The Symbology of Medieval Swords

The term "Medieval Sword" evokes a feeling of power. A Medieval Sword is not just your ordinary sword.

Swords have grown in their stature to represent more than just a weapon. They have taken on a variety of characteristics with deep emotional meaning and symbolic significance. Here is a look at some of the symbolism of swords.

In the Middle Ages and in particular the early Middle Ages, owning a sword was not something everyone could do. They were scarce and expensive. This rarity bestowed upon the owner a certain aura. But this alone wasn’t enough to make swords into the something more than a sword that they have become.

As the Middle Ages developed and the technology and resources to mass-produce swords came about the art of sword making changed. There were swords and then there were swords that were something more. The common soldier or guard had a sword and the noble or knight had an altogether different kind of sword -A sword of superior quality that meant all the difference in combat. It was in this distinction that swords began to take on individual meaning.


The Sword as Symbol of Power

Excalibur – This is the definining sword in the world of symbolism. It takes the concept of special sword to its pinnacle. There is truly no other sword like Excalibur because whoever wields it will rule the kingdom. The parallel between the man and the sword is easily followed – the better the sword, the better the man.

The Sword as Protector

In the Lord of the Rings there are many swords but the one most important sword is the one wielded by Frodo. It is called sting and it is just a small sword. But it has the unique characteristic of glowing whenever there are Orc’s nearby. Hobbits in the story are small creatures that cannot defend themselves well against many of the large and ferocious creatures of Middle Earth. In the story Sting takes on the role of protector.

The Sword as Story and Prophecy

This is a symbolic variation that is often seen with swords and Excalibur is a good example of this. Whoever can remove the sword from the stone shall be king. This is the prophecy of Excalibur. Often times prophecy is conveyed in either the breaking or the remaking of a sword. If a sword is broken it represents the end of a kingdom and if it is remade the kingdom will be remade.

The Sword as symbol of its wielder

This is a very common symbolic connotation that many swords have. The sword itself visually or even spiritually will often have the same characteristics, sometimes amplified and sometimes subtler, as its wielder. This concept is well shown in the evil swords that the Nazgul wield in the Lord of the Rings.

There are as many symbolic representations of swords as there are fantasy books with swords in them. Swords, in books, and movies have through symbology, taken on a life and character of their own.


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