What’s So Great About Valyrian Steel in ‘Game of Thrones’?

The Big Picture

  • Valyrian steel is a special type of metal that is visually and effectively superior to other forms of steel, known for its lightweight, strength, and sharpness.
  • The Targaryens are the most prominent owners of Valyrian steel, with iconic weapons like Dark Sister and Blackfyre, as well as armor and jewelry made from the metal.
  • Other noble houses, like the Starks and Lannisters, also possess Valyrian steel swords, which are treated as respected family heirlooms and passed down through generations.

George R. R. Martin’s sprawling world of Westeros is rife with captivating elements, ranging from fearsome dragons to ominous sorcerers. One of the most fascinating pieces of lore from this realm isn’t as overtly grand and bombastic, but is nonetheless an intriguing piece of history and magic: Valyrian steel. Throughout both Game of Thrones and its prequel series, House of the Dragon, whenever Valyrian steel is mentioned, it is spoken of reverentially. The metal belongs to legends, with qualities that make it superior to other materials and a history that is deeply intertwined with kings, nobles, and conquerors. Like many remnants of Valyria after its fall, much of the knowledge of Valyrian steel has been lost to time. Regardless, the swords and jewelry owned by the most powerful Westerosi houses are a fascinating feature of the fantasy epic, but what exactly is Valyrian steel, and what makes it such a coveted metal?

house of the dragon poster
Image via HBO

House of the Dragon

The reign of House Targaryen begins with this prequel to the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. Based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon is set nearly 200 years before Game of Thrones, telling the story of the Targaryen civil war with King Viserys.

Release Date
August 21, 2022

Paddy Considine, Olivia Cooke, Rhys Ifans, Matt Smith, Eve Best, Steve Toussaint, Emma D’Arcy, Milly Alcock, Emily Carey

Main Genre


What Is Valyrian Steel?

Valyrian steel is a special type of metal that was forged during the height of Valyria, centuries before the Targaryens conquered Westeros. The metal is known for its distinct qualities that make it visually and effectively superior to other forms of steel. Weapons forged with Valyrian steel are lighter and stronger than ones made from ordinary steel, making them valuable, efficient, and coveted items. Valyrian steel blades are also wickedly sharp, capable of sustaining their sharp edge indefinitely, without needing to be honed like other blades. Valyrian steel is also one of the few substances capable of killing White Walkers, making it an invaluable weapon in the war against the undead. In addition to its superior durability, Valyrian steel is also unique due to its visual appearance, as the metal often appears to have distinct rippling patterns on its surface.

The methods of forging Valyrian steel were lost after the Doom of Valyria, making it impossible for other blacksmiths to create the material. There are stories that claim magic and dragonfire were essential for forging the metal and, though the specifics of them are unable to be confirmed, they are likely the reasons why Valyria, with its magic and dragons, were the only ones capable of creating the steel. Though new Valyrian steel cannot be created, there are some blacksmiths skilled enough to reforge Valyrian steel weapons by either smelting a greatsword into two smaller swords, or combining two smaller weapons into a larger one. However, this process is still incredibly difficult and only a scarce number of people are able to do it.

The Targaryens Wield Valyrian Steeel Weapons and Armor

The Targaryens are the most prominent owners of Valyrians steel in the show, with many different items made from the metal and a comprehensive lineage of iconic weaponry. In House of the Dragon, the most prominent wielder of a Valyrian steel sword is Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), who possesses the famed blade Dark Sister. Dark Sister is one of the Targaryen family heirlooms, having first been wielded by Visenya Targaryen, the sister of Aegon the Conqueror. Daemon, one of the most powerful warriors of his time, uses the sword in a fearsome capacity. In the series, he is shown cutting down hordes of enemies before slaying the Crabfeeder. He fights like a one-man army, aided by the sword’s lightweight yet deadly construction. Daemon also uses the sword to swiftly behead Vaemond Velaryon after he accuses Rhaenyra’s children of being bastards.

The counterpart to Dark Sister was Blackfyre, the other ancestral sword of the Targaryen household. Blackfyre was first wielded by the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, who used the sword during his conquest of the Seven Kingdoms. Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) was the owner of Blackfyre during House of the Dragon, though the peaceful king was never shown using it in battle. After his passing, the sword was given to his son, Aegon II (Tom Glynne-Carney). Viserys also possessed a Valyrian steel dagger that was of tremendous importance. The dagger’s blade contained the words of a prophecy handed down from king to king from Aegon the Conqueror: the Song of Ice and Fire. The secret of the blade was shared with Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) after Viserys appointed her to be his heir. This dagger later became known as the Catspaw Dagger and continued to be important for generations, coming back to importance in Game of Thrones as it was used in an assassination attempt against Bran Stark and, finally, used to slay the Night King by Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Though Valyrian steel was most often forged into swords, it was also used to make different items as well. Daemon Targaryen’s armor was made of Valyrian steel, as was the crown of Aegon the Conqueror and the necklace given to Rhaenyra by her uncle.

The Starks, Lannisters, and Other Noble Houses Had Valyrian Steel

While the Targaryens are the most notable wielders of the metal, there are noble houses in Westeros that also boast weapons made from Valyrian steel. Due to their scarcity, importance, and value, these weapons are treated as respected family heirlooms, passed down through their lineage and protected with deep scrutiny. The Stark family possessed the formidable greatsword, Ice, which was used by Ned Stark (Sean Bean) for both matters of war and ceremony. The greatsword made its appearance in the first episode of Game of Thrones when Lord Stark executed a Night’s Watch deserter using the ancestral sword. Unfortunately for the North, Ice was taken from their family after the infamous Red Wedding by Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance).

The Lannister house also had their own Valyrian steel sword known as Brightroar, which they owned for several centuries. However, after the sword was lost alongside Tywin’s older brother on a failed expedition to Old Valyria. After stealing Ice from the Starks, Tywin had the sword smelted down and forged into two new blades: Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper. Widow’s Wail was given to Joffrey, while Oathkeeper was given to Jaime, who instead handed the weapon to Brienne of Tarth. Another notable Valyrian steel sword was Longclaw, the ancestral blade of the Mormont family. However, after Jorah Mormont’s exile (Iain Glen), his father instead passed down the sword to Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). Longclaw previously had a pommel in the shape of a bear, to represent the Mormonts, but it was redesigned into a dire wolf when it was given to Jon Snow.

House of the Dragon is streaming now on MAX.

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