In Game of Thrones, even weapons have their own mythos. Sprinkled amongst the magic in the Known World, you'll find your everyday generic tools and instruments — swords, armor, shields, etc. all crafted no differently than they would have been during the Middle Ages — but there are exceptions. Though rare, even in a world filled with dragons and resurrections, there are tools inside the world created by author George R. R. Martin that are shrouded in lore. They're no lightsabers or phoenix feather-filled wands, but they still earn a rank among the two all the same.
What links all of these instruments of war (whatever form they may happen to take) is the material with which they're made — a rare and admired material called Valyrian Steel. Like any other piece of mythos, this particular substance isn't just unique, but valuable beyond a common person's (or in the case of the story, a common character's) understanding. So, to better understand the significant role that it will ultimately play in Game of Thrones, keep reading to discover 15 Things You Didn't Know About Valyrian Steel.
15 It's Based On A Real World Type Of Steel
If you were to place Valyrian Steel and Damascus Steel side-by-side, you wouldn't see much of a difference (save for whatever creative liberties a blacksmith might have taken with whichever piece he or she was crafting). The only real difference is the fact that Damascus Steel is real, while Valyrian Steel exists only in the mind of George R. R. Martin.
Named after Syria's capital city, Damascus Steel shares a significant amount of qualities with Valyrian Steel. Not only visually, but in terms of its strength, Damascus Steel has an almost magical quality to it, which would explain why Martin would want to take some inspiration from it for his epic series.
Damascus Steel is very much a product of reality, but considering how similar it is to its fictional counterpart, it's worth taking into consideration that maybe there is more to this steel than meets the eye.
14 It's Incredibly Rare
Not unlike Damascus Steel, Valyrian Steel is incredibly rare. In Game of Thrones, it runs deep through Essos' history, all the way back to the time when the Valyrian Freehold reigned supreme.
The Valyrian Freehold refers to a time when Valyrians ruled, and it was during this time that magic was as integrated into culture as farming or masonry is in the current timeline on Thrones. However, after the tragic fall of Valyria, magic and legend quickly disappeared. Any history of the world that once existed was lost, and all that was left to replace it was ruins.
So, following the fall of the Essos-based city, Valyrian Steel was nowhere near as common as it used to be, and as a result, it became a rare metal existing in only a few corners of the Known World.
13 It Doesn't Require Sharpening
One of the downsides to wielding a bladed weapon is that, eventually, it'll have to be sharpened. Running into battle with a dull blade isn't exactly showing of much tactical strategy, so you'd be wise to run your blade over a whetstone before running into battle. After all, you can't "stick them with the pointy end" if there isn't a pointy end to begin with...
Now, if you have a weapon made out of Valyrian Steel, then that's another story. Because Valyrian Steel — among its many other qualities — requires zero sharpening. And when you consider how immense and heavy Ned Stark's sword Ice was (which was made out of Valyrian Steel), his blacksmith likely thanked the Old Gods everyday for not having to lift that behemoth onto a whetstone...
12 It Has An Unmistakable Look
Valyrian Steel is unmistakable. No matter how large or small a particular Valyrian Steel-made weapon might be, the blade's design remains the same. It has a distinct "rippled" look, like water dripping from its surface. In fact, fantastical though it may appear, this look was directly inspired by Damascus Steel.
In Game of Thrones, most characters can recognize Valyrian Steel upon first glance. In the episode, "The Kingsroad," Ser Rodrik Cassel explains to Catelyn Stark that the knife used to assassinate her son, Bran, is Valyrian Steel. The fact that it's so rare easily leads them to deduce that someone in power must have played a role in planning the assassination.
(Fun fact: that same knife now belongs to Arya Stark, seeing as Bran, who had it passed down to him from Petyr Baelish, had zero use for it. We can't wait to see what she does with it.)
11 The Forging Process Has Been Lost to time
Now, as beautiful and as strong as Valyrian Steel may be, the characters (who are still alive) on Game of Thrones stand a poor chance at ever crafting their very own Valyrian Steel weapon, because the forging process has been lost. After the fall of Valyria, records of their history were lost — including records consisting of the apparently not-so-straightforward forging process.
In the current Thrones timeline, any remaining weapons crafted out of Valyrian Steel are heirlooms mostly (if not tools for assassination, as the previous entry explains). And as the current timeline also reveals, these heirlooms are finally being dusted off, with various characters wielding Valyrian Steel blades for reasons that serve a grander purpose than simple swordplay (but we'll get to that later).
10 Reforging Is Still Possible, But Not Easy
Branching off the topic of the lost forging process of Valyrian Steel, it's worth noting that, despite dying out with the rest of the Valyrian empire, crafting new swords made out of this steel isn't entirely impossible. Starting from scratch may be a thing of the past, but reforging Valyrian Steel isn't an entirely lost art — assuming you've got the necessary farrier skills down pat.
In season four's first episode, "Two Swords," Tywin Lannister does one final injustice to the legacy of Ned Stark by having his sword, Ice, melted down and reforged. Even someone as cocky as Tywin understands the complexities of Valyrian Steel, however, so he hires a blacksmith from Volantis to perform the task (as the process would have been lost on anyone else).
9 It's Lighter, But Stronger Than Normal Steel
As if any character in Westeros needed more of a reason to add Valyrian Steel weapons to their Christmas wishlist, there are still some physical traits to add to its appeal. Yes, it may be beautiful, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to how a weapon handles. As it just so happens, when it comes to wielding a sword in battle, you can't beat Valyrian Steel. Not only is it more powerful than normal steel, it's lighter as well.
So, it's no wonder why Valyrian Steel is considered to be such a precious artifact. Visually, it may make a stunning piece of furniture to hang above the fireplace, but aesthetics aside, this is a pure example of form complementing function.
Honestly, though. If someone like Joffrey Baratheon can swing a Valyrian sword as easily as he does during the Purple Wedding, then it's safe to say that it definitely doesn't require much physical strength. At all.
8 Known Valyrian Steel Weapons In Westeros
Rare though Valyrian Steel may be, that's not to say that it's been completely erased from the Known World entirely. From the Red Waste to Winterfell, Valyrian Steel has been scattered over time, passing from person to person, family to family, and victim to victor. And it just so happens that some of Thrones' most significant characters are in possession of Valyrian Steel weapons of their very own.
Jon Snow's sword Longclaw was given to him by Jeor Mormont, former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Ned Stark's Ice, which was melted down by Tywin Lannister, was reforged into two smaller swords. Oathkeeper, which originally belonged to Jaime Lannister, is now in the hands of Brienne of Tarth, and Widow's Wail, which originally belonged to Joffrey Baratheon, now belongs to Jaime (Valyrian Steel really seems to gravitate towards him, doesn't it?). House Tarly is in possession of a sword called Heartsbane, and seeing as Sam is a Tarly, he saw fit to take it to Oldtown after paying his family a brief visit.
Another notable Valyrian Steel weapon is the catspaw dagger, which has had quite a few owners before ultimately ending up in Arya's scabbard.
7 Euron Greyjoy's Armor Is Made Of Valyrian Steel
Joffrey Baratheon was a whiny punk, Ramsay Bolton was a sadistic prick, and Euron Greyjoy is a cocky jackoff. Together, they make a detestable trifecta of Westerosi villains, but there is an outlier among the three. What sets Euron apart from Joffrey and Ramsay is his knowledge that he is very much susceptible to death. His counterparts may as well have considered themselves to be gods, but Euron knows better. He understands his mortality better than either of the other two ever could.
Which would explain his Valyrian Steel armor.
Having sailed every sea of the Known World, Euron didn't survive out of pure confidence alone. No, he survived because he had the wherewithal to outwit his opposers — including death itself. His enemies can do their worst when attempting to strike him down, but that Valyrian armor won't make the job easy, that's for damn sure.
6 It's Crafted With Dragon Fire
Seeing as Valyrian Steel derives from a time of dragons, it's only natural that dragons themselves would have some part to play in its design.
Though there are no genuine specifics regarding how Valyrian Steel is crafted (what with all the records being lost), there is plenty of hearsay. Aside from being crafted with dragon fire, it's also rumored to be the result of magic. Specifically, blood magic. So, while there's no way to actually confirm this -- unless someone like Sam Tarly manages to discover something else in the books he stole from the Citadel), it's not a completely unbelievable assumption.
Now, since dragon fire plays such a significant role in its creation, it's no wonder why Valyrian Steel is so impervious to any fire damage that might come to it. That's the beauty of badass weaponry.
5 It's Present On Some Maester's Chains As A Nod To The Past
If nothing else, maesters are low-key and old-school. They're well-learnt and all-knowing (for the most part), and they spend their days flipping through books, trying their damnedest to indulge in some extra wisdom whenever possible, so it's no wonder that talk of monsters and magic might seem a bit silly in their eyes. They're realists. They understand truths and they take reality at face value.
However, that's not to say that some maesters aren't more open-minded than others.
For the maesters who are open to studying a bit of magic every now and again, there are chain links made out of Valyrian Steel that they are allowed to attach to their own chains. It's not entirely common, but it happens.
4 Aegon I Targaryen's Crown Was Made Of Valyrian Steel
Though audiences have never actually seen Aegon I Targaryen in action, his legend speaks for himself. He was the First of His Name (among many other titles), and is remembered through A Song of Ice and Fire's history as a great and powerful conqueror and king. In fact, his dragon, Balerion (aka Black Dread), whose skull currently rests beneath the Red Keep at King's Landing, was big enough to blot out the sun when flying over cities and swallow mammoths whole.
To add to Aegon's captivating presence, he also wore a crown crafted purely out of Valyrian Steel. It was dressed with rubies, but there's no denying that the true value in his crown was the metal from which it was made. As of now, it's anyone's guess as to where it might be, though a betting man would assume it's somewhere in Dorne, seeing as that's where it was ultimately lost.
3 Bran's Was Almost Killed With A Valyrian Steel Blade - And Littlefinger May Have been behind it
There is plenty of mystery surrounding the dagger that was used to assassinate Bran Stark. Though the attempt was ultimately a failure (thanks to Catelyn Stark fending off the assassin and Bran's direwolf, Summer, biting his throat), the dagger has remained to serve as a mysterious plot device ever since. Especially with Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger).
What's especially confounding is how Littlefinger got his hands on the dagger to begin with. Yes, it used to belong to him, but that was then and this is now. How did he get his hands on the dagger after Catelyn was murdered at the Red Wedding? And could the dagger ultimately be his undoing? It might be a stretch to assume that he had something to do with Bran's attempted assassination all along, but given the fact that his character seems willing to do anything for power (after all, "Chaos is a ladder"), the possibility is worth considering.
2 The Dragonbinder Is Made Of Valyrian Steel
(SPOILER WARNING FOR NON-BOOK READERS)
There are two major horns in A Song of Ice of Fire, and only one of them has shown up in the HBO series. One is the Horn of Joramun (better known as the Horn of Winter), and its sound is believed to be so powerful that it can supposedly tear down the Wall. The other horn is the Dragonbinder (or Hellhorn), which hasn't shown up in the show yet, but could easily be the key to Daenerys' downfall.
When blown, it has the power to control dragons. And in the books, the Dragonbinder belongs to one Euron Greyjoy — the one man standing between Daenerys and Cersei.
Together, these two horns might be great tools for the White Walkers (one to tear down the Wall and one to keep the dragons at bay). The only problem is that one was destroyed by Melisandre, and the other (in the show, at least) may not even exist.
1 It Can Kill White Walkers
The characters in Game of Thrones can fight each other all they want, but at the end of the day, the most serious threat lies in the North. Winter has come, and with it's come the White Walkers. Led by the Night King, these ice zombies are out for blood, and their combination of magic and might make human survival seem all the more unlikely.
Thankfully, though, the humans have more than dragonglass on their side in the fight against the undead.
It turns out that Valyrian Steel is more than just a pretty piece of metal. This ancient steel has the power to destroy White Walkers, as proven during the episode "Hardhome," when Jon Snow slices into a White Walker and turns him into a pile of ice. Whether Jon will have enough time to share this information with other Valyrian Steel wielders remains to be seen, but it's safe to say that the show (and books) will put this knowledge to satisfying use at some point or another.
Know of any other information regarding Valyrian Steel? Sound off in the comments!