Freud, Lord of the Rings, and Fantastic Swords

My wife makes fun of me for reading fantasy novels. I never played D&D growing up, but at some point I came across Lord of the Rings. Fantasy, not to mention many of its fans, is easy to ridicule, perhaps especially so if you have superficially studied Freudian psychology.

Phallic symbols.

It’s immature to find this concept so funny, but I can’t help finding it an amusing concept to devote one’s academic life to.

(I know a lot of people love to joke about the Oedipus Complex, but Oedipus Rex was a tragedy.)

I think the weirdest thing about phallic symbols is that we can find them almost everywhere, but especially everywhere in fantasy. And I think the only thing we have to do with these phallic symbols is question why they need to be there. Perhaps also, why do they need to be so extensively described?

The next time you watch Lord of the Rings, consider the phallic symbols. Why are there so many towers? And why does the one king’s sword, Narsil / Anduril, need to be so big? In this scene, Peter Jackson seems to be having a bit of fun with Freudian symbolism as his camera follows the blade of Anduril up … and up… Geez louize…

If Narsil / Anduril is anything to go by, I guess this explains why some people call fantasy “dick lit.” Still, there’s something to be said for a fantasy series that has a memorable phallic symbol.

Here are a few examples:

Excalibur, mentioned in all of the Arthurian fantasies, usually comes to Arthur after he meets the Lady of the Lake.

Callandor, from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, is a magical sword that can only be used safely if in partnership with two women.

Gene Wolfe has a great skill with swords. Terminus Est, from the Book of the New Sun series, has a liquid center that makes it easier to execute criminals. When the hero lifts the sword, the liquid center shifts the center of gravity toward the hilt and it moves forward whenever he executes someone, shifting the center of gravity to the tip. What a potent sword.

And of course, the mack-daddy of all fantasy phallic symbols is the light saber.


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