Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My collection (VI): Gabrielle's FIN Katana OOAK Metal Prop

Hello everyone!

After Xena's katana, today is turn to take a look at the next treasure of my collection, and certainly one of my biggest prides: the one and only screen-used metal prop of Gabrielle's FIN katana.

This is 100% a one-of-a-kind item: the actual metal prop katana used by Gabrielle (Renée O'Connor) in the series finale, "Friend in Need". Screen-used and screen-matched. Not Marto's replica, and not even a similar twin sister sword - this is the absolute real deal.

The katana and the Saya (sheath) in full length.
The hilt - Tsuba (guard), Tsuka (grip) and Kashira (pommel).

Gabrielle's metal katana is prominently one of the scarce high profile props used in the series that wasn't made by the in-house Prop Department of Pacific Renaissance. It was commissioned to and preciously made by expert sword-smiths and katana makers, and then expressly taken to New Zealand for the shooting of the very last two episodes of Xena Warrior Princess.

The craftsmen responsible for its creation spared no details, and adorned the whole sword with intricate motifs from the Japanese mythology. The result is nothing less than majestic and absolutely breathtaking.

The blade or Sori is adorned with a very characteristic relief composed of an Asian dragon elegantly flying among clouds.

The gorgeous dragon relief in the Sori (blade).

Unlike their better known "evil" and fire-breathing European counterparts, Asian dragons are benign and quasi-divine - good luck deities associated with wind and rainfall. They are represented as very large flying serpentine creatures with clawed feet, most often wingless.

The dragon is the male opposite of the female phoenix.

The dragon is actually the highest-ranking being in the Asian animal hierarchy, and is used as a symbol of wisdom, power and protection. That's why I believe the producers felt it was a perfect match for Gabrielle - who in fact ends up with a magnificent magic-resilient dragon tattoo in her back.

The very same theme continues in the hilt. First, in the silvery dragon-shaped Tsuba (hand guard), that defensively wraps and coils around the Tsuka (grip) to safe keep the hands of the wielder from any harm.

Close-up to one of the sides of the dragon Tsuba (guard).
Close-ups to the other side of the dragon Tsuba (guard).

And then in the Kashira (the butt cap or pommel), which is also engraved with a beautiful protective dragon sigil.

The Kashira (pommel) and its relief.

As you see, black and blue (along with silver) were the chosen colors for Gabrielle. Blue is a neutral and calm color, related to water and air, that faultlessly fits the essence and spirit of the katana.

Of course, very much like Xena's katana, the Tsuka (grip) has a matching palm ornament, but in this case it's concealed by a piece of very soft patterned blue fabric - a wrapping that also marks Gabrielle's rank as general of all the Higuchi Militia.

The blue fabric on the Tsuka (grip) conceals
the dragon Menuki (palm ornament).

Curiously, in this case the Saya (sheath) doesn't continue the general theme of the sword, but complements it. Its top and tip are symmetrically adorned with silvery winged demon (Oni) heads - the one with its wings folded, the other with the wings spread. These two (together with the fleur-de-lis engravings that adorn both end caps) are meant to subtly balance and add more depth to the mythical and mythological motif of the katana.

On the other hand, the middle section of the Saya is also wrapped in blue silk - a touch that nicely plays along with the fabric in the handle.

The Saya (sheath) in full length.
Close-up to the top of the Saya (sheath).
Close-up to the middle section of the Saya (sheath). 
Close-up to the tip of the Saya (sheath).
All the different parts of the Saya (sheath) aligned.

As expected, the sheath presents some scrapes, scuffs and scratches from its set use - nothing major, but if you ask me, it adds yet more character to the sword. And (geek mode on!) in the inside it still has some particles of reddish set dirt/sand from the shooting! So VERY cool.

Gabrielle's katana with Xena's katana (I).
Gabrielle's katana with Xena's katana (II).

All in all, Gabrielle's katana is definitely a magnificent weapon that sums up all her legacy and growth as a warrior - in the thoughts of many, even surpassing her master, Xena. A briefly seen yet unique weapon that in my head she continued to carry and use afterwards.

Gabrielle, bard, warrior and samurai.

These are some of the shots in which we get to see Gabrielle's katana. The first two photos are courtesy of fellow Xenite Sarah Inbody aka Aurora Goddess. Thanks a lot Sarah!

Gabrielle carries the katana in several scenes, and draws it for a close-up shot in the scene when she defends Xena from the Ghost Killer, who she thinks at that time is an enemy.

I always liked how the producers and designers linked her with her katana through the protective dragon tattoo - identical to the one in her sword.

I wouldn't like to finish without a couple of clarifications. There ARE other Gabrielle prop katanas around, but they are all resin or foam. As far as the previous owners and I know, only one metal katana was used by Renée O'Connor in FIN, making this item absolutely unique. The other resin/foam katanas were all molded after this metal one, and most often lack key details like the dragon engraving in the blade.

As Morgan aka Xenasbard, one of the previous owners of the Gabrielle metal katana prop, states in her own entry about it "There has been some confusion over some of the militia swords sold after the show ended. Most of them went to the Turner sale, but Gab's did not. Gab's katana is very easily distinguishable from the Higuchi Militia katanas even though they had some blue on them. Gab's were all sold through IAW (online Yahoo auction), and all have the blue cloth tied to them. The other militia katanas are bluish for the Higuchi warriors, yellow for the bad guys :-). Gabrielle's sword accents were also a slightly different shade." 

Thanks for the info Morgan! Don't miss to check her site, it's tremendous.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for more, people!


  1. Magnificent ! Ty for all the explanations

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you liked it :)