Top Ten Greatest Swords of All Time

The Once and Future King
Excalibur in T. H. White’s classic.

Fantasy heroes from the beginning of time have been swinging swords in the name of glory, honor, and conquest. The villains of those tales have fought back with their own swords, attempting to win the day and spread their dark blight across the land. In most stories, the heroes and villains make do with a common cutlass, katana, or lightsaber, but from time to time, they find themselves sporting something more amazing.

A standard sword provides action and adventure, but a named sword brings history, wonder, and the promise of something spectacular. Give a sword a name, and it becomes great.

Today’s list attempts to rank swords of legend, myth, and imagination. Swords that were honored with their very own name. Sometimes a hero makes the sword. Other times a sword makes the hero. The amazing blades collected here transcend a single hero. They are kingmakers and mythweavers. Often they are the story. Now sit back and enjoy the top ten greatest swords of all time.

Top Ten Greatest Swords of All Time

1) Excalibur (King Arthur Mythos)

Excalibur is the sword of Kings. King Arthur lugged it around as proof of his authority to rule. The sword has appeared in many different tales, movies, and novels. At times, it is presented to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. Other times, he draws it from the stone. While some tales give the sword magical powers, its true greatness comes from the authority it provides those who wield it. Excalibur, also called Caledfwlch and Calesvol, remains the most legendary of all swords.

Aragorn with Anduril
Aragorn with Anduril

2) Narsil/Anduril (The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn, Elendil, Isildur)

J. R. R. Tolkien provides backstory like none other. We know the sword Narsil was forged in the First Age of Middle-Earth by a dwarf named Telchar. We know that it was this mighty blade that felled Sauron and shattered to pieces in the act. Later the Elves reforge the blade, renaming it Anduril, Flame of the West. Elrond jams it in Aragorn’s hand and sends him on his way to defeat the forces of evil. Whatever its name, the sword is the most legendary blade in the most famous fantasy world.

3) Stormbringer (Elric)

Stormbringer is a huge, black sword carved with runes that feeds on the souls of its victims. While most swords are just swords, Stormbringer is a demonic agent of Chaos. Michael Moorcock’s hero Elric is a virtual slave to the sword’s strength and willpower. He is driven by the compulsions pushed on him by the sword. Stormbringer provides Elric a path to glory, while simultaneously leading him towards his own doom.

Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
Severian with Terminus Est

4) Terminus Est (The Book of the New Sun)

In The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe creates a hero that travels along alternate pathways. The hero Severian is a torturer. Not your typical hero. Terminus Est is a sword designed for a headsman, not a duelist. The sword was masterfully forged with mercury at its center. The liquid floods down to the tip of the blade when it is brought down to remove head from neck, providing the additional force required for a clean cut. Its unique design makes it a bit awkward for parry and thrust. Severian might be better served to carry a backup blade.

5) Sting (Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit)

Sting is an unimposing little blade. The Elves of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth had crafted it as a dagger. Then along came a Hobbit, and the dagger suddenly became a sword. First Bilbo and later Frodo carried the magical blade to face off against giant spiders, orcs, goblins, Ring Wraiths, and every nasty that crawled from the darkest depths of Mordor. Despite its small stature, Sting helped forge heroes.

Eddard Stark with Ice
Eddard Stark with Ice

6) Ice (Eddard Stark, Song of Ice and Fire)

House of Stark carried the sword Ice proudly for many generations. The sword was forged of Valyrian steel and was amongst the sharpest in the land. It represented the authority of House Stark. When the blade was destroyed, the House lost its power.

7) Glamdring (Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit)

Glamdring was found alongside Sting in the troll horde by the wizard Gandalf. Known also as Foe-Hammer, the sword had been forged by Elves in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Deep historians of Middle-Earth could relate the vast history of the blade and the many glories heaped upon its name. Gandalf himself used it to slay the Orc King and even defeat a Balrog. Now that is a sword of legend.

8) Sword of Gryffindor (Harry Potter)

Harry Potter enjoyed sporting this magical sword. The Sword of Gryffindor saved his life on more than one occasion and even found its way into the hands of a few of his allies. The history of the sword extends well beyond Potter’s short lifespan. Its magical abilities to appear when needed and absorb aspects of creatures it defeats allowed it to be the go to weapon in the defeat of Voldemort and his minions.

Mu Bai Faces Green Destiny
Mu Bai Faces Green Destiny

9) Green Destiny (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

Li Mu Bai is a famous Wudang swordsman who cut his swath to glory swinging the Green Destiny. Some might suggest that the sword has magical properties, but it requires the hand of a true master to reach its full potential. The Green Destiny provides status and confidence in anyone bold enough to claim it. Those that claimed it in the film went to their glory, while the blade lived on ready for its next champion.

10) Sword of Shannara (Sword of Shannara)

The magical sword from the world created by Terry Brooks requires the blood of Shannara to wield. The hero Shea Ohmsford must use the sword to defeat the Warlock Lord. Along his quest, Ohmsford discovers his inner self with the aid of The Sword of Shannara. Whenever setting out to defeat evil, it’s always a good idea to pack the magic sword.

Honorable Mention:

  • Orcrist (The Hobbit)
  • Longclaw, Needle, Blackfyre, Dawn, Oathkeeper  (Song of Ice and Fire)
  • Infinity Sword (Avengers)
  • Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer Not a sword)
  • Graywand (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber)
  • Scalpel (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber)
  • Coinspinner, Doomgiver, Dragonslicer, Farslayer, Mindsword, Shieldbreaker, Sightblinder, Soulcutter, Stonecutter, Townsaver, Wayfinder, Woundhealer (The Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen)
  • Tyrfing (Norse Mythology)
  • Gram (Norse Mythology)
  • Mournblade (Elric)
  • Hrunting (Beowulf)
  • Many others
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  1. John,
    Great stuff. I agree. The only problem with the lightsaber so far is that none of them have a proper name. (unless I’ve missed one.) They are just lightsabers like a cutlass is a cutlass.

    Naming a sword seems to show that the person who wields it gets some of their power from the sword. An unnamed sword, seems to imply that all the skill comes from the hero swinging it.

    I thought about this very subject while putting the post together. How cool would it be for the new wave of Star Wars films to include named Lightsabers. Imagine the Sith and the Jedi racing to capture an ancient lightsaber of great power.

    Maybe a cursed lightsaber where the spirit of a long dead sith is trapped.

    (Or insert plot here.)

    Master Kenobi (of course long lost son of Obi Wan) chopping down foes with the Saber of Hope. (or some such name.)

    Thanks for the feedback.


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