Top 5 Famous Fantasy Swords from Literature

Famous swords adorn the pages of countless fantasy works many with their roots deeply planted in history and myth. Throughout history, famous swords have taken on an impressive symbolic depth and are a mainstay in heroic tales, fictional and otherwise. The famous swords I’ve selected here are all drawn from fantasy literature, a few of them with connections to historic legend, each of them representing something potent, something enduring and imbuing their user with that same power. There are certain to be any number of awesome famous fantasy swords left off the list, so don’t forget to share your own favourites in the comments at the end.

1. Excalibur

Arthurian Legend

famous swords excaliburExcalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur and perhaps the most famous sword in popular culture and Western mythology. There are a few different legends and versions of legends connected to Excalibur, the most famous of which involves Arthur’s biological father, Uther Pendragon thrusting the sword into a stone where it stayed until it was to be removed by the one true king of England. Along comes Arthur several years later, not knowing he is Uther’s son, and plucks the sword right out of the rock. In many Arthurian tales, Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone are different weapons. Excalibur is also often interchanged with the legendary sword given to Arthur by the mysterious Lady of the Lake. Excalibur also goes by the name Caledfwlch in Welsh, as well as Caliburn in some of the earliest versions of the tale. Many Arthurian tales have the famous fantasy sword forged in the isle of Avalon, some versions including a detail of it being forged from steel from a meteorite.

2. Ice

Song of Ice and Fire

George RR Martin

fantasy swords ice

Ice is one of many important swords in George RR Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Ice, a monumental double handed greatsword forged of smoky Valyrian steel some four hundred years before the reign of Robert Baratheon, belonged to Eddard Stark and came to be a potent symbol of the Stark house. After Stark’s arrest, Ice was the sword used to decapitate him. It was then carried by Star’s executioner, Illyn Payne until Tyrion Lannister had it reforged into two longswords, Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper.

3. Sting

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

JRR Tolkien

fantasy swords sting

The Middle Earth sagas feature so many awesome famous swords, it could make for a topic unto itself. So, why does Sting here rise above magnificent weapons such as Glamdring or Narsil? Because like the hero protagonists of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Sting is small and unassuming – it’s not even a sword, but rather an Elven dagger that makes a perfect hobbit sized sword – and yet has miraculous features and packs quite the, well, sting. Without Sting, who knows what might have become of the One Ring?

4. Hrunting

Beowulf

fantasy swords hrunting

Hrunting was the famous sword wielded by the Geatish hero, Beowulf in the Anglo Saxon poem of the same name. Hrunting was gifted to Beowulf by Unferth, thane of Lord Hrothgar, as a symbol of submission to a superior warrior. Hrunting was, according to its legend, forged in blood and wouldn’t fail anyone who used it. However, when Beowulf faced Grendel’s mother in battle, Hrunting proved to be one famous fantasy sword that could not live up to its legendary reputation and was tossed aside. There’s a lot of discussion over the significance of Hrunting’s failure with a popular notion being that the poor reputation of Unferth who was unable to kill Grendel was still attached to the weapon despite its new owner. Whatever the poet’s intention, Hrunting remains one pretty impressive and important sword in one of the most important legendary tales.

5. The Vorpal Sword

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carol

fantasy swords vorpal blade

In the poem, Jabberwocky, Vorpal was the description applied to a sword used by a young boy to slay the Jabberwocky. What’s a Vorpal sword? Even Lewis Carol admitted he had no idea but we know it goes “snicker-snack”. Even so, Vorpal sword has come to be a famous sword attached to the tales of Alice and has even extended further into popular culture including various adaptations of the Alice story. It’s the sword of choice for Boy Blue in Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series, as well as the weapon used by Alice herself in Tim Burton’s film Alice in Wonderland (2010) and also features in American McGhee’s Alice video game (pictured). A Vorpal sword also appears as a particularly potent fantasy weapon in the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game.

What’s your favourite famous fantasy sword?

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Kate Krake

Kate Krake (aka Kate Murphy) is a writer with a long established passion for all realms of popular culture. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. Find out more on Kate's Blog.
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