The Cool Cutter Caliburn


As I progress through James Branch Cabell’sĀ Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, I’m encounteringĀ  many interesting references to legend, myth, and antiquity. Many seem to be fancified, embellished, or otherwise altered to serve the story, which of course is just fine.

One reference that I came across, not immediately knowing whether it was a reference, was to the sword Caliburn.


I had to look it up, but SFF old hands and scholars of the Matter of Britain will likely recognize Caliburn as an alternate name for the famous Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur.

There are many variations of the Arthur legends. In some, Excalibur is the sword Arthur pulls from the stone. In others, it is given Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. In Cabell’s tale, Jurgen seizes it from the troll king Thragnar, who is frozen by a spell.


True to legend, Caliburn is shown to be “resistless,” and no foe is able to stand against Jurgen when he wields it.

Also apparently in accord with legend is the magic of its scabbard, which protects its bearer from injury.

Cabell won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. His prose, though often clever, can border upon over-indulgent and taxing, and it’s quite irreverent. But it’s also very creative and wonderfully full of an old sort of adventure and fantasy. I’m enjoying it.


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