Someone Needs to Teach Game of Thrones Writers How Forging Actually Works
If you’ve ever visited the blacksmith shop at Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts or — any Renaissance Festival anywhere — you know that forging iron tools and weapons involves red-hot iron and a whole lot of hammering.
Game of Thrones likes to show swords being made, like in this scene from the Game of Thrones 4th season opener. However, pouring hot lava-colored metal into sword-shaped molds is not forging. That’s casting. According to this guy, “Lindybeige,” that’s not the correct way to make swords.
In the video, Lindybeige points out that cast iron is far more brittle than forged iron. A cast iron sword would shatter on contact, he says. I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was true at first, so I did a little research.
Great Lakes Forge in Traverse City, Michigan, manufactures parts like stepshafts and spindles. Their site says that forged parts are stronger and can handle heavier loads. Looks like Lindybeige is on the mark: swords made via the methods show in Game of Thrones won’t be very effective. At all.
A more accurate depiction of forging (and a lovely, detailed explanation) can be found in this video from the Sturbridge Village blacksmith shop.
This video of a modern-day blacksmith forging a Damascus sword shows twenty-first century tools like welders and power hammers, but zero molten metal flowing through a mold.
Clearly, forging swords is a long, laborious process involving a lot noise and heat. It may seem less dramatic than glowing orange metal trickling down into a blade-shaped mold with sparks flying and the fire crackling. Plus, fitting all the steps of forging into a scene that’s less than two minutes long would require quite a bit of editing.
But wouldn’t it be worth it? If we got to see Tywin’s blacksmith sweating, grimacing with each swing of the hammer and working to exhaustion, wouldn’t the scene be more meaningful? Crafting the tools of war is hard work. What does that say about the Game of Thrones characters? What does it say about all of us that we put so much effort into things we produce for war?
Lindybeige suggests that the writers behind Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and other medieval fantasies choose casting because the orange metal is more ‘dramatic.’ I’d argue that forging, like I’ve described above, is far more dramatic. My hypothesis is that these writers just don’t know the difference between casting and forging.
Hollywood types, amirite?