Michaeline and I both found ourselves captivated by the same snippet of news this weekend: the story of Saga, an eight year-old Swedish girl who found an authentic 1,500 year-old sword while playing by a lake.
Click here to read Michaeline’s post, which includes links to news articles as well as one of the best Monty Python sketches ever. Micki also points out that last summer a seven year-old girl found a sword in an English lake associated with Excalibur, King Arthur’s legendary blade. Are you seeing a pattern yet? Micki is, and she’s developed a Theory. Check out her post to find out more 🙂 .
My response is simpler than Michaeline’s. I just love, love, love the Girl With Sword trope (must add it to my Id List), and judging by the number of GWS Fantasy and Urban Fantasy book covers currently gracing the Zon, I am not alone. I added a few examples to this post, so those of you who don’t read fantasy can see what I mean.
I hadn’t really thought about it until this weekend, but swords are special, right?
These images are about more than seeing a strong, powerful heroine defend her community or embrace her destiny. I don’t think I’d respond the same way to Girl With Crossbow or Tomahawk, and I’m really not keen on Girl With Gun.
I think there are three main reasons I’m all over Girl With Sword:
1. Swords have the weight of history behind them. According to Wikipedia, renowned swords appear in the folklore of every nation that used swords. The Vikings, Maori, Samurai; Parsifal, Charlemagne, Beowulf, Arthur… Give your heroine a sword, especially one with a name, and you’re placing her in the pantheon of legends.
2. Swords have character. In the days before blast furnaces, metallurgy and accurate temperature measurement, great swords were made by master artisans who kept their techniques and processes deathly secret. A great blade could be months in the making, and one slight misjudgement of temperature could ruin the weapon. Swordsmithing was so intensely personal that many cultures believed the smith gave part of his soul to the blade. Check out this 2017 BBC video of Samurai sword makers at work in Kyushu.
3. Swords signal a moral code: bravery, honor, chivalry, legitimacy, a just cause. Of course the bad guys have swords too, but a character with a legendary sword is generally heroic. You expect them to have right on their side and maybe a god or two as they reclaim their birthright, save the day and take down the bad guys.
Where do you stand on Girl With Sword?
Even if fantasy isn’t your thing, what do these book covers suggest to you?