Excalibur (Arthur's Sword)Excalibur - Like its wielder, the legendary sword Excalibur, may or may not have existed (So why is it included on this chart?...I told you, I like swords). Whether real or imaginary, it is the most famous sword of all-time; and as such, is worth some attention. Many think it is the sword Arthur pulled from the stone. Modern depictions of the Arthurian legend have tied the two together. However, by most accounts Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone are two separate weapons. Drawing the sword from the stone signified that Arthur was rightful king, Excalibur is the sword handed to him by the Lady of the Lake. In fact, in the record by Sir Thomas Malory, Excalibur replaced the Sword in the Stone after it was broken in battle. The wizard Merlin took Arthur to the realm of the Lady of the Lake in search of a new weapon. She granted him Excalibur, a sword which could not be broken and could strike any surface without being blunted, for it had been forged by an elven smith of Avalon. The name "Excalibur" comes from the Old French Escalibor, which is what Chrétien de Troyes called it in the Old French romance poem, Perceval. However, the earliest references to his sword are Welsh, and its name in those tales is Caledfwich, which likely comes from an Old Irish word Caladbolg meaning "flashing" or "lightning" sword. Monmouth Latinized the name to Caliburn. Malory thought the etymology of the Old French word meant "cut steel", so he went with Excalibur.


Excalibur (Arthur's Sword)Since, generally, it is more difficult to track the history of an object than a person, the reality of the sword's existence is likely never to be solved. However, there is an interesting story from the Norse saga, Völsunga which closely resembles the tale of how Arthur became king. It tells of the House of Völsung which is built around a huge Branstock tree, growing in the center of the king's hall. One evening King Völsung held a large banquet, and an elderly one-eyed stranger appeared seeking shelter from a storm outside. He was welcomed heartily and partook of the feast. After he had had his fill, he stood up and drew a magnificent sparkling sword from his cape. The other guests became alarmed, but he turned and thrust it into the Branstock tree all the way to its hilt. Then he turned back to the crowd and announced that the sword was a gift from the gods to whomever could draw it from the tree. He exited the hall and disappeared. The guests realized that the mysterious stranger must have been Odin the Allfather, and immediately took turns trying to remove the sword. But none could draw it. Then Völsung's ten sons attempted to pull it from the tree. All failed...until the king's youngest, Sigmund tried. To everyone's astonishment, the sword came out. Sigmund had been the gods' chosen warrior to lead his people. The similarities between this and the Arthur story are striking. It indicates that, whether or not Arthur was a historical figure, many of the events of his life have been fictionalized (obviously). And not only that, but borrowed from other cultures. Based on that, it seems likely that the story of Excalibur is suspect as well.