Did You Know There Are Swords in Fantasy?

FF9 Sword Fight

So, did you know swords are common in fantasy?  I know, totally surprising.  You’d think it has something to do with most fantasy stories taking place in a pre-firearm age.  So, swords would be the most logic weapon to have in your story.  Guess it also has to do with tradition and the weapon being a trope that transcends cliché.

Funny thing is that you can even find swords in a story that takes place in our world or futuristic ones.  They might be used by a secondary character or be altered to fit the setting such as those laser slashing thingies made popular by that movie series.  Really shows that even when bullets and lasers are flying, authors just can’t resist writing a slashing or stabbing scene.  Why is that?

I think it can come down to a few reasons:

  1. Action scenes in books can be drawn out more and possess more moves when you have melee weapons.  Range weapons are all about aiming and hitting first, so they can typically be rather slow.  At least if you’re going for realism.  People also assume a bullet kills or severely cripples a person, so you can’t have the characters take multiple shots.  Not parrying either.  All of this can be done with swords and other melee weapons because it’s close range.
  2. There’s an odd flashiness that fantasy readers still find interesting when it comes to swords.  The whirling blade that they picture in their mind can really set a scene and show the full speed of the action.  Characters tend to do flourishes and acrobatics in sword fights as well.  It’s almost like a violent ballet.
  3. Scenes where a character is dying from being stabbed are fun to write in a macabre sort of way.  Since they’re close to each other, a conversation can be had as long as they can still talk.  Beheading clearly stops this.  You also get more of a tussle as the injured can scramble out of desperation and become more erratic in the fight.  This is because we expect them to be functional as long as the head is attached and the heart has not been pierced.  There’s an extension of life that goes along with the weapon.
  4. I remember reading once that people are more scared of getting stabbed than getting shot.  Part of it is that we think a bullet will hit us and we die instantly.  That or it will go through then we can get patched up.  Swords and knives have a greater sense of invasiveness for some reason.  They’re seen as a slow demise and they stay in there to cause more damage with every movement.  Another part could be that those people think of how you shouldn’t take a knife out or you’ll bleed to death, which isn’t a bullet warning.

Those are all my guesses though.  So, take them with a grain of salt.  Swords are a staple of fantasy and I’m sure they always will be.  People have written fantasy stories without swords, which is fine.  There’s no rule against that.  Yet, I’ve met many readers who feel like something is missing without one character wielding a medieval weapon at some point.  There really is something to the genre when it comes to swords, which is another reason why it’s hard to go into depth.  They’re like guns being in a Western or kissing being in a Romance.  You can skip those things if you want, but people kind of expect them to be there.

So . . . Do you like swords?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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13 Responses to Did You Know There Are Swords in Fantasy?

  1. Heck, yeah. You have to deliver the goods and this is a great way of meeting reader expectations. I have a future tale where one makes an appearance in the modern world. If it can work for Tarantino and others, why not me?

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  2. L. Marie says:

    Nicely tongue in cheek! 😁 Because I’ve read your blog over the years and have seen your knowledge of them, I avoided the use of swords in my WIP. I enjoy seeing others use them in movies and reading about them in books. But I didn’t take fencing in school (though I wanted to). Have never wielded a sword. So I confined myself to knives, because that’s more of what I was used to. And sadly, growing up in a rough neiighborhood back in the day, switchblades were in use at my school.

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  3. noelleg44 says:

    I do like swords – the now usual battles with bullets flying don’t pack the same punch as sword play, where there is some real skill involved! Here’s to swords!

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  4. I think the reason I don’t want to be stabbed is I don’t know where that knife or sword has been. Is it cleaned between uses? Is there any rust on it? Good post, Charles.

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