Blade and Mana: The Sword of Omens

For as long as there have been warriors in our stories, there were magical weapons for them to wield, and the sword is the most typical of these.

Swords themselves are important symbols even without magic. They are one of the few weapons in the world which were not developed for any other reason: axes, daggers, spears, bows, guns, all have other purposes and applications, but the sword – it can only kill men. It is useless for hunting or cutting down trees or slicing meat for a feast. 

In addition, the sword was once a very difficult craft, requiring master swordsmiths to dedicate their entire lives to crafting even moderate quality blades. These things make the sword a foremost choice for the heroes of stories. Adding magic to that blade makes the greatest heroes nobler, and the most terrible foes viler. This series of features is covering some of the most important magic swords in literature and mythology.

Today we’re looking at The Sword of Omens.

The Sword and Claw of Omens is the traditional weapon set for the lords of the Thundercats in the old adventure cartoon and the remake. There isn’t much canon to the new series yet for comparison, but so far, the sword seems to have the same story and powers.

The sword and claw have been passed down from generation to generation along the bloodlines of the Thundercat king, and seem to serve, not only as a ceremonial weapon, but also a badge of office, as the rulers don’t place emphasis on any other accoutrement or garment.

The pommel of the sword holds The Eye of Thundara, a red stone bearing the royal sigil of the Thundercat ruling house, from which the powers of the sword seem to emanate.

The primary purpose of the stone during peace-time is to grant a king the power of ‘Sight Beyond Sight’, a sort of magical prescience which comes in very handy in battle and in ruling decisions. In the new series, Lion-O has only used this power by accident – not understanding what was going on, and it seems that his father does not know about that particular property of the sword, so that small part of the lore is changed.

The main combat power of the sword seems like a convenience mostly, or perhaps a matter of stealth. In its non-activated form, it’s about the size of a dagger, and rests within the claw, rather than in a separate sheath – though occasionally Lion-O was seen to wear the claw at his belt with the hilt of the sword up.

When the sword is drawn by a Thundercat king, it immediately lengthens to about the size of a short-sword. Then it grows still longer, and sometimes broader depending on the temperament and need of the wielder. It seems stronger and sharper than a normal sword, but other than this, it doesn’t seem to do anything magical when it strikes a foe.

It does have the capacity to fire off lightning bolts from its tip (a detail which, when combined with its ability to grow has been used by some analysts to show that it is a clear symbol for masculinity and phallic power), but these bolts are never directed at enemy forces, they are always shot directly into the sky at the moment the sword becomes large enough that Lion-O must wield it with both hands, so the effect these bolt might have on enemies is unknown.

A few minor weaknesses have been shown throughout the canon, though they are mostly one-off plot devices. For example, if the Eye of Thundara gets covered up, the Sight Beyond Sight stops working, and in one episode we learn that if the sword is used against another Thundercat, it loses all of its other powers until it can be reforged.

The claw does not seem to have any magical powers of its own, but it is not a mere sheath. The claw serves in combat as a bladed buckler, giving the wielder added defense and an off-hand weapon without occupying his off-hand, in case he needs the sword to go into two-handed mode.

The sword, and especially the Eye of Thundara in its pommel, has become a strong symbol of pop-culture since the original cartoon went out of production many years ago. The Thundercat royal seal, also the logo for the show, has come to represent all of the campy adventure cartoons of the 80s and sparks nostalgia in anyone raised during that era of television.

The sword has also made its way into a few popular video games, most notably World of Warcraft – though it’s called the Sword of Omen there, possibly to avoid copyright infringement – where it takes the form of a short-sword which gives bonuses to strength and agility.

Come back for the next article in the series which will feature Hrunting and Nægling. If there is a magic sword which you would like to see featured in this series, let us know in the comments.