginable. Sting's "origin" will no doubt be depicted in Peter Jackson's upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit.

13) Soul Edge/Soul Calibur
A thorough explanation of the convoluted history of Soul Edge and Soul Calibur, the twin blades of tNamco's weapon-based fighting game franchise, would require a PowerPoint presentation complete with timelines and flow charts. Soul Edge is evil, and Soul Calibur is kind of good, and sometimes they're bonded together to make a super-sword called Soul Embrace... look, suffice to say, they're a major part of the storyline for the Soul Edge and Soulcalibur videogames and appear in most of the games' iconography, though their design is often vastly different from game to game.

12) The Atlantean Sword, Conan the Barbarian
The "Atlantean Sword" (as it's referred to on the film's soundtrack) from Conan the Barbarian is one of the most iconic weapons in fantasy cinema (next to the sword-that-shoots-swords, of course). It was designed by Ron Cobb, who also contributed designs to Star Wars, Alien/Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Total Recall. The sword was not only Conan's signature weapon in the first film and its forgettable sequel, Conan the Destroyer, but the Governator himself kept the prop sword -- which was actually a usable weapon -- in his office.

11) Buster Sword, Final Fantasy VII
Probably the most famous weapon of the Final Fantasy franchise, the Buster Sword was wielded by the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud Strife. Though it's quickly superseded in the game by better swords, its use in all the cutscenes and marketing art, combined with its uniquely minimalist appearance -- it's basically a massive kitchen knife -- made it memorable. Ridiculous? Yes. Iconic? Definitely. It generally appears whenever Cloud Strife does, including all his FF side story appearances and in Kingdom Hearts.

10) The Sword of Shannara
Whether you like Terry Brooks's Sword of Shannara or believe it's a word-for-word ripoff of Lord of the Rings, its titular talisman is still one of the most famous swords in modern fantasy. Though roughly analogous to the One Ring in the novel, the Sword is actually a tool of good, not evil, and its power is to force those it touches to confront the truth about their lives.

9) Frostmourne, World of Warcraft
While some might argue Frostmourne is a copy of the #1 sword on this list, it's still the best-known weapon from World of Warcraft and plays a central role in the Warcraft storyline. It was carried by Prince Arthas Menethil, one of the central WoW characters, who used it to kill his own father before the dark spirit inside it transformed him into the Lich King.

8) The Sword of Truth
The Sword of Truth is the eponymous weapon of the popular fantasy series by author Terry Goodkind. Wielded by the series' protagonist, a "Seeker" named Richard Cypher, the sword can cut through almost anything that is perceived by the Seeker as an enemy, and can deflect magical attacks.
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