The sword and horse package

Remember the archetypal fantasy hero? Wields a sword and rides a horse. Saves lives, protects innocents, and beats evil-doers. Yes that’s the one. Well, he has my respect. Not just because he does what he does. But also because of the way he does it. He has good sense when it comes to choosing his accessories. I am talking about the horse and the sword.

The sword is the weapon of choice for many adventurers. Not without good reason either. The sword’s swing matches the spontaneity of a punch. Frequent users find, over time, that it seems less and less a weapon and more a limb. The swings, blocks, and stabs go from being techniques to becoming reflexes. Heck, they become body language! A bow never quite loses the feel of being a machine that has to be picked up and operated.

In those stories where the sword is a magical one, the hero becomes known as something of a magician. Not much you understand. Only a tad more effective against monsterkind than your average swordsman.

The sword wielding adventurer is the default definition of a hero in most people’s minds. Swords even have names of their own. The only bow I know the name of is Arjun’s Gandeev. And Arjun hardly fits the lone hero label. The archers in the world’s stories are often flanked on either side by wizards or mages.

Unlike the sword, which is one of the many choices available to the hero, the horse is pretty much unrivalled when it comes to being the choice mode of transportation among adventurers.

It even beats aerial travel as far as image boosting is concerned. Flying carpets, broomsticks, spatial portals are all too feeble to even count as worthy options. A horse is so much more… human. I seem to remember an old movie in which the hero and his horse hitched a ride on a flying carpet to some far off inaccessible part of the world.

Only the horse gives the impression of actual travel. A remote place isn’t really remote if you can just fly to it. It is the horse that goes uphill with the hero, then downhill, then across streams, overnight and through the day, to the very end of the road to the remote place, right into the cave containing the monster to be slain and/or the princess to be rescued.

Besides there is something to be said about the efficiency of a transport that does its own refuelling while you are asleep and even some of the basic level navigation. You can’t ram your horse into a tree or accidentally misjudge the depth of a stream and drown while crossing it. A well trained steed can even assist in battle by putting its hooves to good use, or do a quick rescue while its master engages a distracted monster in combat.

I seriously doubt anything can beat the hero-sword-horse package. What probably makes it click is that the sword and the horse don’t feel like add-ons. They are right there, as much part of the hero as his pose, when we think of him.