Swords were one of the biggest signs of honour and bravery, especially during the medieval period. Often, more than people, swords took the limelights in both historical and mythological legends.
These swords from both history and mythology have exquisite stories surrounding them, often shrouded in mystery.
1. King Arthur’s Excalibur
According to Arthurian legends, Excalibur is the sword that Arthur drew from a stone, which in turn, made him the legendary king. This sword is said to have special powers. On his death bed, king Arthur made Sir Bedivere throw the sword into the lake and the Lady of the Lake’s hand emerged from the waters and caught the sword. Legend says that Arthur sleeps peacefully and one day he will wake up and come back with his sword again when his country would need him.
2. Colada and Tizona
Colada and Tizona are the legendary swords of El Cid Campeador of Spain (Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain). The ruler won Tizona from its previous owner, King Yucef in Valencia, and Colada in combat from the Count of Barcelona. He presented these swords to his sons-in-law. But later, according to the heroic verses of the Cantar de Mio Cid (Castilian epic poem), when his sons-in-law beat his daughters and then abandoned them on the side of the road, El Cid asked for his gifts to be returned. Afterward, he bestowed Colada upon Martín Antolínez, one of his knights. A sword, alleged to be Colada, is preserved in the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Zulfiqar is the legendary sword of Ali ibn Abi Talib (cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad), given to him by Muhammad, according to legends. It was generally depicted as a scissor-like double bladed sword on Muslim flags. It is also commonly shown in Shi’ite depictions of Ali and in the form of jewelry functioning as talismans or as a scimitar (a short sword with a curved blade) terminating in two points. Often, quotes mentioning this sword are inscribed on Islamic swords. Also, as a reference to this legendary sword, Islamic swords are sometimes made with a split tip.
This is a legendary Japanese sword, an almost equivalent of Excalibur, and one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. It was originally called Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven) but was later changed to the more popular Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (“Grass Cutting Sword”). According to Kojiki, the God Susanoo encountered a grieving family, who lost 7 of their 8 daughters to the eight-headed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi, of Koshi and was coming to attack the last daughter. Susanoo made a plan to defeat it and in return, asked for the daughter’s hand in marriage. He instructed 8 vats of Sake (traditional Japanese wine) to be put on individual platforms positioned behind a fence with eight gates. The monster took the bait and put one of its heads through each gate. This is when Susanoo attacked and chopped off each head and then proceeded to the tails. He found a great sword out of the fourth tail and called it Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi.
5. Charlemagne’s Joyeuse
The town of Joyeuse in Ardèche is apparently named after this sword. Also, according to legends, Joyeuse was lost in a battle and found by one of Charlemagne’s knights, and to thank him, Charlemagne granted him an appanage named Joyeuse. It is also said that the blade was smithed from the same materials as Curtana.
Durandal is the sword of Charlemagne’s paladin (equivalent of Arthur’s knights) Roland. According to the Song of Roland, the sword was given to Charlemagne by an angel, and then he gave it to Roland. It is said to contain within its golden hilt, 1 tooth of Saint Peter, blood of Saint Basil, hair of Saint Denis, and a piece of the raiment of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also considered to be the sharpest of all swords.
Legbiter belonged to the Viking King Magnus III. This sword had a hilt made of a tooth (ivory) and the hand grip wound about with gold thread. When the king was killed in a battle by men of Ulster, this sword was said to be lost, and later retrieved and sent home.
This sword comes from the Persian legend Amir Arsalan. Tales claim that a hideous horned demon called Fulad-zereh was invulnerable to all weapons except this sword. Apparently, it originally belonged to King Solomon, and was carefully guarded by Fulad-zereh, not only because of its value and the fact that it could harm him, but also because wearing it was a charm against magic. A wound inflicted by this sword could only be treated by a special potion made from a number of ingredients, including Fulad-zereh’s brains!
9. Wallace’s sword
This sword claimed to have belonged to William Wallace, a Scottish knight from 13th century, who led a resistance against the English during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The sword was used at the Battle of Stirling in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. The significance of this double-edged sword lies in its colossal size, that leads experts to believe that Wallace must have been at least 7 feet tall to have properly handled this sword.
This legendary sword was unearthed in 1965 in China. Despite being buried for over 2,000 years, this sword was in as good a condition as new. On the blade near the handle, there are 8 seal characters that translate to- “The Sword belongs to the Goujian, the King of Yue State”. Goujian was a famous emperor of China who reigned during the Spring and Autumn period. Though his state was defeated by the state of Wu, Goujian led his army to victory 10 years later, allegedly, with this very sword.
11. Curtana, the Sword of Mercy
It is a ceremonial sword used during the coronation of the British monarchs. It is considered to be one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, and its end is blunt and squared, to symbolize mercy. It has been in use since 1236 and is linked with many legends.
“They say the best swords have names,” – Jaime Lannister