Poll Position: The powers of legend

I've always wondered what it would be like if various fantastic objects made their way into the real world. And now, you get to wonder too!

{democracy:141}

Definitions and predilections after the jump.

  • Excalibur: Blinds its enemies when drawn, and (if found with the scabbard) prevents the wielder from bleeding. Also, makes you the rightful King of England.
  • The Palladium: Possessing this item means your side can never be defeated in war.
  • The Armor of Achilles: Forged by Hephaesus, this armor renders its wearer invulnerable to injury.
  • The Helmet of Hades: Renders the wearer invisible.
  • Odin's spear, Gungnir: Never misses its aim and it could not be stopped in mid-throw.
  • Cupid's bow: Causes the target to either love or hate the first person seen after being struck.
  • Talaria, Hermes' winged sandals: Grants the wearer the power of flight.
  • Aphrodites' Girdle: Cause anyone you desire to fall in love with you.

My problem with the personal injury items like Excalibur and Gungnir is that they're only as mighty as the person wielding them. If you're King Arthur or Odin, that's not a problem because let's face it, you're already a certified stud muffin. But wimpy bald guy from Colorado? Not so much. Plus, who wants to be King of England? They've no real power nowadays, so unless you're willing to off the entire Parliament you're sort of at loose ends there.

The Palladium would make you a very powerful person, but only if you kept it secret. In other words, as soon as the government of whatever nation you happened to side with found out you had it, you'd no longer have it. The way to play this would be, I think, to keep it secret and to choose your country very carefully. Then you're more or less at the mercy of your rulers, though, to only prosecute worthwhile wars that would make life better. Otherwise you might accidentally end up living inside an unbeatable Nazi Germany, and that's no fun at all.

If you're an adventurous type, the Armor of Achilles would be tempting. It'd be nice to be able to run into burning buildings and slog through a war zone without getting hurt. I don't know how practical something like that would be, but if you trained your body well you could, I think, be a reasonable facsimile of a super hero with it.

Similarly, the Helmet of Hades would give you a bona fide super power, but one more suited to stealth than heroic front-man action. Or you could use your power of invisibility for evil, of course, spying out secrets with which to blackmail the wealthy, that sort of thing.

The final "personal powers" item is the winged sandals of Hermes. We've talked about it before, but being able to fly would be awesome. And if it's the more powerful version of the sandals, granting not just flight but supersonic speed, that would be even better. You could travel the world easily whenever you liked, even if you weren't of a mind to be a Flash style super hero.

The two emotional manipulation items, Cupid's bow and Aphrodites' Girdle, could be exceptionally powerful tools for either chaos or order. You could start or stop wars, make or ruin lives, or rule entire nations if you were clever and unscrupulous enough. But I don't think I could live with the knowledge that I'd surrounded myself by those whose affections were forced. That's like slavery and I can't help but think it would rot you from the inside out.

So for me, I'd probably go with Hermes' sandals. They're powerful enough that you could make a real difference in the world if you wished, but personal enough to be a lot of fun. And they're not SO powerful that you would be at risk of accidentally destroying the world or anything, which would be a relief.

What about you, what would you choose?

26 Responses to Poll Position: The powers of legend

  1. The evil megalomanic in me picked the Palladium.

  2. I’m pretty sure if anybody else besides Odin touches Gungnir, they like disintegrate, but that might just be me. I picked Excalibur, because I didn’t see boots of Hermes. Lawl.

  3. The scabbard was what kept one from bleeding to death not Excalibur. I’d have chosen that as its just cool to have such a device, but given he choices I’d take the Armor of Achilles.

  4. UesugiWarrior

    I would personally say none of those legendary items appeals particularly, after all there are several more that would be fantastic to own like the Blood of Heracles supposedly making one immortal, or the hide of the Nemean Lion which repels all known weaponry. Or you could have Perseus’s shield. Plus there aren’t any eastern items, and I can think of one straight up: The Nyoi-Boh (not sure on the spelling) that was owned by Sun Wukong the Monkey King. He was a very powerful mythological entity from China who performed many incredible deeds, including tricking the sea god out of ownership of the Nyoh-Boh. The Nyoh-Boh itself was a tremendously powerful staff that had many qualities that could include it on the list.

    However I would choose from the list the Achilles Armour because invulnerability would be great.

  5. Since there is no Gae Bolg or Mjolnir (Shame on you Jeff) I’ll go with the armour of Achilles.

  6. I purposely didn’t include Mjolnir as it’d by far be the most well known and popular item on the list. Owning it turns you into Thor, in most peoples’ minds (thanks Marvel!), so I figured it’d be the runaway winner. Which wouldn’t be very interesting.

    As far as the eastern items, I didn’t think most people would have heard of them.

  7. Nick Hentschel

    The flight power is tempting; I wonder if it works with a bicycle? But Cupid’s Bow is the one that could actually allow me to help others, without violence: I could finally bring together deserving couples, end the horror of unrequited love, and put an end to abusive or poisonous relationships. I’d simply have to take a vow never to use it for myself. After all, the code of a true gentleman is, “Love Thyself Last.”

  8. Danny Beaty

    I want the armor of Achilles, the helmet of Hades, and Hermes winged sandals.

  9. How are you defining ‘side’ for the Palladium, Jeff? After all, if I possess it, and my country decides to go into what I feel is an unworthy or unrighteous war, what’s to prevent me from declaring I’m on the other side?

  10. I don’t know exactly how it worked in Troy, EnderX, since when there’s a mass of Greeks standing outside your gates wanting to gut you, there probably wasn’t anyone in possession of the Palladium who would’ve been cheering on the other team in secret.

    My general assumption would be that it would guarantee victory for whoever “owned” it. In the case of Troy, that would have been the King. In the case of “I found it in my back yard”, it would probably be whatever “side” you considered yourself on.

  11. Me, Myself & I

    When comparing Cupid’s Bow to Aphrodites Girdle the Bow seems incredibly more versatile and flexible. After all the Bow can do everything the girdle can do if you make sure your the next person seen. In addition it can cause either love and / or hate interests between anyone.

    These are both potentially devastating items but I would fear the bow more.

  12. Montana Player

    I just can’t see my vast waistline in the girdle soooooooooo I went with Hades helmet. Invisibility could have some useful real world applications and government spy work. It would be a fun way to support my family.

  13. I went with the invisible helm however, I would go with the palladium if it worked a bit differently. I wouldn’t be picking a side I would be my own side.

  14. okay I went with the bow because I could force anyone to truly love me, thus rendering them my eternal servants. or i could make someone I hate the most hated person ever. (aside from personal use) I could reunite couples and all that stuff, If I found them I could also disintegrate terrorist groups.

  15. William A. Peterson

    What about Freya’s Cloak (or was it Frigga’s)?
    What’s wrong with being able to appear as any one you choose?

  16. Choices given, Excalibur! Offense, Defense, Arthur’s Side’s the Best! Mention of Gungir, brings out the Norse (Teuton) on my great-grandfather’s side. Who married a Dane (Frisian). Though by family tradition, we are southern German, Hungarian, Slovenian, Turk.

    The interesting side, and lack thereof, Excalibur’s scabbard in most interpretations. Even the most exquisite movie featuring a young Patrick Stewart gives a blithe reference to the healing power of the Sword resting in the Sheath (Peace through victory).

    Arthurian legend, as I know, is Excalibur is the might and force of law and justice. A “might makes right” attitude of chivalry, calvary, and pre-Renaissance.

    Forgive, and definitely correct me, the healing power of the scabbard. From King Arthur’s perspective, justifying the violence to bring about peace. The healing power of self-control (“hinder thy sword”), open to negotiation (in the form of unconditional surrender).

    My pick is Excalibur, for the raw power, with a don’t-mess-with-us-lead-or-get-out-of-the-way balance of justice and even-handendess.

    My Slavo-Saxon tendencies say “yea”, lightning bolts! That’s why we reign supreme. Any questions? Answer is… boom!

    I think I will re-read Chaucer and Rabelais for some temperance. =)

  17. @William A. Peterson: “What’s wrong with being able to appear as any one you choose?”

    Ummm… opposable thumbs, mirrors, inappropriate thoughts. We might not think we’re wrong, but they do! And by “we”… and “they”…

  18. spidercow2010

    Not purely to be a know-it-all (especially since I could be wrong) but because it might affect somebody’s vote: Excalibur was NOT the sword pulled from the stone that made Artie the king. A watery tart lobbed Excalibur from the lake.
    And I thought Achilles was invulnerable because his mom dunked him (except for his heel) in the Styx when he was a baby.

  19. Spidercow, accounts differ. In some (the earlier versions), the Sword in the Stone is Excalibur. In later versions the two are separate and Excalibur is given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. The Wikipedia entry does a good job of chronicling this.

    Achilles was invulnerable due to dunking. I don’t know where Wikipedia got the information that his armor rendered the wearer invulnerable, I’ll be honest, that’s the first time I’d heard or read that. It’s possible Wikipedia is wrong on that and thus so am I. I couldn’t find anything else that referenced it, other than some ambiguity as to whether or not he was truly invulnerable since the Illiad has him getting wounded a couple of times (once in the arm where blood flows).

  20. I can’t get the image out of my head, and so that drives my decision not to choose the winged sandals, but I just keep thinking “The fastest pizza delivery guy on earth. “Your pizza will be delivered in 10 minutes or less (gotta allow the time for cooking it) or it’s free!” Also, has anyone else considered the disadvantage to having the ability to travel supersonically at ground level? Imagine the property damage incurred by a sonic boom at ground level (like say, through downtown). I can see all those looming glass skyscrapers and suddenly, from ground level…. BOOM!!! And every windo shatters.

  21. Wesley Belk

    I initially picked Excalibur, just because, I’ve always fantasized about finding a mythical weapon in my backyard and it granting me all sorts of wicked cool powers, and well hell that’s just right up my alley! Besides that reason, I’ve written a fantasy novel from the main character’s perspective who believes so heartily in his weapon that it becomes a weapon of legend, and when a friend tells him he should name his weapon, the only thing he can think of is … Excalibur! Yeah it was too obvious I know, but in the breadth of the story it isn’t…

  22. Hephaestus definintely made armor for Achilles–there’s a whole page in the Iliad describing the designs on the shield. Of course, his mother was so paranoid about him getting killed, she hid him–in drag–on the all-girl island of Scyros to avoid him being sent to fight the Trojan War in the first place.

  23. spidercow2010

    Okay, so the thing I was surest about I turned out to be wrongest about. I’m too much devoted to T.H. White’s “Once and Future King” version, I suppose. I should have known the Arthurian legend has been told, retold and remixed enough so that all’s fair by now.
    So- if y’all pick Excalibur, you only get to rule England in the Vulgate. Or the movie.
    Shall we just stipulate it’s Malory’s Excalibur that’s up for grabs, then?
    @ X-stacy: Does the Iliad say it was the armor that made Achilles unwoundable? I have no clue. I recall that Achilles’ mom dipped him in the Styx to make him invulnerable, but she was holding him upside down by one heel which stayed dry, hence the expression “Achilles’ Heel” for a point of vulnerability.

  24. knight1192a

    You know I voted on Excalibur before I went to find this thread exactly for the second reason you gave. The scabbard. In “Le Morte de Arthur” Merlin calls Arthur a fool for valueing Excalibur over the scabbard before explaining the value of the scabbard. And we’re talking Excalibur here, folks, a magical sword.

  25. Basically the second set of armor (the one Hephaestus made) was to replace the set Patroclus stole and was killed in. My understanding is that Achilles was invulnerable from the Styx-dipping (hence the heel). I don’t think the Iliad says the armor made him invincible anywhere, although it does go on about how nice the second armor is.

    Been a loooong time since I even perused the Iliad, though, so it may be there and I don’t remember it. But I can’t find a Google reference anywhere either. This may be simple inaccuracy on Wikipedia’s part combined with laziness on my part by just taking their word for it.

  26. What he said.

    The armor is undoubtedly better than average, what with being made by a god, but the Iliad doesn’t say it makes you invincible. Just pretty. You can read about it at the end of Book XVIII at http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/iliad.html (although that particular translation uses Roman names for the gods).