Slaying The Self in Adventure Time’s “I Am A Sword”

On the latest episode of Adventure Time, “I Am A Sword,” Finn finds out what it means to lose himself, when he loses the Finn Sword to Bandit Princess and has to reclaim it. It’s the eponymous time again!“I Am A Sword” riffs on the trope of the hero and his sword, with one unique twist: Finn is his sword, or rather, his sword was crafted from an alternate dimension of himself, which makes it sentient and endowed with all of Finn’s characteristics… it’s complicated! From the start, Finn Sword has been a mysterious artifact that never got too much attention, until now. It’s a subtly mind-boggling episode that deals with self-knowledge, agency and objectification, and which sets up what should be the next big development arc for Finn’s character.

Every one of Finn’s iconic swords has been the result of a moment of personal growth: the Demon Bloodsword was the prize at the end of “Dad’s Dungeon,” in which Finn received a posthumous thumbs-up from his adoptive dog father; and the Grass Sword was a curse that became a powerful boon after Finn accepted its permanent addition to his body. The Finn Sword was a little different, however: in “Is That You?” Finn and Jake used alternate universe versions of themselves to revive Prismo. Finn Sword was made out of dream version of Finn, and consequently, it has all his heroic attributes and inclinations. It’s sort of like having a clone of yourself looking after you from another perspective, a Magic 8-Ball of the soul; Finn consults Finn Sword’s opinion on decisions both morally dire and petty, and the relationship represents the rapport Finn has with himself, which gives him so much assurance and stability. This is in contrast to all those mixed-up Finns in the middle of crises: post-break-up Finn, angry-at-Martin Finn, and so forth. But in “I Am A Sword,” Finn loses Finn Sword and everything it represents.

Finn loses the sword while showing off in "I Am A Sword"

The episode opens with Finn and Jake in pursuit of a bandit, when Finn begins to show off with his sword tricks. Despite constantly consulting Finn Sword and being told that sword tricks on a rickety rope bridge aren’t the best idea, Finn attempts to toss up his blade and freestyle rap before catching it behind his back. He fails, completely, and Finn Sword falls into a ravine. The Finn Sword has always been there for Finn to double-check his convictions with, and it was lost to him the second Finn ignored it. After fruitless search, Finn goes home to the Treehouse. That night, he has bizarre dreams of a faceless highwayman attacking a defenseless traveler.

The following morning, Jake unveils a rickety plywood Finn Sword to cheer Finn up, but neither it nor the usual brawl with Science Cat and Spear Bear can cheer him up. His “heart’s not in it,” as Science Cat observes, and as they leave, Finn questions whether or not he’d taken Finn Sword for granted. BMO watches Finn talking to the plywood sword hilt, and makes an offhand comment (to an extension cable) about talking to inanimate objects.

Finn contemplates losing the sword in "I Am A Sword"

The episode frequently references this separation between the animate and inanimate as a way to talk about both agency, and what it means to take a thing or person for granted: to take for granted is to objectify a person or thing, to assume that you have complete power over them and can replace them if you need to. To ‘talk to inanimate objects’ here isn’t a bad thing, it’s a way of recognizing the importance of things, and only now does Finn begin to realize that Finn Sword isn’t just an object. He constantly explains to Jake in various ways that he hasn’t just lost a sword or tool, he lost the tool, which is his understanding and respect for his own impulses. And of course, when you lose sight of your own judgment, you’re forced to do things antithetical to your being.

That night, during an insomniac gaming session (of a game called “Metaphor Temple”) Finn has yet another vision of an unseen malefactor preying on the weak, this time a bank guard of the Spiky Kingdom. Finn realizes that these visions are pleas from Finn Sword, who’s being used for evil. A scene at the Spiky Kingdom confirms that Bandit Princess is wielding Finn Sword to despoil kingdoms everywhere, and to savor the experience of bending Finn Sword to evil when he’s been built for good. “I Am A Sword” is very concerned with these reversals of the animate and inanimate, the agent and the object: after Finn loses Finn Sword and his rapport with himself, their powers can be bent towards evil, and the self ceases to be a person, but a tool for another. Animacy is to be in possession of yourself, where inanimacy is to lack self-knowledge and be at the mercy of outside forces.

Finn Sword despises Bandit Princess in "I Am A Sword"

After tracking Finn Sword to the Spiky Kingdom, then to the cat-ruled Box Kingdom, Finn squares off with Bandit Princess one on one. Finn is able to ignite the Grass Sword and turn the tables, but a fatal blow shatters the blue crystal of the Finn Sword, thus ending alternate Finn. It’s intriguing that this is a fight that couldn’t have been won with brute force; as someone fighting himself, Finn’s strength works against him, and he fittingly ends up slaying himself. Jake carries the crumpled Finn back to the Treehouse, where BMO asks why this sort of mortal crisis keeps happening to Finn. Earlier, while consuming an ice cream burrito, Jake also referenced all the times Finn woke up screaming, the morning of a pivotal life challenge.

It looks like “I Am A Sword” is another such challenge, one that’s dealing with some complex issues: Finn has effectively lost and slain himself, and the ending scene reveals a green glow emanating from the broken Finn Sword crystal. Its color suggests maybe that the Sword has been imbued with some of the Grass Blade’s essence, and the fact that Finn has ‘slain himself’ suggests that Finn as we know it has died, to be reborn.

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4 Comments

  1. Man, i really wonder what kind of trial Finn will be facing. Will he go head to head against his own sword(which has taken a physical form) or will the confrontation take place in Finn’s subconscious?

    1. It’s probably about his own will to move on. I mean that finn had troubles with huntress wizard and he actually never really stood up a fight ever since he lost the finn sword. He needs to get his shit together to make his sword whole again. I mean that he really needs to complete himself. Or that is my theory at least.

  2. I am just saddened about the fact that the finn sword is broken. And due to the powerful upcoming enemies, finn needs to get his sword(and self) back together.

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