Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 40
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Default Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    I wasn't really sure what part of the forum this would be appropriate for, so a mod can move this if it's in the wrong place.

    I was thinking about various materials and how they could be expanded upon to have magical properties of some sort. Everyone knows that werewolves are weak to silver, or that fairies are weak to cold iron. This is the sort of thing I'm talking about.

    I did a brief google search to see if I could find anything from folklore on these sorts of materials, but I'm not finding much. According to Wikipedia, the metals of antiquity are gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. So maybe those would be a good place to start. Note that bronze is a metal alloy (of copper and tin), rather than an elemental metal.

    My initial thoughts are that gold should have some connection to the sun, like silver does to the moon. Maybe gold would harm vampires (like stabbing them with sunlight, essentially). Perhaps light reflected off of gold would have the same properties as sunlight (and likewise we could do the same for silver and moonlight). I kind of thought there would be something about gold in Native American folklore, but my research so far hasn't turned anything up. Gold could also have a connection to immortality, as a metal that does not rust or tarnish.

    Copper was apparently associated with Aphrodite, but I'm not sure how that's significant or useful yet. Orichalcum, a mythical metal from Atlantis, also seems to have some relation to copper or bronze. It has obvious electrical properties, but those wouldn't have been known back then (I don't think?).

    Mercury, being a liquid at room temperature, seemed to be known for it's mutability. Apparently it was commonly used in alchemical transmutations because of this. Apparently, it was also thought to bring healing and long life, despite the fact that it's actually really, really toxic. Mercury is tricky, because you couldn't really make things like weapons or armor out of it, since it was, as previously mentioned, a liquid. You could probably use it like holy water, though, splash or sprinkle it on things.

    I thought I'd be able to find a little more on these just by searching, but I'm coming up mostly dry. Maybe someone better versed in these things could chime in.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    DuctTapeKatar's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Idaho isn't a real state.
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    I wasn't really sure what part of the forum this would be appropriate for, so a mod can move this if it's in the wrong place.

    I was thinking about various materials and how they could be expanded upon to have magical properties of some sort. Everyone knows that werewolves are weak to silver, or that fairies are weak to cold iron. This is the sort of thing I'm talking about.

    I did a brief google search to see if I could find anything from folklore on these sorts of materials, but I'm not finding much. According to Wikipedia, the metals of antiquity are gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. So maybe those would be a good place to start. Note that bronze is a metal alloy (of copper and tin), rather than an elemental metal.

    My initial thoughts are that gold should have some connection to the sun, like silver does to the moon. Maybe gold would harm vampires (like stabbing them with sunlight, essentially). Perhaps light reflected off of gold would have the same properties as sunlight (and likewise we could do the same for silver and moonlight). I kind of thought there would be something about gold in Native American folklore, but my research so far hasn't turned anything up. Gold could also have a connection to immortality, as a metal that does not rust or tarnish.

    Copper was apparently associated with Aphrodite, but I'm not sure how that's significant or useful yet. Orichalcum, a mythical metal from Atlantis, also seems to have some relation to copper or bronze. It has obvious electrical properties, but those wouldn't have been known back then (I don't think?).

    Mercury, being a liquid at room temperature, seemed to be known for it's mutability. Apparently it was commonly used in alchemical transmutations because of this. Apparently, it was also thought to bring healing and long life, despite the fact that it's actually really, really toxic. Mercury is tricky, because you couldn't really make things like weapons or armor out of it, since it was, as previously mentioned, a liquid. You could probably use it like holy water, though, splash or sprinkle it on things.

    I thought I'd be able to find a little more on these just by searching, but I'm coming up mostly dry. Maybe someone better versed in these things could chime in.
    I think the larger part of this should be more on the setting's own lore over our own mythological ideas. Werewolves being weak against silver was mostly a hollywood invention, from what I can gather.

    It would be good to consider your world first, then associate metals with it later.
    "My new favorite spell is Ice Knife, because it is a throwing knife made from ice, and a grenade."

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    I suppose what I'm looking for is more of a list of special traits ascribed to various metals in folklore, mythology, and popular culture. From there, I could draw on that list for ideas for a specific setting, and reuse the list for many different settings, drawing from it in different ways to get different metallic qualities in each setting that relate back to the list in some way.

    The problem with doing searches on folklore and mythology is that you seem to either get things you probably already know (most people, in English speaking countries, at least, are familiar with Greek mythology, and to a slightly lesser degree Norse), or you get a very shallow view of something you're not familiar with but with little to no further information. Like, you might get a list of deities of a lesser known pantheon, but little more than a brief description, if even that. And then doing further searches of specific deities itself tends to lead to dead ends. I've noticed a lot of such articles and websites tend to quote and/or straight up plagiarize one another, some even being word-for-word copies of the Wikipedia text.

    I suppose as a substitute I'd accept a source (website, YouTube channel, etc.) for more obscure and less known mythology and folklore. I know someone out there has to know about this stuff and want to talk about it.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Vancouver <-> Dublin
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    The Egyptian gods (or possibly just Horus-Re?) had flesh made of gold (as you've already noted, it was the "immortal" metal).

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    The meta- problem to your request is that the lore isn't there, for the most part. Alchemists loved "as above, so below" and thus attributed meaning to those metals, but either there's no ancient lore or (more likely) time has taken the most ancient tropes and shunted them onto newer materials. Lead, copper, tin worldwide were just tool-making materials that were superior to other materials in specific contexts. Silver was valued as ornamental and as bullion. Gold and iron had alchemical significance. Mercury was viewed as anomalous and amazing by natural philosophers, but was basically irrelevant to common folklore.

    Copper and tin don't really have "stories, perhaps because they normalized as commercial materials earliest but also dropped out of use such that they don't turn up in pseudo-lore of fantasy fiction (which is all about iron and steel). I've never really encountered tales in which they had mystic significance, only histories in which specific alloys (such as hepatizon or Corinthian bronze) were viewed as rare, beautiful and "almost as good as gold." Tin and tin mining in the Near East had a certain cachet of mystery, because tin ores were comparatively rare and the fabled "Casserides" islands were the equivalent of the Cities of Gold. In ritual terms, copper had the the same association with the sun and light that gold did, for people who couldn't afford or obtain gold to make ornaments and implements out of. Bronze and bass formulas were, in turn, viewed as gold substitutes in aesthetic works, and one subset of alchemy was the metallurgy of creating gold-appearing alloys from baser metals.

    I've never actually seen a clean explanation for why iron is a ward against evil stuff, and the story exists in multiple folklore systems, not just Celtic tales of faeries. For example, in the Caucus Mountains and in Tibet. I suspect the background is that properties attributed to meteoric iron--sky metal with strange appearance, like are used for thokcha--and/or naturally magnetized iron were extended across all smelted items. A lot of fantasy standards--magic unstoppable swords and such--have been transferred over to more and more sophisticated varieties of steel..."Damascus," wootz, adamant, vibranium, et cetera...but ultimately comes from an era in which the comparison was copper and bronze versus iron.

    Lead really only has significance to alchemists, because its weight is close to that of gold and the archetypal transformation is lead to gold--the base to the precious. Other than that...no real mythology.

    Silver is attributing healing and cleansing properties by some New Age systems, but its unclear in the past if it had a firm mystical power set. The idea of silver as weapon versus supernatural things is comparatively modern and seems to come from a French story.

    Gold's lore isn't really that deep either. Gold is associated with light because of its lustre, and permanence because it didn't corrode. There's the alchemy correspondence of Gold to the Sun, and transmutation to create Gold was the most basic description of Magnus Opus, but it's hard at any moment to tell how metaphorical versus literal any given alchemical text is being. Pretty much everybody prizes gold, but it's generally not seen as magic or supernatural.

    Pretty much the only classical metal with a really deep field of mystic implications in mercury, and that's all about alchemy--European, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese--in which it ability to amalgamate and self-heal is seen as the means by which transmutation can be achieved. "Treated" mercury was a panacea taken internally for longevity and sexual vigor. Vessels full of mercury and mercury pools have been found in burials in India and China...in some way reflecting its role as immortality source...but also in Mesoamerica (where its attributed properties are not understood because of the devastation of the traditional mysticism by conquest and disease).

    Sorry, that's a disappointing answer, but I tried the same avenue of research years ago and almost nothing. Folklore for ancient people explained unusual and foreign things, and most of these metals became familiar and comfortable...things you made ornaments and vessels out of...and lost their mystery before there was even writing. The ones that maintained some cachet were rarer and became entwined with prestige economy--so valuable they existed outside of normal purchase and consumption patterns--but eventually became bullion. There's probably a lost past in which material tropes we're familiar with...amazing weapon metal, secret recipe alloy, better than gold...were at some point attributed to copper or bronze (when the contrast was flint or wood) but tropes and narratives tend to migrate. The story remains even as it migrates to a new substance or object.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Thanks for the thorough reply, Yanagi! You explained it all pretty well as far as I can tell.

    Yeah, it's a little disappointing, but it is what it is. I suppose I could always refer to the planets associated with each metal and attribute certain properties associated with the planets and/or the gods they're named after to the metal itself. Or just make something up, as seems to be the case with silver and werewolves (although there is a loose connection there, both are associated with the moon).

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    actually Lead did have associations with the dead in particular in the west. (it was the metal associated with Saturn/Hades)...and also curses on lead tablets and the like.
    so curses, magic of the dead...possible links to control the undead.
    also via pewter it had other available connotations but were pretty weak

    also especially in the east mercury was more associated with royalty/good fortune as it was the main source of the red dyes and paint used throughout China and many other east Asian nations-and while cinnabar was used in west its link to red was weaker overall as it did not go through a metallic phase in western use until 900AD (while the Chinese were using liquid Hg mixed with sulfur at some earlier point). so if you need any associations with red that's a good one. Also as mercury has been found as basically grave goods for Egyptian (who it was claimed slept on a cushions floating on a bed of the stuff), Chinese, and Aztec (both who used mercury to depict lakes on miniturized models of landscapes at one point or another) leaders associations with royalty are again possibly useful. but also some kind land sympathetic magic perhaps-breaking land/spirit curses or something to do with Grail King like links between King and the health of the lan-and possibly monsters (esp water monsters) that could disrupt that.

    also mercury was sometimes associated with the idea of being the base metal from with other metals derived ... the first metal...and thus amalgams (mercury alloys) could be associated with certain primordial beings like pre-tanarri or abominations from primordial eras.

    also antimony was also around in small amounts and while not terribly useful it use as a monster/magical metal seems pretty good.

    also Zinc has been around since 600BCE so can use that and in brass before that (by thousands of years)-you just couldn't make it PURE. (like arsenic copper sometimes smelting two ores at once can get you alloys you can no get as two metals separately but also the west just didn't work on much until after india had basically mastered the technique (called it false silver at one point)



    also remember lead mercury and gold are all next to each other
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-04-20 at 04:20 PM.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    Thanks for the thorough reply, Yanagi! You explained it all pretty well as far as I can tell.

    Yeah, it's a little disappointing, but it is what it is. I suppose I could always refer to the planets associated with each metal and attribute certain properties associated with the planets and/or the gods they're named after to the metal itself. Or just make something up, as seems to be the case with silver and werewolves (although there is a loose connection there, both are associated with the moon).
    I'm a fan of magic materials in setting making some kind of "sense"--even if only in a poetic sort of way--and chase the idea around on a regular basis.

    Two methods I've come with is (1) take some historical application of a material, extract a theme, and then make that theme something mystical, (2) look at element properties revealed by scientific study as inspiration for a supernatural quality.

    (2) is present in D&D and the OotS comic: lead as a barrier to detect and scrying is a play on lead's radiation shielding. Examples of (1) would be extrapolating from lead's use as the scribable, but permanent, material used for curse tablets to mean that lead itself had some quality that lent itself to curses, or that copper's conductivity translated into a magical sympathy with lightning, electricity spells, and controlling weather.

    And there was a similar thread a little while ago, so its been on my mind.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Ninjadeadbeard's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Beyond the Stars
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    This seems like a good place to ask. Are there any special materials in Norse mythology? I mean, besides the whole "sound of a cat walking" stuff relating to Fenrir's chains. I mean, did they have something like cold iron, mithril, adamantine, etc?
    Quote Originally Posted by Zap Dynamic View Post
    Ninjadeadbeard just ninja'd my post. How apt.
    Ninjadeadbeard's Extended Homebrew

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Zombie

    Join Date
    May 2010

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjadeadbeard View Post
    This seems like a good place to ask. Are there any special materials in Norse mythology? I mean, besides the whole "sound of a cat walking" stuff relating to Fenrir's chains. I mean, did they have something like cold iron, mithril, adamantine, etc?
    They had regular materials. Mjollnir was made of iron. Sif's hair and the magic ring Draupnir were made of gold. Their magical qualities were a result of supremely good craftsmanship and not special materials.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Orc in the Playground
     
    DMwithoutPC's's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    the Seven planetary deities of mesopotamia were all associated with a metal. You could base the magic effect/ mythical folklore of the metal on its associated god.

    for example
    Tin, associated with Marduk, the chief diety of the gods. Perhaps tin is the metal you swear on and it is bad luck to swear when touching it.
    Iron, associated with Nergal, the diety of the underworld, plagues and war. Iron prepared in the proper way can be used for healing after which the metal corrodes and blemishes. Corroded iron on the other hand is associated with desease, death and decay, and can be used to harm "pure being" such as angels

    I am not sure what kind of magical metals are you looking for. Do you want something like mithril or unobtanium? Or something alchemical which is hard to come by, but not mythical.
    LGBTA+itP
    I'm dyslectic and English is not my first language, so I'll probably make a few spelling errors.
    the Third god of Ghysa, the Rainbow Prince(ss) (RIP), and None, Master of Shadows, and currently Nature's Sculptor, Nathall

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    PairO'Dice Lost's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Malsheem, Nessus
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    I've never actually seen a clean explanation for why iron is a ward against evil stuff, and the story exists in multiple folklore systems, not just Celtic tales of faeries. For example, in the Caucus Mountains and in Tibet.
    Iron (with "cold iron" being a poetic term for iron weapons, like we use "cold steel" today) is generally seen as a sign of human industry and ingenuity, since we take it out of the earth and do all sorts of cool and crazy stuff with it, so it is philosophically opposed to supernatural creatures associated with the wilderness, nature, and the "old order" in general. When people started to put iron horseshoes above their door, iron fences around graveyards, etc., it started to take on the general "protection against supernatural stuff" associations; that part may also have been influenced by natural magnetic properties of meteoric iron, as you noted, but I'm not aware of any writings on the subject.

    Silver is attributing healing and cleansing properties by some New Age systems, but its unclear in the past if it had a firm mystical power set. The idea of silver as weapon versus supernatural things is comparatively modern and seems to come from a French story.
    The tradition is definitely much older than New Age stuff. Silver has antimicrobial properties and has been used in treating wounds and diseases at least as far back as Hippocrates. This connection with health and purification is seen in myth, with ancient Egyptians making protective charms and amulets out of silver, Dian Cecht (Celtic god of healing) supposedly giving a heroic soldier a hand of silver after his own was lost, and so forth, and the creatures it is supposed to protect against are generally associated with disease or corruption (lycanthropy is transmitted from person to person, demons corrupt you, vampires do both, etc.).

    Silver-as-weapon-against-evil-things isn't particularly modern, either; the story you're thinking of, the killing of the Beast of Gévaudan, is what specifically sparked the idea of silver bullets being effective against werewolves, not usage of silver in general. Silver taking on a close association with werewolves in particular since the Middle Ages is likely due to silver having an alchemical association with the moon, so werewolves transforming by moonlight combined with the prevalence of sympathetic magic in various believe systems would imply that silver has some sort of special power over them.
    Better to DM in Baator than play in Celestia
    You can just call me Dice; that's how I roll.


    Spoiler: Sig of Holding
    Show

    Quote Originally Posted by abadguy View Post
    Darn you PoDL for making me care about a bunch of NPC Commoners!
    Quote Originally Posted by Chambers View Post
    I'm pretty sure turning Waterdeep into a sheet of glass wasn't the best win condition for that fight. We lived though!
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxiDuRaritry View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'DiceLost View Post
    <Snip>
    Where are my Like, Love, and Want to Have Your Manchildren (Totally Homo) buttons for this post?
    Won a cookie for this, won everything for this

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    Iron (with "cold iron" being a poetic term for iron weapons, like we use "cold steel" today) is generally seen as a sign of human industry and ingenuity, since we take it out of the earth and do all sorts of cool and crazy stuff with it, so it is philosophically opposed to supernatural creatures associated with the wilderness, nature, and the "old order" in general. When people started to put iron horseshoes above their door, iron fences around graveyards, etc., it started to take on the general "protection against supernatural stuff" associations; that part may also have been influenced by natural magnetic properties of meteoric iron, as you noted, but I'm not aware of any writings on the subject.



    The tradition is definitely much older than New Age stuff. Silver has antimicrobial properties and has been used in treating wounds and diseases at least as far back as Hippocrates. This connection with health and purification is seen in myth, with ancient Egyptians making protective charms and amulets out of silver, Dian Cecht (Celtic god of healing) supposedly giving a heroic soldier a hand of silver after his own was lost, and so forth, and the creatures it is supposed to protect against are generally associated with disease or corruption (lycanthropy is transmitted from person to person, demons corrupt you, vampires do both, etc.).

    Silver-as-weapon-against-evil-things isn't particularly modern, either; the story you're thinking of, the killing of the Beast of Gévaudan, is what specifically sparked the idea of silver bullets being effective against werewolves, not usage of silver in general. Silver taking on a close association with werewolves in particular since the Middle Ages is likely due to silver having an alchemical association with the moon, so werewolves transforming by moonlight combined with the prevalence of sympathetic magic in various believe systems would imply that silver has some sort of special power over them.
    This is all very interesting and thanks for the new information. Celts are generally where I'm weakest in terms of lore.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Knaight's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    There's all sorts of metals in folklore/fantasy, both in terms of real metals being given mystical properties and fictional metals (sometimes based on largely unknown real metals, or just natural alloys in particular mines). There's not a lot of consistency between them though, so you'll generally want to pick specifics, make stuff up wholesale, or just merge things.

    Gold having a sun connotation is pretty common. So is silver having connotations of purity and cleanliness, gold having connotations of lasting forever, and mercury having various connotations to fluidity. The material properties often come out in the stories in some way. Gold is extremely nonreactive and reflects light, silver is an antimicrobial agent, and of course mercury is liquid phase at STP.

    You could easily do the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    Iron (with "cold iron" being a poetic term for iron weapons, like we use "cold steel" today) is generally seen as a sign of human industry and ingenuity, since we take it out of the earth and do all sorts of cool and crazy stuff with it, so it is philosophically opposed to supernatural creatures associated with the wilderness, nature, and the "old order" in general.
    The comparison I usually draw is that "cold iron" maps really well to "hot lead". Not least because in both cases the temperature and material are both largely immaterial. Hot bronze in the sun can be "cold iron" when it's a blade used to cut someone up. Similarly long since cooled depleted uranium at a distance can be "hot lead".
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    It's really cool to see some new things popping up in this thread I didn't know before, and I hope people keep contributing.

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    Iron (with "cold iron" being a poetic term for iron weapons, like we use "cold steel" today) is generally seen as a sign of human industry and ingenuity, since we take it out of the earth and do all sorts of cool and crazy stuff with it, so it is philosophically opposed to supernatural creatures associated with the wilderness, nature, and the "old order" in general. When people started to put iron horseshoes above their door, iron fences around graveyards, etc., it started to take on the general "protection against supernatural stuff" associations; that part may also have been influenced by natural magnetic properties of meteoric iron, as you noted, but I'm not aware of any writings on the subject.
    By this logic, one would think that steel would be even more effective, since it is more "refined" than iron.

    Although steel, simply by virtue of its hardness and lightness, might correspond better to fantasy metals like mithril or adamantine. Steel probably seemed pretty mythical to the people who first developed it, and more so to the people it was used against. It would be interesting to see a setting where, for example, the secret to making steel is a closely guarded one, and so steel weapons and armor are comparable to or even count as magical gear.

    Also, it could be interesting to have a setting where different types of magic users (or those with other kinds of supernatural powers) have to be careful about coming into contact or close proximity to certain metals, as it will affect their magic. Maybe that's why D&D druids don't wear metal armor, for example. This also makes non-magic users feel more special, since they can make free use of all kinds of metals with no negative effects.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Magrathea
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    It's really cool to see some new things popping up in this thread I didn't know before, and I hope people keep contributing.


    By this logic, one would think that steel would be even more effective, since it is more "refined" than iron.

    Although steel, simply by virtue of its hardness and lightness, might correspond better to fantasy metals like mithril or adamantine. Steel probably seemed pretty mythical to the people who first developed it, and more so to the people it was used against. It would be interesting to see a setting where, for example, the secret to making steel is a closely guarded one, and so steel weapons and armor are comparable to or even count as magical gear.

    Also, it could be interesting to have a setting where different types of magic users (or those with other kinds of supernatural powers) have to be careful about coming into contact or close proximity to certain metals, as it will affect their magic. Maybe that's why D&D druids don't wear metal armor, for example. This also makes non-magic users feel more special, since they can make free use of all kinds of metals with no negative effects.
    Now I'm thinking about the xkcd about a weapon that glows blue because it is radioactive...
    An explanation of why MitD being any larger than Huge is implausible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    It shall be swift and ruthless. Unless any Ruths intend to join, in which case it shall be ruthful.
    Purple is the color of humorous descriptions made up on the fly
    Green is the color of serious conversation about theoretical ideas, if transitioning from other stuff
    Blue is the color of irony and sarcasm


    In the end, its all in the cards...

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Max_Killjoy's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    The Lakes

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Squire Doodad View Post
    Now I'm thinking about the xkcd about a weapon that glows blue because it is radioactive...
    This one?

    https://xkcd.com/1114/
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Beleriphon's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Protecting my Horde (yes, I mean that kind)

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    My initial thoughts are that gold should have some connection to the sun, like silver does to the moon. Maybe gold would harm vampires (like stabbing them with sunlight, essentially). Perhaps light reflected off of gold would have the same properties as sunlight (and likewise we could do the same for silver and moonlight). I kind of thought there would be something about gold in Native American folklore, but my research so far hasn't turned anything up. Gold could also have a connection to immortality, as a metal that does not rust or tarnish.
    Gold and the sun makes sense, since the Greeks associate gold with Apollo. 90% of his deific kit is made of gold, his chariot is gold. Classical alchemy tends to use the symbol for the Sun as the one for gold. With that being said, lions are also associate with the Sun because of the manes that look like the rays of the sun, and Apollo favours lions. So, mechanical/construct lions have to be made of gold, or have a golden "heart", or some similar process.

    Alchemy is actually a good place to check since it was the culmination of a bunch of ancient ideas about elements and a lot of fantasy fiction tends to draw on the culture osmosis that started with alchemy.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemical_symbol

    I can tell you cold iron is just a phrase like cold steel, or naked steel. It isn't meant to be a specific type of iron work, but rather a way of associating being emotionally cold with an inanimate object. Jim Butcher takes that and runs with it in his Dresden Files novels to the point that fae creatures can't touch ferric metals, it will burn them much like acid would us. It's used to good effect when a bunch of fairies (like the little dudes with butterfly wings) get ahold of box cutters with plastic handles.
    Last edited by Beleriphon; 2019-04-28 at 11:40 AM.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    PairO'Dice Lost's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Malsheem, Nessus
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    By this logic, one would think that steel would be even more effective, since it is more "refined" than iron.
    Logically, yes, particularly since modern steel has a higher iron content than the kind of iron people were using when those myths were being created. Whether that actually holds, though, depends on the setting. In some, like in many urban fantasy series, most notably the Dresden Files, steel is just as effective against iron-vulnerable creatures as iron is; this is usually the case for settings where humanity is dominant, faeries and other iron-vulnerable creatures are in decline, and the fact that everything from cars to manhole covers to houses to skyscrapers are full of iron and steel is used to explain their decline. This tends to work out narratively because it makes the creatures in question very resistant to "civilian"-level weapons like punches, wooden bats, and the like, so authors can put in scenes about having to go for a fireplace poker or crowbar or something.

    In other settings, like most fantasy series and RPGs, most notable D&D, iron and steel weapons are ubiquitous so authors and developers have to come up with some way to set iron apart to justify still needing special weapons to combat the fey. In more historical settings, steel weapons would be much less pure than iron weapons (2-5% carbon content plus a bunch of trace minerals, compared to ~0.2% carbon content for wrought iron), so it's the purity of the iron that matters. In more fantastic settings, "cold iron" is often given some special definition (iron that has never been heated because heating ruins its magical properties, a particular alloy of iron with different alchemical properties than steel, etc.) to justify the need for iron over steel, hence why so many people are confused about what exactly "cold iron" means.

    Although steel, simply by virtue of its hardness and lightness, might correspond better to fantasy metals like mithril or adamantine. Steel probably seemed pretty mythical to the people who first developed it, and more so to the people it was used against. It would be interesting to see a setting where, for example, the secret to making steel is a closely guarded one, and so steel weapons and armor are comparable to or even count as magical gear.
    Indeed. Several stories and settings that mix sci-fi and fantasy (or attempt to retrofit fantasy stuff into real world history) say that adamantine or other super-hard materials are Damascus steel or the like, mithril or other super-light materials are aluminum or titanium, and so forth to give them a veneer of realism.
    Better to DM in Baator than play in Celestia
    You can just call me Dice; that's how I roll.


    Spoiler: Sig of Holding
    Show

    Quote Originally Posted by abadguy View Post
    Darn you PoDL for making me care about a bunch of NPC Commoners!
    Quote Originally Posted by Chambers View Post
    I'm pretty sure turning Waterdeep into a sheet of glass wasn't the best win condition for that fight. We lived though!
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxiDuRaritry View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'DiceLost View Post
    <Snip>
    Where are my Like, Love, and Want to Have Your Manchildren (Totally Homo) buttons for this post?
    Won a cookie for this, won everything for this

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Zombie

    Join Date
    May 2010

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    Logically, yes, particularly since modern steel has a higher iron content than the kind of iron people were using when those myths were being created.
    Iron didn't hurt faeries because of its chemical composition. The same stories also said faeries were similarly affected by bread. A forged iron object (or a piece of bread or woven cloth) represent man's mastery over fire and using it to shape nature to his will. Refined steel (or modern plastics, silicon, or carbon fiber) should have a greater effect, but they don't. By the time of the industrial revolution and an abundant supply of high quality refined steel, the old fairy tales had fossilized from "our latest technological innovation, forged iron" to "iron in particular".

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    PairO'Dice Lost's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Malsheem, Nessus
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    Iron didn't hurt faeries because of its chemical composition. The same stories also said faeries were similarly affected by bread. A forged iron object (or a piece of bread or woven cloth) represent man's mastery over fire and using it to shape nature to his will. Refined steel (or modern plastics, silicon, or carbon fiber) should have a greater effect, but they don't. By the time of the industrial revolution and an abundant supply of high quality refined steel, the old fairy tales had fossilized from "our latest technological innovation, forged iron" to "iron in particular".
    That's how the trope came about, yes, but not how the trope is used in fiction and games now. If you're going with the RPG approach of "let's steal this thing from folklore and formalize it to make it recognizable and memorable for new players and allow GMs to crib from related folklore for their games" like D&D did and the OP of this thread is doing, or the masquerade-style sci-fi/fantasy approach of "supernatural stuff has secretly survived into the modern day and the 'myths' and 'fairy tales' about them are actually true and useful for monster-hunters" like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Dresden Files, Stargate, and so forth, starting with the "fossilized" modern version and expounding upon it is the preferred approach. Hence why I followed up that sentence with examples of what various authors and designers do with the concept in current fiction, not examples of how steel would have been viewed in comparison to iron by the originators of those myths.

    It's the same reason D&D has two different monster races called Medusas and Gorgons when Medusa was the name of a single gorgon rather than a whole species and gorgons were depicted in many different ways none of which resemble the D&D variety, why all the Goa'uld in Stargate resembling Egyptian gods use the Greek versions of their names (Apophis instead of Aapep, Anubis instead of Anapa, Seth instead of Suetekh, Thoth instead of Djehuty, and so forth) even though the Goa'uld supposedly left the Earth long before the Greeks discovered Egypt, why in the Dresden Files Mab the Winter Queen and Maeve the Winter Lady are two separate characters even though those are just two names for the same mythological being, and so forth.
    Better to DM in Baator than play in Celestia
    You can just call me Dice; that's how I roll.


    Spoiler: Sig of Holding
    Show

    Quote Originally Posted by abadguy View Post
    Darn you PoDL for making me care about a bunch of NPC Commoners!
    Quote Originally Posted by Chambers View Post
    I'm pretty sure turning Waterdeep into a sheet of glass wasn't the best win condition for that fight. We lived though!
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxiDuRaritry View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'DiceLost View Post
    <Snip>
    Where are my Like, Love, and Want to Have Your Manchildren (Totally Homo) buttons for this post?
    Won a cookie for this, won everything for this

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    Griffon

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    NW PA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    It's really cool to see some new things popping up in this thread I didn't know before, and I hope people keep contributing.


    By this logic, one would think that steel would be even more effective, since it is more "refined" than iron.

    Although steel, simply by virtue of its hardness and lightness, might correspond better to fantasy metals like mithril or adamantine. Steel probably seemed pretty mythical to the people who first developed it, and more so to the people it was used against. It would be interesting to see a setting where, for example, the secret to making steel is a closely guarded one, and so steel weapons and armor are comparable to or even count as magical gear.

    Also, it could be interesting to have a setting where different types of magic users (or those with other kinds of supernatural powers) have to be careful about coming into contact or close proximity to certain metals, as it will affect their magic. Maybe that's why D&D druids don't wear metal armor, for example. This also makes non-magic users feel more special, since they can make free use of all kinds of metals with no negative effects.
    I have a friend who is a practicing Wiccan (I've recently found out I was spelling this wrong) and they still operate under the belief that certain compounds and elements have certain powers against spirits or supernatural beings. DISCLAIMER, I am NOT Wiccan so this is all "second hand" from my friend. WROUGHT Iron (not forged Iron OR STEEL) has a protective property against spirits. The best barriers are made from Iron Filings in a fine powdery form. Like the smoke from Sagebrush, they will prevent the movement of spirits across a protected space. Steel WILL NOT WORK. Something happens to the Iron in Steel during the manufacturing process that destroys the ability to stop spirits from passing. There are other compounds which work too.

    White flour (and it must be white WHEAT or RICE flour) will also form a barrier against minor spirits but must be kept scrupulously clean to do so. It is also weaker than one made from Iron Filings. I don't know why this is but it is the recommended method of creating a protective circle in the abridged copies of the Necronomicon available today (my friend showed me in her copy). My friend has told me that SALT (as in ordinary table salt) can create a stronger barrier yet. Once again, I don't know why and she wasn't exactly sure either. Apparently, in Wicca, you do X because that's just how it's ALWAYS been done.

    As for Silver, It does have major anti-bacterial properties. In 2005, I had a MAJOR leg injury and needed special treatment to heal up (I suffered a near amputation of my right leg). I was given a product named Prisma to heal my leg. It was GOD AWFUL expensive and the nurse told me it was because the Prisma contain Silver Nitrate among some other expensive compounds. It DID fully heal a wound that was so deep you could look in and see my femure bone.
    Last edited by olskool; 2019-04-29 at 02:38 PM. Reason: spelling

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Magrathea
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    My favorite is Bismuth. Antimony is also really cool, but Bismuth looks almost like a man-made structure and is rainbowy and everything.
    Why Antimony?
    * laughs maniacally *
    An explanation of why MitD being any larger than Huge is implausible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    It shall be swift and ruthless. Unless any Ruths intend to join, in which case it shall be ruthful.
    Purple is the color of humorous descriptions made up on the fly
    Green is the color of serious conversation about theoretical ideas, if transitioning from other stuff
    Blue is the color of irony and sarcasm


    In the end, its all in the cards...

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Knaight's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    Gold and the sun makes sense, since the Greeks associate gold with Apollo. 90% of his deific kit is made of gold, his chariot is gold. Classical alchemy tends to use the symbol for the Sun as the one for gold. With that being said, lions are also associate with the Sun because of the manes that look like the rays of the sun, and Apollo favours lions. So, mechanical/construct lions have to be made of gold, or have a golden "heart", or some similar process.
    An enormous amount of the associations around gold have to do with how it's pretty much the one metal that isn't somewhere on the grey to white spectrum, and instead runs red-yellow-white. The sun is particularly obvious here, what with being both red-yellow and shiny, but there's broader trends around color.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Max_Killjoy's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    The Lakes

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    An enormous amount of the associations around gold have to do with how it's pretty much the one metal that isn't somewhere on the grey to white spectrum, and instead runs red-yellow-white. The sun is particularly obvious here, what with being both red-yellow and shiny, but there's broader trends around color.
    Where does that leave copper and its well-known alloys?
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Magrathea
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Where does that leave copper and its well-known alloys?
    Copper is typically a more "earthy" metal, while it does now have major electrical-based assets, for quite a bit of time it was the Earth in the Moon/Sun/Earth trio. Which is fitting if you think about it.
    An explanation of why MitD being any larger than Huge is implausible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    It shall be swift and ruthless. Unless any Ruths intend to join, in which case it shall be ruthful.
    Purple is the color of humorous descriptions made up on the fly
    Green is the color of serious conversation about theoretical ideas, if transitioning from other stuff
    Blue is the color of irony and sarcasm


    In the end, its all in the cards...

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Bohandas's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2016

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    By this logic, one would think that steel would be even more effective, since it is more "refined" than iron.
    And plastic more than steel

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Knaight's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Where does that leave copper and its well-known alloys?
    Often in a similar place, as it also has odder colors (though a surprising number of bronzes actually run pretty grey). It's also not coincidental that both of these metals are in the same column of the periodic table, and have a lot of fairly similar material properties.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    also a fair amount of gold's thing was that is was just weird in comparison to other metals.
    Does not corrode , oxidize etc under normal use - this is similar to how the sun was often considered "pure" with in part has to do with its blatant otherness.
    found in metal form. - and this is HUGE. this is a little fleck or nugget that does not fit in with the soil, stone around it.
    and it shines in a similar spectrum to solar color-if you have a gold nugget in pile of similar sized pebbles it stands out in the same kind of way the sun stands out. and under firelight more-so.

    something similar could be created with copper alloys (brass more than bronze) but they were harder to work and didn't maintain their sheen.


    so similar
    associations with purity
    contrast to surroundings/otherness
    and color similarity

    so yeah It not really surprising gold came to be associated with the sun.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Magrathea
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Various metals in folklore/fantasy? (E.g. silver, cold iron, etc.)

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    also a fair amount of gold's thing was that is was just weird in comparison to other metals.
    Does not corrode , oxidize etc under normal use - this is similar to how the sun was often considered "pure" with in part has to do with its blatant otherness.
    found in metal form. - and this is HUGE. this is a little fleck or nugget that does not fit in with the soil, stone around it.
    and it shines in a similar spectrum to solar color-if you have a gold nugget in pile of similar sized pebbles it stands out in the same kind of way the sun stands out. and under firelight more-so.

    something similar could be created with copper alloys (brass more than bronze) but they were harder to work and didn't maintain their sheen.


    so similar
    associations with purity
    contrast to surroundings/otherness
    and color similarity

    so yeah It not really surprising gold came to be associated with the sun.
    Also, its shiny. Everyone loves shiny stuff.
    An explanation of why MitD being any larger than Huge is implausible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    It shall be swift and ruthless. Unless any Ruths intend to join, in which case it shall be ruthful.
    Purple is the color of humorous descriptions made up on the fly
    Green is the color of serious conversation about theoretical ideas, if transitioning from other stuff
    Blue is the color of irony and sarcasm


    In the end, its all in the cards...

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •