The Real Reason Iron & Bronze Are the Metals of Winter
Bronze and iron are the metals of winter, of the Kings of Winter, which we learn both through Robb’s comments and again through Catelyn’s comments in A Clash of Kings:
‘bronze and iron were the metals of winter, dark and strong to fight against the cold’ – A Clash of Kings, Catelyn I
Another reason for the importance of iron is supported by Old Nan who tells us the White Walkers:
‘hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun and every living creature with hot blood in its veins’ – A Game of Thrones, Jon VII
Old Nan remembers much which the Starks have forgotten. Too bad she isn’t the Last Greenseer.
Bronze is associated with the First Men and Iron is associated with the Andals, the Starks being primarily (originally) descendants of the First Men with splashes of Andal peppered throughout their DNA, however that does not explain why these two metals are so highly regarded by the Kings of Winter.
Why are iron and bronze the metals said to be ‘dark and strong to fight against the cold’ – ‘the cold’ being the White Walkers?
Iron we can rationalize easily enough …….
IRON + CARBON = STEEL
Iron is superior to bronze in terms of its ability to hold a sharp edge for a longer period, creating a weapon which can be readily an easily sharpened with a whet-stone. The longer an iron sword is worked, the more it is exposed to the flame, the stronger it becomes, as iron transitions into steel when exposed to as little as 2% carbon. Carbon is present naturally in large amounts in the flames of fire.
Iron + carbon = steel, and steel is one of the strongest metals.
While steel swords do not seem to have an effect on the White Walkers, Valyrian steel swords certainly do.
Some of the secrets behind the strength and superiority of Valyrian steel we can attribute to:
- the use of magical spell enchantments
- an extremely long forging process, each original forging of a Valyrian blade being worked and reworked for many months and possibly even years
- repetitive and longer exposure to the flames (carbon) during forging than a standard steel sword which could explain the shatter resistant strength we find present in Valyrian steel swords
- Were the flames initially used to forge the Valyrian blades, magical as well?
- Could the original flames of forging for Valyrian steel have been the flames of dragons?
This would explain why Old Nan says the White Walkers hate iron:
- iron being the core compound of steel,
- Valyrian steel happens to be the one type of metal we know for fact can kill a White Walker
- Valyrian steel is not mentioned in the history books Sam has read but dragonsteel is and it can be argued that dragonsteel is a different term for the same thing
- making the iron or steel the White Walkers fear is actually Valyrian steel
While dragonsteel has not officially been confirmed as another name for Valyrian steel, the Valyrians were dragonlords after all. Therefore the term dragonsteel certainly is a suitable term fit for a steel forged from dragon fire as being the same steel which kills Walkers.
Iron has one great weakness which we see present in ASOIAF – it rusts, and not just superficially, it erodes right on through into powder. The iron swords on the lap of the stone Kings of Winter are a perfect example of this.
Bronze however has the exact opposite trait. For those open to the idea of duality existing in GRRMs world on many levels …..
The Beauty of Bronze – Metal of Winter for the Souls of the Kings of Winter
- Bronze is a metal like no other – ‘moisture resistant’ and ‘corrosion resistant’. Seriously.
- Bronze even resists corrosion from sea water.
- Making bronze an ideal metal for moist climate conditions, outdoors, underwater, or even say remaining intact in a deep and dank underground crypt for 8000 years.
- Bronze is also very strong, an excellent metal for shields.
- Bronze will never erode right on through as iron does, In cases where bronze does oxidize at all, it will only rust mildly on the surface,
How do these unique traits of bronze apply to the bones of the Starks?
There are two more very intriguing reasons as to why the Kings of Winter chose bronze as one of the most highly valued metals of winter:
- melting point of bronze is about 950 degrees C
- melting point in which bones turn to ash is around 1670 degrees C
Bronze is a metal bones can be dipped in without turning those bones into ash, thereby preserving the bones, ‘the memory of the soul’ and in essence preserving the soul itself.
The Secret of Bones and Bronze
In the crypts we see the stone Kings of Winter, their stone direwolves, and their iron swords, but we do not see any bronze … nor do we see the bones, as the bones are tucked away in stone sepulchres placed behind each stone Stark.
Since the melting point of bronze is much lower than the melting point of bones, and considering the excellent shield strength bronze creates, adding in the moisture-resistant and non-corrosive aspects of bronze, combined with the fact bones do not last forever (especially in moist climates), dipping or coating bones in bronze before burial and placing them in an enchanted crypt becomes a perfect way to preserve the bones, souls and memories of all the Starks while adding a protective bronze shield coating to them, setting the stage for the future emergence of an Army of Bronze Bone Starks, impervious to rust and corrosion in cold wet winter climates.
This is supported by the fact that putting aside the stone sepulchres and statues of Stark and direwolf, we have no information regarding the specific burial preparations for the body and bones of the Stark Lords of Winterfell.
We know the bones of the Starks are incredibly important, but we do not have a specific reason given as to why ….. or do we?
- Bones, he thought. The bones of the soul.– A Feast For Crows, The Prophet, Aeron Damphair
- The truth is in our bones, for flesh decays and bone endures …– A Feast For Crows, The Prophet, Aeron Damphair
- For he had found the answer in his bones, and the way was plain before him.– A Feast For Crows, The Prophet, Aeron Damphair
- “The bones help,” said Melisandre. “The bones remember. The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming.” – A Dance with Dragons, Melisandre I
From these quotes we learn much about some of the secrets of the importance of bones:
- bones contain the soul
- bones contain memory, an emotion attributed to the living
- bones are therefore ‘alive’ in a sense
- truth (aka knowledge) can be found in the bones
- the answer to a problem or a predicament can be found in the bones
- Bones and whispered words and prayer can bring ‘a man’s shadow’ to life (prayer suggests the presence of an element of a higher power)
- ‘a man’s shadow’ is a term commonly used for one who is dead
- bones can be resurrected and brought back to life along with the soul …. I expect bones in an enchanted crypt would fit the bill nicely
Therefore we now have foreshadowing confirmation the bones of the dead possess memory, remain alive despite the death of the flesh, and can be brought to life.
Now we know why Lady Dustin is so pissed off at Ned for not returning her husband’s bones – Lady Dustin is of the North and knows things which the Starks have forgotten.
Lady Dustin remembers.
All this time Melisandre has been selling us on the importance of fire sacrifice when it appears what she really needs are billions of bones to fight the darkness, not the burning of flesh. Perhaps the necessity of the fire sacrifices made to the Lord of Light are yet another thing Miss Melisandre has misinterpreted from the flames?
Iron & Bronze, the metals of the Kings of Winter – Valyrian steel swords and an army of Bronze Bone Starks, strong enough to fight against the bitter cold of winter, even when that Wall comes down as a torrential wave.