A meteorite sword is inherently cool, and Terry Pratchett knew it

Roll the phrase around your tongue with me: Starmetal sword. Star metal sword. The lost secret of the Damascus Steel might have been meteorites! Attila the Hun had such a sword, didn’t he? Or Excalibur was one, yes? Tutankhamun was definitely buried with one. Blue-eyed samurai‘s heroine has a star metal sword, and so does Sokka Avatar: The last airbenderand the Redwall series practically revolves around whoever wields Martin the Warrior’s meteor-forged sword.

Man, star metal swords are cool. Until you actually look them up in real life.

Would it surprise you to know that there is no material benefit that you can forge into a sword using metal from a meteorite? Um, probably not, you’re smart and skeptical, so you know that even though the iron-nickel alloys in meteorites clearly have different trace amounts of other elements than those found in Earth’s iron ore, none of those meteorite elements occur regularly in any form is found. quantities that would affect the properties of a counterfeit article.

Tutankhamun’s meteorite dagger was exceptional in material, not in capabilities. Excalibur isn’t real. Attila’s ‘sword of Mars’ was folklore. We also developed some really solid ideas about how Damascus steel was made, none of which involve metal from space.

Starmetal swords are just normal swords.

But are they really?

Image: Troy Howell/Philomel Books

By Of course not. They are made with metal by room! And any list of star metal swords that were no sharper, harder or stronger than their earthly counterparts is also a list of human desire – desire to connect an earthly tool, and therefore its bearer, with the heavenly realm.

And you don’t even have to go as far away as heaven. The earliest known prehistoric iron objects are made of meteoric iron. Before we developed the techniques to process iron ore into useful metal, we were making things out of iron from space. A starmetal sword doesn’t have to connect you to the sky if it can connect you to the origins of ironworking on this planet.

The star metal sword is the heart of fantasy fiction

Sir Terry Pratchett displays his knighthood award outside Buckingham Palace.

Photo: Ian Nicholson/AFP via Getty Images

And no one knew that better than satirist Terry Pratchett. After being knighted in 2009, Sir Terry told the Guardian, “You can’t ask a fantasy writer not to want a knighthood. You know, for two pins I’d buy a horse and a sword.’

A year later, he did just that (OK, not the horse part). He collected iron ore from surface deposits near his home in England, melted and hammered it into bars using a handmade clay forge, and delivered the bars to a blacksmith to have them fashioned into his own sword, finished with silver. And he also threw pieces of meteorite into the fire of that forge, tellingly News.com.au“Lightning bolt iron, you see – very magical, you have to throw that stuff in whether you believe in it or not.”

In one of the most famous passages Pratchett ever wrote, he gave his opinion on the value of casual faith. In his characteristically silly and profound, satiristic way, a scene in the novel High father shows the figure of the Grim Reaper telling his adopted granddaughter that people should believe in little things without hard evidence, like Santa Claus – and swords made of stars.

They had to, so they could believe in the big things without hard evidence, like justice and hope.

So if you think it’s all the same, I’ll continue to believe that starmetal swords are cool. Terry Pratchett thought so.