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The top 15 fantastic fictional swords

Ancient myth and modern stories are rife with enchanted swords that make even the most unlikely protagonist infinitely more awesome. We rank the 15 finest fighting blades in the annals of genre fiction.
15. The Ebony Blade

Wielded by the Marvel superhero Black Knight, this sword was forged from a meteorite, enchanted by Merlin, cursed by centuries of bloodshed, and can make the wielder invulnerable to anything except status as a fourth-tier Avenger.

14. Sun Sword

A blatant lightsaber rip-off redeemed only because it was the signature weapon of Thundarr the Barbarian. It can cut through anything, including metal, energy, magic, and copyright infringement.

13. Sword of Omens

Sigil weapon of the Thundercats, even though it looks like the love child of Excalibur and the Eye of Sauron. It can cut anything, deflect anything, shoot energy, and toss off the totally-not-a-Batman-riff Cat Signal to indicate the third-act battle of the current episode is ready to start.

12. Sword of Grayskull

Also known as the Sword of Power, it's the strangely trophy-handled blade that transforms Prince Adam of Eternia into He-Man, and (more importantly) the cowardly green tiger Cringer into the Frank Frazetta-esque Battlecat. Also, it's indestructible and grants its wielder access to the power and secrets of Castle Grayskull, which is nice.

11. Sword of Gryffindor

A goblin-forged magic blade wielded by whomever the Sorting Hat feels like giving it to in the Harry Potter series. It has the same powers as the third-rate Incredible Hulk villain The Absorbing Man, but can also destroy horcruxes and make Neville Longbottom seem cool. So, yeah, it's omnipotent.

10. Sword of Shannara The longsword equivalent of Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth, the Sword of Shannara forces anyone who touches it to confront the existential truth about themselves, so it's literally and figuratively a touchy-feely blade. It's also very picky about who gets to wield it and for what cause -- very much like a high-maintenance girlfriend -- therefore making it one of the most dangerous weapons ever forged. 9. Sword of Truth

A holier-than-thou blade that confers its wielder with all the skills of its previous owners, but will only let you kill people who deserve to die and, if you disobey, will morph you into a troll. So it's basically Excalibur with the mystical equivalent of YouTube comments attached. In other words, terrifying beyond comprehension.

8. Callandor

A crystal sword that can defeat any enemy except the need to endlessly overextend a book franchise, it's the ultimate weapon of the Wheel of Time series -- bizarre anti-male-chauvinism complexities included.

7. Stormbringer

A demon in sword form that corrupts its wielder, drinks the souls of its victims, and can cut through anything -- it's the perfect weapon for Michael Moorcock's proto-emo fantasy antihero Elric of Melnibone. Stormbringer is vulnerable only to uncreative RPG dungeonmasters who throw it into every lame, derivative tabletop campaign ever to disgrace a hex map.

6. Master Sword

Also known as the Sword of Evil's Bane and the Sword of Time, it's the go-to battle blade for Link from the Legend of Zelda series. It can destroy magical barriers, lift curses, cure werewolfism (seriously), fire energy blasts, solve gaping plot holes, and leap franchises to create nerd-tastic sight gags in other video games.

5. Glamdring

There is a seemingly endless array of awesome swords in the Lord of the Rings series. This is the one used by Gandalf. It has no obvious magical abilities beyond glowing blue in the presence of orcs, which is irrelevant, because it's used by frakking Gandalf!

4. The Giant's Sword Beowulf's most famous sword is Hrunting, which is said to be infallible until it comes up empty against Grendel's Mother. Beowulf tracks down the Giant's Sword for the rematch and offs the old bitty lickety-split. Succeeding where infallibility fails is a pretty compelling argument for badassery. 3. The Vorpal Sword

Technically, the vorpal sword is a meaningless weapon from the Lewis Carroll poem "Jabberwocky" -- but Carroll is also the guy who invented the term snark, so nerds have inexorably concluded a vorpal sword is simply the most cutting blade possible. From Dungeons & Dragons to Bill Willingham's Fables series to Charles Stross's Glasshouse, a vorpal sword is impossibly sharp and ultimately awesome. Snicker-snack that.

2. Kusanagi The Japanese equivalent of Excalibur, with the added bonus that the Kusanagi might actually exist. Known alternately as the Grasscutting Blade and The Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven, the Kusanagi was ostensibly forged in the belly of a giant eight-headed serpent and confers its wielder with the ability to control the wind and cut even the most sturdy (monster hide) or supple (burning grass) materials. Pretty much every awesome fictional oriental blade was inspired by Kusanagi, including the Green Destiny, Usagi Yojimbo's Grasscutter, and at least half the magic swords in the Final Fantasy game franchise. No matter what sword you have, this sword is cooler, if not outright better. Suck on that, Hattori Hanzo. 1. Excalibur

The sword against which all other mystical blades are measured. While it's unclear whether it came embedded in stone or emerged from a lake, what's certain is that Excalibur makes its wielder invincible, blinds one's enemies, heals mortal wounds, confers dominion over all of Britain, and ensures its owner is portrayed by the coolest available leading man who can do a passable English accent. It's one weakness? Anarcho-syndicalist communes, which may still be a mark in its favor.

Think we missed a sword, or simply feel your favorite warblade was mis-ranked in our rundown? Cut the chase in our comments section.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

23 comments
SktrJksn
SktrJksn

"Woman's Need calls me; As Woman's Need made me; Her Need I must answer; As my maker bade me." Need is a sword forged by a Mage-Smith many years before the war between Urtho and Ma'ar. The smith who forged her, Lashan, a mage-smith, bound her soul into it after raiders attacked her community, which is implied to have been an all-female community of devotees to an unspecified Goddess. Due partly to this, Need's wielder always had a geas: to defend women in need of protection, hence the inscription on the sword's hilt. She survived the Cataclysm in a sealed casket in a consecrated temple of two unknown twin gods. The Cataclysm, however, necessitated that her spirit sleep within the sword, which vastly reduced the discretion allotted to the wielder as far as the inborn geas was concerned. Need was an enchanted sword that conferred varying benefits upon her wielder. If her wielder was a swordswoman, Need rendered her virtually immune to magic, as best demonstrated on the rare occasions Kethry's partner, Tarma, took Need up. If, however, Need's wielder were a mage, Need would magically grant enhanced sword-skill to the wielder, enabling her to hold off multiple competent swordsmen. In the rare instance that Need's current wielder was neither a mage or a swordswoman, Need would confer both abilities to her, as demonstrated on the occasion of Kerowyn's Ride, before Kerowyn had gained any skill in swordplay. Tarma informed Kerowyn that, once Kerowyn gained any level of competence in swordplay, Need would no longer aid her in that area; during the Ride, Kerowyn noticed that Need would only provide magical aid if her own innate abilities were not up to the task at hand (ex.: highlighting tracks, and then stopping once Kerowyn had noticed them). Need was also a mage of considerable abilities. While not considered an adept her magics are so old and forgotten she is nearly on par with an adept. The two wizards who caused the cataclysm Urtho the mage of silence and Ma'ar were able to create sentient life with their magics. Need's magic far predates theirs.

christine.lawrie
christine.lawrie

Where is Dyrnwyn, from the Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander??

rws0205
rws0205

Freshly revealed sword in "goblins" comic strip. Powers unknown at present, except to DM/artist. In defense it is equivalent to an unmovable rod. Offensive - to be announced real soon. Technically it doesn't exist, therefore it can't be moved or harmed except by user. Seems to depend on a low Int. score by wielder.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

A whole trilogy (consisting of 4 books - don't ask) about 3 swords? And by Tad Williams, no less? It's a must for this list.

codepoke
codepoke

Your backstories and out-of-world observations are fabulous.

JO23456
JO23456

Glamdring's gotta be bundled together with Orcrist and Sting! 3 for 1.

atgheb
atgheb

Where is Samurai Jack's sword? It's the only sword that can kill the greatest evil in the world?

dlutzy
dlutzy

From Rodger Zelazny's Amber universe. Corwin's sword is inscribed with the Pattern that creates Reality.

rrambaud
rrambaud

I posted 3 hours ago but it has yet to show up. This abbreviated version below may be a double post but this is IMPORTANT, DANG IT! :-) In 50 years reading F&SF, the best sword origin story that I've ever read - including the most evocative description of the process as well as the coolest end product - was that of Brisingr. I've returned to that chapter a number of times just to bask in the glow of the hot brightsteel...

Duo Kain
Duo Kain

I see no mention of the Sword of a Thousand Truths! Courtesy of WoW & South Park.

DBinNC
DBinNC

...the "Blade that was broken" and "the flame of the west"? Narsil and And??ril respectively.

mckinnej
mckinnej

has a sibling, Mournblade. It's been a long time since I read the book(s), but I believe they had the same powers. Mournblade disappeared after Elric defeated its bearer who also happened to have usurped Elric's throne. The guy was also his brother-in-law or cousin or some such relative. I could search it all, but why....? :)

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

"Changeling" from "The Chronicles of Morgaine" by C. J. Cherryh.

metaphysician
metaphysician

Wizardry was an Apple II game series. It was one of the first, if not The First, serious dungeorn crawl games that was graphics-based. In the original one, Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, when you got down to around the 8th (out of 9) dungeon level, you could get a Blade Cuisinart. It wasn't a god-killer sword (the game balance stayed pretty good) but it was definitely the sword to get. And, with a name like Blade Cuisinart, what more can I say?

GSG
GSG

I always thought Sting was the best. How often do you find a hobbit-sized sword taken from trolls that turned to stone and that glows when Orcs are around? After all, the best way to win a fight is to avoid it altogether, especially when you're one little hobbit facing a horde of orcs.

nosferat67
nosferat67

He had 12 fantastic swords. Anyone of which could have trumped the cartoon ones listed.

richard.moore4
richard.moore4

To be fair, Excalibur didn't make its bearer immortal or heal their wounds. Its sheath did that.

spayne
spayne

What about Longclaw, Ice or Needle from The Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) by George R R Martin??

sscroggins
sscroggins

I was about to basically say the same thing. You want some bad-a swords, that's the place to look. With rhymes, even.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

...but the Top 15 Fantastic Fictional Scabbards is a much less interesting (or possible) column.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

...but none with much in the way of explicit magical properties.