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Sword/Shield Contrast

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"We all know why we're here - in the last six months Anthony Stark has created a sword with untold possibilities, and yet he insists it's a shield. He asks that we trust him as we cower behind it."
Justin Hammer, on Tony Stark's Iron Man armor, Iron Man 2

The sword is a common metaphor for warfare and aggression, and has been since ancient times. The shield is just as common as a metaphor for defense and protection. With two such iconic examples of related but opposite concepts, it's inevitable that they will be used together as a meta-metaphor to draw attention to the difference between the two. This trope is not about literal swords and shields (see Knightly Sword and Shield for those), but about when an author or a character speaks of swords and shields together.

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     Anime & Manga  

  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the protagonist Kira pilots the offensively named "Strike", while his former friend turned enemy Athrun pilots the "Aegis", named after a mythical shield. Ironically, Kira uses the Strike Gundam to shield the Archangel from Athrun's attacks in the Aegis Gundam.
  • The second season of Code Geass debuts Lelouch's Ace Custom the Shinkiro, which is a Barrier Warrior Knightmare Frame that relies on his incredible mental abilities to provide a near impossible to pierce defence. This nicely contrasts him with Suzaku's Lancelot, which is an incredibly offensive Knightmare that has shown the ability to perform Curb-Stomp Battles and Big Damn Heroes moments since day one. By the end of the series, they are working together and prove the contrasts between their two KMF makes them a great team to the point they can charge straight head long into the path of a nuclear bomb and successfully defuse it using their capabilities.

     Comic Books  

  • In the Marvel Universe, there is a sister organisation of S.H.I.E.L.D. called S.W.O.R.D., which specifically works to eliminate extraterrestrial threats, compared to the former's more passive law enforcement role. In addition when Norman Osbourne takes over the organisation, he renames it H.A.M.M.E.R.
  • In The New Universe comic Justice the lead character has the ability to project two forms of energy. From his left hand hand comes a personal force field which he calls his "shield" and from his right hand a deadly blast of energy, his "sword." He can read people's auras as to whether they are "good" or "evil" and uses his "sword" to punish the evil.
  • When someone is appointed Captain Britain, they're given the choice of the Sword of Might or the Amulet of Right (the "shield" in this instance) to empower them. The original Captain, Brian Braddock, considered himself a scholar, not a warrior, and so chose the Amulet. The second one, Kelsey Leigh, felt an amulet wasn't good for protecting anyone and went with the Sword, and she went on to be more of an Anti-Hero than Brian was.

     Film  

  • In Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer, in his first scene, testifies before Congress that the Iron Man suit is a sword that Tony Stark is deceptively presenting to the public as a shield.
  • In Death Race, the race cars have weapons and defensive systems that are unlocked by running over a sword or shield symbol, respectively, in the course.

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     Literature  

  • In The Fate of Paul Twister, Eleanor tries to convince Paul that Celestials in general and Aylwyn in particular are not as virtuous as they appear, and to support her point she mentions how Aylwyn always uses a sword and never a shield.
  • An illustration of Plato's definition of bravery shows three different men in battle: one dropped his sword and is running away, holding his shield over his back; another is fighting with sword and shield; and the third dropped his shield so he can get to the stabbing part faster. The first is a coward, the second is brave, and the third is reckless.
  • At the end of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Resident Patient", where a criminal was killed in revenge by his associates who went to prison, Holmes has this to say:
    However, wretch as he was, he was still living under the shield of British law, and I have no doubt, inspector, that you will see that though that shield may fail to guard, the sword of justice is still there to avenge.
  • A variation comes up in the Star Wars Legends novel Shatterpoint in which Mace Windu reflects on the differences between himself and his Korunnai brethren, who have taken to using vibro-shields with very sharp edges that make them good for slashing:
    "I use my sword as a shield. They use their shields as swords."
  • In the Belisarius Series, a young lieutenant is bitter about his wounds after being left behind to command a decoy operation, while Belisarius takes the army on a surprise attack. One of his men reminds him of how critical it was that the enemy not realize that Belisarius left and says this, which the lieutenant takes to heart.
    "Is a shield false, and only a sword true?

     Live Action TV  

  • In Person of Interest, Finch says that he designed the Machine as a shield with plenty of safeguards to protect society and basic freedom, but that Samaritan doesn't have the same safeguards and is nothing but a sword of oppression.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The "Shield and Sword" card (a shortening of "Shield in the Right Hand, Sword in the Left Hand"), used by Joey in the manga and anime, switches the ATK and DEF values of all monsters on the field for one turn.

     Video Games  

  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games:
    • The fourth miniboss of Oracle of Ages is a giant warrior who boasts that his sword and shield are unbreakable. Beating him requires waiting for him to throw his sword and getting it to hit the shield until both break.
    • The final dungeon of Oracle of Seasons is called the Sword and Shield Maze: the top floor has plenty of fire traps and enemies and the rooms are arranged in the shape of a sword, while the bottom floor is ice-themed and shield-shaped.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the alliance counter-invasion of Reaper-occupied Earth is split into two parts. One battle group, codenamed Shield, flies escort for the Crucible, while the bulk of the international fleet, Sword, has the dual role of landing troops to board the Citadel and of distracting the Reapers from Shield.
  • The Pokémon Aegislash is a sword and shield, and can switch which aspect is more prominent; Sword Forme is a Glass Cannon while Shield Forme is a Mighty Glacier.
  • This contrast is explored in Suikoden II, where the hero Riou and his best friend Jowy inherit the two halves of the True Rune of Beginning, the Bright Shield Rune and the Black Sword Rune respectively. They both start out with the same goals of defending their homeland, but while Riou remains dedicated to defending his homeland and his friends, Jowy ultimately takes more...proactive and manipulative measures to achieve peace for the greater good which puts him on the other side of the war with Riou. This is in part because of the Runes since they always compel their bearers to fight and kill each other in order to reunite into the Rune of Beginning.
  • BlazBlue's Tsubaki wields the Sealed Armament: Izayoi, which is has the power to shield her from outside intervention. Her released form, Izayoi is explicitly stated to act instead as a spear, allowing her to kill observers and other immortal beings.
  • In Republic: The Revolution, recruitable characters of the Military profession are marked with a sword symbol, while those of the Police profession are symbolized with a shield. In gameplay terms, however, there is little difference between the two, as both can carry out the majority of violence-based actions, like Assault and Terrorize, as well as one of the only two lethal actions in the game (Alpha Squadnote ). The Police profession is more versatile, however, and it does have access to the protective action Safe House, while the Military doesn't.


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