PART 11: THE PEN ISN'T ALWAYS MIGHTIER - POWER SWORDS
By Alex Wiggan (and Ryan the work experience lad)
Hello dear readers, you join us this week in Japan where we’ve gone in search of some information on swords.This week we’re looking at power swords, specifically those belonging to legendary sibling superheroes He-Man and She-Ra.As Ryan has a date later tonight (bloody typical), we’ll crack on with things...
...so let’s get it on!
WHAT ARE POWER SWORDS?
The word sword comes from the old English word, sweord... and the old high German word, swert... and of course the middle Dutch word, swaert. Then there’s the Icelandic word, svero... the old Frisian/Saxon word, swerd... the modern Dutch word, zwaard... as well as many, many others.
Generally swords are seen as being symbols of war and conflict and the oldest swords date back to 3300 BC.There are many different types of swords, but generally they consist of a blade and a hilt and they’ve been used throughout the ages by many different civilisations. As for power swords, they’re basically mythical swords with a mystical ability.
WHO DO THEY BELONG TO?
Power swords have been a part of numerous myths and legends from King Arthur's legendary sword, Excalibur, that blinded Arthur's enemies when it was first drawn, to Odin's sword, Gram, that was said to be able to split an anvil in half! However for the purpose of this chapter in The Science Of Superheroes, the power swords belong to brother and sister warriors, He-Man and She-Ra, the powerful protectors of Eternia and Etheria respectively. He-Man began life as a character in the Masters of the Universe line of toys created by Mattel and he appeared in three cartoon series' (He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe (1983), The New Adventures Of He-Man (1990) and He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe 2002)), numerous comics and a live-action movie. In the first animated series He-Man was secretly Prince Adam, who was given the ability to protect the innocent by transforming into the barbarian hero every time he raised his magic sword and said, 'by the power of Grayskull. I have the power!' As for She-Ra, the Princess Of Power was created by Larry DiTillio and Mattel for an animated spin-off series aimed at extending the Masters Of The Universe brand to appeal to girls. She-Ra was secretly Princess Adora, Adam's twin sister and just like Adam, when she raised her magic sword and said 'for the honour of Grayskull', Adora instantly became the most powerful woman in the universe!
SO WHAT EXACTLY DID THE POWER SWORDS DO FOR HE-MAN AND SHE-RA?
In the early mini-comics (originally packaged with the action figures) He-Man owned half of the sword of power and his archenemy Skeletor owned the other half. However, generally speaking He-Man always carried the complete sword himself and he used it to transform from an average Joe (in a pink waistcoat) into the biggest Muscle Mary on the planet Eternia. He also used the power of his sword to transform his faithful (yet frightened) feline companion Cringer into the ferocious Battle Cat. As for She-Ra, her sword of Protection not only did the transformation hoopla as well (which included transforming her horse Spirit into Swift Wind) but it also had the ability to turn into a few other useful gadgets too (shield, rope etc); just like a Swiss army knife!
SO WHAT WOULD THEY DO FOR ME?
Well as mentioned above there have been many powerful swords throughout the ages, like the sword of Peleus, which was a sword in Greek mythology that made the wielder victorious in battle, or Fragarach of Celtic myth that was forged by the gods and said to be able to penetrate any armour. Imagine having one of those if you were in the heart of battle, you'd be pretty unstoppable. Of course those were all mythological weapons, so the harsh reality is they wouldn't do anything for you.
TYPICAL. SO ONCE AGAIN YOU TELL ME ABOUT SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T EXIST!
Oh stop moaning.Those power swords might be of no use to you, but there is a mythological power sword from Japan that belonged to the Japanese god Susanoo.It was called Kusangi-no-Tsurugi and it was discovered in one of the tails of an eight headed serpent that Susanoo killed.The sword was then given to the godess Amaterasu before eventually being passed to the warrior Yamato Takeru, who used it to get out of a particularly tight situation he found himself in.An evil warlord had trapped Takeru in grassland that he had set on fire in the hope that Takeru would burn to death, but with Kusangi-no-Tsurugi by his side Takeru was able to cut back the grass.In doing so he discovered the sword had the ability to control the wind and so he was able to push the fire back in the opposite direction.
ERM... THIS STILL SOUNDS LIKE MYTHOLOGY.
Well yes it is, but there are suggestions that Kusangi-no-Tsurugi actually existed.Nihon Shoki (the second oldest book in classical Japanese history) speaks of the sword and although the book is known to mention mythology, it does so alongside official Japanese history; so it’s kind of difficult to determine if there’s any truth in it.Kusangi-no-Tsurugi is said to be kept at Atsuta Shrine, but as no one is allowed to see it, the reality of the sword remains a mystery.
SO IF I HAD KUSANGI-NO-TSURUGI WOULD I OWN A POWER SWORD?
Quite possibly you would, but according to records the sword is said to be so powerful that it’s cursed; so owning it probably wouldn’t do you much good anyway and you certainly wouldn’t become He-Man or She-Ra.
And now you know.
SUPER SCIENCE EQUATION: Knowledge of Kusangi-no-Tsurugi + Ryan = Ryan with a knowledge of Kusangi-no-Tsurugi
We’re staying in Japan for a couple of weeks so don’t go too far because we’ll be back soon with the next thrilling chapter in The Science Of Superheroes!