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A Tale of Weapons #1 - The Knights' Durendal

06/07/2016 09:00 AM

One of the goals of our community content is to connect our players to For Honor via the many real world touchstones the game calls upon for inspiration. In this "Tale of Weapons" series of articles, we will explore legendary weapons that are either historical or mythological, which inspire our team's creation of the weapons wielded by the Knights, Vikings and Samurai of For Honor. 

When thinking about the mythical weapons linked to the Knights' warrior culture and fantasy, Durendal is one of the first names to come to mind. Durendal is a French sword known in the literature to be the “sharpest sword in all existence”. It is heavily featured in the epic poem, The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland), one of the oldest and most popular pieces of French literature, written somewhere between the 11th and 12th century. The novel contains 4,000 lines of poetry telling the story of the Battle of Roncevaux that happened in 778 AD during the reign of Charlemagne, King of Franks. Roland was Charlemagne’s chief paladin, leading the troops defending Francia’s frontiers against the Bretons. Although Charlemagne’s sword Joyeuse is another known mythical weapon, it is usually overshadowed by his paladin’s blade. Roland is one of the most popular knights in medieval European literature, a great leader known for his Oliphant horn, his trustworthy horse Veillantif and of course, his unbreakable sword Durendal. 


According to the myth, Durendal was forged by Wayland the Smith, a prolific Norse blacksmith known for his malicious will, but also for his usage of magical elements in his craft. He is also known for having apparently crafted Excalibur, King Arthur’s magical sword, well documented in many epic medieval and fantasy tales. Durendal is said to contain some sacred Christian relics: a tooth of Saint Peter, the blood of Saint Basil, the hair of Saint Denis and a piece of raiment of the Virgin Mary. Other stories tell that Durendal was brought to Charlemagne by an angel, others say that it once belonged to Hector of Troy. 

Wayland the Smith


What’s interesting with Durendal is that the stories surrounding its creation go far beyond European knight mythology. Deep diving into its story is like having a tour of many middle-age tales, from renowned historical warriors to gods and mages. Being crafted by a Norse blacksmith, the sword crosses paths with Viking mythology. Some stories also tell that the sword was once possessed by Hector of Troy, the legendary Trojan prince who fought and apparently killed 31,000 Greek fighters to protect Troy from invasion. 

According to The Song of Roland, the paladin used Durendal to fight an army of more than 100,000 Saracens, so Charlemagne could retreat in France with his army. During this battle, he chopped off the right hand of Marsile the Saracen king, and decapitated his son Jursaleu. At some point, Roland attempted to destroy Durendal to make sure it wouldn’t end up in the hands of the enemy. By trying to break it in the rocks, it actually created a 100 meter tall gap in the Pyrenees, now known as “Roland’s Breach”. Another story, the most interesting one, tells that he threw Durendal into the air to get rid of it, and it magically landed and embedded itself in the stone of the town of Rocamadour, in France. There actually is a sword embedded in the rocks in that town, and many people think it is the real Durendal, thrown by Roland many centuries ago.

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