The worlds of Story contain an amazing number and variety of swords and knives and other weapons of a cutting and stabbing nature.
Most of these are generic, serviceable blades that simply do the job they are meant to do in the story, which is usually to kill someone.
But every so often one of these run of the mill swords takes on greater importance because it is the means by which a character becomes a hero.
Lost in Mirkwood, Bilbo Baggins uses the nameless “knife in a leather sheath” he took from the trollhoard to slay a giant spider. Something changes in Bilbo at that moment, and it is in fact the turning point of his story: the “poor little hobbit” is no longer merely an unhappy, reluctant participant in the dwarves’ quest. From this point on he often takes charge when difficulties arise, and makes decisions while the dwarves quarrel and wonder what to do. He is, in other words, becoming the hero of his own tale.
He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.
“I will give you a name,” he said to it, “and I shall call you Sting.”
Bilbo marks this important moment in his life by giving his knife (now referred to as a sword) a name. To give something a name is to invest it with importance, individuality, magic. The worlds of Story contain plenty of other famous swords with names. Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword, is probably the most famous of the famed, at least in the Western world. Some other legendary swords include:
Durendal, the sword of the eponymous hero of the French epic The Song of Roland.
Gram: the sword of Sigurd the Volsung, slayer of Fafnir the dragon in Norse and Germanic mythology.
The Vorpal Sword: in Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky.
Kusanagi, sometimes referred to as the Excalibur of Japan.
[to be continued]