The Iron Thrones
George R.R. Martin wrote a masterpiece in his series A Song of Ice and Fire, recreated for the screen as Game of Thrones. The title object – the throne – is one of the most iconic fantasy items ever conceptualized that isn’t a sword.
It’s made of swords. How badass is that?
Fantasy writers are fond of inventing weapons and other items possessing magical powers. The iron throne doesn’t have any powers strictly speaking, but it does command authority and respect in the fictional realm of Westeros and is known all across Martin’s fantasy world. The throne is forged from the swords of knights who have served kings over the years.
It’s hard to read one of the books in A Song of Ice and Fire or watch a season of Game of Thrones without developing a mental image of the iron throne; a place where even a king must sit carefully.
But the iron throne has received enough attention in recent years! Now, let’s pay homage to eight other iconic fantasy items from famous books, stories, and fables.
Warning! This article may contain spoilers for the following stories:
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- The Gunslinger and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
- The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you’re okay with the occasional spoilers from these well-established stories, read on!
King Arthur’s Round Table – Wace of Jersey
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a knight of the round table when I grew up. By the time I hit my teenage years, I’d read, watched, and otherwise consumed a dozen different variations on stories about King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.
My favorite is still probably Monty Python’s Quest For the Holy Grail. Speaking of the grail, it definitely deserves an honorable mention on this list. But the grail is as much an abstract concept as it is a tangible item. The table, on the other hand, is a steadfast symbol of what Arthur wants his knights to be; a unified brotherhood using might for right.
What is the Round Table in Arthurian Legend?
The round table is the meeting place for King Arthur and his knights. Arthur had it crafted specifically so there would be no end or “head”. This means that everyone who sits at the table is in a position of equal power. In some stories, the round table is just a concept, not a real piece of furniture. But in most narratives, the table exists and is used by Arthur and his knights.
The origins of the round table may be open for debate. Most sources cite Wace of Jersey’s epic poem Roman de Brut (1155), but several other important pieces developed the round table as a noteworthy item.
The Wardrobe – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Who hasn’t wished they could duck into their wardrobe and enter a magical land where they’re honored as royalty? That’s exactly how The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe start for Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy. Sent to a strange house in the countryside to avoid the air raids of World War II, the siblings wind up confronting their fears in the magical realm of Narnia.
The wardrobe is the first of many “portals” or methods of transference between Earth and Narnia. Other books in the series use a train station, a gate, a painting, and other objects as portals, but the wardrobe remains the most memorable.
The wardrobe was built on Earth from the wood of a tree grown from a Narnian apple seed. This part of the story is not discovered until later on in the series, in The Magician’s Nephew.
The Sandalwood Guns – The Gunslinger by Stephen King
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
-The Gunslinger by Stephen King
This famous quotation is enough to send chills down the spines of many readers who have consumed The Gunslinger and/or The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. According to legend, the Sandalwood Guns were actually forged from the melted down metal of Excalibur. So, it turns out that Arthur’s famous sword made it onto this list after all… just in a less recognizable form.
The Sandalwood Guns are a symbol of the gunslinger’s rank and skill, tools which he uses to survive the harsh climate of the wasteland where these stories take place, and everything the man in black can throw at him.
Callandor – The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
I had to include something from The Wheel of Time because it’s one of my all-time favorite fantasy stories. It seems fitting that the only sword on this list would be “the sword that is not a sword” – it’s really a powerful magical artifact known in Jordan’s world as a sa’angreal.
The primary character in the Wheel of Time (Rand al’Thor) is a powerful “channeler”, which is one of the words used to describe wielders of WoT’s unique system of magic. A sa’angreal is capable of amplifying a channeler’s abilities to city-breaking heights.
Callandor is a crystal sword with a curved blade and is used in pivotal scenes throughout the series. Rand first wields it when he and his allies take The Stone of Tear, and ending with the Last Battle, the climax of the series is foretold throughout its pages. The Stone of Tear is a fortress considered impregnable before Rand and his friends arrived.
Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) – Norse Mythology
Thor’s hammer is perhaps the most recognized legendary weapon in history that isn’t a sword. But according to Mythology.net, Mjölnir was also used for ceremonial purposes such as blessing births, weddings, and funerals.
Forged by dwarves who were tricked into crafting it by Loki, Mjölnir became a symbol of Thor’s might as a defender of Asgard.
Mjölnir is characterized as being too heavy for anyone but Thor to lift, but despite that, it was stolen by a giant on one memorable occasion. The giant demanded the right to marry the Norse goddess Freya in exchange for Mjölnir’s safe return. Thor agreed, but dressed in Freya’s clothing and went in her stead. When the thief brought out the hammer to bless their marriage, Thor seized it and slew the giants.
Talaria (Hermes’ Winged Sandals) – Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, Hermes is the messenger for the other gods. This was of course a crucial role since email had not been invented at this point.
While Hermes and his sandals appear in many stories throughout Greek mythology, the Talaria may be most famous for the time they were borrowed. When Perseus was tasked with slaying the gorgon Medusa, Hermes loaned the human his sandals along with several other magical items gathered from the gods and their allies.
The Wooden Horse of Troy – The Aeneid by Virgil
The trojan horse is such an iconic item that computer viruses, high school mascots, and condoms have all syndicated its name. Even Monty Python pays homage to the wooden horse in their quest for the holy grail, by attempting to invade a French castle using a wooden rabbit.
But what was the wooden horse of Troy, originally? According to legend, the horse was constructed by a Grecian master carpenter towards the end of a great war between Greece and Troy. The Greek forces were failing to invade Troy despite a lengthy siege, and their commanders feared they could not win.
But one of the Greek commanders proposed an ingenious plan. They constructed a giant wooden horse with a hollow belly, so tall and broad it would not fit through Troy’s great gates. Then they left the horse outside the great city and “retreated”.
A well-known member of the Greek military remained behind as if abandoned. He convinced the Trojans that the horse was a gift, a tribute to the war goddess Athene, and a symbol of their city’s strength.
The Trojans brought the horse into their city, and during the darkest hours of the night, some of Greece’s finest warriors climbed down from a hatch in its belly. They slew the guards and opened the gates to allow their armies inside.
The One Ring – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
No list of awesome fantasy items would be complete without Sauron’s ring – the one fantasy item that most people across Earth (and Middle Earth) can quickly recognize. All you have to do is caress one hand with the other and murmur “my precious” in a weird voice, and 80% of the world’s population will probably know what you’re referencing.
That’s a lot of power – which makes sense since it’s a ring of power. The one ring is surrounded by mystery, fear, and death. Crafted in the fires of Mount Doom by Sauron himself, it was intended as a controlling mechanism for the other powerful rings made for the other rulers of Middle Earth.
What Powers Does Sauron’s Ring Have?
When it originally appears in Tolkein’s The Hobbit, the ring is mostly used to bestow the wearer with a perfect form of invisibility. But when we meet Gollum, who claims to be the ring’s rightful owner, we get hints at the item’s larger (and more sinister) power. It seems to have corrupted Gollum (who was once a creature similar to a hobbit) beyond recovery or recognition.
Ultimately, it seems that the one ring’s powers are dynamic rather than static. They also may depend slightly on who is wearing it. For example, hobbits such as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins seem to have a stronger innate resilience to the ring’s sway than men like Boromir of Gondor. It seems certain that if Sauron laid hands on the ring, it would do more than making him invisible.
Final Thoughts on Legendary Items
For writers and other creators, inventing fantasy items can be as rewarding as coming up with incredible characters and landscapes. But creating truly iconic items requires rare skill. All of the items lifted above became not just because of their inherent traits; but also because of the interest in the characters who carry them and the stories that unfold in their wakes.
Which iconic fantasy item is your favorite? Is it on this list, or is it missing? Let us know! Want to learn more about some of our favorite fantasy series? Follow this link to our article on fantasy series that deserve TV adaptations!
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