Swords hold a meaningful place in folk-lore.
In Game of Thrones, it isn’t until Jon Snow inherits “Longclaw,” the Valyrian steel blade, from Lord Commander Jeor Mormont of the Night’s Watch that Jon begins his journey from bastard to hero.
“It’s my father’s sword, and his father before him. The Mormonts have carried it for five centuries. It was meant for my son, Jorah. He brought dishonor to our House… but he had the grace to leave the sword before he fled from Westeros.“
In contrast to swords, axes have always been viewed as a barbarian’s weapon. An axe is a one sided blade that requires blunt force. A sword is two-sided and requires skill. Swords, by their nature also carry the associated honor that was instilled in their craftsmanship. The sword-bearer himself should be a reflection of the craftsmanship, skill and quality with which the blade was made. Blacksmithing required hundreds of hours: heating, folding, hammering and then tempering the steel by conditioning between fire and water. Due to the skill and training required, in addition to the cost to manufacture, swords were traditionally carried by a privileged class and became associated with the class itself: Japanese Samurais a famous example.
So strong is this symbolism that futurists have refused to let go: Frank Herbert’s Dune, and George Lucas’ Star Wars are a few examples where combat by sword continues far in the future and on distant galaxies.
Star Wars also includes the layered themes of family honor and lineage, as Luke inherits his fathers lightsaber in A New Hope. It is not just the passing of an heirloom that is important, it is what this inheritance represents: the passing of knowledge, the changing of the guard, a coming of age. As a sword carries a memory of the craftsmanship instilled in it, the change of ownership is a symbolic transition of the ownership and responsibility owed to that memory. In short time, Luke begins his training with Yoda, and after some trials, he eventually embodies the memory and begins to carry the lightsaber as a Jedi.
Part of the growth that occurs on the heroes journey comes from the combat experiences they have and lessons they learn about human nature as a result. This higher state of awareness, through intimate struggle, teaches us something about ourselves and is vital to personal growth as well as our relationships with others; because if we do not truly understand ourselves and we do not truly understand others, how can any emotional bond exist, most especially love?
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” Orson Scott Card, Enders Game.
In Game of Thrones, when Jon Snow first ventures North over the wall, he meets Ygritte, a ‘Wildling,’ a woman who is part of a tribe that only to this point in his life experience existed as a myth. Over time, Jon and Ygrittes relationship swings between genuine enemies as they each attempt to kill each other into actual lovers, and in the process Jon achieves the impossible as he grows to understand them: he reconciles peace between the ‘Wildlings’ and reunites them with villagers South of the Wall.
In Francis Coppolas’ Apocalypse Now, Martin Sheen’s character is tasked with tracking down and eliminating a rogue Marlon Brando in the Jungles of Vietnam after he has gone AWOL. The task becomes more challenging upon learning he is surrounded by a tribe of villagers, followers and paparazzi that he has pulled into his sphere of influence. As Brando sits amongst a collection of poetry and books, including James Frazers, The Golden Bough, Martin Sheen’s character butchers Brando with a sword amidst a tribal ceremony of the bull to the tune of The Doors, This is the End. Nothing can be more dramatic in film history as Brando’s ego begins to dissolve on the temple floor as he repeatedly utters the words “the horror, the horror.” Although the paparazzi flaunted Brando’s genius, all that could be seen amongst the littered poetry was a circled phrase “drop the bomb. exterminate them all,” signifying the nihilistic reduction had reached its final conclusion.
“Five to one, baby
One in five
No one here gets out alive
Now you get yours, baby
I’ll get mine
Gonna make it, baby
If we try”
Five to One, The Doors
In truth, the film was much less about personal growth in the traditional sense as it was about overcoming the darkest of realities that may only exist in actual combat: death within a world devoid of purpose except suffering. In the end, Martin Sheen’s character is seen wading back to the boat, his future uncertain except that he has triumphed over the worst there is to experience.
In a much less dramatic metamorphosis, the most recent Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, depicts a young Rey cutting down her grandfather, Emperor Palpatine, before a crowd of shrouded onlookers; but not before she dies at his hands first. In a weird sequence of events, she is ultimately the last one standing after Kylo Ren makes the ultimate sacrifice to resurrect her. This all occurring, despite the fact that they spent the first half of the movie trying to kill one another.
In the modern world, sword combat is no longer applicable, but there are numerous ways the same principals can be adapted and applied, for example:
A house – craftsmanship is apparent in custom homes rarely designed and built today, though their purpose is less constructive and transformative to the world at large. In times past, however, this served as a great example of self-development. We should all recall that Jesus’ father Joseph was in the business of carpentry. The movie Parasite, also carries the theme of transformation through the same medium: at the end of the movie Kevin devotes himself to hard-work so he can purchase the house and be reunited with his father.
A car or vehicle – less likely. There is significantly less customization and craft applied in construction of motor vehicles today. Although, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance does a fine job of transforming motorcycle maintenance into an example.
A guitar or musical instrument – absolutely. Guitars are a work of art that take time and craftsmanship to build. It also has its own memory, which is why some artists have named their guitars and some have sold for millions of dollars after years of use from professional artists. Guitars are also weapon-like. They are tied to a strap and slung over a shoulder and the sound cuts through space transmitting ideas, memories and emotions.
There is a sphere within the investing circle that focuses primarily on demographics. Demographic trends can be powerful signals for long term changes to the markets. As the baby boomer generation has moved through their stages of life, so have markets for the last 50 – 70 years. Though there are no guilds, or classic mediums to transmit their inheritance and wisdom to Gen X and Millennial’s, this change is slowly occurring and attention should be paid carefully to monitor it. Inheriting a house or business you are ill-prepared to manage could be as disastrous as tradition has of inheriting a sword you are too poorly trained or lack the discipline to carry. There will inevitably be another Jorah Mormont, and another Jon Snow.
“Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight. Oh! Back to school… back to school… back to school. Well, here goes nothing.” -Billy Madison