Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sword As A Metaphor

It's been a while since we talked about myth.  Let's take a look at the idea of the sword as a metaphor.

Since swords play such a prominent role in ancient literature, poetry, and fantasy, it seems fitting that we take a moment to examine this symbol.  A sword could easily be construed as a phallic symbol.  It is long and straight and directly related to its wielder's sense of power.

Young Arthur couldn't fully ascend to his position as a leader until he had become master of the blade, Excalibur.  When he is mortally wounded and can no longer wield the sword, he orders it to be thrown into the lake.

In Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings", Aragorn is the rightful king, but his sword is broken.  Narsil was the sword of his fathers, but remains broken after being shattered in battle.  It is only when the elves reforge Narsil into Anduril that he accepts his role as leader.  His sword is whole again.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is a small town boy yearning for adventure.  When his guide (Obi Wan Kenobi) gives Luke his father's sword (albeit a laser sword), he learns to wield it and becomes a man.  Later, he uses his sword against his father, who chops off his sword bearing hand.

The sword as a phallic metaphor seems seems fairly obvious.  The danger is that of interpreting ancient symbols through a modern lens.  Perhaps a sword could more rightly be seen as the martial version of king's sceptor, a symbol of power, held by a ruler.  In this case, it is a warrior-king who holds the staff of the ruler. 
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