A Song of Ice and Fire
was a book series that began in the mid 1990’s penned by G R.R. Martin. Recently, it was adapted to a television series called Game of Thrones
, which became wildly popular. The popularity of Game of Thrones has been largely attributed to the realistic world and characters who the story follows. Famously, there are no infallible heroes or chosen ones and any character could potentially die. This means that every storyline has a level of tension that may not be present in other, more traditional fantasy stories. However, while Game of Thrones represents a new, more cynical face of fantasy, it does still have one thing in common with traditional fantasy. After all, Game of Thrones swords still have the same hold on us as with any other fantasy. These swords, if set in a darker world, still shine bright with magic and epic histories.
What is the Song of Ice and Fire?
Game of Thrones is set on two continents called Westeros, and Essos. There are no prizes for guessing which one is on the Western side of the map, and which is to the East. The Song of ice and fire refers to the epic story surrounding these continents fifteen years after the Targaryen thrown was overthrown. While the characters are grounded in an arguably gritty realism, each suffering consequences for their actions and mistakes, the storyline and setting are most definitely fantastical. They feature dragons, magic, and supernatural creatures.
Influences Behind Game of Thrones
The complexity of the story of Game of Thrones and the huge variety of characters make it more realistic, despite the inherent magic in the world. Sometimes it’s less akin to a fantasy series, and more like a history of some real struggle for succession. There is a reason for this, of course. Rather than being based on other fantasy series, such as the Lord of the Rings, G.R.R Martin instead looked to inspiration from history. Specifically, the famous Hundred Years War. Martin himself describes
a series of novels (Les Rois Maudits
, or The Accursed Kings
) chronicling the build up to the Hundred Years War as “the original game of thrones."
The Basic Plot and History
As to be expected, there are some minor spoilers ahead
. Three hundred years or so before the books began, the seven kingdoms of Westeros were united under the rule of House Targaryen, thanks to the legendary Targaryen dragons and the military might they represented. The story is set fifteen years after the rule of House Targaryen was ended in a rebellion led by Robert Baratheon, after the final Targaryen king had descended into madness. The plot kicks off in earnest when King Robert Baratheon, who rules over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, is killed in a hunting accident. With Robert’s death comes a power vacuum, which results in some characters trying to claim his throne, while others take the opportunity to fight for independence. Meanwhile, the story follows Daenerys Targaryen in Essos, who also has a claim to the throne. She starts out as a terrified teenaged bride sold into marriage to the much older Dothraki horse lord known as Khal Drogo. However, she soon grows into ‘The Mother of Dragons’, leader of the Dothraki and a powerhouse in her own right, especially with her three dragons. While all of this intrigue is going on in the somewhat grounded world of men, the magical world stirs. Even as the human characters bicker over The Iron Throne, the threat of a never-ending Winter and an invading army of White Walkers and Wights looms beyond an ancient wall of ice to the North. While some characters are aware of this danger, many of the more powerful players instead focus on their personal ambitions.
The Main Players of the Game of Thrones
There are an incredible number of characters in this franchise, which makes sense considering the heavily character driven story and the high likelihood for characters to be killed off before their time. Once more, beware of spoilers ahead for the end of book/season one
. The most famous example of this is Ned Stark, the hand to King Baratheon and the character most akin to a protagonist as the series began. When Ned Stark is killed near the beginning of the series, the tone was set. To list all of the main characters
here would be folly, as there have been forty-three actors credited as part of the main cast at some point. Even narrowing this down to the most major players leaves us with around twenty characters. Even so, some of these characters do manage to stand out. Notable examples are from the houses of:
- House Stark, which produces several main characters. These primarily include Ned Stark’s illegitimate son, Jon Snow, his two daughters, Sansa and Arya Stark, and Bran Stark.
- House Targaryen is represented by Daenerys Targaryen, one of the last surviving heirs of Targaryen who has three incredibly powerful dragons at her disposal.
- House Lannister, which ends up dominating much of the game of thrones thanks to Tywin Lannister and Cersei Lannister, the wife of Robert Baratheon and mother of his heirs.
The History Behind Game of Thrones Swords
Now that we’ve established the general tone and setting of the Game of Thrones, let’s focus on our favourite subject, the swords. Like many fantasy settings, these swords may have a history of their own.
Game of Thrones Sword Names
Much like European history, the more famous and noble swords of Westeros and Essos are named. The names of these swords are relatively straightforward, occasionally drawing from the characterisation or storyline of whoever wields the sword. This is especially true of the more recently forged swords, as they are named by characters as certain events go on. These names can tell us much about the characters
who named them. A great example of one such sword would be ‘Widow’s Wail’. This sword was given to Joffrey Baratheon, a highly unlikeable character. He gave it the name of Widow’s Wail as he saw himself as a great warrior, rather than the spoiled young boy he really was. The name also shows his spiteful and sadistic side, as he chooses to revel in the suffering of others that battle brings. Other swords named in the time of the series itself were named by somebody passing the weapon to another, such as Arya Stark’s ‘Needle’ and Brienne of Tarth’s ‘Oathkeeper’. Both of these names prove descriptive of the characters of their wielders.
Valyrian Steel and Dragonglass
The world of Game of Thrones features two magical materials, Valyrian steel and dragonglass. Both of these materials bear resemblance to real substances with seemingly fantastical properties, namely Damascus steel and obsidian. Valyrian steel is akin to Damascus steel
because both metals are forged in a process mostly lost to time, although modern technology is capable of reproducing a product much like Damascus steel. Both of these alloys are known for their sturdiness and unique rippled appearance. However, that is where the similarities end. Swords crafted with Valyrian steel
were supernaturally sharp and were one of the few substances capable of killing a White Walker
. These swords were rare and generally wielded by the nobility. Much like Damascus swords in our history, these would serve as a symbol of high status. Dragonglass, much like real obsidian, is a form of volcanic glass that can hold an incredibly sharp edge. Unlike real obsidian, however dragonglass is both capable of killing White Walkers, and of transforming a human into a White Walker. There are no known swords made with dragonglass, but several daggers and spearheads are produced in order to counter the White Walkers.
Game of Thrones Swords for Sale
There are so many iconic Game of Thrones swords, both magical and mundane that can help you to show your appreciation for this great series. Each one has its own part to play, and almost all of them have spilt blood for either good or evil. Because many of the Game of Thrones swords for sale here have such an important role to play in the story, there may be some minor spoilers for the books or the television series. Honestly, if you don’t know what’s happened yet, please go and find out.
Valyrian Steel Swords
As has been explained, these swords were incredibly powerful and usually owned by one of the Great Houses of Westeros. However, while the method of forging Valyrian steel has been lost to time, some smiths were capable of reforging one blade into more
. Many, although not all, of the famous swords of Westeros and Essos seem to have been made from this alloy.
Longclaw is one of the most well-known swords of the Game of Thrones series, being wielded by Jon Snow for the majority of the series. It was a bastard sword which was originally the ancestral weapon of House Mormont. It was carried by Lord Jeor Mormont, the commander of Night’s Watch at the beginning of the series. When Jon Snow saved Lord Mormont’s life from a wight, he was offered Longclaw. As a weapon belonging to House Mormont, Longclaw originally had a bear pommel, but this was remade into the distinctive image of a direwolf to better suit House Stark. Jon uses Longclaw extensively throughout the series, both in battles against other men, and to defeat the otherwise unbeatable White Walkers. It is iconic both for the design of the sword, and for its skilful use by Jon Snow.
Ice was the ancestral sword of House Stark. This was an enormous great sword that had to be wielded with two hands. It was kept in a wolf’s pelt scabbard, which was fitting for the Stark’s affinity with direwolves. The last Stark who owned this sword was Ned Stark, who used it both for war and for ceremonial purposes, including the beheading of a deserter. Later, Ned Stark himself was executed using his own sword and it was kept as a trophy in King’s Landing. Finally, the great sword itself was melted down and reforged into two longswords. This reforging demonstrates just how massive Ice was. Ice could easily be viewed as a symbol for House Stark itself, seemingly destroyed and scattered throughout Westeros.
This was the first longsword made from Ice. It was originally given to Jaime Lannister with the intention of it becoming an heirloom of House Lannister. However, he instead handed it to Brienne of Tarth and gave her the more noble task of finding and protecting Sansa Stark. She was the one who gave it the rather portentous name of Oathkeeper. This was a fitting name for a sword wielded by Brienne of Tarth, who went onto use it in a duel against the Hound, to execute Stannis and to pledge fealty to Sansa. In this way, one half of Ice returned to the Stark House. Oathkeeper’s hilt bore the design of a golden lion with ruby eyes. This distinctive Lannister design regularly caused some difficulty for Brienne, as many potential allies saw her as allied with the Lannisters.
Widow’s Wail was also forged using the Valyrian steel from Ice, making it the sister sword of Oathkeeper. Unlike Oathkeeper, this name was much less noble, easily demonstrating the petty cruelty of its original owner. This sword was given to Joffrey Baratheon as a wedding present from Tywin Lannister. He used it to heroically hack apart a book and cut into a pie at his wedding feast, decapitating some pigeons in the process. Unfortunately for Joffrey, he is killed before he has the opportunity to use it for anything else. For a while, Widow’s Wail goes wasted, until Jaime eventually takes up ownership of the sword and finally uses it in battle. Like Oathkeeper, the hilt of Widow’s Wail is embossed in gold and ruby. However, the design is that of a Baratheon stag, as Joffrey was nominally a Baratheon.
Other Iconic Game of Thrones Swords
While Valyrian steel swords are undoubtably powerful, they aren’t the only famous weapons wielded by the characters of Westeros. Some have unique designs, their own magic, or are made iconic simply because of their owners. These Game of Thrones replica swords are similarly fantastic when used as decorative pieces or as part of a cosplay outfit. The Ice Blade and Arakh benefit from not being owned by any specific characters, while being instantly recognisable for what they are. This serves to make them especially suited for cosplay.
Needle was a small rapier-like sword, or smallsword, owned by Arya Stark. It was forged for her specifically at the behest of Jon Snow, as she was far too small to properly wield the larger swords of most Westeros soldiers. It was named both for its needle-like design, and for Arya’s own inability at the more traditional feminine art of needlework. She kept it all throughout the series, both because of its connection to her brother and its usefulness as a weapon. Because of the design of Needle, it was ineffective against armoured opponents, except when being thrust into the gaps in their armour. However, it was very effective against unarmoured opponents, with Arya using it to deflect and avoid strikes rather than even attempt a block. Much like Arya herself, Needle was often underestimated for its slight size, much to the consternation of those who were stuck “with the pointy end”.
The Ice Blade
These magical weapons were wielded by White Walkers and incredibly dangerous to ordinary men. They were formed of magically imbued ice and were incredibly sharp, being capable of easily decapitating a man and even piercing dragon scales. Conventional weaponry cannot defend against these blades, tending to freeze and shatter when they come into contact with them. However, Valyrian steel is resistant to this effect, as proven when Jon Snow was able to parry an ice blade and defeat the White Walker wielding it.
These were Dothraki weapons, depicted in the show as a sythe-like weapon similar to that of a khopesh, although with a more pronounced half-moon curve. Martin’s original idea for the Arakh were more akin to scimitars and of a less extreme design. These weapons were very long, and most useful in wide-open spaces and on horseback. However, they were much less effective when attempting to penetrate armour or in a more confined space.
In fact, even in the frenzied and occasionally dark world of Game of Thrones, swords still manage to grab our attention, and those who wield them. Sure, there are no heroes in Game of Thrones, but there are some fascinating characters. Whether you want to pay homage to the incredible story and characters of Game of Thrones in cosplay, or you’d rather keep one of the brilliantly designed swords as a display piece, you should be sure to find something that suits your needs in one of these Game of Thrones replica swords.