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10 Famous Swords and Their Origins

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 7 8

Napoleon's Sword

The first sword of this selection of mine doesn't exactly have a name, but it is the Napoleon's sword which sold for an incredible 6.4 Million dollars!

Napoleon Bonaparte, the emblematic figure who dominated Europe, was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution.
He established hegemony over most of continental Europe and sought to spread the ideals of the French Revolution, while consolidating an imperial monarchy which restored aspects of the deposed Ancien Régime[1].

Napoleon is considered to be one of the greatest military commanders of all time, and his campaigns are worthy of study worldwide due to his countless successes in warfare, often against numerically superior armies. His French Empire lasted to 1814, since he was crowned in 1804. Napoleon's gold encrusted sword was used in one his early 1800's battles and given to his brother as a wedding gift shortly after. Since then it has been passed down through the generations, never leaving the family. Now it is part of his heritage.

Napoleon's gold encrusted sword

Where is the sword now?

Despite being declared a French national treasure back in 1978, the sword was auctioned in 14/07/2007 and won by a woman, who claimed to have bought the sword for her husband as a very nice father's day gift!

The Wallace Sword

The famous Wallace Sword, the claymore (two-handed Scottish long sword) that belonged to William Wallace, the epic hero of Scotland.

William Wallace was a landowner who became a knight and one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence[2]. Together with Andrew Moray, William Wallace fought in one of the most important battles of Scotland, the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, where he defeated the English army and became Guardian of Scotland. In 1305 Wallace was captured and handed over to King Edward I of England, and eventually hanged for treason.

William Wallace's heroic deeds spread and he became a worldwide icon. His sword symbolizes his courage and perseverance, and is one of the most important swords in terms of historical value.

The Wallace Sword

Where is the sword now?

The huge sword is in display at The National Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland.


Together with La Colada, Tizona has been attributed to Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, also known as El Cid, a Castilian nobleman and genius military leader in medieval Spain, who became the national hero of the country.

El Cid served under Sancho II since a young man and fought in many battles against the Aragonese and the Moors. After Sancho II has been killed, all of his power passed down to Alfonso VI who eventually sent El Cid into exile for commanding a unauthorized expedition into Granada. When Alfonso VI called El Cid back, this one had other plans. After combining a Christian and Moorish army, El Cid proceeded to conquest Valencia and make a name for himself. His reign lasted from 1094 to 1099.

Tizona's blade has been confirmed to have been made in Moorish Córdoba in the 11th century and to contain amounts Damascus steel. According to El Cantar de Mio Cid[3], the oldest preserved Castilian epic poem, this is the sword that El Cid used to fight the Moors during the re-conquest of Spain under the command of Sancho II.


Where is the sword now?

It is currently on display at the Museum of Burgos, Spain.


Zulfiqar, the double-headed scimitar, belonged to Ali, the successor of Muhammad[4]. Before his death, Muhammad had united the Arabian tribes into a single Muslim religious polity.

Ali reigned as Caliph of the Islamic Empire from 656 to 661 and has been respected for his courage, knowledge, belief, honesty, mercifulness, devotion to Islam, deep loyalty to Muhammad and his equal treatment of all Muslims. Because of that, Ali's influence in islamism is still noted today.

Zulfiqar was given to a young Ali by Muhammad during his life, and the sword was used many times by Ali in Muhammad's defense. Ali was described as a prominent warrior and together with Zulfiqar made many kills, of which some were of bigger and heavier armoured men.


Where is the sword now?

According to the Twelver, the largest branch of Shia Islam, Zulfiqar is currently in the possession of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, as part of his collection.

Honjo Masamune

Masamune[5], recognized as the best wordsmith of Japan, forged swords and daggers of superior quality and beauty from the ending of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th century. Accounts of his life time are not entirely clear. Among his many great swords, there was Honjo Masamune.

Honjo Masamune is one the best known swords of Masamune and considered to be the finest sword Japan has ever seen. This sword of legendary status represented the Shogunate during most of the Edo period[6] and had been passed down from one Shogun to another. The sword ended up in a police station in Mejiro and was eventually given to Coldy Bimore of the U.S. 7th Cavalry.

Honjo Masamune

Where is the sword now? 

Unfortunately, Masamune has been lost in the end of World War II and to this day its whereabouts remain unknown.


Joyeuse, the name given to Charlemagne's personal sword, translates as "joyful".

Charlemagne, known as Charles the Great or Charles I, was one of the most successful kings of all time. King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, the first Holy Roman Emperor, and the first emperor in western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier.

The legends say that Joyeuse was smithed from the materials of Roland's Durendal (see next sword), or that it was forged to contain the Lance of Longinus[7] (Holy Lance) within its pommel.


Where is the sword now?

The actual Joyeuse is in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. However it is unclear whether this sword is the real deal or a reforged sword. Parts of the sword have been dated to being from different centuries.

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Durendal, sometimes referred to as Durandal, was the sword of Roland, an honourable Paladin at the service of Charlemagne, as told in the Matter of France[8], a literary cycle associated with the history and legends of France.

The origin of the sword itself is shrouded in mystery. One story says that it was made by Wayland[9], the legendary master blacksmith from Norse mythology, and then brought to Charlemagne by an angel, who eventually gave the holy sword to Roland. Another version claims that Durandel once belonged to Hector, the greatest Warrior of Troy, and was given to Charlemagne by Maugris, another hero from the Matter of France literature.

Durandel was described as the sharpest sword in existence, as well as being indestructible. It supposedly was able to cut through armoured Saracen soldiers and their horses, and proved its indestructibility when Roland, in an attempt to avoid its capture from the Saracens, tried to destroy the sword swinging it against the rocks, creating La Brèche de Roland[10] in the Pyrenees in the process. Failing to do so, Roland hid the sword behind his body.

Have you noticed the subtle change in content from historical to mythical? Hehe.


 Where is the sword now?

Local folklore of the Rocamadour town in France claim that Roland threw the sword instead of hiding it, and that a fragment of it still exists struck into a cliff wall in the village (picture above). This is most likely untrue and has been said so before by local authorities. 


Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, meaning "Grass Cutting Sword", can be said to be the Japanese folklore equivalent to Excalibur. The legend says that this sword was found by the god Susanno inside one of tails of the Yamata-no-Orochi, an eight-headed serpent. Susannoo slayed this beast in order to save the last surviving daughter of a god of the land, from a total of eight daughters, from whom seven were consumed by the beast, in exchange for her hand in marriage.

Long-story short, this sword was eventually given to a great warrior, Yamato Takeru. During a battle where he was ambushed, Yamato became surrounded in a grassland ignited by fiery arrows, and in an attempt to escape, he started cutting the grass to weaken the fire, and discovered that the sword could control the wind and cause it to move in the direction of his swings. Yamato then used this power to swing through the blazing grass and direct the flames into his enemies, thus claiming victory. The name of the sword originates from that myth since Yamato named the sword after his triumph.

Kusanagi is supposedly real, since there are historical references to the sword. It is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan[11], also known as the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, together with the mirror Yata no Kagami and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama. These represent the primary virtues: Valor; Virtue; and Benevolence, respectively.



Where is the sword now?

Its location is not clear and its actual existence is yet to be confirmed, but it is thought to be at the Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, Japan.



The Gram sword from Norse mythology was made by Wayland the smith and taken by Odin, the ruler of Asgard[12]. During the wedding of the daughter of Völsung, Odin's great-grandson, Odin himself appeared disguised as an oldman, took the Gram sword and struck it deep into the trunk of Barnstokkr, the large Oak tree in the centre of Völsung's Hall. Odin then stated that the sword was meant to he who could pull it out of the Oak tree. Sigmund, the most beautiful and courageous of Völsung's sons, was the only one who could effortlessly achieve the feat, and took the sword for himself.

Later, during a battle, Sigmund matches up against an oldman who is Odin in disguise once again. Odin breaks the Gram sword with his spear Gungnir and disappears. Disarmed, Sigmund is wounded. Before dying, Sigmund tells his wife that their unborn son shall make a great weapon from the pieces of the shattered sword. Sigurd is born and eventually takes the broken pieces of his late father's sword to his foster father Regin, who reforges Gram. The power of the sword is proved when Sigurd slices an anvil in half with it and also uses the sword to kill the Dragon Fafnir.

The name Balmung is generally associated with the story of the dragon-slayer Siegfried from the German epic Nibelungenlied[13].

Gram (Balmung)

Where is the sword now?

Its whereabouts are unknown, maybe Odin reclaimed the sword for himself!


Probably the most iconic of all swords, Excalibur, or sometimes referred to as the Sword in the Stone, is King Arthur's legendary sword. Excalibur has been called many things: invincible sword, the ultimate sword, the sword of God and so on. An interesting fact I did not know about is that the name Excalibur is generally associated with the Sword in the Stone, but in the Arthurian romance, they are not the same sword.

There are many different versions of the Arthurian legend, but the earliest narrative accounting Arthur's life is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin work Historia Regum Britanniae[14] (History of the Kings of Britain). Manmouth was a Welsh cleric whose work, written c. 1136, is a pseudohistorical chronicle of the origin of Britain and its kings. In Monmouth's version, a 15-year-old Arthur succeeds to his father Uther Pendragon's throne after his death, and becomes King of Britain.

The Sword in the Stone

However, the origins of the fabled swords are found in the French poet Robert de Boron's Merlin[15]. In this version, Arthur pulls the divine sword from a stone and gains right to the throne. As this act could not be performed other then the true heir of Uther Pendragon, Arthur is granted the title of "The True King" and thus, the prophecy is fulfilled.

Later in his reign, King Arthur is given the magical sword Excalibur by The Lady of the Lake, the ruler of Avalon[16], the legendary island where the magical Excalibur was forged.


Where is the sword now?

In legends and myths. And where your imagination can take you.



Mar 28, 2013 1:09pm
Great article, thumbs up! I love that you end your article with the 'Sword of all Swords', the mythical Excalibur.
Apr 2, 2013 9:04am
You misspelled Scottish ref: (two-handed Scotish long sword)
Apr 2, 2013 12:05pm
Thanks for reminding me, I had already submitted the correction alongside the "Where is the sword now?" part for the Zulfiqar which I for some reason forgot to add...
Apr 8, 2013 7:31pm
Great article :)
May 4, 2013 12:02pm
Loved this article. Would have given it 2 thumbs if I had been able to do it.
May 4, 2013 12:22pm
Thanks a lot adragast that means a lot ;)
Jun 18, 2013 3:20am
Great article... I was new to all these swords except Excalibur. So, I have a lot of reading to get the true essence & origin of the article.

There is one more sword in the History of India. There was a sword in the Pandya kingdom ( who ruled from Madurai, Tamilnadu, India ). It is believed that Pandyas proclaimed until someone could wield that sword, the Pandyan kingdom & dynasty will continue.

It is , to my knowledge, that Cholas ( another kingdom from the same region ) has overthrown the Pandyas and captured the sword in essence. But, it is believed that the original sword & another object signifying the kings has been smuggled into Sri Lanka during the end of the battle / war and hidden somewhere in the caves.

All the above were not factually correct but the existence of such a sword and its significance were recorded in the various places of history. You can read about them. I will write a piece on that, if possible & link this article.

Great article. Thumbs Up.
Sep 17, 2013 6:02am
Nice article.
Thumbs Up.
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  1. "Ancien Régime." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  2. "Wars of Scottish Independence." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  3. "Cantar de Mio Cid." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  4. "Muhammad." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  5. "Masamune." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  6. "Edo period." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  7. "Holy Lance." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  8. "Matter of France." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  9. "Wayland the Smith." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  10. "La Brèche de Roland." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  11. "Imperial Regalia of Japan." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  12. "Asgard." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  13. "Nibelungenlied." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  14. "Historia Regum Britanniae." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  15. "Merlin." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >
  16. "Avalon." Wikipedia. 4/05/2013 <Web >

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