Both in the world of Westeros and in the world of the Middle Ages there is a tradition of important weapons. In medieval literature, swords belonged to the bravest warriors, knights, kings, gods and heroes of different mythologies and cultures. Swords represented power and honour, status and authority, kingship and sovereignty. In fact, according to Hilda Ellis Davidson, “The reason is largely because the sword was essentially the weapon of the leader, a personal treasure which was also a necessity for the man who would keep his precarious place at the head of others” (211). They were also connected to values such as bravery, loyalty and truth, but also violence and death, being some of the most decorated war items of the Middle Ages.
Since A Song of Ice and Fire is a work of fantasy, it is important to clarify the connection between fantasy and the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages have continually been reimagined in contemporary culture. In fact, Umberto Eco states that “it seems people like the Middle Ages”, and that popular culture is an important vehicle for this renewed interest in the medieval period (61). This aspect is linked to the concept of medievalism and it is important in order to understand the way that Martin uses the Middle Ages in his work, particularly in the way that swords are portrayed in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Being the weapon of the leader, the sword symbolized the identity of its wielder. This became more prominent during the medieval period especially because of its constant presence in chivalric romances where it became a symbolic object associated with the hero. In A Song of Ice and Fire, there are also swords which reflect the same ideals and characteristics, as well as symbolic charge, of those of the medieval period.