OK, total geek rage issue: was anyone else disappointed by the portrayal of Ned Stark’s greatsword “Ice” in HBO’s Game of Thrones series? Seeing this iconic image (click to enlarge) of Sean Bean as Ned from Season One again brought this back to mind for me. It’s a thought I had the first time I saw the promo photos, but it’s obviously not a terribly important criticism, and the fact that I’m able to focus on something so minor actually demonstrates the quality of the production. The sword in the show is a beautiful weapon, but it doesn’t look like Ice to me. I always thought of Valyrian steel weapons as being a little more ornate, a little more alien in design. They’re supposed to be ancient, after all, forged by imperial dragonriders centuries ago.
I’m not a fan of the officially licensed Valyran Steel™ version either (though their vision of Robert’s warhammer hits the nail on the head). I don’t like the white grip, and the fact that the Stark sigil and words are on the hilt and grip doesn’t make sense. The sword wasn’t made by a Stark, it was made by a Valyrian (presumably, although George R. R. Martin never specifies in the books whether the creation and new forging of Valyrian steel ended with the Valyrian empire or continued significantly past it). To make sense of this design you’d have to presume that the Stark family at some point added a new hilt and handle to the Valyrian blade. But I never got that sense from the books — they’re supposed to be ancient artifacts, aren’t they? Nigh-to-indestructible beautiful and precious?
The only design of Ice I’ve seen that I like is the one featured in the Entertainment Earth bust of Ned.
The valyrian steel is nicely dark and rippled, and the hilt gives it a true great sword feel. Another couple of images I like also give the sword a more unusual design ethos; the one from the collectible card game, below, in particular, interests me, though I don’t like the staple-looking hilt.
Finally, this piece of fan art gives an interesting twist on it, making the size of the sword more about its width than length. The flared blade near the hilt is particularly cool, as is the point, meant for thrusting.
Overall the production value of Game of Thrones has been very high, but in the areas of weaponry and armor, I’ve often felt that they played it a little safe. It might be a budgetary issue, but Martin’s descriptions of weaponry and armor always seemed more fantastical — full of color and shape — than the props and costumes we see in the HBO show.