"I will succeed to your throne ó but what good is that? What good is anything?"
A fantasy novel written by Poul Anderson in 1954. It was issued in a revised edition by Ballantine Books as the twenty-fourth volume of their Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in January 1971. The original text was returned to print by Gollancz in 2002.The book tells the story of Skafloc Half Elf (actually a human stolen by the elves), son of Orm the Strong. The story begins with the marriage of Orm the Strong and Aelfrida of the English. Orm kills a witch's family on the land, and later half-converts to Christianity, but quarrels with the local priest and sends him off the land. Meanwhile, an elf, Imric, seeks out the witch to capture the son of Orm, Valgard. In his place he leaves a changeling called Valgard. The real Valgard is taken away to elven lands and named Skafloc by the elves. He grows up among the fairies there. Later, he has a significant part in a war against the trolls.The eponymous weapon was given to Skafloc as his naming-gift by the Aesir, and he later travels to the ends of the Earth to have it reforged by Bolverk, the Ice Giant.The novel is set during the Viking Age and the story contain many references to Norse mythology. It was influenced by the 1891 novel The Saga Of Eric Brighteyes, by H. Rider Haggard.A partial adaptation of the novel, done as a serialized black-and-white graphic novel, was adapted by fantasy writer Tom Reamy and illustrated by professional fantasy artist George Barr. This was published during the mid-to-late 1960s over several issues of Reamy's twice Hugo Award-nominated science fiction fanzine Trumpet; the adaptation was never completed, though there were revived plans underway to do so at the time of Reamy's untimely death in late 1977.Michael Moorcock has mentioned that The Broken Sword greatly influenced some of his stories.The novel has been praised for its well-written female characters (particularly when its age is taken into account).
Black Eyes of Evil: Trolls. Though somewhat subverted, since they really aren't any more evil than the Elves.
Brother-Sister Incest: Skafloc and Freda hook up because they don't know they're related; the ghost of their dead brother breaks the news to them. Skafloc, having sophisticated Elven sensibilities figures they can work through this. Freda disagrees.
Cold War: Anderson wrote this book during that time period, and some of it does reflect on the story. For example, the Elf-Troll conflict is basically a proxy war between two great powers, the Aesir and the Jotuns; the latter two do not fight directly because that would lead to Ragnarok, the final battle in which most of the world would be destroyed. The parallel to the real-world threat of nuclear war is obvious.
Another example is the scene where Skafloc contemplates throwing the titular sword into the sea, but decides against it because he knows it would find its way back into mortal hands. Again, this reflects the danger and proliferation of nuclear weapons in real life - getting rid of them just isn't possible in the current circumstances, despite the fact that they threated humanity's very existence.
Elves Versus Dwarves: Graceful, sophisticated and indirect Elves versus gritty, blunt and strong Trolls. Both races have a similar level of technology and both use magic but, again, Trolls tend towards more direct application while Elves prefer to be more subtle.
Evil Twin: The changeling Valgard is this to Skafloc.
Freudian Excuse: Valgard. Despite the horrible things he does, one has to remember that he was thrust into a society in which he didn't belong - and which quickly rejected him, and that he spent most of his life as little more than a pawn in the power games of more powerful beings.
Humans Are Special: They are under the protection of the gods. Also, unlike the faerie races, they can look forward to an afterlife. Finally, most faerie races cannot touch iron.
Icy Blue Eyes: Valgard. And yes, they reflect his personality (when he's not in berserker mode).
Jerkass: Imric, in oh so many ways, but very likely the worst is his keeping the Troll-King's daughter as a slave for literally centuries, raping her regularly to produce changelings. When she is returned to her father as a hopeless lunatic, he mercy kills her and in grief-driven rage swears eternal war with the elves.
Magic from Technology: Anderson notes that this magic employed by the faerie races could simply be a specific form of technology, that is they are able to manipulate their environment through forces yet unknown to us.
Meaningful Name: Bolverk means "evil-worker". Illrede is probably derived from ill (as in bad/evil) and rede (an old word for counsel/advice).
Medieval Stasis: Although they are actually technologically ahead of the humans, the faerie races have made very little actual progress in the last few centuries. As the author notes in the afterword, their conservative warrior culture has just about reached its limits in this field.
Monochromatic Eyes: Elves had eyes that glowed a dim blue and pupils that were there but "hard to see".
Not So Different: Valgardís bitterness and despair make him the epitome of cruelty and hate, yet when Skafloc is denied his heartís desire he, too, falls into the same self-destructive nihilism.
Also Elves and Trolls. Although Trolls look and act more stereotypically evil, the Elves are every bit as bad as they are. Perhaps even worse: Trolls are at least somewhat honourable, while the elves are totally immoral.
Our Elves Are Better: Subverted. The elves in this story are indeed superior to humans in many ways: faster, nimbler, practically immortal - and very cunning. However, they also have glaring weaknesses: they are vain, unable to form strong emotional bonds, cannot touch iron and are helpless against the power of gods (especially the Christian God).
Our Goblins Are Different: While lacking the trolls' strength, the Goblins in The Broken Sword can still be capable warriors if they have the motivation. They are also smarter than they look. At one point, Imric warns the scorn-filled Skafloc not to underestimate them, and later in the story a successful Goblin rebellion (against their Troll masters) is briefly mentioned.
Our Trolls Are Different: They're ugly, strong and crude, but they can also be quite intelligent. Also unlike your average fantasy troll, the ones in this book are a bit shorter than humans and can be powerful sorcerers.
Purple Eyes: The goddess Fand is described as having violet eyes.
Proud Warrior Race: This is Norse mythology, so it's to be expected. Unlike in most other fantasy worlds, the elves in The Broken Sword fit this trope, too.