sweetsunray Posted June 26, 2019 Share Posted June 26, 2019 For another unrelated essay I went out in search for smiths once culturally seen as magicians, when I stumbled upon this gem: https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/norse-rituals Apparently the Scandinavian smiths made their swords from bog iron, which is low quality. To give it strength and sharpness they performed a ritual in their forges where they attempted to imbue the iron with the spirits of ancestors, heroes and totemic animals. They used bones of animals and people for this and burned them. And yeah they had to dig up interred bones and graves for this... and there is plenty of evidence of tombs that were ransacked of bones not long after people were buried in it. In doing so, they actually created bone-coal, the same way charcoal is made. And so, the Scandinavian smiths who believed they had strengthened the bog iron with ancestral spirits, actually unwittingly made steel. While this finding is too recent for George to know of it as historical fact when he started to write aGoT, he never needed these archeological findings. All he needs to know is the rudimentary process to forge steel (carbon + iron), and that any coal source would do. So, is bone-coal the secret to making Valyrian Steel? Sure, there are allusions to blood magic, etc... but as magical element that might have no more actual effect than spirits of the dead in the Scandinavian unwittingly forged steel. There are a few interesting quotes relevant to this idea: Quote Tyrion curled up in his fur with his back against the trunk, took a sip of the wine, and began to read about the properties of dragonbone. Dragonbone is black because of its high iron content, the book told him. It is strong as steel, yet lighter and far more flexible, and of course utterly impervious to fire. (aGoT, Tyrion II) Dragonbone is high in iron content, black, strong as steel and yet light... that compares a lot to the properties of Valyrian Steel. There's one huge issue - dragonbone is impervious to fire. The last rules out the idea that dragonbone was burned and charred into dragonbone-coal to turn iron into Valyrian steel. But what about the bones of dragonlords? The next relevant quote is the find of charred human bones in White Tree, the abandoned free folk village north of the Wall. Quote It was the biggest tree Jon Snow had ever seen, the trunk near eight feet wide, the branches spreading so far that the entire village was shaded beneath their canopy. The size did not disturb him so much as the face . . . the mouth especially, no simple carved slash, but a jagged hollow large enough to swallow a sheep. Those are not sheep bones, though. Nor is that a sheep's skull in the ashes. "An old tree." Mormont sat his horse, frowning. "Old," his raven agreed from his shoulder. "Old, old, old." "And powerful." Jon could feel the power. Thoren Smallwood dismounted beside the trunk, dark in his plate and mail. "Look at that face. Small wonder men feared them, when they first came to Westeros. I'd like to take an axe to the bloody thing myself." Jon said, "My lord father believed no man could tell a lie in front of a heart tree. The old gods know when men are lying." "My father believed the same," said the Old Bear. "Let me have a look at that skull." Jon dismounted. Slung across his back in a black leather shoulder sheath was Longclaw, the hand-and-a-half bastard blade the Old Bear had given him for saving his life. A bastard sword for a bastard, the men joked. The hilt had been fashioned new for him, adorned with a wolf's-head pommel in pale stone, but the blade itself was Valyrian steel, old and light and deadly sharp. He knelt and reached a gloved hand down into the maw. The inside of the hollow was red with dried sap and blackened by fire. Beneath the skull he saw another, smaller, the jaw broken off. It was half-buried in ash and bits of bone. When he brought the skull to Mormont, the Old Bear lifted it in both hands and stared into the empty sockets. "The wildlings burn their dead. We've always known that. Now I wished I'd asked them why, when there were still a few around to ask." (aCoK, Jon II) Of course, the free folk burn their dead to prevent them from being turned into wights, and they're not metal workers. So these particular burned bones of an adult and a child are not being used by Free Folk smiths to give strength to their swords. And they likely placed the skulls into the heart tree so the dead kin can "watch over" their surviving village kin via the weirwood tree, as wildlings believe their spirit go into the trees. Nevertheless, it also reminds us of the tales of blood sacrifices before a heart tree. It therefore serves pretty nicely as a parallel to the Valyrian Steel allusions of blood sacrifice being involved to make it, to Valyrians having a tradition of burning their dead, and I'm pretty sure we would ask them why when there were still a few around to ask. We also get a cryptic hint from George that there's a truth hidden in this scene: for before a heart tree you can't tell or write lies. But you can disguise them right? And right smack in the middle of the scene, for some odd reason, George inserts Longclaw, how it's VS and its properties, which seems completely out of place on the subject matter of that scene. But notice the mention of Longclaw comes right after Jon and Jeor agreeing about the "no lies in front of a heart tree" and right before the inspection of the burned skulls and the question - why did they burn their dead? For me as reader the mystery of this scene was never "why do wildlings burn their dead?" We already knew why by then. The mystery was "why is this scene set up as a mystery at all?" And the answer now seems to me that it is a layered clue to the mystery of Valyrian Steel. And so the secret to forging VS seems to be the burning of dragonlords and the Valyrian smiths used the bone-coal of these dead dragonlords. Not only would it help in forging steel, but the blood of dragonlords is somehow special, having some kind of affinity with dragons. And several theories float around on how Valyrians experimented to genetically fuse the blood of people with the blood of dragons. And then in that way the bone-coal of the dragonlords passed the qualities of dragonbone onto the steel. This "secret" would explain why George insists on Valyrians ultimately not being impervious to fire like dragonbone is, not even Dany. That her survival of the pyre was a one-off. And in fact Fire and Blood reveals something that happend to Aegon's VS Blackfyre: Quote Prince Maegor, in residence at Dragonstone at the time, spoke the eulogy as his father's body was laid upon a funeral pyre in the castle yard. The king was clad in battle armor, his mailed hands folded over the hilt of Blackfyre. Since the days of Old Valyria, it had ever been the custom of House Targaryen to burn their dead, rather than consigning their remains to the ground. Vhagar supplied the flames to light the fire. Blackfyre was burned with the king, but retrieved by Maegor afterward, its blade darker but elsewise unharmed. No common fire can damage Valyrian Steel. (Fire & Blood, The Sons of the Dragon) and thanks @the fattest leech for bringing up White Tree and Blackfyre darkening. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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