Myth in Pop Culture: The Polearm

Jessica Dodge
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There are many appearances of the polearm in myth and pop culture. Most audiences don’t think much of it. It isn’t a sword or a shield. It might be magical, but other that, what does it matter? When a magic polearm appears, it is representing a deeper story. It sums up a tale of a hero and the creation or establishment of a kingdom, culture, or domain. The polearm is the physical embodiment of the power of a group people and their unity.

The Foundation of Culture

The polearm begins with the spear from 250,000 years ago. It was the first weapon dating to the Lower Paleolithic period. The tip of the spear was originally hardened by fire, but later, humans discovered stone napping. Physical evidence in the form of broken artifacts connects the spear to humanity, so we do not need to rely on myths for knowledge of their existence.

So, the first weapon we used for protection was a spear. The primitive warrior never goes anywhere without his spear. More importantly, the spear was the first hunting weapon as in those primitive years, humans did not yet farm, they only hunted for food. Spears gave early man a heavy advantage towards survival. Hence, the reliance and importance of the spear became encoded into our myths.

To Establish the Kingdom

300-warrior-king-spear-shield-gerard-butler

Most commonly, the spear is held by the patriarch of a pantheon of gods. A magic spear leads the attack of many mythical battles and wars. Also, it is used as a defense against titans or giants. Afterward, it is laid down or given to the heir. The spear is a representation of a struggle to establish a culture, a kingdom, or a domain.

In humanity’s drive to improve their weapons, the vision of the first polearm has changed. Thus, our myths reflect those changes. From that first pointed stick, we have developed javelins, bidents, tridents, scythes, lances, harpoons, Japanese naginata, medieval fauchard, European glaive, and the Chinese yanyuedao. In essence, time and humanity have turned the weapon of our origins into various polearms.

Magic Spears of Domain

Izanagi and Izanami stir the waters with Onogoroshima
Izanagi and Izanami stir the waters with Onogoroshima, the heavenly jeweled spear

Zeus has lightning bolts. Odin owns Gungnir. In Japanese mythology, a heavenly jeweled spear helped Izanagi and Izanami create a mythical island. The Egyptian goddess, Isis, had a harpoon. St George the Dragon Slayer slew the dragon with a lance. Shiva, Poseidon, and Neptune all had a trident. Pluto, the Greco-Roman god of the Underworld, had a bident. These are all great examples from traditional myth.

Loki holds Odins spear Gungnir

The myth of the polearm is also well represented in our current pop culture. In The Lightning Thief, Luke steals Zeus’s Master Bolt. Likewise, in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, Loki steals Gungnir from Odin.

The Spear of Destiny appears in DC comics and the movie, The Liberians: Quest for the Spear. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman used a Kryptonite spear to save Gotham. A lesser-known weapon used by Valkyrie (also Brunhilde) is an iron spear. Jet Li’s character in Legend of Red Dragon (aka The New Legends of Shaolin) wields a spear to protect his son from an evil eunuch. The list of examples could go on forever, however, the conclusion is clear – the variety of polearms represented across pop culture shows its symbolism as a battle for the establishment of a domain or dominance.

Valkyrie and her spear

A Show of Leadership

The magic of the polearm comes from epic battle and great deeds. The greater the battle and more heroic the deed, the more awesome the weapon becomes. Soon, the weapon reflects the hero’s leadership. It becomes the sum of his accomplishments.

People respond to that leadership. Suddenly, the hero has a group of people following him. Together, they rise in unity for survival. As the hero’s culture or kingdom grows in strength, the polearm reflects that power and its unity. Thus, ultimately, it represents not only the leader but also the power and possibilities of a unified people.

Polearms are Awesome

So, in whatever way in which it appears throughout myth and pop culture, the polearm is more than a weapon. It represents the achievement of struggle and power of leadership. Its magic is found in strength to overcome challenges of survival for a nation of people. Thus, protecting the unity of the human condition.

Read more in our Myth in Pop Culture series here.

Jessica Dodge
I love all things Pop Culture and Myth. You can find more about me and my ramblings at screamingstoryteller.blogspot.com
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