falcotron

Meteoric iron

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tl;dr: All of the legendary swords of ancient Westeros are meteoric iron swords, but Dawn is the only one that was actually magical, which is why the rest were lost or discarded or replaced with Valyrian steel namesakes after the Andals brought steel.

Since this has come up in multiple different threads as a side issue and always threatens to derail the thread, I decided to give it its own thread.

In the real world, iron ore is useless for making weapons until you learn how to smelt the ore and forge quality steel (which is when you cross the border from bronze age into iron age), but meteoric iron can be cold-forged into weapons that are much stronger, and hold an edge much better, than anything made of bronze. And there are many well-attested legends of weapons made from meteoric iron. But those weapons stop seeming magical once you can forge steel.

Of course we're explicitly told that Dawn was made from the heart of a fallen star. But all of the other iron weapons must likewise be meteoric iron (unless they're telluric iron, which is an intriguing possibility*), because we know that the First Men didn't have smelting and steel furnaces. If Dawn is actually magical, it would still be a worthy sword today, but the non-magical meteoric iron swords would have become obsolete, and over the centuries people would make up stories about the incomparable swords they used to have and for various different reasons no longer do.

The original Ice** was actually nowhere near as good as the Valyrian steel Ice. But when it was the only iron sword in a battle, the King of Winter would be shattering the enemy's bronze swords and splintering their wooden shields left and right, while the modern Ice doesn't do that against steel swords and iron shields.

There are legends like that in our world, like the blade of the pharaohs*** that could cut through enemy swords in the New Kingdom, but must have been stolen and replaced by a replica during the intermediate period because it was now useless in the Late Period. Of course it wasn't stolen and replaced; the New Kingdom was facing bronze-age cultures, while the Late Period was facing the Neo-Assyrians and the Achaemenid Persians, both of whom had steel.

Meanwhile, other modern fantasy series are chock full of magical meteoric iron, and GRRM seems like the kind of writer who would research the legends and treat them realistically instead of just blindly copying all of the other writers—while at the same time throwing in one or maybe two actually magical fallen-star swords that fit the legends instead of the reality.

By the way, since I know someone will bring this up, I don't think there's any connection to Lightbringer in anything above.****

---

* Telluric iron can be cold-forged even more easily than meteoric iron. Unfortunately, it's incredibly rare. In our world, the only sizable deposit is in Greenland. The Vikings who colonized there were surprised to find that the Inuit had "women's knives" and kitchen tools that were as strong and sharp as the finest quality steel, even though they didn't have steelmaking technology. A very small deposit of telluric iron was found in Kassel in the late 19th century, leading to a theory that it may have explained two legendary German swords. That theory was discredited long ago, but it lasted long enough for someone to ask Tolkien whether the mithril in his world might be a European source of telluric iron that was all used up by the Fourth Age (which Tolkien called interesting, but unlikely). And if GRRM did some basic research into meteoric iron, he would have learned about the telluric iron in Greenland. So, now, imagine if there was a large source of telluric iron in the caves under Winterfell. The Starks could then produce swords as good as the rare fallen-star swords, and give them out to their best allies and vassals in exchange for almost anything they wanted, which would be pretty helpful in consolidating power over a huge kingdom, and then helpful again in holding off the Andals when everyone else fell to their steel.

** Ice may not be the best example to use, because if there are two rather than one magic swords in the series, I'd guess Ice would be the other one. I don't think it is, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely.

*** The Egyptians' relationship with iron was unusual in all kinds of interesting ways. They believed iron was "impure", and associated it with Seth and the central desert wastelands, and as a consequence used it much less than other bronze-age cultures, even though they seem to have mined it much earlier than most. But they still had weapons of meteoric iron that we've found in their tombs, like the famous Dagger of King Tut. We don't know whether they thought that was an entirely different metal, or whether it had somehow been magically purified, or its evil somehow contained and forced to good use, or what.

**** The Lightbringer legend is very clearly about forging steel in a furnace, not about cold-forging meteoric iron. In fact, I suspect that's the point—R'hllor or the Children taught Azor Ahai or Last Hero how to forge a steel sword, and provided some fire for him to do it in that couldn't be reproduced for thousands of years, until the Rhoynar figured out how to make blast furnaces and/or the Valyrians tamed dragons.

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This would also be one way of explaining the Winterfell Crypts and why the oldest statues are in the furthermost sections; Starks started their burying practices after they have run out of ore so they started to fill the crypts with their dead and the iron swords would be the deceased kings' own iron swords that came from the mines.

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Thank you, that was interesting.

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25 minutes ago, Corvo the Crow said:

This would also be one way of explaining the Winterfell Crypts and why the oldest statues are in the furthermost sections; Starks started their burying practices after they have run out of ore so they started to fill the crypts with their dead and the iron swords would be the deceased kings' own iron swords that came from the mines.

I assume this is a reply to the footnote speculating on telluric iron? In that case, it isn't ore they're mining, but ready-to-use grains of iron alloys that don't need to be separated out from the slag. Look at this picture from Wikipedia; those shiny bits are cylinders of weapon-ready iron (actually low-carbon nickel-iron steel, with pearlite structures and everything) more than half a centimeter thick that can be just sawed out and cold-forged into blades without any need for smelting.

I don't think any of the grains in Greenland are nearly large enough to make a greatsword out of (the Inuit mostly made small disc-bladed punch-knives), but it's not that big of a stretch for a fantasy world to have even bigger shards.

For a bit more (still incredibly tenuous) evidence: most of the settlements on and near Disko Bay (where the major telluric iron deposit is) are built over hot springs, and one of them even has a founding myth about being built to stop the advance of winter.*

Anyway, I think the idea of telluric iron under Winterfell is not all that likely, but it's not impossible that GRRM could have been reading about the early 20th century experiments on the Kassel deposit, or the letter to Tolkien, or whatever, and decided that it sounded interesting.

---

* Although when I looked up the myth, it doesn't actually sound very Bran the Builder. There was once a pair of hunters who towed volcanic islands from south of Greenland by kayak to divert icebergs so they could catch seals unaware. One day, they were towing an island around, and a witch who lived under the edge of an advancing glacier spotted them and knew that this island could actually stop the ice. So she cast a spell to anchor it to the land, but it anchored to the icy island in the bay rather than the mainland. Where the two islands joined, it formed the greenest valley in the world, and people came from all over to settle there. And of course it didn't stop the mainland glacier, but the glacier on the icy island stopped in its tracks, and the village that was built right under its lip (Qeqertarsuaq) is still there centuries later.

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I think it may follow what you're saying about the weapons of the Pharaohs. Dawn may have been meteoric iron in a pre-steel age. The steel making process seems to be within the cultural memory in many places in Planetos, including the Azor Ahai myth and the Ironborn words. I think the AA myth is, in one aspect, a metaphor for humanity attaining greater knowledge and power (just like Prometheus's fire theft).

It would also play well into a dichotomy of divine vs human, with the the divine being the heavenly chunk of steel that must have seemed like a gift from above, while the human created version comes out smoke dark and requires blood magic.

Edited by cgrav

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8 hours ago, falcotron said:

tl;dr: All of the legendary swords of ancient Westeros are meteoric iron swords, but Dawn is the only one that was actually magical, which is why the rest were lost or discarded or replaced with Valyrian steel namesakes after the Andals brought steel.

Since this has come up in multiple different threads as a side issue and always threatens to derail the thread, I decided to give it its own thread.

In the real world, iron ore is useless for making weapons until you learn how to smelt the ore and forge quality steel (which is when you cross the border from bronze age into iron age), but meteoric iron can be cold-forged into weapons that are much stronger, and hold an edge much better, than anything made of bronze. And there are many well-attested legends of weapons made from meteoric iron. But those weapons stop seeming magical once you can forge steel.

Of course we're explicitly told that Dawn was made from the heart of a fallen star. But all of the other iron weapons must likewise be meteoric iron (unless they're telluric iron, which is an intriguing possibility*), because we know that the First Men didn't have smelting and steel furnaces. If Dawn is actually magical, it would still be a worthy sword today, but the non-magical meteoric iron swords would have become obsolete, and over the centuries people would make up stories about the incomparable swords they used to have and for various different reasons no longer do.

The original Ice** was actually nowhere near as good as the Valyrian steel Ice. But when it was the only iron sword in a battle, the King of Winter would be shattering the enemy's bronze swords and splintering their wooden shields left and right, while the modern Ice doesn't do that against steel swords and iron shields.

There are legends like that in our world, like the blade of the pharaohs*** that could cut through enemy swords in the New Kingdom, but must have been stolen and replaced by a replica during the intermediate period because it was now useless in the Late Period. Of course it wasn't stolen and replaced; the New Kingdom was facing bronze-age cultures, while the Late Period was facing the Neo-Assyrians and the Achaemenid Persians, both of whom had steel.

Meanwhile, other modern fantasy series are chock full of magical meteoric iron, and GRRM seems like the kind of writer who would research the legends and treat them realistically instead of just blindly copying all of the other writers—while at the same time throwing in one or maybe two actually magical fallen-star swords that fit the legends instead of the reality.

By the way, since I know someone will bring this up, I don't think there's any connection to Lightbringer in anything above.****

---

* Telluric iron can be cold-forged even more easily than meteoric iron. Unfortunately, it's incredibly rare. In our world, the only sizable deposit is in Greenland. The Vikings who colonized there were surprised to find that the Inuit had "women's knives" and kitchen tools that were as strong and sharp as the finest quality steel, even though they didn't have steelmaking technology. A very small deposit of telluric iron was found in Kassel in the late 19th century, leading to a theory that it may have explained two legendary German swords. That theory was discredited long ago, but it lasted long enough for someone to ask Tolkien whether the mithril in his world might be a European source of telluric iron that was all used up by the Fourth Age (which Tolkien called interesting, but unlikely). And if GRRM did some basic research into meteoric iron, he would have learned about the telluric iron in Greenland. So, now, imagine if there was a large source of telluric iron in the caves under Winterfell. The Starks could then produce swords as good as the rare fallen-star swords, and give them out to their best allies and vassals in exchange for almost anything they wanted, which would be pretty helpful in consolidating power over a huge kingdom, and then helpful again in holding off the Andals when everyone else fell to their steel.

** Ice may not be the best example to use, because if there are two rather than one magic swords in the series, I'd guess Ice would be the other one. I don't think it is, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely.

*** The Egyptians' relationship with iron was unusual in all kinds of interesting ways. They believed iron was "impure", and associated it with Seth and the central desert wastelands, and as a consequence used it much less than other bronze-age cultures, even though they seem to have mined it much earlier than most. But they still had weapons of meteoric iron that we've found in their tombs, like the famous Dagger of King Tut. We don't know whether they thought that was an entirely different metal, or whether it had somehow been magically purified, or its evil somehow contained and forced to good use, or what.

**** The Lightbringer legend is very clearly about forging steel in a furnace, not about cold-forging meteoric iron. In fact, I suspect that's the point—R'hllor or the Children taught Azor Ahai or Last Hero how to forge a steel sword, and provided some fire for him to do it in that couldn't be reproduced for thousands of years, until the Rhoynar figured out how to make blast furnaces and/or the Valyrians tamed dragons.

http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?/topic/148774-dawn-valyrian-steel-the-black-white-trees/

You know Iron. Think about how steel is made then. 

Carbon+Iron=Steel

What can be used for carbon? Trees. 

Dawn, made in Westeros- Weirwoods

Valyrian Steel, made in Essos- Black Barked Trees, with Blue leaves found at least in Qarth.

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12 minutes ago, AlaskanSandman said:

http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?/topic/148774-dawn-valyrian-steel-the-black-white-trees/

You know Iron. Think about how steel is made then. 

Carbon+Iron=Steel

What can be used for carbon? Trees. 

Dawn, made in Westeros- Weirwoods

Valyrian Steel, made in Essos- Black Barked Trees, with Blue leaves found at least in Qarth.

Speculating about the carbon source for Valyrian steel is interesting (and we had a whole thread about it a few weeks ago), but it's not relevant here.

The whole point of meteoric iron is that it's a big chunk of iron alloy—that is, steel—ready to be used as-is, by bronze-age cultures who can't do anything more than cold-forging.

Dawn is made of meteoric iron. We're explicitly told that it was forged from the heart of a fallen star. And that it was 10000 years ago, which is many millennia before anyone knew how to make furnaces hot enough to smelt iron or forge steel. There is no carbon source in cold-forging meteoric iron, there's just the carbon that was already in the meteorite when it landed.

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30 minutes ago, falcotron said:

Speculating about the carbon source for Valyrian steel is interesting (and we had a whole thread about it a few weeks ago), but it's not relevant here.

The whole point of meteoric iron is that it's a big chunk of iron alloy—that is, steel—ready to be used as-is, by bronze-age cultures who can't do anything more than cold-forging.

Dawn is made of meteoric iron. We're explicitly told that it was forged from the heart of a fallen star. And that it was 10000 years ago, which is many millennia before anyone knew how to make furnaces hot enough to smelt iron or forge steel. There is no carbon source in cold-forging meteoric iron, there's just the carbon that was already in the meteorite when it landed.

I understand, and it is an interesting theory. Just presenting other ideas to ponder in case they're interested. 

Just cause i present an idea, i my self still like to hear different ideas.

Steel is stronger, harder and lighter than iron, and Dawn is compared to Valyrian steel in all but look. 

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Really interesting topic.  One thing I remember hearing, and reading Wikipedia kind of bears it out, is that initially the replacement of bronze by iron was not because the iron was better or harder, it was that the ore was more common (and hence cheaper).

With the exception of rare meteoric iron, the initial wrought iron would not have produced better swords than bronze (and I believe high status burials in the early iron age often had bronze swords), but the wide availability of iron ore would make iron tools and weapons more accessible (once the technology for working metals had advanced to allow for the greater temperatures involved in iron working).

Later of course, iron working tech progressed enough to allow for good steel to be produced and the weapons would be superior (I assume that this is the tech level of Westeros and has been for some time - I'm not counting Valyria as that appears to involve magic as well probably much higher temperatures produced by dragon fire).

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20 hours ago, falcotron said:

tl;dr: All of the legendary swords of ancient Westeros are meteoric iron swords, but Dawn is the only one that was actually magical, which is why the rest were lost or discarded or replaced with Valyrian steel namesakes after the Andals brought steel.

Since this has come up in multiple different threads as a side issue and always threatens to derail the thread, I decided to give it its own thread.

In the real world, iron ore is useless for making weapons until you learn how to smelt the ore and forge quality steel (which is when you cross the border from bronze age into iron age), but meteoric iron can be cold-forged into weapons that are much stronger, and hold an edge much better, than anything made of bronze. And there are many well-attested legends of weapons made from meteoric iron. But those weapons stop seeming magical once you can forge steel.

Of course we're explicitly told that Dawn was made from the heart of a fallen star. But all of the other iron weapons must likewise be meteoric iron (unless they're telluric iron, which is an intriguing possibility*), because we know that the First Men didn't have smelting and steel furnaces. If Dawn is actually magical, it would still be a worthy sword today, but the non-magical meteoric iron swords would have become obsolete, and over the centuries people would make up stories about the incomparable swords they used to have and for various different reasons no longer do.

The original Ice** was actually nowhere near as good as the Valyrian steel Ice. But when it was the only iron sword in a battle, the King of Winter would be shattering the enemy's bronze swords and splintering their wooden shields left and right, while the modern Ice doesn't do that against steel swords and iron shields.

There are legends like that in our world, like the blade of the pharaohs*** that could cut through enemy swords in the New Kingdom, but must have been stolen and replaced by a replica during the intermediate period because it was now useless in the Late Period. Of course it wasn't stolen and replaced; the New Kingdom was facing bronze-age cultures, while the Late Period was facing the Neo-Assyrians and the Achaemenid Persians, both of whom had steel.

Meanwhile, other modern fantasy series are chock full of magical meteoric iron, and GRRM seems like the kind of writer who would research the legends and treat them realistically instead of just blindly copying all of the other writers—while at the same time throwing in one or maybe two actually magical fallen-star swords that fit the legends instead of the reality.

By the way, since I know someone will bring this up, I don't think there's any connection to Lightbringer in anything above.****

---

* Telluric iron can be cold-forged even more easily than meteoric iron. Unfortunately, it's incredibly rare. In our world, the only sizable deposit is in Greenland. The Vikings who colonized there were surprised to find that the Inuit had "women's knives" and kitchen tools that were as strong and sharp as the finest quality steel, even though they didn't have steelmaking technology. A very small deposit of telluric iron was found in Kassel in the late 19th century, leading to a theory that it may have explained two legendary German swords. That theory was discredited long ago, but it lasted long enough for someone to ask Tolkien whether the mithril in his world might be a European source of telluric iron that was all used up by the Fourth Age (which Tolkien called interesting, but unlikely). And if GRRM did some basic research into meteoric iron, he would have learned about the telluric iron in Greenland. So, now, imagine if there was a large source of telluric iron in the caves under Winterfell. The Starks could then produce swords as good as the rare fallen-star swords, and give them out to their best allies and vassals in exchange for almost anything they wanted, which would be pretty helpful in consolidating power over a huge kingdom, and then helpful again in holding off the Andals when everyone else fell to their steel.

** Ice may not be the best example to use, because if there are two rather than one magic swords in the series, I'd guess Ice would be the other one. I don't think it is, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely.

*** The Egyptians' relationship with iron was unusual in all kinds of interesting ways. They believed iron was "impure", and associated it with Seth and the central desert wastelands, and as a consequence used it much less than other bronze-age cultures, even though they seem to have mined it much earlier than most. But they still had weapons of meteoric iron that we've found in their tombs, like the famous Dagger of King Tut. We don't know whether they thought that was an entirely different metal, or whether it had somehow been magically purified, or its evil somehow contained and forced to good use, or what.

**** The Lightbringer legend is very clearly about forging steel in a furnace, not about cold-forging meteoric iron. In fact, I suspect that's the point—R'hllor or the Children taught Azor Ahai or Last Hero how to forge a steel sword, and provided some fire for him to do it in that couldn't be reproduced for thousands of years, until the Rhoynar figured out how to make blast furnaces and/or the Valyrians tamed dragons.

@falcotron This is truly excellent work you have here. I don't think we have enough on the original ice to guess one way or another and either magical or just meteoric iron would fit as fine. I think you have done some fine fine work here and I for one, until I see some seriously convincing evidence to the contrary, am pretty much sold.

 

Side note, since you know a lot about iron, in a thread from a while back where I discussed Brandon of The Bloody Blade, The COTF, The Pact and the undead I had made some conjectures based on some detail I read online, but it seems your knowledge of iron is more than my superficial one so I thought I might ask you to look at it.

 

Here is the post in question. The conjecture is that there is some magic (spirits being embedded) in the crypts of winterfell that have kept the crypts and the swords across the statues in tact for 8000 years, that this magic was from the COTF as part of the deal they made to avenge Brandon of the Bloody Blade and his crusade against them and involved the imprisonment of the soul of the king of winter forever not allowing him to become one with the collective and that the pact was broken when Torrhen knelt to the Dragon because there was no longer a KITN to sacrifice his soul and that this lead to the collapse of the crypts, break down of the swords and some other nasty shit like the wall going bad

 

 

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@falcotron

Very interesting thoughts.

Mayhaps Azor Ahai was able to forge steel specifically because he had a dragon to provide the heat source. And mayhaps that is the origin of the term dragon steel.

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I love the the straightforward simplicity of this theory.  Sign me up!

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It might be worth looking into Ironwood trees.

Ironwoods are found near Craster's and it's also the door to the Crypts of Winterfell. Curiously Gared is executed on an ironwood stump.

The associations to Craster and the Winterfell crypts hint that the wood has some properties of iron.

 

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On 10/17/2017 at 3:56 AM, oldbus said:

Really interesting topic.  One thing I remember hearing, and reading Wikipedia kind of bears it out, is that initially the replacement of bronze by iron was not because the iron was better or harder, it was that the ore was more common (and hence cheaper)..

I think you're talking about Anthony Snodgrass's tin drought theory: most cultures who transitioned from the bronze age to the iron age did so because they ran out of tin,* and therefore couldn't make bronze anymore. So they desperately tried different techniques for making different alloys until they hit on some weapons-usable form of steel. And this often led to a "dark age", as they went from the best army to the only army with a bronze shortage, but then a few generations later, they (or someone else) went from the worst army to the only army with quality steel.

I like the theory myself, but I don't know what most professionals in the field think.

On 10/17/2017 at 3:56 AM, oldbus said:

Later of course, iron working tech progressed enough to allow for good steel to be produced and the weapons would be superior (I assume that this is the tech level of Westeros and has been for some time - I'm not counting Valyria as that appears to involve magic as well probably much higher temperatures produced by dragon fire).

I think the Maesters' story on this part is probably pretty accurate: the First Men were still in the bronze age when an advanced (probably Iron II, in old-school terminology) civilization invaded, and brought their technology with them, which diffused across the continent over the next few generations (probably ahead of their conquests in some areas). That's not how it worked for England in our world, but Westeros isn't England, so that's fine.

But I think the Valyrians count too. Sure, they had dragons instead of blast furnaces or crucibles, but that doesn't mean they weren't an iron age (in fact, classical) civilization, just that they got there via easy mode.

---

* Not necessarily by exhausting their own mines. An old and powerful culture like Greece would have already done that long ago, unless they were really lucky. So it would be more a matter of a transient problem defending their trade networks leading to an inability to import enough tin, which would feed back on itself by making it harder to re-establish that trade once the original problem was over.

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On 10/17/2017 at 11:14 AM, YOVMO said:

Here is the post in question. The conjecture is that there is some magic (spirits being embedded) in the crypts of winterfell that have kept the crypts and the swords across the statues in tact for 8000 years, that this magic was from the COTF as part of the deal they made to avenge Brandon of the Bloody Blade and his crusade against them and involved the imprisonment of the soul of the king of winter forever not allowing him to become one with the collective and that the pact was broken when Torrhen knelt to the Dragon because there was no longer a KITN to sacrifice his soul and that this lead to the collapse of the crypts, break down of the swords and some other nasty shit like the wall going bad

You're asking how iron swords could survive in a semi-open crypt for 8000 years without magic, right? I think you're right, they probably wouldn't, so magic could well be involved, and Torrhen kneeling could fit the timeline for breaking that magic. I don't really have much more to say on that, but I do have some comments on the rest of your point.

Remember that Old Nan told Bran that the Others hate iron. I think that's a clue to… something, although I'm not sure what.

The First Men fought the Andals with bronze rather than iron. So those old iron swords probably were as blunt, weak, and clumsy, as you'd expect from a bronze-age culture trying to make swords out of iron ore. (I doubt they used to know how to make steel but then forgot—that wouldn't fit with them continuing to make iron swords for 8000 years to bury with their dead, would it?)

So, why even make them, much less bury themselves with them? Presumably because the Others hate iron. Or some other spirits that they associate with the Others? That could be the vengeful Starks themselves, but it could also be to protect the Starks against the spirits, or so the Starks can protect something important from them. I don't know if they're supposed to literally rise up and fight like Aragorn's army of the dead, or just scare spirits away, or engage in some kind of spirit-world conflict that's only represented by their tombs. And if the swords are more symbolic than directly useful, why iron? Because they symbolize a meteoric iron sword (Ice) or an anachronistic (Valyrian) steel one (Lightbringer), or because they actually used clumsy iron swords to fight the Others?

Also, what does it mean that the Others "hate iron" in the first place? When I first read that, I assumed it was like the standard fantasy pseudo-Celtic faerie thing, but obviously Waymar's prologue disproves that. Once they realized his sword was just plain old steel, they didn't fear it, and it wasn't useful. So, what would they hate and fear? Could it be something to do with Beric's blood-magic flaming sword trick not working with bronze? (There are associations between blood and iron—I don't think ancients knew that iron is the reason blood is red, but they did know that dried blood looks like rust.)

This all seems to fit with the fact that the Northerners don't seem to have the same ambivalent attitude toward iron as the Jews, Egyptians, Germans, or other people who historically did better than anyone should expect using bronze against an iron-equipped enemy. Iron is not a metal they traditionally considered impure and useless but later grudgingly learned how to use, it's important to them.

But I realize this is all a lot of "could" and "maybe" without even a real story, much less evidence for it. Hopefully someone else can take my tangled mess of ideas in this post and make something coherent out of it. :)

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On 10/17/2017 at 11:29 AM, 40 Thousand Skeletons said:

Mayhaps Azor Ahai was able to forge steel specifically because he had a dragon to provide the heat source. And mayhaps that is the origin of the term dragon steel.

I still like my idea that the Children built him a forge that was basically a giant hollow glass candle, since obsidian is "frozen dragon fire", but I know that's far more crackpot than AA having a dragon.

Anyway, your way could mean that Sam and Jon were sort of right about dragonsteel meaning Valyrian steel, but not the way they thought, as GRRM likes to do. For example, say, AA=LH. Then the result of his quest for the Children could be the Children giving him a vision of the future, from which he learned how to forge steel to make Lightbringer. And if the Valyrians (at least originally) used dragons for Valyrian steel and he had a dragon, it would make sense for that to be the vision he saw. And he could try to pass on what he'd learned, but it wouldn't do anyone any good without a dragon, until someone got a new source of dragons (Valyria) or figured out how to make a furnace that hot naturally (Rhoynar), both of which were thousands of years in the future, after which whatever he tried to pass on would be long forgotten.

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On 10/17/2017 at 1:50 PM, Lollygag said:

It might be worth looking into Ironwood trees.

Ironwoods are found near Craster's and it's also the door to the Crypts of Winterfell. Curiously Gared is executed on an ironwood stump.

The associations to Craster and the Winterfell crypts hint that the wood has some properties of iron.

In the real world, "ironwood" is kind of a generic name for a wide range of unrelated trees that are exceptionally hard and/or brittle, from Australian acacias to Persian witchhazel to California rosewood. And the fact that there's a house named Yronwood all the way across the continent from Winterfell makes me think the same could be true on Westeros.

That being said, it seems like using ironwood in the doors to the crypt is meant to highlight some association with iron at least out-of-universe, and maybe in-universe as well. The only question is whether that association is just "ironwood is kind of like iron, hence the name" or whether there's more to it than that. (We know the Others don't seem to have a problem with it—but as I mentioned a few replies back, they also don't have a problem with Waymar's sword, so "hate iron" isn't as simple as it sounds.)

 

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29 minutes ago, falcotron said:

I still like my idea that the Children built him a forge that was basically a giant hollow glass candle, since obsidian is "frozen dragon fire", but I know that's far more crackpot than AA having a dragon.

Anyway, your way could mean that Sam and Jon were sort of right about dragonsteel meaning Valyrian steel, but not the way they thought, as GRRM likes to do. For example, say, AA=LH. Then the result of his quest for the Children could be the Children giving him a vision of the future, from which he learned how to forge steel to make Lightbringer. And if the Valyrians (at least originally) used dragons for Valyrian steel and he had a dragon, it would make sense for that to be the vision he saw. And he could try to pass on what he'd learned, but it wouldn't do anyone any good without a dragon, until someone got a new source of dragons (Valyria) or figured out how to make a furnace that hot naturally (Rhoynar), both of which were thousands of years in the future, after which whatever he tried to pass on would be long forgotten.

yeah, I tend to think that the COTF if anything simply used magic to utilize the natural "furnace" of the earth/volcanoes. But mayhaps the COTF shared such knowledge with AA and made him a "volcanic forge" of sorts.

As for the "dragonsteel", the existence of the term alone seems to imply that AA had a dragon. Mayhaps you could say that it was called dragonsteel simply because it was on fire and set enemies on fire (like a dragon), but we don't even have evidence that dragons existed or were widely known about way back then, and Aemon thought that Dany's dragons proved she was the PtwP aka AAR, so I think it is highly likely that AA had dragons. If that made sense... :D 

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49 minutes ago, falcotron said:

In the real world, "ironwood" is kind of a generic name for a wide range of unrelated trees that are exceptionally hard and/or brittle, from Australian acacias to Persian witchhazel to California rosewood. And the fact that there's a house named Yronwood all the way across the continent from Winterfell makes me think the same could be true on Westeros.

That being said, it seems like using ironwood in the doors to the crypt is meant to highlight some association with iron at least out-of-universe, and maybe in-universe as well. The only question is whether that association is just "ironwood is kind of like iron, hence the name" or whether there's more to it than that. (We know the Others don't seem to have a problem with it—but as I mentioned a few replies back, they also don't have a problem with Waymar's sword, so "hate iron" isn't as simple as it sounds.)

 

I checked the wiki for Ironwood and it says it burns with a blue flame which means hotter than regular wood but it's all confusing.

Not sure if you're a gardener or not, but plants and trees love blood. You can buy them bloodmeal which is usually dried cow blood at the nursery. I knew someone who was able to bring expired or unacceptable blood home from their work at a hospital for her trees and she swore she never saw anything grow so fast. (Plants like milk too if you're uncomfortable offering blood sacrifices to your plants and trees ;)) So maybe blood in the wood is what's important? Iron from blood?

Looking into iron and the Others, this passage really stands out. This places seems rather odd. It has iron doors (maybe not rust?) instead of oak doors and there's a woo-woo vibe.

ADWD Jon IV

They moved through the grey gloom beneath the earth. Each storeroom had a solid oaken door closed with an iron padlock as big as a supper plate. "Is pilferage a problem?" Jon asked.

As they moved from one vault to another, the wormways seemed to grow colder. Before long Jon could see their breath frosting in the lantern light. "We're beneath the Wall."

"And soon inside it," said Marsh. "The meat won't spoil in the cold. For long storage, it's better than salting."

The next door was made of rusty iron. Behind it was a flight of wooden steps. Dolorous Edd led the way with his lantern. Up top they found a tunnel as long as Winterfell's great hall though no wider than the wormways. The walls were ice, bristling with iron hooks. From each hook hung a carcass: skinned deer and elk, sides of beef, huge sows swinging from the ceiling, headless sheep and goats, even horse and bear. Hoarfrost covered everything.

As they did their count, Jon peeled the glove off his left hand and touched the nearest haunch of venison. He could feel his fingers sticking, and when he pulled them back he lost a bit of skin. His fingertips were numb. What did you expect? There's a mountain of ice above your head, more tons than even Bowen Marsh could count. Even so, the room felt colder than it should.

ADWD Jon XII

Tormund turned back. "You know nothing. You killed a dead man, aye, I heard. Mance killed a hundred. A man can fight the dead, but when their masters come, when the white mists rise up … how do you fight a mist, crow? Shadows with teeth … air so cold it hurts to breathe, like a knife inside your chest … you do not know, you cannot know … can your sword cut cold?"

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Lollygag said:

Not sure if you're a gardener or not, but plants and trees love blood. You can buy them bloodmeal which is usually dried cow blood at the nursery. I knew someone who was able to bring expired or unacceptable blood home from their work at a hospital for her trees and she swore she never saw anything grow so fast. (Plants like milk too if you're uncomfortable offering blood sacrifices to your plants and trees ;)) So maybe blood in the wood is what's important? Iron from blood?

Well, I'm more a gardener than an architect, but more a Tyrell than a Gardener, and OK, I'll stop before I make a Bladerunner joke… All I know is, my Audrey doesn't like blood unless it's fresh.

Anyway, after reading up a bit, a lot of medieval fantasy stories use ironwood—and, in particular, the tree known as lignum vitae or guaiacum—for everything from Merlin's wand in T. H. White to a magic clock that never needs winding to three different books by different writers independently having lignum vitae bowls that prevent wine from souring. Which is a bit strange, since it's actually a new world tree that wasn't discovered until the 16th century.

In real life, it's the hardest and densest of all trade woods, and very hard to set on fire, and more self-lubricating than many other hardwoods. So, in addition to being used for things like cricket balls, it's actually been (until the last few decades) substituted for iron or steel in applications like marine chronometer gears, hydroelectric turbines, etc.

The name means "wood of life". It's also called palo santo, which means "holy wood". Apparently this is because of the supposed properties of its resin and bark. Which do make a good cough suppressant, and possibly an anti-inflammatory, but all of the other claims for it over the past 500 years turned out to be bogus. Most famously, there were a string of lawsuits in early 20th England against people selling it as a contraceptive.

I don't think this is relevant here—I don't think the ironwood in the Winterfell crypt doors is meant to make us think of Merlin's wand, or cricket balls, or snake-oil remedies (which may be real in a fantasy universe), but maybe someone will see something that I didn't.

4 hours ago, Lollygag said:

Looking into iron and the Others, this passage really stands out. This places seems rather odd. It has iron doors (maybe not rust?) instead of oak doors and there's a woo-woo vibe.

So, they're up inside the base of the Wall, which has spells woven into it to keep the Others out, and for some reason they use iron instead of oak for the doors there? That is definitely interesting, but I don't know what to think or say beyond that…

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