A story is only as good as its hero—but how good can a hero be without a sword? Sure, diplomacy is probably the first thing any protagonist should try, but no one wants to get caught off guard in a fantastical battle without a weapon to back them up. And in a battlefield full of determined soldiers, some swords just stand a cut above the rest—pun intended.
Whether out of Arthurian legend or a cartoon from the 80s, imbued with corrosive bloodlust or promising truth to all who wield it, fantasy books, movies, and television are full of incredible blades. Here are six of the coolest swords from all of fantasy fiction.
The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings
While technically considered a dagger by the elves who forged it, Sting is the perfect short-sword for hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who discovers the weapon amongst a troll hoard. Originally forged by Elvish smiths in Gondolin, this blade, much like Glamdring and Orcrist, shines blue when in the presence of orcs.
Bilbo wielded this useful sword during his Quest of Erebor. Many years later, he passed the sword down to his nephew, Frodo, who would bring it along on his journey to destroy the One Ring in Mordor.
When Frodo was believed to be dead, his dear friend Samwise Gamgee took up the sword to defeat the giant spider Shelob. Following the fall of Sauron, the sword was left to Sam to become a Gamgee heirloom.
The Sword of Shannara
The Sword of Shannara
If the book is titled after the sword, the sword has to be pretty cool, right? The book The Sword of Shannara kicked off a 1977 trilogy by Terry Brooks, which took great inspiration from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
This incredible sword—forged with the Eilt Druin medallion in the hilt and embedded with the truth of Druids past—enables the wielder see the absolute truth of anything, be it an object, a person, or a magical force.
The Druid Bremen gave the sword to the Elven king Jerle Shannara, leaving the Elven people to believe only the heir of Shannara capable of wielding it. After Jerle failed to properly wield the full power of the sword during wartime, the sword was tucked away into a block of Tre-Stone and taken to the mountain fortress Paranor.
Shea Ohmsford, the final heir of Jerle Shannara, would later seek out the sword to defeat the Warlock Lord that plagued his land.
"Jabberwocky"/Dungeons & Dragons
Mention of the Vorpal Sword first popped up in Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky," which was featured in Through the Looking Glass. Very little information followed the mention of this sword, besides the fact that a young hero wields it against the titular "manxsome" foe, and that it went "snicker-snack" as it decapitated the creature.
However, the Vorpal Sword has re-emerged as a feature in other media, most notably in the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. A great weapon for any player to have, it has the special ability of decapitating an opponent when the attack roll is a 20.
In the event that the Dungeon Master considers the creature's head too big to be cut off with a sword, the blade then deals an extra 6d8 slashing damage instead.
Arthurian legend and beyond
You'd be hard-pressed to find a sword in all of history more notable than the legend of Excalibur.
The origin of how the great British leader King Arthur came into the possession of this incredible weapon varies. In some forms, like Robert de Boron's Merlin, Arthur ascended the throne by removing the sword from an anvil which appeared mysteriously on Christmas Eve—a feat which was said to be possible only if done by the "true king." Other forms of legend have Arthur being granted the magical sword from the Lady of the Lake.
Besides from identifying the man destined to be the ruler of Britain, varying legends attribute different properties to the sword. Some accounts say that, when the blade was first drawn, it shone so bright it blinded Arthur's enemies. In other stories, even the sword's scabbard is magical, making it so none of the wielder's wounds ever bleed.
Elric of Melniboné
Stormbringer was forged by the forces of Chaos—the powerful black blade is itself a member of a demon race. The sword has its own mind and will, and it feeds on the souls of those it kills. It is capable of cutting through any material not protected by strong sorcery, and even a scratch inflicted by the blade can kill any living creature, and steal their immortal spirit.
Emperor Elric of Melniboné wields this blade, though he resents it and its nature. However, he continues to use the powerful weapon, as he is helpless without it. Stormbringer is so hungry for souls it often infects Elric with an uncontrollable bloodlust.
The Sword of Omens
Though featured in a cartoon many would dismiss as a children's show, the Sword of Omens is perhaps the most powerful sword on this list. At the very least, it has the most varied abilities.
The sword is capable of changing length, ranging from a dagger when needed to a longsword if desired. The razor-like blade is nearly unbreakable, and it's capable of slicing through steel and stone without resistance. Besides shooting blasts of energy, the sword can also generate force fields, manipulate temperature, levitate, and carry out any bidding of its master.
In ThunderCats, it is Lion-O, the Lord of the ThunderCats, who wields this incredible blade. The blade itself is considered to be alive, as the hilt is set with the Eye of Thundera, which gives it its power. In fact, the Eye of Thundera is the source of all of the ThunderCats' power, and gazing upon the eye increases their abilities.