Last night’s episode took us back in time, but fans noticed that something was missing.
The image of Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark from the first season of Game of Thrones is an iconic one. He sits on the Iron Throne, a reluctant leader, holding Ice, the massive Valyrian steel broadsword of House Stark. This heirloom weapon, one of a kind in Westeros, has become part of this iconic image of dearly departed Ned. As an audience, we know what happened to it eventually. After Robb Stark was killed at The Red Wedding, Tywin Lannister had it melted down into two swords: Oathkeeper, now wielded by Brienne of Tarth, and Widow’s Wail, a wedding gift for Joffrey Baratheon that is believed to have been passed to his brother Tommen.
In this past week’s episode, the concern for Ice was not of its future, but of its place in the past. With another big BranVision flashback, we met young Ned Stark at another point in his journey. One that had fans asking, “Where’s Ice?”
After a little spoiler warning, I’d like this explore and hopefully answer this question. The rest will include spoilers from this week’s episode and some book info that will fill in the gaps, but no future plot points.
As you can see in the image at the top of the page, the sword in Ned’s hand is a lot smaller than Ice. So where was the family’s most prized weapon?
The answer lies in an exploration of the timing of The Tower of Joy. This moment in Ned’s life came at the tail end of Robert’s Rebellion, the great war between Robert and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. What began with Rhaegar making moves on (and ultimately abducting) Ned’s sister Lyanna (who was betrothed to Robert), ended with the extinguishing of the entire Targaryen dynasty.
In the time before Robert’s Rebellion, Ice would have been one of two places: either on the person of Ned’s father Rickard, who was both alive and the Lord of Winterfell at that point; or it would have been stored at Winterfell, where it is usually kept and only used when someone needs a good beheading. After all, Ice isn’t the sort of sword you want to carry around with you all the time. It’s massive.
Let’s assume that it was on the hip of Lord Rickard, it’s rightful owner at the time. Once Lyanna Stark was abducted from the Riverlands, Ned’s elder brother Brandon went to King’s Landing to challenge Rhaegar Targaryen, who he deemed responsible for Lyanna’s disappearance. The Mad King Aerys imprisoned Brandon and his party, summoning their Lord fathers to King’s Landing. This led to Lord Rickard traveling to King’s Landing, where he immediately killed in gruesome fashion alongside his eldest son. It was at this point that Lord Eddard, his friend Robert Baratheon, and their mentor Jon Arryn led the rebellion that eventually led to The Battle of the Trident, where Robert put Rhaegar to rest.
Following the Battle of the Trident, Ned and a few others left Robert (who was recovering from his wounds) and headed south in pursuit of the remnants of the Targaryen army and in search of Lyanna. The Tower of Joy, which we see in this week’s episode, is the culmination of that chase. It stands to reason that in his pursuit of Lyanna, Ned never had a chance to stop by King’s Landing and pick up the bodies of his brother and father, along with Ice. That would have come much later, after Aerys was killed by Jaime Lannister and King Robert moved into the Red Keep.
That’s the best answer I can come up with regarding Ice’s whereabouts. It’s probably not a bad thing that Ned didn’t have it, as fighting a swordsman as quick as Ser Arthur Dayne would have been tough with a normal sword, let alone a massive broadsword.
The other nitpick that many book readers had in this scene was the fact that Ser Arthur’s sword, Dawn, wasn’t quite what we may have expected. Dawn was said to be forged from a fallen star, giving it an appearance “as pale as milkglass, looking like no Valyrian blade, yet sharing all of the properties, being incredibly strong and sharp.” It was said to have a glow about it. In the show, Dawn is there – when Ser Arthur puts it in the ground we can see an emblem of the sun on its hilt – but it doesn’t exactly glow. Let’s chalk this up to being a very difficult effect for the show to pull off. Plus, it would have only served to confuse the show’s mainstream audience. The same can be said for why Ser Oswell Whent, Arthur Dayne’s cohort, didn’t wasn’t wearing his “distinctive helmet emblazoned with a black bat with its wings spread.” Fun for book readers, but unnecessarily confusing for everyone else.