September 5, 2011

Arming Your Hero - Part 2

Every great hero of fantasy fiction needs to be well armed, right? And, if you're writing fantasy fiction, the most popular weapon of choice is a sword.
But of course, 'sword' is a very broad and rather vague word, and every great character needs a weapon that compliments their own personality and style. (Would Aragorn be half so Aragorn-ish if he carried a rapier rather than Narsil? What would Peter Pevensie be without the sword given to him by Father Christmas?)
There are many different kinds of swords out there, though. So with that in mind, I've put together a list--a showcase, if you will--of the basic styles of swords, to help you fantasy writers out there figure out just exactly what it is your hero (or any other armed character) is carrying. Enjoy!
This is a broadsword--your most basic, straightforward sword design. It can come in variations of one-hand, hand-and-a-half, and two-hand design, and the hilt and crosstree can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, so there is a lot of flexibility to work with here.

This is a scimitar. It was the weapon-of-choice for the Turks during the crusades, and probably due to that fact, it often brings to mind images of sheiks and desert nomads (or the Calormen army running around and harassing Narnia).

Here is a rapier. The picture probably has you thinking of The Three Musketeers or A Tale of Two Cities, and rightfully so. The rapier was used historically in private duels, but played its role in warfare as well. It also made a classic appearance in fantasy fiction in The Princess Bride.

These are butterfly swords--one of my favorite weapons. I love them for their totally distinctive look, but one of the coolest facts about them is that they belong in sets of two; the inside of the grips are flat so that the swords 'nest' together in a single scabbard (talk about a recipe for trailer moments!).

This is a cutlass, a favorite of eighteenth-century pirates and Civil War cavalrymen alike. But I think the cutlass has a lot to offer in a fantasy setting as well. It has a sort of 'gritty' look to it, I think, but you could also dress it up and stylize it--give it more of a saber look--for use in more formal settings.

I hope y'all enjoyed this post, but even more so, I hope it will be helpful to you as you're building and developing your fantasy worlds and the armies and fighters who inhabit them. There's more to come; in Arming Your Hero Part 2 I'll be showcasing smaller knives used in hand-to-hand combat.
In the meantime: What's your favorite type of sword? What kind do the characters in your fantasy stories use?


  1. I really like these posts. My favourite sword is the rapier and I have dreams of becoming a fencer in the Olympics. I love it when books have sword fights in them.

  2. @ Galadriel: I like the butterfly swords too!
    @ need2read: I'm glad you're enjoying these posts; I'm having a lot of fun with them myself! : ) BTW - becoming an Olympic fencer would be awesome! And I love a good swordfight too.

  3. My favorites are broadswords and rapiers. I think I like rapiers so much because: 1, Errol Flynn uses one in The Seahawk (epic movie, if dated), and 2, They just look like graceful, awesome fighting swords. I'm looking forward to the next posts on this. Although, won't the next one be part 3, not 2?

  4. The butterfly swords are pretty awesome--but my favorite is still a good, plain ol' broadsword. ;)

  5. LOL - Yes, Laura, my mistake. Next one will be Part 3. : P

  6. I'm so excited about knives and hand-to-hand; that's what I really need. What do you know about different kinds of bows?

  7. *Grins* Bows are coming up in Part 4, Lostariel.

  8. Sorry but i noticed that some swords aren't here such as the Katana and gladious as examples


What are your thoughts on this post? I'd love to hear your comments, questions, or ideas, even if you don't agree with me. Please be aware that I reserve the right to delete comments that are uncivil or vulgar, however.