Blade and Mana: Callandor

Posted by CB Droege

This feature series takes a look at magic swords and their place in our stories and culture.

For as long as there have been warriors in our stories, there have been 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, these 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 creating 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 Callandor.

Callandor is an important element in The Wheel of Time series of novels by Robert Jordan. Also known as "The sword which is not a sword," this blade is not for cutting. If used as an actual sword, it has very little power, and in the hands of a woman it has no power at all.

In The Wheel of Time stories, magic comes from two halves of ‘The source’, each half only responding to one sex. For this reason any artifact of the source only responds to one sex, and Callandor is for the male half, called Saidin.

Its creation is shrouded by the passage of time, having been made during ‘the time of legend’ before the cataclysm known as ‘the breaking of the world’ in which almost all art and society was lost, to be reformed by the survivors.

For thousands of years, the sword was buried in a stone, warded to only release for the reincarnated form of the ancient hero, Lews Therin Telamon, called The Dragon - though no one of the time of the books knows what a dragon is.

It serves an integral turning point in the story when it is a drawn by Rand al’Thor, the primary protagonist of the book series, proving that he is the Dragon Reborn - this is not the only allusion to Arthurian legend in the mythology of the world.

Once drawn, Rand discovers that Callandor is a sa'angreal - an artifact that interacts with The Power. The effect of the sword is to amplify the wielder’s ability to channel saidin, which is not unique - Rand also carried a small Buddha-like figurine which does the same thing, and other characters have similar items, but this one is different, as it seems to have no safeties on it.

Other artifacts with this purpose have limiters to stop the wielder from drawing more power than they can handle, while Callandor does not.

It also seems to be a teaching device, as Rand learns his most powerful abilities while channeling through the sword, often without even realizing what it is he’s doing until after it is done.

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