Ok but can we talk about how the Paladin’s bayards don’t just suit them, but actually ARE them? THE BAYARD PICKS THE PALADIN, MR. POTTER.
The bayards are frankly the coolest metaphorical device happening in this show and I haven’t seen anyone talk about it yet (I’m sure someone has, but I feel like it’s not really… a thing??), and if my major has taught me any(useless)thing it’s to get stuck on functional motifs in storytelling so
I mean this is just fun. You’re probably not surprised that he gets the big blade because he’s main-character-red and the emo/possibly-Asian-one, but let’s consider a few things:
The fact that it’s sharp on both sides acts as a physical reminder of the duality happening within his character (he cuts others down, but internally he’s cutting himself down just as much: a double-edged sword).
Furthermore, that double edge reminds us that it’s a loner’s weapon: he needs to be able to attack with each swing, in any direction, because no one’s coming to back him up. It may be space, but dude is clearly rockin’ the lone wolf/samurai vibe. The length backs that up a bit as well–it keeps everyone he sees as an ‘enemy’ or a ‘rival’ at a distance (//side-eye @ lance).
What’s even more interesting is that if you look at Keith’s relationship with his bayard compared to his Marmora blade, they represent his hidden and public selves: who people see him as/expect him to be vs. who he truly is and wants to be (is afraid to be) himself.
Most people only see his bayard, a classic warrior/knight weapon that represents strength and grace and leadership. Keith brings this out in battle, in front of his friends, before enemies, etc. But when he’s alone at night or when he’s holed up in the desert, the blade on his mind and in his hand is his Marmora dagger. Despite being a secret for so long, it is actually this blade (and not the bayard he got from Voltron) which Keith always keeps close to him (and which he keeps strictly concealed).
He covers up the mark on the hilt as if to cover his own hidden thoughts and feelings (and maybe even dubious past). In public, he feels he can proudly show his bayard but doesn’t want anyone to know he has the dagger, even before he himself knows what it might mean.
Even more interestingly, this blade also represents close combat–letting people get close to you–and the desire to protect others, showing that these are things Keith thinks about, feels, and even wants, but is afraid to show to those around him. What’s more, while the obvious skills and general cool-dude-ness associated with the bayard are something Keith has earned/achieved by his own merit, the Marmora dagger (and all the things it represents) were something he was born with; something inherently part of him. Ironically, once Keith learns more about his dagger and what it represents, it becomes longer–it adds distance, just as the truth about his past puts distance between him and the other paladins.
Like, I could literally (gladly) write an entire essay just on the symbolism of how Keith treats these blades, but you get the idea.
I was gonna do Shiro next but his is even sadder than Keith’s so let’s do
So some things about this are obvious: it bears a (kind of adorable similarity) in shape to her head. It’s small, she’s small, but if you underestimate either of them you will be sorry. It’s an incredibly quick/nimble weapon (a great parallel for her stinging wit). Her bayard is designed for quick, surgically precise movements, which is exactly how Pidge works (both mentally and metaphorically).
However, while it has great attack capabilities, that’s clearly not the bayard’s (or Pidge’s) main purpose; it’s a necessary consequence in the pursuit of other goals. Rather, the transformative and flexible uses of Pidge’s bayard emphasize the desire to be useful and to solve problems over attacking. This is belied by the fact that Pidge forms Voltron’s shield. Pidge would much rather think her way out of/around a problem than charge in head-first.
Her bayard is a reflection of that. Pidge’s bayard is also the most technically complicated, which is another great parallel for her mind. Furthermore, the grappling hook function of her bayard echoes her desire to find things out of reach, and cast out into space and bring those things close to her, or herself to them (*cough*MATT*cough*).
TL;DR: it’s an all-purpose, unassuming weapon meant to perform multiple tasks in an efficient, creative way, and it focuses on problem solving/extraction more than brute attack (though it packs plenty of punch when cornered). And, of course, though she be but little, she is fierce.
As his swagger (and even his name, like talk about being on the nose) suggests, Lance is totally in-your-face, up-in-your-business blabbermouth who seems pretty simple to understand. So why does he have the weapon that arguably requires the most finesse, patience, and also has a long range? Because that’s what Lance is really like under all that talk. It may seem like Lance lives with the words “are we there yet” on his tongue, but consider this: Lance wanted to be a pilot, but was originally relegated to commercial-class ranks. Did that stop him? Nope. He kept at it until he made it to the top of those ranks (it’s safe to assume that if they only promoted one pilot to fighter-class after Keith’s expulsion, it would be the top of the commercial-class students). That’s more patience than any of the other paladins have shown.
As a gun in a team that has close-combat weapons, Lance’s bayard automatically assumes a supportive role (despite all his talk about beating Keith and being the best), and we see this multiple times throughout the show. His first day as a fighter-class pilot, what does Lance do? Talks to his team and says they should stick together. How does he find out about Shiro? He’s following Pidge and asking about what she’s up to–crazy theories that others wouldn’t care to hear out. There are a lot of other examples of this (notably, when he throws himself in front of Coran), but from the get-go we’re slyly shown that Lance actually cares about and pays attention to those around him (even though he keeps talking about kicking their butts and being #1). It makes sense, then, that his weapon would be one designed to support and provide cover for others. In fact, we see Lance doing exactly this in the first episode when Pidge mouths off and he rushes in to cover for her.
Sadly, as one of the longer-range weapons, Lance’s bayard is also one of the loneliest metaphors in the group, and we see the reason for this just as much in VLD: Lance doesn’t feel appreciated (or sometimes even accepted) by the people around him. He often feels distant, though not by choice. He may shoot (ha) his mouth off a lot, but at the end of the day it’s pretty apparent that this boy craves love and attention, almost as much as he wants to be perceived as a ‘top gun’ (double ha) within the group.
A gun–especially the rapid-fire type that Lance has–further mirrors his tendency to be impulsive (and even impetuous) rather than controlled and thoughtful. On the bright side, though, it is exactly that willingness to pull the trigger that has catapulted the gang forward on a number of occasions.
Between Shiro’s arm and his bayard there are so many different things going on here I don’t even know how I can touch on all of them. If I could write an essay on Keith’s weapons, I could write a BOOK on Shiro’s.
First, let’s talk about Shiro’s actual bayard. In Zarkon’s hands, you can read this as a physical extension of Shiro’s freedom, or even as Shiro himself: Zarkon took the bayard–something meant to be used for good–from another world, and then warped it in the hopes of using it to cause destruction.
The good news is that both Shiro and the bayard escape Zarkon’s clutches because of Voltron, and though Zarkon intended to use them, they instead become the strongest weapons to fight against him. They will always feel the effects of Zarkon’s influence and ownership–the bayard because of Zarkon’s former paladin connections, and Shiro because of his arm and PTSD–but they still fight. In the end, it is Zarkon’s obsession with them as his former ‘possessions’ that becomes his downfall. So deep is his trauma that Shiro actually waits until it looks like they’re about to die (when Voltron is in an electric headlock) to activate his bayard. Why? Because he doesn’t trust his arm, he doesn’t trust his hold on the bayard or the lion (don’t even get me STARTED on how the lion–down it’s right-hand weapon and still somewhat under Zarkon’s control–represents Shiro himself), and as a result he doesn’t trust himself to be stronger than Zarkon.
Even when Shiro finally gets the bayard back, he doesn’t call it his bayard, or the black bayard; he calls it Zarkon’s bayard (and it looks the part). This can be seen as a mirror for how Shiro sees himself: even though it’s a bayard, Zarkon tainted it, and now it doesn’t belong to him even though it’s rightfully his and he has it in his hands (which, ironically, is still technically Zarkon’s hand… you get the picture).
However, as Keith corrects him (”you’ve got your bayard”), the bayard rejects the changes Zarkon forced upon it, and reverts to a form that matches Shiro and the other paladins (likely how it looked before Zarkon started using it for evil). Just as the paladins healed Shiro by rescuing him and making him part of Voltron, Shiro does the same for the black bayard. Indeed, he only pulls out the power necessary to retrieve the black bayard once he wakes up to find the team fighting to protect him. It might be telling symbolically that Shiro leaves his bayard behind when he goes missing at the end of the season–perhaps he’s won his freedom only to have it taken once again.
Which leads me to…
The black bayard could also represent Shiro’s memories: both are known to exist, and we get hints/flashes/teases throughout the show, but both are initially “lost”. Slowly, it is revealed just how both Shiro’s bayard and his memories have been taken/corrupted by Zarkon. We see this in the way Shiro’s memories haunt him, only to frustratingly elude him when he needs them. When Shiro finally tries to find out more about why Zarkon has the bayard, he’s also facing his own mind–his memories, his insecurities, and his apprehension at what fate awaits him–as well. In this sense, when Shiro reclaims the black bayard, he is also reclaiming so much more: the hold/fear Zarkon held over him, the insufficiency and anxiety he felt because of it, etc.
You can also read the bayard as a mirror for Shiro’s arm: Zarkon took Shiro’s arm and replaced it with something Galran. Shiro joins Voltron only to find that Zarkon also has his metaphorical right hand–his weapon. Shiro can’t use the weapon he should be holding (in a hand he doesn’t have because of Zarkon) because Zarkon took it. Talk about a vicious cycle. This symbolism is supported all through season 1 and parts of season 2 where we see Shiro simultaneously struggle with controlling Zarkon’s lasting effects on Voltron and coming to grips (ha) with controlling his arm. It’s hinted–both during battle and through PTSD–that if Shiro doesn’t control his arm, it will control him, just as Zarkon demonstrates that if Shiro can’t reclaim the bayard, Zarkon will use it to kill him (we see a similar parallel with his memories).
I’m just going to stop here because the black bayard and Shiro’s arm can represent so many different things that it totally distracts me and I can only really do it justice by literally sitting down and writing out a full on dissertation on it.
But TL;DR: Shiro’s arm and his bayard are in a crazy, soap-opera drama with Zarkon on so many different levels and it is symbolistically incredible.
Hunk’s bayard, much like Hunk, is pretty straight-forward and simple. Physically, it’s a big weapon. A big, hulking (Hunking????) weapon. It looks incredibly imposing, but its chief function isn’t destruction, but preventing destruction. Just as Hunk likes to avoid violence, his canon is mostly used to disable enemy weapons as part of Voltron, and individually Hunk uses it to provide long-range cover fire for his team (when he tries to use it in a more actively combative role, he just ends up almost shooting Pidge… gg, Hunk).
Unlike Lance’s more nimble and quick-fire weapon, Hunk’s takes a lot of strength to move around and a long time to power up–this mirrors Hunk’s own well-rooted stance (he’s not easily swayed), and his cautious nature. He doesn’t do things off-the-cuff or on a whim; he thinks them through first. Indeed, it’s almost always Hunk warning the others of the possible outcomes of their proposed escapades.
He’s also slow to anger, just as his weapon is slow to fire. However, once he has decided to take a shot, his firepower is incredible, just as when he does decide to take action (like with the Balmerans), his will is unstoppable.
I could go on for days, guys. I have so much stuff I had to cut out because even the hardcorest Voltron fans don’t care about underlying motifs this much, I know, but AGH. GUYS. GUYS. THE BEAUTY??? OF THIS WRITING??? IN A KIDS’ SHOW?????
PS this is long I didn’t proof read it SO SUE ME