Created By: MartelloMarch 11, 2012 Last Edited By: lu127July 16, 2012
Troped

Swords Are Heroic

The sword is used to show the wielder as heroic and a leader.

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Trope
This is part of the Heroes Prefer Swords clean-up and split effort. Please see the relevant Trope Repair Shop thread here

Want to know who is The Hero and The Leader of a group? Look for the guy with the sword!

The sword is a sign of the mighty warriors and nobles. It's a central part of codes of honor like chivalry and bushido, symbolizing nobility, leadership, justice, and power. In a group of fighters, the one wielding the sword will be the leader, with his subordinates wielding wielding axes, spears, bows -- all weapons more associated with the commoners.

This trope can take two main forms:
  • The leader or hero of the group carries a sword, while other characters carry other weapons.
  • A character receives a sword as a symbol of their status as hero, similar to a Knighting ceremony. Inversely, losing their sword signifies the loss of that status, similar to a Sword-breaking ceremony.

In European settings, it will usually be longsword. Larger two-handed swords, smaller daggers and short-swords, and curved swords like scimitars will be given to other characters. In Japan, it will be a Katana. An especially heroic sword will likely be a named weapon.

Sometimes The Lancer will be armed with a different weapon to differentiate him from The Hero, or just a more unusual type of sword. The Big Bad and The Dragon are nearly as likely to use swords as The Hero, but will also sometimes use more "evil-looking" weapons such as morning stars, battle-axes, or maces, especially with spikes.

Compare Weapon Of Choice.

Examples:

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]

  • Itto Ohgami of Lone Wolf And Cub primarily uses a dotanuki sword, a heavier, shorter version of the katana. His opponents are often armed with a wide variety of more unusual Japanese weapons.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]

  • In the Biopic Lafayette about the US Revolutionary War general of the same name, he rallies his troops (who, due to supply shortages, are only given six bullets per soldier) with the following short speech:
    You only have six cartridges, but I have only my sword! Follow me!
  • Star Wars: Luke Skywalker receives a sword when he is about to leave his life on Tatooine to become a hero.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]

  • Conan almost always uses a sword, although never the same one since they tend to break on him or get lost.
  • Not surprisingly, given the setting, this comes up in the Deryni works:
    • While the heroic characters can and do use other weapons (Morgan's stiletto is practically an extension of his arm, and he, Kelson, and Dhugal are among those shown shooting bows), the heroic characters are shown to use swords often. Even Duncan McLain keeps in practice, despite having taken holy orders.
    • In the short story "Trial", Morgan uses his powers to find the real culprits in a rape/murder case, freeing a foreign swordsmith who was falsely accused of the crime. In gratitude, the smith offers to make Morgan a custom sword and asks to join his service.
  • Used several times in Heirs Of Alexandria, in various ways, even though gunpowder weapons are starting to dominate the battlefields.
    • When Benito and Marco gets introduced into the Venetian upper circles, they have to wear swords and are trained with them. However, they never use them in anger.
    • Duke Dell'Este signals his alliance with House Dorma of Venice by sending one of his honour-blades to Petro Dorma.
    • Justified in the case of the Knights of the Holy Trinity, since cold steel is effective against supernatural forces, and swords can be used as a cross in a pinch.
  • Lampshaded and deconstructed in The Last Hero, when Carrot faces down Cohen the Barbarian and the Silver Horde. "One simple sword in the hands of a truly brave man would cut through a magical sword like suet."
  • In The Lord Of The Rings, Aragorn goes from being a ranger among others and someone fighting a losing fight to the man who will be King of Gondor and a member of the party that will win the war. This transfer coincides with the re-forging of Narsil and he claiming it as Anduril.
  • In the Percy Jackson And The Olympians novel(la) series, the titular character Percy Jackson is unskilled at nearly everything, minus sword-play and canoeing.
  • Nearly all of the important, heroic characters in A Song Of Ice And Fire use swords, and many of them are named. Axes, maces and polearms are generally relegated to Mooks and characters who don't fit the heroic mold. Tyrion uses an axe, as do many of his highland bandit henchmen.
  • Deconstructed in Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. The nobles of the city take lessons in swordsmanship and carry swords, but they are never expected to use them themselves. Instead they hire professional swordsmen to fight duels and entertain for them. These swordsmen are usually common-born, and treated like disposable celebrities.
  • In The Wheel Of Time, Rand al'Thor is most proficient with a bow, but he receives a sword he is leaves home for the quest. He is accompanied by two friends and followers: Mat Cauthon uses a bow and a staff, while Perrin Aybara uses an axe.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]

  • ''Buffy The Vampire Slayer: In season two, Buffy's given a sword blessed by the virtuous knight who first slayed the demon Acathla. She has to use it to stop him from awakening a second time.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Mythology]]

  • King Arthur received a sword twice. When he pulled the sword from the stone he proved he was the King, and then he received Excalibur after his first sword was broken.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]

  • The Final Fantasy series uses this trope a lot. Many times, it overlaps with Anachronistic Weapon User.
    • Final Fantasy IV: Cecil, as captain of the Red Wings, uses swords, which don't exactly seem suited for aerial combat. Interestingly, after his job switches to Paladin, he can equip a larger array of weapons.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Despite how technologically advanced and futuristic the setting is, the heroic characters always prefer a sword. A specific sword, in fact.
      • In the original game, Cloud can only equip swords, while his initial weapon, the Buster Sword, is a Tragic Keepsake from his deceased friend, Zack.
      • Crisis Core has Zack starting the game with a sword, which seems the preferred weapon of 1st class SOLDIER members. His dream is to become a hero. At some point, he inherits the Buster Sword from his mentor, Angeal. In this context, the Buster Sword seems to symbolise dreams and honour passed down from one man to the next.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Squall's gunblade is the combination of a gun and a sword, a weapon only usable by the elite SEED members. Along with his perpetual lion motif, it symbolizes his status as a heroic and proud figure.
  • In the Zelda series, Link, the chosen hero, always uses a sword as his main weapon. The Master Sword is the weapon fated to be wielded by the hero. In some games it's the only weapon capable of destroying evil.
  • The Star Ocean series alludes to this in every game, often overlapping with Anachronistic Weapon User.
    • Star Ocean First Departure has our medieval hero Roddik use swords, even though he comes from an isolated small village.
    • Star Ocean The Second Story plays with this. Rena believes in the prophecy of a hero holding a sword of light. When Claude uses his Phase Gun to vanquish a monster that attacks her, she takes it to be the prophesied sword. After his gun is broken, Claude is forced to equip swords, as he's stuck on an underveloped planet. The rest of the journey has him overcoming his father's shadow and becoming a real hero.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
  • In the Revolutionary War drama Horn In The West, Dr. Geoffrey Stuart (the protagonist) carries a sword at the end when he leads the American settlers against the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain. He is the only one carrying a sword; all the others have guns or clubs.

[[folder:Real Life]]

  • Parade dresses of officers and the regalia of royalty often include swords. Sword-breaking ceremonies, when an officer is stripped of their rank, also draw on this trope.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • March 11, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Is this related to the Heroes Prefer Swords cleanup? If so, please note that up front (separate from the draft text).
  • March 11, 2012
    Martello
    Good call, thanks. Done.
  • March 11, 2012
    Chabal2
    Inverted in Fire Emblem, when one of the knights says he'd rather use a lance than a sword (against axemen) as it looks more knightlike.
  • March 12, 2012
    ccoa
    I'd move the meat of the trope to the top, the bit about them not being as common as portrayed further down (and maybe move some to Analysis), and make it a little less focused on medieval settings.

    ^ However, this is played straight for the most part in this series, in which most of the Lords use swords, fitting their role as The Hero. One exception is Hector, from The Blazing Sword, who uses axes and is portrayed less heroic than his co-star, Eliwood, although Hector does gain the use of swords after promotion. The other exception is Ephraim from The Sacred Stones, who uses a spear.
  • May 9, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Bumpity. Still needs imput to get it done.
  • May 9, 2012
    Koveras
    Uh... what exactly is the difference between this and Heroes Prefer Swords, again? Heroes Prefer Swords means "if hero, then swordsman" and this, "if hero, then swordsman, no matter how out of place swords are in the setting"?
  • May 9, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    Let's change the title of the trope. Make it have to do with the concept of Commonplace Swords when as you say, they're strictly for nobility.

    Oracle Of Tao: Nevras uses a sword as his main weapon, but he's not the hero, Ambrosia is. She can use it too, but she doesn't specialize in swords (or any weapon, really). To Nevras's credit, he's an actual prince.
  • June 22, 2012
    DarkPrince
    Every Final Fantasy has some of its main heroes (with the exception of Zidane in Final Fantasy 9, since he uses daggers) using swords even in postmodern/postapocalyptic settings.
  • June 22, 2012
    lu127
    Hey guys.

    TRS has gotten a little confusing about this, but we are pretty much splitting Heroes Prefer Swords. This YKTTW will be "If sword, then hero, because the sword has heroic connotations" while we also have this YKTTW for anachronistic weapons. The two may overlap, but are not necessarily the same.

    We may keep Heroes Prefer Swords as the name for this.

    Hope that helps a bit.
  • June 28, 2012
    kjnoren
    I like the name, but the trope description is rambling and misses the point.

    How about:


    Want to know who is The Hero and leader of a group? Look for the guy with the sword!

    In many cultures, swords were the domains of the mighty warriors and nobles -- no-one else could afford them or have the time to gain proficiency with them. Thus the sword has become the symbol of codes of honour like chivalry or bushido, and with values like nobility, leadership, justice, and power. The character wielding the sword is shown as the leader of the persons wielding axes, spears, or bows -- all weapons more associated with the commoners.

    This trope is evoked in real life. Parade dresses of officers and the regalia of royalty often include swords. Sword-breaking ceremonies, when an officer is stripped of their rank, also draw on this trope.

    Subtrope of Weapon Of Choice. If used in modern or futuristic settings, this becomes an example of an Anachronistic Weapon User.

    While Star Wars gives a very good example of this trope, I don't think we should use that as the trope image, since that'd open up for confusion with Anachronistic Weapon User (which sometimes overlap with or draw from this trope). The Fellowship of the Ring doesn't really work, since most of the characters use swords.
  • June 28, 2012
    jkbeta
    Shouldn't this mention Good Weapons Evil Weapons? (Straight-edged) Swords are generally seen as good weapons, thus befitting a hero.
  • June 28, 2012
    lu127
    ^^ That's actually good. I admit I didn't start this one so I had to chainsaw some trivia. As for the image, we may borrow the one on Heroes Prefer Swords.

    ^ That's a redlink for me.
  • June 28, 2012
    troacctid
    Yeah, I strongly prefer Heroes Prefer Swords as the title here.
  • June 28, 2012
    abk0100
    Looks like the laconic applies more to the old description. Shouldn't it be something more like "Swords are the weapon of choice for protagonists and other heroic characters" or "swords are used to signify heroism"
  • June 28, 2012
    kjnoren
    ^^ Please switch around the last paragraph of the description too. This trope only becomes Anachronistic Weapon User in some settings, and Katanas Are Just Better is a trope about katanas in relation to other swords -- the symbology of them is essentially the same.

    The present image from Heroes Prefer Swords is AWFUL. There is nothing heroic about it, and nothing about what this trope is about. It's just a bunch of dudes looking like idiots.

    ^ No, I think Heroes Prefer Swords obscures the relationship between swords and heroes. This isn't a trope about heroes, this is a trope about swords and their symbology. There are plenty of heroes who uses other weapons than swords, but in groups where several characters use different weapons, the primary hero or leader is the one most likely to use a sword.

    Eg, the important role about regalia or sword-breaking ceremonies become pretty much nonsensical with Heroes Prefer Swords. The sword serves symbol and sign of heroism and worth.
  • June 28, 2012
    kjnoren
    To continue, I think my naming preference becomes most clear by inverting the tropes:

    Inverting Heroes Prefer Swords is just a hero that uses something else than a sword. To me, that makes it come close to People Sit on Chairs. You have to include lots of stuff why it is that Heroes Prefer Swords, and that adds confusion (as shown in the current trope).

    Swords Are Heroic gives a clear answer to that question. The inverse of the trope becomes a character who has a sword but isn't heroic. Ie, now the trope says something about the characters who uses it.

    Heroes Prefer Swords is about a list. Swords Are Heroic is about drama. Both are tropes, but one is to me much more interesting than the other.
  • June 28, 2012
    kjnoren
    Another thing for the description:

    This trope can take two main forms. One is when the leader or primary hero of the group carries a sword, while most of the other characters in the group carries other weapons. The other one is when a character receives a sword, as a signifier that they are now a hero. In short, this is similar to a Knighting ceremony.

    Also, it maybe should be mentioned that the sword is the hallmark of the individual warrior. Weapons like pole arms, spears, and short swords (like the Roman gladius) gain a lot of effectiveness when used in large groups. The longsword, on the other hand, require more space to move and manoeuvre.

    Examples

    Film:

    • Luke Skywalker receives a sword when he is about to leave Tatooine and his old life, and to become a hero.

    Literature:

    • In The Lord Of The Rings, Aragorn goes from being a ranger among others and someone fighting a losing fight to the man who will be King of Gondor and a member of the party that will win the war. This transfer coincides with the re-forging of Narsil and he claiming it as Anduril.
    • In The Wheel Of Time, Rand al'Thor is most proficient with a bow, but he receives a sword he is leaves home for the quest. He is accompanied by two friends and followers: Mat Cauthon uses a bow and a staff, while Perrin Aybara uses an axe.

    Mythology:
    • King Arthur received a sword twice. When he pulled the sword from the stone he proved he was the King, and then he received Excalibur after his first sword was broken.

  • June 28, 2012
    abk0100
    a necessary example:

    • In the Zelda series, Link, the chosen hero, always uses a sword as his main weapon.
      • The Master Sword is the weapon fated to be wielded by the hero. In some games it's the only weapon capable of destroying evil.
      • Big Bad Ganon used a trident in early games, but, in recent games, he uses a sword in his human form so that the player can finish him off in epic one-on-one sword fights.
  • June 29, 2012
    kjnoren
    Literature:

    • In the Barrayar by Lois Bujold, the crippled lieutenant Koudelka is assigned a sword-stick as his personal weapon, since giving him a normal cane would imply he was no longer a soldier.
  • June 29, 2012
    falver
    This is a major plot point in The Sacred Blacksmith.

    The Percy Jackson and the Olympians novel(la) series also has this. The titular character Percy Jackson is unskilled at nearly everything, minus sword-play and canoeing.

    Harry Potter Book 7 with Neville and Ron.

    The Iliad has Achilles

    Whether Bleach applies to the trope is debatable. Swords are so ubiquitous that villains are often equipped with them as well.

    Fate Stay Night has Shirou and his (varying levels of) heroism in the Visual Novel.

  • June 30, 2012
    kjnoren
    All these are zero-content examples. In the case of Achilles, the sword isn't used as the primary attribute of him being a warrior: his spear, shield, and armour is.
  • June 30, 2012
    kjnoren
    Literature:

    • Deconstructed in Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. The nobles of the city take lessons in swordsmanship and carry swords, but they are never expected to use them themselves. Instead they hire professional swordsmen to fight duels and entertain for them. These swordsmen are usually common-born, and treated like disposable celebrities.
  • June 30, 2012
    LittleLizard
    In Diablo II there are 7 different classes. However, the only one who starts with a sword is the Paladin.
  • July 1, 2012
    kjnoren
    Literature:
    • Lampshaded and deconstructed in The Last Hero, when Carrot faces down Cohen the Barbarian and the Silver Horde. "One simple sword in the hands of a truly brave man would cut through a magical sword like suet."
    • Most (all?) of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champions fight with swords.

    And another The Wheelof Time example:
    • When the fighting Aiel break away from the still pacifistic Aiel, they decide to use all weapons but swords. This is claimed to be because a sword is only of use as a weapon, but might also be because of this trope: they view themselves as having failed their prior role and code.
  • July 2, 2012
    kjnoren
    Proposed new laconic:

    How the sword is used to show the wielder as heroic and a leader.
  • July 4, 2012
    abk0100
    "Swords in the hands of The Hero are exponentially more likely to be Named Weapons"

    You Keep Using That Word...

    Should probably be mentioned in the description that it's not just any sword. It's almost always a longsword. Two-handed swords, shortswords, and curved swords have their own connotations.
  • July 4, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Biopic Lafayette about the US Revolutionary War general of the same name, he rallies his troops (who, due to supply shortages, are only given six bullets per soldier) with the following short speech:
    You only have six cartridges, but I have only my sword! Follow me!
  • July 4, 2012
    surgoshan
  • July 7, 2012
    kjnoren
    ^^ randomsurfer, which movie about La Fayette does that quote come from, the 1961 one or the 2010 one? I think that line is perfect as the page quote.
  • July 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    1961.
  • July 9, 2012
    kjnoren
    Edited the description for better structure and some minor fixes.
  • July 10, 2012
    lu127
    ^^^^^What media category would that fall into?
  • July 10, 2012
    abk0100
    Requisite Buffy example:
    • In season two, Buffy's given a sword blessed by the virtuous knight who first slayed the demon Acathla. She has to use it to stop him from awakening a second time.
  • July 11, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Literature:
    • Not surprisingly, given the setting, this comes up in the Deryni works:
      • While the heroic characters can and do use other weapons (Morgan's stiletto is practically an extension of his arm, and he, Kelson, and Dhugal are among those shown shooting bows), the heroic characters are shown to use swords often. Even Duncan McLain keeps in practice, despite having taken holy orders.
      • In the short story "Trial", Morgan uses his powers to find the real culprits in a rape/murder case, freeing a foreign swordsmith who was falsely accused of the crime. In gratitude, the smith offers to make Morgan a custom sword and asks to join his service.
  • July 11, 2012
    kjnoren
    Literature:
    • Used several times in Heirs Of Alexandria, in various ways, even though gunpowder weapons are starting to dominate the battlefields.
      • When Benito and Marco gets introduced into the Venetian upper circles, they have to wear swords and are trained with them. However, they never use them in anger.
      • Duke Dell'Este signals his alliance with House Dorma of Venice by sending one of his honour-blades to Petro Dorma.
      • Justified in the case of the Knights of the Holy Trinity, since cold steel is effective against supernatural forces, and swords can be used as a cross in a pinch.

  • July 15, 2012
    Nocturna
    Theatre:
    • In the Revolutionary War drama Horn In The West, Dr. Geoffrey Stuart (the protagonist) carries a sword at the end when he leads the American settlers against the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain. He is the only settler carrying a sword; all the others have guns or clubs.
  • July 15, 2012
    randomsurfer
    @lul27: If that question was addressed to me re Lafayette, it's a film.
  • July 16, 2012
    lu127
    ^ Yes. Thank you. This will be launched shortly.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable