The Serpent, Spear, and Wheel of Time
A Compendium of Weaponry and Military Costuming
of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
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heron-mark sword icon

** Tam's heron-mark sword **


The sword was single-edged, slightly curved, and delicate compared to other swords of the time. It closely resembles the heron-mark sword depicted to the right, one produced by Museum Replicas under Jordan's eye, though, as the following text shows, Tam's heron-mark blade also differs from it in some details: heron-mark katana
    "The blade, very slightly curved and sharp only on one edge, bore another heron etched into the steel. Short quillons, worked to look like braid, flanked the hilt. It seemed almost fragile compared with the swords of the merchants' guards; most of those were double-edged, and thick enough to chop down a tree." <TEotW: 5, 66-7, Winternight>

This makes it likely that the sword is modelled on a Japanese katana or tachi (very few swords of Western origin have a slightly curved blade, even fewer of these are two-handed). The longevity of such blades, and the exquisite skill required in their forging, also suggests a katana or tachi as model. Tam's sword differs from these in that a Western-style crossguard consisting of short quillons is used rather than an oval crossguard, or tsuba, in the Oriental style.

The "... long, two-handed hilt ..." <TGH: xxiii, Prologue> is leather-wrapped, and referred to repeatedly as "nobby." <i.e. TEotW: 8, 110, A Place of Safety>

The approximate overall length of his weapon is probably some 37 to 42", a standard length for two-handed katana or tachi, and for many swords of Western design. Indeed, the Museum Replicas heron-mark blade is in the katana style; both hilt and quillons differ from Tam's sword. It is 42½" long, with a blade length of 32½" and a weight of 1 lb. 9 oz. - values that are likely close to those of Tam's sword. bronze heron

Three herons designate the sword as a blade-master's weapon:

    "... a long, leather-wrapped hilt inset with a bronze heron. Another bronze heron stood on the scabbard, and yet another was scribed on the sheathed blade." <TGH: 1, 4, The Flame of Tar Valon>

Only one side of sword or scabbard is marked: in each mention of the sword, only three herons are present; when Thom later indicates the two herons on Rand's coat, Rand comments that "The sword makes five. Hilt, scabbard and blade." <TGH: 26, 387, Discord> Presumably, each heron is found on the outward-facing surface of hilt, scabbard and blade.

My guess is that each heron is of the same size, though this isn't mentioned specifically. The bronze heron on the hilt is probably some 2 to 2 1/2" in size, with a maximum length of 3" - when the heron-mark is branded into his palm, a perfect figure is impressed on it. Rand's a big boy, but nowhere are his hands described as meathooks, which Jordan would surely have done, if their size were unusual.

One can even place the heron on the hilt with some accuracy, if one assumes Rand is right-handed. He must be: a left-handed swordsman cannot make it through six books without comment. During his second confrontation with Ba'alzamon <TGH: 15, 241-5, Kinslayer>, Rand is marked with a heron on his right palm. He'd been holding his sword before him, in both hands. If right-handed, this would put his right hand above his left, closer to the crossguard, and thus would place the heron a few inches from the crossguard, and on the right side of the hilt (the outward-facing side of the hilt when sheathed).

In the sword form Heron Wading in the Rushes, the sword is " ... held reversed in both hands over his head ..." <TGH: 44, 617, Five Will Ride Forth>, that is, with blade pointing down toward the ground as the beak of a heron hunting for prey. Rand uses this attack in his first attempt to kill Ba'alzamon, knowing it will likely cause his own death also <TGH: 47, 666, The Grave Is No Bar to My Call>. Ingtar predicts the same: "You will put your sword in the other man with that ... but not before he has his through your ribs." <TGH: 44, 617, Five Will Ride Forth>

This tells us much: to have the blade reversed, with edge facing one's opponent now places the left palm over a single heron on the hilt. Heron Wading in the Rushes allows for a single forward thrust or stab, moving the blade from a vertical position through an arc to horizontal. The dominant hand would be placed above Rand's non-dominant left, for greater thrusting power. This places the left palm next to the crossguard, and confirms the heron placement cited above.

Curiously, the heron burn would be upside down, an apparent oversight on Jordan's part. Repositioning the hand to have the heron burn rightside up leaves the swordsman able to skewer himself, only.

Finally, the scabbard is described as black and apparently was unadorned except for the heron. <TEotW: 5, 66, Winternight>

Rand al'Thor's connection to the Norse god Tyr - god of justice, of swords and war - is explored in the section on the Dragon Sceptre.

See also:


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