|YMMV • Radar • Quotes • (Funny • Heartwarming • Awesome) • Fridge • Characters • Fanfic Recs • Nightmare Fuel • Shout Out • Plot • Tear Jerker • Headscratchers • Trivia • WMG • Recap • Ho Yay • Image Links • Memes • Haiku • Laconic|
"I will succeed to your throne — but what good is that? What good is anything?"—Valgard
A fantasy novel written by Poul Anderson in 1954. It was issued in a revised edition by Ballantine Books as the twenty-fourth volume of their Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in January 1971. The original text was returned to print by Gollancz in 2002.
The book tells the story of Skafloc Half Elf (actually a human stolen by the Elves), son of Orm the Strong. The story begins with the marriage of Orm the Strong and Aelfrida of the English. Orm kills a witch's family on the land, and later half-converts to a Christian, but quarrels with the local priest and sends him off the land. Meanwhile, an elf, Imric, seeks out the witch to capture the son of Orm, Valgard. In his place he leaves a changeling called Valgard. The real Valgard is taken away to elven lands and named Skafloc by the elves. He grows up among the fairies there. Later, he has a significant part in a war against the trolls.
The eponymous weapon was given to Skafloc as his naming-gift by the Aesir, and he later travels to the ends of the earth to have it reforged by Bolverk, the Ice Giant.
The novel is set during the Viking Age and the story contain many references to the Norse mythology. It was influenced by the 1891 novel The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, by H. Rider Haggard.
A partial adaptation of the novel, done as a serialized black-and-white graphic novel, was adapted by fantasy writer Tom Reamy and illustrated by professional fantasy artist George Barr. This was published during the mid-to-late 1960s over several issues of Reamy's twice Hugo Award-nominated science fiction fanzine Trumpet; the adaptation was never completed, though there were revived plans underway to do so at the time of Reamy's untimely death in late 1977.
Michael Moorcock has mentioned that The Broken Sword greatly influenced some of his stories.
- The Archer: Freda, after she Took a Level In Badass.
- Battle Couple: Skafloc and Freda, for a while.
- The Berserker: Valgard.
- Black Eyes of Evil: trolls.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Skafloc and Freda hook up because they don't know they're related; The ghost of their dead brother breaks the news to them. Skafloc, having sophisticated Elven sensibilities figures they can work through this. Freda disagrees.
- Changeling Tale
- The Chessmaster: Imric... but even he's an amateur compared to Odin.
- Deal with the Devil: The witch makes one with Satan himself. Freda makes one with Odin.
- Death of the Old Gods: This has yet to happen to the Norse Gods, but the young hero met up with a satyr who recounts the fall of Olympus.
- Downer Ending.
- Evil Twin: The changeling Valgard.
- Evil Weapon.
- The Fair Folk: Skafloc's adopted family.
- The term "faerie" is used to describe the fantastic races that aren't powerful enough to be gods, including the trolls, elves, dwarves, goblins, sidhe etc.
- Forging Scene
- Freudian Excuse: Valgard. Despite the horrible things he does, one has to remember that he was thrust into a society in which he didn't belong - and which quickly rejected him, and that he spent most of his life as little more than a pawn in the power games of more powerful beings.
- Gray and Gray Morality: Although there are good guys and bad guys, even the worst characters have at least some redeeming features, and even the best people have (sometimes quite deep) flaws. Skafloc and his family are hardly perfect but, compared to the other characters, come across as A Lighter Shade of Grey.
- Hair of Gold: Skafloc.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Freda has ruddy hair, and is the protagonist's love interest.
- Horny Vikings: In all their gory glory.
- Humans Are Special: They are under the protection of the gods. Also, unlike the faerie races, they can look forward to an afterlife. Finally, most faerie races cannot touch iron.
- Icy Blue Eyes: Valgard.
- Magic From Technology: Anderson notes that this magic employed by the faerie races could simply be a specific form of technology, that is they are able to manipulate their environment through forces yet unknown to us.
- Magic Knight: Skafloc, Imric, Illrede and others. Squishy wizards are surprisingly rare in this novel.
- Manipulative Bastard: Imric and Leea. Actually, most elves seem to be like this.
- Meaningful Name: Bolverk means "evil-worker". Illrede is probably derived from ill (as in bad/evil) and rede (an old word for counsel/advice).
- Medieval Stasis: Although they are actually technologically ahead of the humans, the faerie races have made very little actual progress in the last few centuries. As the author notes in the afterword, their conservative warrior culture has just about reached its limits in this field.
- Monochromatic Eyes: Elves had eyes that glowed a dim blue and pupils that were there but "hard to see".
- Named Weapons: Valgard's axe Brotherslayer, and Tyrfing, the broken sword of the title (also a reference to Norse Mythology.)
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Averted with Skafloc.
- Norse Mythology: Lots of references!
- There's also references to other mythologies, such as that of China, Ireland and Ancient Greece.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The Dwarves here are similar to the ones in Norse myths. Notably, they are the only race able to handle iron, and as such are often enslaved by the other faerie races.
- Our Elves Are Better: Subverted. The elves in this story are indeed superior to humans in many ways: faster, nimbler, practically immortal - and very cunning. However, they also have glaring weaknesses: they are vain, unable to form strong emotional bonds, cannot touch iron and are helpless against the power of gods (especially the christian God).
- Our Goblins Are Different: While lacking the trolls' strength, the Goblins in The Broken Sword can still be capable warriors if they have the motivation. They are also smarter thanthey look. At one point, Imric warns the scorn-filled Skafloc not to underestimate them, and later in the story a successful Goblin rebellion (against their Troll masters) is briefly mentioned.
- Our Trolls Are Different: They're ugly, strong and crude, but they can also be quite intelligent. Also unlike your average fantasy troll, the ones in this book are a bit shorter than humans and can be powerful sorcerers.
- Purple Eyes: The goddess Fand is described as having violet eyes.
- Proud Warrior Race: This is Norse mythology, so it's to be expected. Unlike in most other fantasy worlds, the elves in The Broken Sword fit this trope, too.
- Reforged Blade: A key plot element.
- Ultimate Blacksmith: The ice-giant Bolverk.
- What Have I Done: Valgard gets a few moments of this. Eventually, he realizes he's beyond redemption and just stops caring.
- Wicked Witch
- You Can't Fight Fate: It was foretold, and so it happened.