Valyrian steel is a form of metal that was forged in the days of the mighty Valyrian Freehold. It is exceptionally sharp and tremendously strong, yet light, keeping its edge forever without the need for sharpening.
In real life, this is called Damascus steel. This was used to make knife and sword blades in the Medieval period. These blades are steel made with a wavy surface pattern and is produced by hammer-welding strips of steel and iron that is followed by repeated heating and forging. The patterns that appear on the blade depends on the smith who makes it. It depends on how he/she works it.
Valyrian steel is recognizable from its sharpness, as well as a distinctive rippled pattern visible in blades made from it. Valyrian steel is one of the few things that can kill White Walkers, alongside dragonglass, although this property is not widely known, apparently not even to the White Walkers themselves.
- "No one's made a new Valyrian steel sword since the Doom of Valyria."
- ―Jaime Lannister
The secret of forging Valyrian steel was lost in the Doom of Valyria, after which creating new Valyrian steel weapons became impossible. Valyrian steel was expensive to begin with, so Valyrian steel swords such as House Stark's Ice were already valued heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next in powerful noble families. In the four centuries since the destruction of Valyria, surviving Valyrian steel weapons became priceless, and the few noble Houses who possessed such weapons treasured them even more closely.Skilled smiths can reforge Valyrian steel weapons by melting down existing ones, but it's a difficult process. Two smaller Valyrian steel swords can be made out of a larger greatsword, or a large greatsword made by melting down multiple smaller swords, but the amount of Valyrian steel in the world is finite and extremely rare.
Some maesters also bear a Valyrian steel link in the maester chain they wear. It is a sign that said maester has studied the "higher mysteries" - magic. This field of study, however, is mostly theoretical and its purpose is to demonstrate that magic, if it ever existed, is now extinct.
Known Valyrian steel weaponsEdit
- Blackfyre, the ancestral sword of House Targaryen, once wielded by Aegon the Conqueror, lost during the Blackfyre Rebellion.
- Dark Sister, a longsword of House Targaryen, held by Visenya Targaryen, lost during the Blackfyre Rebellion.
- Ice, the ancestral greatsword of House Stark. Captured by House Lannister when Eddard Stark was taken prisoner, and used by Ilyn Payne to behead Lord Stark at Joffrey Baratheon's command. After the Red Wedding and defeat of House Stark, Tywin Lannister had it melted down into two smaller longswords, one gifted to his son, Jaime, the other to his grandson, Joffrey Baratheon.
- Longclaw, a bastard-sword of House Mormont, given by Jeor Mormont to Jon Snow.
- Brightroar, the ancestral sword of House Lannister, lost by King Tommen II Lannister when on his expedition to Valyria.
- Heartsbane, the ancestral sword of House Tarly.
- Lady Forlorn, the ancestral sword of House Corbray.
- A dagger wielded by an assassin who attempts to kill Bran Stark with it. It previously belonged to Petyr Baelish, but he claims he lost it in a bet to Tyrion Lannister. However, the ownership of the dagger when it was used by the assassin is never firmly established in the TV series.
In the booksEdit
In A Song of Ice and Fire novels, only the blacksmiths of Qohor are skilled enough to reforge Valyrian steel. The Season 4 premiere of the TV series, however, oddly had Tywin say that only three men in the known world know how to reforge it, and that he hired a blacksmith from Volantis to reforge Ice into two other swords. In the books, Ice was reforged by Tobho Mott, a Qohorik master blacksmith who moved to King's Landing years ago, and to whom Gendry was apprenticed. This is all the more strange because Mott was actually introduced in the TV series in Seasons 1 and 2, so it is unclear why the TV series would then shift away from this plot point (it's possible that the actor was unavailable for Season 4). Either way, the "Histories & Lore" animated featurette from the Season 2 Blu-ray set already stated that it is the blacksmiths of Qohor who are famed for their ability to reforge Valyrian steel.
According to legend, Valyrian steel was forged with dragon-fire and infused with magical spells - some say with blood magic, literally requiring "fire and blood" (like House Targaryen's motto). Having been forged with dragon fire, Valyrian steel is incredibly resistant to damage from normal fire.
As in the series, the maesters of the Citadel possess some meager skill with the material, if only to provide Valyrian steel links to the few maesters who study magic. Only 1 in about 100 Maesters has a Valyrian Steel link in his chain, and the Archmaester of the field also possesses a ring, a rod, and a mask made from the metal. The rarity of such links isn't because it's a difficult practice to master, but because most Maesters are notoriously anti-magic, while others even refuse to believe such a force still exists in the world, or that it ever did to begin with.
In A Feast for Crows, Sam Tarly tells Jon about old annals claiming that "dragonsteel" is lethal to the White Walkers, like dragonglass - they both suspect that "dragonsteel" is another name for "Valyrian steel", but haven't been able to put it to the test yet. In the show, this is confirmed when Jon Snow kills a White Walker during the Massacre at Hardhome.
Although Valyrian steel blades are scarce and costly, several hundred of them are known to exist in the world, approximately two hundred in Westeros alone. Most of them are swords, but there are a few daggers and axes as well. Valyrian steel can be identified by its unusual dusky color, distinctive rippled pattern, and the extreme sharpness of the blade.
In addition to the above, other Valyrian steel weapons known to exist include Heartsbane (House Tarly), Lady Forlorn (House Corbray), Red Rain (House Drumm), and Nightfall (House Harlaw). House Targaryen originally possessed two Valyrian steel swords, Blackfyre and Dark Sister, but both were lost in the chaos following the First Blackfyre Rebellion more than a century before the events of the series.
Brightroar, the Valyrian sword of House Lannister, was lost in an expedition to Valyria centuries ago. An attempt to find it, led by Tywin Lannister's younger brother Gerion, apparently ended in failure, with no-one returning from the expedition. At least three times Tywin offered to buy Valyrian longswords from impoverished lesser houses, but his offers were firmly rejected. The little lordlings would gladly part with their daughters should a Lannister come asking, but they cherished their old family swords. This is what Jaime was referring to in the episode "Two Swords" when he says that Tywin has wanted a Valyrian steel sword in the family for a long time.
Valyrian steel shares many of its legendary traits with the real life Damascus steel. Both metals have a flowing water pattern, both were reputed to result in exceptional quality blades at the time, and like Valyrian steel, the true method for crafting Damascus steel has been lost, meaning that true Damascus steel weapons can no longer be crafted. Notably, even modern versions of Damascus steel are expensive, and a sword made using even modern Damascus steel can easily cost twice that of a handmade sword from traditional or high-carbon steel.