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Suave Sabre

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The sabre is a dashing and daring military hero's Weapon Of Choice

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
TheBigBopper on Feb 4th 2016 at 10:03:57 PM
Last Edited By:
TheBigBopper on Jan 11th 2019 at 10:43:56 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

possible trope images: (A) Gericault's 1812 painting "Chasseur de la Garde". (B) Vive L'Empereur by Édouard Detaille, 1891. (C) Griffith from Berserk posing with his saber.

Not every curved sword is a Sinister Scimitar. In fact, the sabre or saber in the hands of a Western-style cavalryman or officer is the ultimate sign of daring and panache. This trope probably reached its cultural peak during The Napoleonic Wars, in which sabre-wielding light cavalry called Hussars captured the imagination of the people with their braided hair and moustaches, flamboyant uniforms, and death-or-glory attitude in battle—something that modern works love to depict. Compared to the Royal Rapier and its cousin the smallsword, which are most famous as civilian weapons, a sabre more emphatically marks its wielder as a professional soldier.

In period pieces depicting the 18th or 19th century there is nothing more attractive to women than a man in uniform, and fictional characters of this stripe are often The Casanova or Casanova Wannabe. There might be some overlap with Miles Gloriosus, as these guys are often big braggarts who exaggerate their already impressive exploits. They also have a tendency to get into duels with their sabres because of a macho military culture that makes any slight to their honor unforgivable without retaliation. Another possibility is that he is An Officer and a Gentleman in the mold of Stonewall Jackson or George Armstrong Custer. Soldiers can come from either a gentlemanly or common background, but what they have in common is that the sabre gives them some extra swagger through its association with military service and glory.

For much of Western European history, curved swords such as the saif, shamshir, and tulwar have been associated with a barbarous "other", and shaped their perceptions of "exotic" and "evil" Eastern civilizations they came into contact with such as the Ottoman and Mughal Empires. This was of course a Euro-centric view point, as those Eastern civilizations understandably had a positive view of their own traditional weapons. However, the Sinister Scimitar trope didn't really exist in Eastern Europe where curved swords were just as often used by the Caucasian peoples resisting the Turks, Mongols, etc. In the 17th century, when Western European armies began to make significant use of Hungarian and Polish cavalry, the szablya/szabla as they called it came with them, giving it a more positive image in the rest of Europe. The rest is history.

There are a couple of exceptions to this trope. The similar cutlass does not enjoy quite the same status because of its association with rough sailors and pirates. Short curved swords such as the grosse messer and falchion are kind of in a separate category. The user of a Suave Sabre does not necessarily have to be of Western origin, but usually at least belongs to a country which has adopted Western-style uniforms, weapons, and tactics as a result of or in reaction to European colonialism.


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • A TV recruiting ad for the United States Marines depicts a smith forging one of the Corps' iconic Mameluke swords as a metaphor for how a marine is made, with the final shot being that sword carried as parade dress by a Marine.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk
    • Griffith, the charismatic leader of the Band of the Hawk, is a Master Swordsman who uses an elegant saber in battle. It suits the fact that he is equally in his element at a fancy ball and on the battlefield, able to blend into Blue Blood society with his charm but never forgetting that he is first and foremost a soldier.
    • Serpico was a sabreur when Guts first met him, a seemingly harmless dandy and errand boy for Farnese whose Obfuscating Stupidity conceals a sharp tactical mind. He's the bastard son of a nobleman and a member of the Holy Iron Chain Knights, except unlike most noble sons in that largely ceremonial regiment he's a master with his weapon. That's partly owing to the numerous duels he fought on Farnese's behalf when they were younger.

    Film 
  • The Duellists, based on the Joseph Conrad story The Duel depicts the story of two Hussars in Napoleon's army who develop a feud over some trifle and fight a series of duels with each other over a long period of years. The first, third, and fourth duels are fought with their cavalry sabres, while the last is fought with pistols. The major themes throughout are the pride and bravado of the Hussars, the macho military culture that created the expectation of dueling, and the personal obsession between the participants. The third duel, fought on foot with heavy sabres, actually subverts the trope by getting really ugly: it goes on for so long the duelists are gasping for breath, propping themselves up on their swords, and occasionally mustering the strength to make wild roundhouse swings at each other. The fight is ended by their seconds when they discard their swords and just start having at each other.

    Literature 
  • In Sharpe, most officers wear a slender saber as a sign of rank. The titular hero is an officer and entitled to a sword, but he also came up through the ranks, and is not a gentleman, therefore his rough and ready nature favours a heavier blade. His Weapon of Choice is the straight-bladed sabre of the heavy cavalry, which most men would struggle to use dismounted.
  • In Monstrous Regiment the main characters are mostly armed with sabres. They were supposed to be pikemen, but there was a bit of a supply issue and they managed to catch an enemy cavalry unit off guard early on.
  • In Genestorm City In The Sky, Snapper favors a sabre made from pressed steel cable as she's a bit obsessed with hussars, despite the post-apocalyptic wild west setting. She has a bit of a debate over whether curved or straight swords are better with another character whom she ends up killing later, breaking his rapier.

    Music 
  • Visual Kei band Versailles' Kamijo spends much of the Aristocrat's Symphony music video posing with a slender, fancy saber.

    Painting 
  • Theodore Gericault made a couple of paintings depicting Hussars with their sabres, including his 1812 Chasseur de la Garde. A hussar in the midst of the chaos of battle looks backward from the saddle of his rearing horse, a deeply curved sabre in his hand. He cuts a dashing figure in his fur shako, leopard pelt saddle blanket, and trimmed uniform, but one gets the sense that his youth and beauty could be cut down at any moment.
  • Edouard Detaille vividly depicted the charge of the 4th Hussars at the battle of Friedland, 14 June 1807 in his 1891 painting Vive L'Empereur. Waving their sabres in the air as the war cry goes up and bugles sound, this is the moment just before they make contact with the enemy.
  • The portrait of General François Fournier-SarlovÃÂÂÂÂ$ze, by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1812 in the Musée du Louvre shows the subject posing with his saber in elaborate Hussar uniform. A turbulent man and rabid duelist known as "the worst subject of the Grande Armée", he was the inspiration for Feraud in Conrad's The Duel and Ridley Scott's The Duellists.
    Video Games 
  • Rowen from Tales of Xillia and it's sequel is a Magic Knight who uses almost exclusively Rapiers and Sabres in battle. This fits heavily with his Battle Butler theme, accentuating his intelligence and his elegance in battle.

    Photography 
  • John S. Mosby, a.k.a. the ''Grey Ghost'', was the confederate cavalry commander of the 43rd Battalion, 1st Virginia Cavalry known as Mosby's Rangers. A photograph take in Richmond depicts him posing in immaculate uniform with high riding boots, his left hand on his sheathed sabre, and his right hand holding a pair of binoculars. He holds that sword with swagger.

    Real Life 
  • After 1872, when Japan created its first conscription military, all officers had to be equipped with swords. The first generation of Guntō (military swords) used from 1875 to 1934, now called KyÅ« guntō (old military sword), were in the style of the Western military saber with a single-handed grip and knuckle guard. This had to do with the fact that they were trying to modernize along Western lines, putting behind them the time when the samurai class dominated the military. Rising nationalism in the 1930s caused a return to the belief that Katanas Are Just Better, leading to the replacement of KyÅ« guntō with the Shin guntō (new military sword), a mass-produced version of the old-fashioned samurai katana.

Feedback: 18 replies

Feb 4th 2016 at 11:51:00 PM

Feb 5th 2016 at 4:32:00 AM

It's "Chasseur de la Garde".

Redwall hares often carry sabers, contrasting with the cutlasses favored by searat crews.

Feb 5th 2016 at 7:33:05 AM

Literature

  • In the Discworld novel Monstrous Regiment the main characters are mostly armed with sabres, they were supposed to be pikemen but there was a bit of a supply issue and they managed to catch an enemy cavalry unit off guard early on.
  • In Genestorm: City in the Sky Snapper favors a sabre made from pressed steel cable as she's a bit obsessed with hussars, despite the post-apocalyptic wild west setting. She has a bit of a debate over whether curved or straight swords are better with another character whom she ends up killing later, breaking his rapier.

Feb 5th 2016 at 1:19:51 PM

Contrast the expression "saber-rattling", a synonym for jingoistic militarism.

Feb 5th 2016 at 8:28:21 PM

Could probably use a mention of katana somewhere in the description.

Feb 5th 2016 at 10:03:15 PM

^ I remember that there's a special kind of Japanese sword that is used for military leaders during WWII. That one might be related.

Feb 6th 2016 at 8:32:08 AM

Sharpe carries a type of sabre known as a straight-sabre because although he is an officer and entitled to a sword, he also came up through the ranks, and is not a gentleman, therefore his rough and ready nature favours a heavier blade.

Feb 6th 2016 at 5:39:34 PM

^^ I think when Japan modernized their army they initially issued sabres to officers. But, a nationalist movement made them switch to cheap machined katanas by WWII, which American soldiers liked to snap and make into trench knives.

Feb 6th 2016 at 5:54:16 PM

One ad for enlisting in the United States Marines depicts a sword being forged, with the final shot being that sword carried as parade dress by a Marine.

Feb 7th 2016 at 12:36:23 AM

Feb 22nd 2016 at 7:03:30 PM

  • Ghirahim from The Legend Of Zelda Skyward Sword consider's himself of a consummate gentleman of a Demon Lord and fights primarily with a fencing saber in all of his boss fights.

Feb 23rd 2016 at 8:38:36 AM

This whole thing is covered by Royal Rapier. You did know that Sabres are just a type of Rapier right?

Feb 23rd 2016 at 8:44:04 AM

I forgot to mention but in particular Sabres are usually used by Royalty, making this even more redundant, generals are more likely to use a broad sword or Long swords.

Feb 23rd 2016 at 10:00:09 AM

^ No, a rapier is a thin, straight sword used for duels and self-defense by civilians. A sabre is a heavy curved sword used by cavalry and officers.

You're probably thinking of a fencing sabre, which like every other fencing "sword" is little more than a piece of wire with a handle.

Feb 23rd 2016 at 3:11:29 PM

oh crap i was thinking of a saber... sorry about that

Feb 23rd 2016 at 3:20:16 PM

I feel stupid because I missed the second part of your comment and didn't specify what i was talking about in the second, and mispelled Sabre... But yeah you'reright I was thinking of the fencing one mb

Nov 16th 2018 at 5:46:02 AM

"For much of Western European history, curved swords such as the saif, shamshir, and tulwar have been associated with a barbarous "other", and shaped their perceptions of "exotic" and "evil" Eastern civilizations they came into contact with such as the Ottoman and Mughal Empires. This was of course a Euro-centric view point, as those Eastern civilizations understandably had a positive view of their own traditional weapons. However, the Sinister Scimitar trope didn't really exist in Eastern Europe where curved swords were just as often used by the Caucasian peoples resisting the Turks, Mongols, etc. In the 17th century, when Western European armies began to make significant use of Hungarian and Polish cavalry, the szablya/szabla as they called it came with them, giving it a more positive image in the rest of Europe. The rest is history."

This paragraph isn't necessary.

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:43:56 AM

^ It explains the concept's origin and its contrast with other widespread deceptions of curved swords in western media that some readers may be familiar with.

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