Swords Are Heroic YKTTW Discussion

Swords Are Heroic
The sword is used to show the wielder as heroic and a leader.
(permanent link) added: 2012-03-11 10:34:10 sponsor: Martello edited by: lu127 (last reply: 2012-07-16 08:29:28)

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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.


[[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.


  • 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.


  • 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: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.


  • 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: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.

  • 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.
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