Game of Thrones weapons master shares secrets to arming the world of ice and fire
Blades of gory
For weapons master Tommy Dunne, designing and building hardware for the world of ice and fire has taken "blood, sweat, and tears." During the course of the series, he's crafted countless parts — last season, he put together roughly 10,000 to 15,000 arrows — and though he teases season 8 will feature the toughest weapon he’s ever created, for now, he looks back on some key pieces from seasons past.
One of two Valyrian steel swords made from Ned Stark’s massive ancestral blade Ice, Jaime’s gift to Brienne has all the hallmarks of an opulent sword fashioned using Lannister gold, complete with lions on the pommel and crossguard. Dunne forged the sword himself — sort of: He cameoed as the blacksmith in the season 4 premiere. “It was a good laugh,” he says of getting to appear on screen. “But it was maybe the hottest three days of my life.”
The one rule to designing Dornish weapons? Incorporate snakes whenever possible. Case in point: The wrist dagger Ellaria uses to kill Prince Doran features a snake head for a handle, complete with scaling and bright turquoise stones (from Dunne’s own collection) to emphasize the “contrast between the bronzing and the eyes,” he says.
Dunne went a step further with snake motifs while arming Ellaria’s daughter. Tyene’s preferred weapon has a handle composed of two snakes, a wavy blade to mimic their movements, and a belt and sheath made from a 22-foot-long python skin Dunne purchased from Morocco. “It’s nice to see it used [this way],” he says, “rather than on somebody’s wall or floor.”
To create the look of dragonglass, Dunne purchased real obsidian and molded it until he had a shape he could recreate out of rubber for the props seen on screen. “You’d never know the difference,” he points out. “We created very translucent sharp edges [from rubber] and made so many shapes and looks and styles.”
Pyat Pree's dagger
Dunne chose this push blade, a type of dagger held like a corkscrew, for its camera-friendliness and gory results. In the scene, the warlock slits the throats of Qarth’s council, causing blood to spew everywhere. “We didn’t want to block movement when they put the blade to everybody’s throats,” he explains. “You had to keep your hand away from the neck, so we could see everything.”
Valyrian steel dagger
The blade once wielded in an attempt to assassinate Bran had to be relatively unadorned. “We couldn’t put an image on it, because we didn’t want anyone to know who supplied it,” Dunne says. Instead, he incorporated a mix of characteristics, from a handle modeled after an antler, to a curved blade, to red stones that looked like Lannister gems — but, of course, weren’t.
Dunne designed Joffrey’s crassly named weapon (the second sword forged from Ice) around the eye-catching red Swarovski crystal representing the Lannisters. The Baratheon-honoring antlers around it are much subtler, nearly disappearing into the crossguard as a “tongue-in-cheek” way of hinting at Joffrey’s true parentage, Dunne says.
White Walker dagger
Wights and White Walkers come from the Land of Always Winter and use icicle-like weapons — but not just any old icicle. While filming in Iceland, Dunne saw shards of ice that resembled stalagmites and stalactites found in caves, so he decided to mold translucent resin to look more like them. “These shards were unbelievable, just beautiful,” he marvels. “I took loads of photographs for references.”
Areo Hotah's long axe
Doran Martell’s bodyguard wielded a weapon Dunne counts as one of the most challenging ones he’s worked on — and one of his favorites. After all, he had a wide range of design elements to play with: The staff needed to look rich, so Dunne wrapped it in bronze and brass sheets; the blade needed character, so Dunne laser-cut a filigree to add onto it; and there needed to be snakes, stones, and sunbursts, all of which Dunne designed around the base. “It was a beautiful item,” he marvels. “I enjoyed making that.”
Dunne created rubber and foam versions of this bronze antler-adorned, Baratheon-honoring, and doubly dangerous hammer in case actor Joe Dempsie got tired of lugging it around. Dempsie, though, had no trouble holding on to his character’s preferred weapon. “He enjoyed using the heavy one,” Dunne says, adding that Dempsie had the most fun in scenes that required the weightiest version. “We used the bronze one if he had to swing it.”
For Oberyn’s spear, Dunne used a kris blade — a wavy edge — to mimic a snake’s movements, wrapped a snake around it, and fashioned the tassel out of python skin. And though he made 20 spears for the crew to use during Oberyn and the Mountain’s showdown, the brutal fight scene damaged them one by one, and Dunne nearly ran out. “I was in panic mode,” he recalls, laughing. “We were down to the last one.”
The horselords’ weapon of choice had to be one of the most versatile, capable of slicing and blocking, especially when being wielded on horseback. “They’re all nomadic and very acrobatic, so that was the feel [we wanted], that everything was swinging rather than being hooked,” Dunne explains. “You had to have the best of both worlds.” And in keeping with the Dothraki’s braided look, Dunne added “a little bit of swirling” around the handle.
The Night King's blade
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asked Dunne to specifically make a panabas blade — a tool shaped, as Dunne describes, “like a hockey stick” — for the leader of the White Walkers, but “it was a bit on the heavy side, so nobody liked using it.” Hey, even the army of the dead has its limits.
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