There is some confusion on the origin of one of the most famous legendary swords in history. So let’s set things straight. There are actually two swords in the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur is the second one he wielded. Excalibur was said to have been made by an Elvish smith from the island of Avalon. It was magically imbued so that nobody could defeat its owner. To aid the sword, its scabbard was also magically enchanted so that anyone wearing it would never bleed and could heal their wounds instantly.
The other sword used by Arthur Pendragon is known as the Sword in the Stone and was nothing more than an extravagant typical broadsword that was used by his father, Uther Pendragon. When Arthur was born, Uther was slain in battle. Merlin took this sword and jammed into the rock and enchanted it so that only the true heir of Uther Pendragon could pull the sword. Arthur’s half-sister, Morgan le Fay was not the heir as long as Arthur was alive and is why she never claimed the blade of her father. This is not Excalibur, despite a lot of popular movies, books and cartoons making the blades the same.
Eventually Arthur came to the sword in the stone and retrieved it, making himself the king of Britain. Merlin gave him his support and Arthur went on to gather the people under the new banner of Pendragon. That would also involve some battles as Arthur’s father was a warmonger and not very well liked by several rulers. Many lords joined with Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s half-sister, who felt cheated out of the throne by a brother she didn’t know existed.
After one battle the sword of Uther was broken. Merlin was afraid that Arthur would die before he could unite Britain and so he went to the mystical lake, climbed in a boat and rowed to the center. He asked the Lady of the Lake to lend him a weapon that would protect the king. A mysterious hand rose from the water and handed him a sword sheathed in a jeweled scabbard. Legends don’t really explain much about the mysterious Lady, but some would say she was the keeper of the weapons that were forged on Avalon. Some stories say that the Lady was a mistress of Merlin’s past and granted him the sword as a favor for her old flame.
The extravagantly ornamented sword was jeweled and the blade itself was etched with phrases and symbols of chimera. The steel was imbued magically and was indestructible. It was also sharpened like a razor and because of its strength, could slice through anything as if it was made of butter, including other swords. Sometimes the blade would burn bright and blind all that faced it. The scabbard kept the wielder from harm when faced with ranged weapons or when faced with a superior swordsman. In short, anyone who held Excalibur and wore its scabbard was unstoppable on the battlefield.
Arthur’s half-sister was a crafty woman, and eventually stole the scabbard and tossed it into a lake to never be found again. At the Battle of Camlann, Arthur was mortally wounded by Mordred and entrusted one of his knights to return Excalibur to the lake. The knight struggled with this idea, thinking it a waste to throw such a fine blade away. After several attempts, Arthur finally convinced him to toss it in the lake and the knight returned with the story that a woman’s hand rose out of the lake and caught Excalibur by the hilt and then lowered it into the water. Excalibur was never seen again.
I hope you have enjoyed this installment of Fantasy Weapons Weekly. Click here to view the catalog of all the fantasy weapons I’ve written about.