(About): A Fantastic Replica of the Blade of Conan’s Father
Our Barbarian Sword is a brutal primordial weapon from the world of Conan the Barbarian, drawing inspiration from Germanic weapon design and artwork in order to create a sword fit for a berserker. Inscribed with a plea to an alien god, this stunning prehistoric fantasy sword will dominate your sword collection.
A Barbarian Blade
The blade itself sports long, parallel edges, a short point and no fuller. This immediately marks it out as a powerful cutting sword. The usual means of distributing weight more evenly toward the grip of the sword, like fullering to reduce weight and distal taper to narrow the blade closer to the tip, are all absent. This means that a sword such as this would be capable of delivering enormously powerful crushing blows. The blade is forged from 440 stainless steel and then highly polished to create a shining sword-and-sorcery blade that would grace any wall display.
This style of blade became popular throughout Western and Northern Europe during the Late Roman Empire with the spread of the spatha, a long, straight-edged sword that was often unfullered. It seems to have been imported into the Roman military by Celtic auxiliary troops who had been recruited from the foederati (allied non-Roman tribes). Whilst most of the Roman Empire’s military work was done by highly-organised Roman legions in the early period, as the Empire became overstretched it began to rely more and more heavily on ‘barbarian’ mercenaries, whose arms, armor and tactics strongly influenced the Late Roman military. Along with Roman-style chainmail and Romanised barbarian helmet styles such as the spangenhelm and ridge helmet, the spatha became popular amongst settled Roman provinces, filtering outward into exterior cultures through the bustling border regions. Thus, our Barbarian Sword uses this blade pattern to depict the weapon of a deadly barbarian warrior. The blade also features a flared ricasso as it meets the hilt, mirroring the ‘flange-hilted’ Celtic swords of Bronze Age Europe.
A Sword Engraved with the Purpose of Crom
The blade is engraved in the script of the Hyborian Age of Conan the Barbarian’s world, and it reads “Suffer no guilt ye who wield this in the name of Crom”. In the canon of mythology created by fantasy author Robert E. Howard, Crom is the dour god worshipped by the Cimmerians who passes judgment on mankind, and who occasionally intervenes when approving of the bravery of an individual in the face of overwhelming odds.
The hilt of our Barbarian Sword takes inspiration from Celtic mythology and culture to create a startling design based around the form of a deer skull. It has been cast from steel, giving a fantastic degree of artistic definition to the hilt pieces. The quillon block is in the form of a skull, surmounted with symbolic runes. The cross-guard is formed by a handsome pair of deer’s antlers. The hand-grip is a long, two-handed type, wrapped in crossing strips of tan leather to create a rough barbarian appearance. The pommel is a richly engraved tulip-shape, flawlessly cast in steel.
Overall this sword is an incredible example of fantasy design, taking inspiration from the Father’s Sword from the Conan the Barbarian films. It includes a wooden wall hanger and plaque, and would make a stunning centrepiece for any sword collection (or even a fantastic gift for a hardcore Conan fan). As well, its rugged construction means that it would be a brilliant addition to your fantasy roleplay armory – it would do sterling service as the brutal sword of a primal warrior, or a ritual weapon for a dark sorcerer.
(Curiosity): The Symbolism of our Barbarian Sword
Symbols and symbolism remain a vital means of communication in the modern age, especially across different cultures. But imagine a world in which you had no writing to communicate complex ideas, where your culture was passed down orally through stories and advice and myths from generation to generation. The symbols you could make in the objects you owned and the places you went would have taken on an enormous amount of significance: they were one of the only things you could leave when you were gone. Thus, aspects of our Barbarian Sword’s symbolism take on new meaning when we examine the Celtic cultures who inspired it.
Exhortations from the gods are sometimes seen applied to arms and armor in the Iron Age era. For example, a 7th-century CE Vendel era ridge helmet found at Valsgärde, Sweden from before the Viking Age is fitted with the head of a great beast – one eye of the beast is set with a foil-lined red garnet, with the other set with a dark, unlined garnet. Thus, it gives the appearance of a one-eyed beast, mirroring the one-eyed god of wisdom Oðinn – effectively, the helmet is exhorting the god to lend the wearer their wisdom. Engraving exhortations to the gods was not at all a primitive expression, as engraving swords with religious messages only became more popular throughout the medieval era. Long and complex strings of abbreviated biblical verse have been discovered engraved into medieval swords: from the reasonably obvious ‘+INNOMINEDOMINI+’ (“In the name of the Lord”), to the absolutely brain-twisting ‘SCSDXCEROXMATRCIIISSCSDXCERNISSCSDXMTOERISC’. These engravings were partially aesthetic, but also held great meaning for their wielder: they reminded them of their purpose, as well as giving them the certainty of their god’s protection. This can also be seen on fantasy blades, like our stunning reproduction of Anduril from JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. The inscription on our Barbarian Sword is an enormously important part of its purpose.
Skulls in Ancient Celtic Society
Pre-medieval cultures often had extremely strong relationships to nature, which is unsurprising, given that they depended almost completely on the rhythms of the natural world for survival: the change of seasons for growing crops, animals for good hunting, even diurnal rhythms of day and night due to lack of artificial light. Thus, the skulls of animals often took on outsized significance. Trying to extrapolate the symbolic beliefs of ancient peoples from their archaeological remains is far from an exact science, since many pre-modern peoples (especially Western European Celtic cultures) were not literate and left behind only fragmentary pictorial evidence. Much of what we have often comes from unsympathetic or even supremacist writers. Gruesomely, Roman writers such as Strabo relate the Celtic practise of taking enemy skulls as trophies, preserving them with oil and nailing them to their doors. This has recently been confirmed with the finding of caches of human bones in Celtic archaeological sites, which had been treated with cedar oil. Although, if the Romans had chucked you out of your ancestral homeland, you’d probably be fairly irritated as well.
Several ancient peoples, such as the Mesopotamians and ancient Egyptians, had strong mythology surrounding weird multi-animal hybrids, like harpies and chimeras. But a 2015 discovery in a Celtic burial site in Dorset, England shows that similar ideas must have been present in Celtic society. Whilst animal bones are a reasonably common find in human graves, demonstrating the close like that Celts had to their animals, the boneyard in Dorset featured very strange multi-animal bone arrangements, such as a cow with a horse’s legs, and a sheep with a bull’s head. Although this has left anthropologists scratching their own heads, it demonstrates that Celtic people clearly had rich ritual relationships with the bones of animals. Curling beasts and animalistic symbolism feature heavily in Viking material culture, and we have some incredible authentic historical reproductions of Viking art amongst our roleplaying and re-enactment jewelry – these would be fantastic to tie the imagery of your Barbarian Sword into the rest of your outfit.
The Mystery of Cerunnos
The specific imagery of the deer is deeply significant to Iron Age societies in Europe. It is most often associated with the figure of Cerunnos, a deity who appears in a number of different traditions who is most frequently depicted as a man with a stag’s antlers. This figure is shrouded in mystery, as there are no specific stories that have survived which feature him – and we are fairly sure that the name ‘Cerunnos’, which is only attested a single time in one source, is probably not his common name. One of the clearest images we have of this mysterious god is on the Danish Gundestrup Cauldron, a gloriously decorated silver container dating from the late La Tène period some time around 0 CE. Cerunnos could be a nature deity – but he could also be a god of trade and commerce, due to his appearance on the Pillar of the Boatmen made by boatmen’s guild of Paris at roughly the same time as the Gundestrup Cauldron. The inclusion of the deer skull into the hilt of our Barbarian Sword draws all of these layers of complex symbology into the weapon.
(Curiosity): We Need To Talk About Barbarians
“Barbarian”. It can conjure up a wide range of images, from the sword-and-sorcery stereotype of a heavily muscles warrior wielding a huge axe and wearing nothing much beyond a helmet and a loincloth, – to woad-smeared Celtic warriors charging down upon Roman legionaries in the Teutoberg Forest – to chainmail-clad Viking berserkers laughing amidst the heat of battle. But it’s a word that deserves a closer look, especially as we come to understand the true complexities of our inheritance from the past.
The word ‘barbarian’ originates all the way back with the Ancient Greeks. Its original form was ‘βάρβαρος’ (‘barbaros’), the opposite of πολίτης (‘politēs’), meaning “citizen”. Thus, a ‘barbarian’ was anyone who wasn’t a Greek. This rooted the idea of barbarism in the idea of ‘otherness’, the out-group that ‘we’ are not. Originally, it had a linguistic dimension: the Greek word ‘ βάρβαρος’ (‘barbaros’) is an example of onomatopoeia, where the Ancient Greeks felt that everyone speaking non-Greek languages was just saying ‘bar, bar, bar’ – and thus they became known as the ‘people who go bar, bar, bar’, the barbaros or barbarians. On its own, this might be relatively harmless. However, it appears to have taken on a cultural dimension as well: Athenian literature refers to other Greek city-states as ‘barbarian’, or ‘like those non-Greek speakers’, implying a disdain borne of an idea of cultural supremacy. This seems to have been intimately involved with the growth of slavery in Ancient Greece, where non-Greeks who had been vanquished in battle were often taken as property by wealthy Athenians and made to work in awful conditions. It was a short leap from ‘these barbarians who are my slaves’, to ‘all barbarians are slaves by nature’. The Romans, developing much of their public philosophy from the Greeks, inherited these negative stereotypes about the non-Latin speaking peoples of Europe, and so as Rome expanded its borders the ideas of ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ became indelibly counterposed in geographical space.
Of course, the reality could not be further from the truth. Far from being a monolithic mass of bloodthirst mud-hut dwellers, the Celtic peoples of Europe were a richly complex set of peoples with highly complex symbolic lives, fascinating oral culture and storytelling, and an exquisite material culture as well. They had a developed system of law, as well as a complex social structure encompassing different forms of leadership such as collective self-government and kingship, and a caste of knowledgeable academics known as ‘druids’. We can see this in the kind of symbology we’ve examined above, in the surviving oral histories that were written down in the Celtic fringes of the British Isles where Celtic culture survived most free from Roman attentions, and in the wealth of incredible Iron Age objects that have survived across Europe. In fact, some of the Romans’ most effective ideas were shamelessly stolen from the Celtic peoples they came into contact with – chainmail, for example, was largely unknown to the Romans before they appropriated it from the Celts they met in Central Europe during their expansionary phase in the 3rd century BCE.
Thus – ‘barbarian’ is a term we should use carefully. We can risk damning a whole mass of cultures as merely ‘uncivilised’, when in reality they can provide us with an enormously rich and valuable source for our own mythologies and materials to work into our roleplaying and re-enactment.
Total length: 39 inches
Blade length: 29 inches
Blade material: 440 stainless steel
Guard and pommel material: Steel
Grip material: Leather