A History of the Valyrian Steel Dagger, From 'Game of Thrones' to 'House of the Dragon'

A History of the Valyrian Steel Dagger, From 'Game of Thrones' to 'House of the Dragon'

Spoilers follow for House of the Dragon, Episode 7, "Driftmark."

It took seven episodes and a ten-year time jump, but the mounting tensions between Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower finally began to erupt in "Driftmark," widening the schism between the two characters and setting the scene for the impending civil war that the showrunners have promised.

Up until now, the queen's machinations had revolved around preparing her sons to rule, spreading rumors about the legitimacy of Rhaenyra's offspring, and accidentally inciting the fiery massacre of House Strong (RIP, Ser Harwin). But when a truly gnarly fight between Rhaenyra, Alicent and Daemon's respective children over the claiming of Vhaegar resulted in Prince Aemond losing an eye, Alicent's fury led to her taking more direct action. In a moment of rage, she took the dagger that Viserys always keeps by his side, and attempted to exact vengeance on young Prince Lucerys. When Rhaenyra blocked her path, she then tried to stab the princess, eventually cutting her forearm before relenting and letting the knife clatter to the floor.

Not only was it a grave moment for Alicent, as this was the first time she lost her composure in public, but it also adds Rhaenyra to a list in Game of Thrones lore which also includes Bran Stark, Catelyn Stark, Petyr Baelish, and the Night King himself. Namely, she is the latest character in Westeros to have been attacked by the Valyrian steel blade (and plot device) known by fans as the catspaw dagger.

What is the catspaw dagger?

We first saw this dagger way back in Season 1 of Game of Thrones, when it was wielded by an assassin who made an attempt on Bran Stark's life while he lay in a coma after Jaime Lannister pushed him from the tower. His mother, Cat Stark, suffered serious cuts to her hands while protecting Bran. The origins of the dagger and the question of who sent the catspaw to kill Bran leads to some of the most pivotal moments in Season 1. Cat's arrest of Tyrion, whom she believes to be behind the murder attempt, sparks the initial conflict between the Starks and Lannisters which eventually becomes the War of the Five Kings after the deaths of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark.

We don't see the dagger again until the seventh season, when Littlefinger presents it to Bran at Winterfell, who subsequently gives it to his sister Arya. Littlefinger originally led Cat to believe that the dagger belonged to Tyrion, but it is eventually determined that he was the owner of the blade, and therefore he must have been the one to send the assassin. Arya then uses the dagger to execute Littlefinger.

Arya proceeds to wield the dagger for the rest of the show, and saves all of Westeros by stabbing the Night King with it: it had been previously established that Valyrian steel and dragonglass were the only two things to which White Walkers are vulnerable. In the series finale "The Iron Throne," Arya can be seen wearing the dagger at her belt as she sets sail to explore the Sunset Sea.

And that was that. Until House of the Dragon took us nearly 200 years back in time to show us the Targaryen dynasty at the height of its power, before the Dance of the Dragons. Viserys is seen wearing the dagger throughout the show, and after naming his daughter Rhaenyra his heir, he shares with her the story of the dagger: it once belonged to their ancestor Aenar Targaryen, who led the family to Dragonstone before the Doom of Valyria, although it dates back even further.

When Aenar passed the blade onto his son Aegon the Conquerer, Aegon instructed that the last Valyrian pyromancers conceal his prophecy in the blade, so that it can only be seen when exposed to fire: "From my blood will come the prince that was promised, and his will be the song of ice and fire."

Of course, we as viewers know that Aegon's prophecy won't be fulfilled for nearly two centuries (and will feature a hugely disappointing end for the last remaining Targaryen). But the constant presence of the catspaw dagger in House of the Dragon, given its instrumental role in both starting and ending a war in the original show, is one hell of a way to foreshadow the upcoming Dance of the Dragons.

Whether or not future episodes of the show will fill in how exactly the Valyrian steel dagger went from the side of the king to Littlefinger's possession is unclear. But it's certainly fun to think that long before Arya was pulling off that cool two-handed trick on the Night King, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms was using it to try to stab her former bestie.

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