Valyrian steel

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Aegon I Targaryen with his Valyrian steel crown and sword, Blackfyre. Art by Michael Komarck ©

Valyrian steel is a type of steel from Valyria, used to make weapons and various other items of unparalleled quality. Magic plays a role in its forging, which makes the steel special and gives it magical characteristics.[1][2][3][4]

Characteristics

A closeup of a Valyrian steel blade, showing the distinctive rippled patterns. From the Valyrian Steel ® Collection

The properties of Valyrian steel are the result of both folding iron many times to balance and remove impurities, and the use of unknown spells, giving unnatural strength to the resulting steel.[2] Bloodmagic and/or fire magic presumably plays a role in spells used to make Valyrian steel, as all Valyrian sorcery came from blood or fire.[5][6][7]

Valyrian steel blades are lighter, stronger, harder, and sharper than even the best castle-forged steel.[8] Nothing holds an edge like Valyrian steel, therefore swords hundreds of years old are sharp as the day they were forged.[9][1] The blades feature distinctive rippled patterns (similar to real-world Damascus steel), the mark of steel that has been folded back on itself many thousands of times.[1][10] Most Valyrian steel is dark grey in color, almost appearing black.[10] No common fire, not even dragonflame, can damage Valyrian steel.[11]

Usage

Valyrian steel can be used for weapons,[9] tools,[12] jewelry,[13] ornamentation,[14] and armor.[15]

In the order of maesters, links of Valyrian steel signify the study of magic, known as "the higher mysteries". Only one in a hundred maesters has earned such a link.[16] An archmaester of the higher mysteries, who has demonstrated expertise in this subject, has a ring, rod, and mask of Valyrian steel.[13][17] The maesters who gain Valyrian steel links do not have to forge the metal themselves.[18]

Dragonsteel

In the archives of the Night's Watch at Castle Black, there is an account of the Long Night that speaks of the last hero slaying Others with a dragonsteel blade, which they could not stand against. It is thought that dragonsteel may be another name for Valyrian steel.[19][20][8]

History

Ice by John Goodenough © Fantasy Flight Games

Valyrian steel was manufactured in the Valyrian Freehold, spell-forged with the assistance of dragons and dragonflame.[21][8] The costly material became even more expensive when the method of making new Valyrian steel was lost with the Doom of Valyria, and existing weapons became highly treasured and extremely rare.[10][22] In all the world, only the Free City of Qohor has preserved the art of reworking Valyrian steel.[7] The master smiths of Qohor jealously guard their secrets, the spells needed to reforge Valyrian steel without losing its strength or unsurpassed ability to hold an edge.[23][10][2][7]

Maester Pol spent many years of residence in Qohor, investigating the secrets of their blacksmiths for his treatise on Qohorik metalworking. He was thrice publicly whipped, and cast out for making too many inquiries. The final time, his hand was also cut off, per the allegation he had stolen a Valyrian steel blade. According to Pol, the true reason for his final exile was his discovery of blood sacrifices—including that of infant slaves—which the Qohorik smiths use in their efforts to produce a steel equal to the original Valyrian steel.[7]

There may be thousands of Valyrian steel blades remaining in the known world, but in Westeros there are only 227 such weapons according to Archmaester Thurgood's Inventories, some of which have since been lost or have disappeared from recorded history.[2] Most Valyrian steel blades in Westeros are treasured heirlooms of noble houses, each with its own name and storied history, and even impoverished lesser houses are unwilling to give them up.[10]

After the death of King Aegon I Targaryen in 37 AC, the king's body was burned in a funeral pyre, with his hands folded over the hilt of his Valyrian steel sword, Blackfyre. Blackfyre's blade was darkened by the dragon-lit flames, but the sword was otherwise unharmed.[11]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Jon Snow with Longclaw, by John Moriarty © Fantasy Flight Games

Lord Eddard Stark uses Ice to execute Gared, a deserter from the Night's Watch.[9]

A catspaw tries to assassinate Bran Stark with a Valyrian steel dagger, but he is instead slain by Summer.[24] Bran's mother, Catelyn Stark, travels to King's Landing and shows the dagger to Lord Petyr Baelish, who claims to have owned the dagger, but lost it to Tyrion Lannister betting on the tourney on Prince Joffrey's name day.[25] (It was actually won by King Robert I Baratheon.)[26] Eddard carries the dagger until Petyr takes it from him during his arrest.[27]

In gratitude for having been saved from a wight at Castle Black, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont gives Longclaw to Jon Snow.[12]

Ser Ilyn Payne uses Ice to execute Ned Stark before the Great Sept of Baelor.[28]

A Storm of Swords

Joffrey Baratheon with Widow's Wail, by Joshua Cairos © Fantasy Flight Games

Lord Tywin Lannister has Tobho Mott, a Qohorik master blacksmith who knows the spells needed to rework Valyrian steel, reforge Ice into two new Valyrian blades. Tobho Mott attempts to tint the swords crimson, for the color of House Lannister, but the metal absorbs the color, resulting in ripples of nearly-black grey, and red almost as dark as the grey.[10] The first sword, Widow's Wail, is given to King Joffrey I Baratheon as a wedding gift by his grandfather, Tywin. Joffrey chooses its name from the shouted suggestion of an unnamed guest.[29] Following Joffrey's death at his wedding feast, ownership of Widow's Wail passes to his younger brother, King Tommen I Baratheon.[30]

Tywin gives the second blade to his son, Ser Jaime Lannister. Jaime then gives the sword to Brienne of Tarth to use in her quest to locate Sansa Stark, and he asks her to name it Oathkeeper.[31]

A Feast for Crows

When looking in the Night's Watch's archives at Castle Black for a way to combat the Others, Samwell Tarly reads about the last hero slaying them with a blade of dragonsteel, which he and Jon Snow think might be Valyrian steel.[19]

Daggers of Valyrian steel are among the treasures which Euron Greyjoy gives to ironborn captains during the kingsmoot on Old Wyk.[32]

When Brienne is captured by the brotherhood without banners, they use the sword's appearance as evidence that Brienne serves House Lannister, and Lady Stoneheart says it should be better named "Oathbreaker". She demands that Brienne take up the sword to keep her oath to Catelyn Stark and slay Jaime Lannister, or be hanged. Brienne initially refuses, but when she is being hanged and sees her friends dying, she screams "sword".[33][34]

A Dance with Dragons

Tormund Giantsbane says that fighting the Others is impossible, and asks Jon Snow if his sword can "cut cold". Jon recalls what Sam had told him about dragonsteel, and thinks of Longclaw's source in the fires and spells of old Valyria. However, he admits the true test must come in battle.[35]

During the siege of Astapor, the sellsword Caggo fights with a Valyrian steel arakh.[35]

The Winds of Winter

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This information has thus far been released in a sample chapter for The Winds of Winter, and might therefore not be in finalized form. Keep in mind that the content as described below is still subject to change.

Euron Greyjoy, King of the Isles and the North, is seen by his captive brother, Aeron Greyjoy, in a suit of black scale armor which Aeron believes to be Valyrian steel. Aeron Damphair believes it would have cost a kingdom even before the Doom of Valyria.[15]

List of Valyrian steel objects

Blades known to still exist

Valyrian steel dagger by Lucas Durham © Fantasy Flight Games

Blades with known fates

Blades with unknown fates

Other objects

Valyrian steel link in a maester's chain, by Raymond Bonilla © Fantasy Flight Games
  • A small number of maesters, including Maester Luwin and Archmaester Marwyn, have Valyrian steel links in their collars, representing their study of magic and occultism. Marwyn also has a ring, rod, and mask of Valyrian steel.[16][17]
  • Dragonbinder, a dragon horn banded with red gold and Valyrian steel.[14]
  • The crown worn by King Aegon I Targaryen and some of his successors in the Targaryen dynasty, a circlet of Valyrian steel studded with rubies.[46] It was last worn by King Daeron I Targaryen, but was lost after his death in Dorne.[47]
  • A suit of black scale armor, worn by King Euron Greyjoy. The Valyrian steel scales are dark like smoke and edged in red gold, with whorls and glyphs and arcane symbols folded into the steel.[15]

Quotes

"Ice," that sword was called. It was as wide across as a man's hand, and taller even than Robb Stark. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nothing held an edge like Valyrian steel.[9]

—thoughts of Bran Stark

I heard of a man who had a razor made of Valyrian steel. He cut his head off trying to shave.[12]

Valyrian steel blades were scarce and costly, yet thousands remained in the world, perhaps two hundred in the Seven Kingdoms alone.[10]

—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister

A man who bears Valyrian steel should use it for more than scratching his arse.[48]

Valyrian steel is a fantasy metal. Which means it has magical characteristics, and magic plays a role in its forging.[4]

Valyrian steel was always costly, but it became considerably more so when there was no more Valyria, and the secret of its making were lost.[22]

Behind the Scenes

According to George R. R. Martin, the closest real-world analogue to Valyrian steel is Damascus steel[4], known for its distinctive banded patterns. Blades of Damascus steel were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering, and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge. Damascus steel was made from ingots of Wootz steel, a high carbon crucible steel. Like Valyrian steel, the technique for making Damascus steel was lost, and there have been many attempts to reverse engineer it. Most modern so-called "damascus" steel blades are only pattern-welded, which produces similar banded patterns, but does not have the same characteristics or quality of the original Wootz steel.[49]

Valyrian steel also bears some resemblance to the fictional mithril, from J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium, in that it is a rare, prized, and magical metal, lighter and harder than standard steel, used for weapons, armor, and jewelry. However, mithril comes from an ore that was mined, whereas Valyrian steel's characteristics come from how it is forged from iron with the use of magic.[4]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: Valyria's Children.
  3. So Spake Martin: Producing Valyrian Steel, March 11, 2001
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 So Spake Martin: The Process of Making Valyrian Steel, November 06, 2002
  5. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 45, Samwell V.
  6. The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: Ten Thousand Ships.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Qohor.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 58, Jon XII.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 32, Tyrion IV.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Fire & Blood, The Sons of the Dragon.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 60, Jon VIII.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Feast for Crows, Prologue.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 The Winds of Winter, The Forsaken
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
  17. 17.0 17.1 A Feast for Crows, Appendix.
  18. So Spake Martin: Maester Chains and Valyrian Steel Links, June 20, 2001
  19. 19.0 19.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  20. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 7, Jon II.
  21. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 72, Daenerys X.
  22. 22.0 22.1 So Spake Martin: On Valyrian Steel and Twist Endings, March 16, 2008
  23. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 27, Eddard VI.
  24. 24.0 24.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 14, Catelyn III.
  25. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 18, Catelyn IV.
  26. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 55, Catelyn VII.
  27. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 49, Eddard XIV.
  28. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 65, Arya V.
  29. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 60, Tyrion VIII.
  30. So Spake Martin: Loras, Robert Arryn, the Clegane Sister, and a Sword, April 14, 2008
  31. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
  32. 32.0 32.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 29, The Reaver.
  33. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 42, Brienne VIII.
  34. So Spake Martin: Miscon Report, June 03, 2012
  35. 35.0 35.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 60, The Spurned Suitor.
  36. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 25, The Windblown.
  37. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  38. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
  39. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 68, Sansa VI.
  40. So Spake Martin: SF in SF Q&A Report, August 15, 2018
  41. Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Overthrown.
  42. Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - War and Peace and Cattle Shows.
  43. The World of Ice & Fire, The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh.
  44. Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Red Dragon and the Gold.
  45. Fire & Blood, The Lysene Spring and the End of Regency.
  46. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  47. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Maekar I.
  48. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
  49. Wikipedia: Damascus steel