The White Walkers are a very real threat to Westeros in Game of Thrones, and there's only a handful of ways to stop them. Swords made of Valyrian steel has proved one of the most reliable. What's more, scores of wights can be annihilated just by destroying the White Walker who created them. Kill the Night King and all the White Walkers and wights should, in theory, go down with him.
Now that the army of the undead have breached the Wall, the people of Westeros are going to need all the Valyrian steel they can gather in season 8. But where does this mystical metal come from, and can more be made?
What is Valyrian Steel?
One of the few materials known to be able to defeat the White Walkers, Valyrian steel is a metal forged in the glory days of Valyria. It is strong, light weight and incedibly sharp. Nobody knows how the Valyrians forged their super steel – that secret was lost in the Doom of Valyria – but it is believed that dragonfire and magic were involved. While the secret of how to make this superlative material has long disappeared, some skilled blacksmiths in Westeros are capable of reworking Valyrian steel into a new metal.
Gendry's master, Tobho Mott, was one such blacksmith. It's highly likely that Gendry was taught how to manipulate Valyrian weaponry while apprenticed to Mott. Robert Baratheon's bastard also has something that Mott never had; access to dragons and magic. With the help of Daenerys' dragons and perhaps even Melisandre's sorcery, it is possible that Valyrian-quality steel could once again be produced.
Is there a real life equivalent?
There are some parallels between Valyrian steel and Damascus steel. Made between 900 AD and 1750 AD, Damascus steel is both hard and flexible. It was first encountered by Europeans during the Crusades, and the metal gained an almost mythical status – able to chop through anything from silk to other swords with ease. The art of making this steel was lost to sword-smiths during the mid 18th century, possibly due to the depletion of ore sources.
Which characters have Valyrian steel swords?
A weapon made of Valyrian steel is a prized heirloom in many of the noble families of Westeros.
The Stark family heirloom, a huge greatsword called Ice, is sadly no more. After Ned Stark's death, Tywin Lannister had the weapon melted down into two smaller swords. The Lannister's lack of valyrian sword had been a source of frustration to Tywin, and so he leapt at the chance to rectify this.
One gifted to Joffrey was rather crudely named Widow's Wail. Jaime Lannister, however, chose to gift it to Brienne so that she could fulfil their vow to protect Catelyn Stark's daughters. Fittingly, the Maid of Tarth chose to name it Oathkeeper.
Jon Snow was bequeathed Jeor Mormont's family sword, Longclaw, after his own son and heir, Jorah, disappeared into exile.
Heartsbane is the ancestral sword of House Tarly, which a light-fingered Samwell took before leaving for Oldtown.
A nameless valyrian steel dagger was wielded by the assasin who attempted to kill Bran Stark. Although Tyrion was blamed as the mastermind behind the plot, it later transpired that this weapon belonged to Littlefinger. Years later, he gave it to Bran in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the youngest remaining Stark sibling. Bran immediately gave it to Arya, who will get far more use out of it than her crippled brother.
The Targaryens once held two valyrian steel swords, Blackfyre and Dark Sister. They were weilded long ago by Aegon the Conquerer and his sister-wife, Visenya, respectively. Both were lost during the Blackfyre Rebellion.
Other lost swords in the book include Vigilance, the ancestral sword of House Hightower, and Orphan-Maker, the ancestral sword of House Royce. Hopefully these will surface in time to face the White Walkers...
What is dragonglass?
Also known as obsidian, dragonglass is a volcanic glass that has proved very handy for killing White Walkers. You might remember Samwell Tarly first came to this realisation when he saved Gilly from a White Walker — earning him the (slightly sarcastic) nickname “Sam the Slayer”.
The Children of the Forest make their weapons out of dragonglass. Blades using this naturally-occurring material are sharper than steel but far more brittle. The Valyrians used to call obsidian frozen fire. Folklore has it that dragonglass is made by dragons, but the Maesters believe it comes from the fires of the earth. Obsidian is actually a type of volcanic rock in the real world – although its zombie-slaying powers are yet to be tested.
Where can they find Dragonglass?
Dragonmont, a volcano on Daenerys' ancestral home of Dragonstone, has proven a fruitful source of obsidian.
Can dragons defeat the White Walkers?
A surefire way to beat wights (re-animated corpses) is fire. The White Walkers bring an icy chill, dousing any normal fire. Perhaps the magical quality of dragonsbreath might be the ticket? We're yet to see what happens when the White Walkers meet dragonsbreath. In season seven, we saw Daenerys and her dragons come flying to the rescue, incinerating portions of the undead army. Unfortunately, the White Walkers hung back and were not touched by Drogon, Viserion or Rhaegal.