"But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all."
One of the most mundane Depleted Phlebotinum Shells
and the traditional bane
of The Fair Folk
Iron may be treated as naturally magic-disrupting or just poisonous for certain creatures. Sometimes it's supposed to suck the magic out of The Fair Folk
(similar to the way it sucks heat out of the body), usually accompanied with screams about how "it burns". Sometimes it's got something to do with ferromagnetism, or related to iron's nuclear stability.
There's no agreement about what "cold" means in this context. Sometimes it just mean that the iron, at the moment, isn't hot. Sometimes it's cold-worked iron. Sometimes it's more complicated, like iron that has never been smelted. It might just be a poetic reference to any iron (much as "cold steel" was used in later times), just because metals that aren't hot feel cold thanks to heat conductivity. It may be pulled as "magic vs. technology" symbolism. It may also be a reference to the fact that heating magnets to a certain point causes them to lose their magnetism
, so "cold" iron is iron that still has its magnetic (magic) power.
may or may not be related: meteorite alloys are iron-based and frequently cold-worked because they cannot be tempered like steel anyway. Ironically, they are good in really cold climates, not only because the fuel for a smithy would be a bigger problem, but because they don't become brittle when carbon steels do.
Cold Iron may be a reason why Armor and Magic Don't Mix
, as well as a form of Unobtainium
in some cases. It is a subtrope of Fantasy Metals
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- In Munchkin Bites, Cold Iron is a trap card that only affects Changeling characters.
- The possessed in the Night of the Demons remake are vulnerable to rusted iron.
- An iron stake (really a railroad spike, as There Is No Kill Like Overkill) is shoved into the chest of the antagonist in the 1930s German classic Vampyr.
- In Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, the vampires' vulnerability is to iron crucifixes (or to a cruciform sword forged from an iron crucifix).
- Maleficent: Iron burns fairies, but this isn't common knowledge among the humans. Maleficent as a child tells Stefan this after his ring accidentally burns her while shaking his hand. Years later, Stefan—- Now driven insane by his paranoia regarding Maleficent coming for him—-uses this knowledge to arm his men with iron armor and weapons, as well as setting up an elaborate trap in an attempt to kill his former childhood friend.
- Putting a horseshoe over the doorway was considered a way to protect the home from intrusion of The Fair Folk- this has allusions to the story of the Exodus and the Passover. Sometimes burying a doornail was used this way too. Although often burying iron was a way to conceal the iron from The Fair Folk, and if you could get them to stand over it they would be trapped and bound until they agreed to your demands.
- There is an Italian wedding tradition that requires the groom to have iron in his back pocket.
Live Action TV
- In the Doctor Who serial The Daemons, the Doctor successfully uses a trowel to fend off a gargoyle that merely thinks it's susceptible to Cold Iron.
- In Supernatural iron can be used to temporarily decorporealize a ghost, along with other uses.
Mythology and Religion
- The Bible's Book of Judges has a fairly famous verse (Judges 1:19) where God is unable to bring the men of Judah victory over an enemy for the stated reason that they had "chariots of iron". In a later chapter of the same book He does defeat an army so equipped, but by setting their soldiers against each other as opposed to direct power. It should be noted that in this period iron chariots would be ludicrously advanced military technology (as in "M1 Abrams tanks in the American Revolution" advanced), and many historians consider it an anachronism by the author writing centuries later.
- Used against the "marsh weans" (a disembodied intelligence believed to be evil spirits in 1950s Orkney) in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama The Revenants. The Technobabble explanation is that ferrous metal "presumably disrupt[s] the electromagnetic force that keeps it together". (In a Doing In the Wizard twofer, the local streams are heavy with iron ore, which is why they can't cross running water.)
- Dungeons & Dragons
- 'Fool's Gold' spell made copper coins look like gold, but it fails when false gold touches iron.
- Depending on the edition, demons that could normally only be harmed by magical weapons could also be harmed by iron weapons.
- 3e+ has Cold Iron as a special material (like mithril or adamantine) for metal weapons. The rule of thumb is that you need this to harm (or at least, do full harm) to Fey or chaotic outsiders. The downside? It's one of the flimsier special metals (although just as strong as steel), and there's a static price that must be payed in order to enchant it, doubling the price of the the lowliest weapon enhancement (at least in 3e based systems). Still, it's arguably one of the best special materials for weapons. Fluff-wise, the Dungeon Master's Guide for 3E explains it as a special form of iron that is mined deep underground and cold-worked to preserve its properties.
- Even as early as 2nd Edition, some undead took double damage from cold iron weapons.
- In Changeling: The Lost, "cold iron" is anything that has a 95% iron content, and it negates any defense wrought by fae magic. The main book emphasizes that in the modern era, you'll rarely get anything like that unless it's a specialty work or from an earlier era.note On top of that, you've got hand-forged iron, which is iron that's never been heated by human hands or means. This means most hand-forged iron weapons are rough and blocky, but they do hideous amounts of damage to the True Fae. There are many given accounts on why this is, but the most common one is that the Gentry once had a Contract with Iron; they got power for it in return for making sure it remained unshaped. Then humans discovered smelting, the Contract broke, and Iron is pissed.
- Likewise, in the predecessor game Changeling: The Dreaming, cold iron wounds do aggravated damage to changelings - and if they're killed with it, their fae soul will never reincarnate, effectively becoming a ghost. The only reason steel doesn't screw up the Kithain is because a changeling pulled a Heroic Sacrifice back in the day to ensure that it wouldn't.
- In Exalted iron weapons likewise deal enhanced damage to The Fair Folk and dispels their glamours. Name "cold iron" in this case references just the burning cold it feels to them, not any specific way of making it - any iron will do (note that most cultures use bronze or steel). Although protagonists rarely bother with such measures and generally just stab them with the same gigantic swords of magical gold they use on everything else.
- The 4th Edition version of GURPS Fantasy discusses cold iron, and multiple different ways of implementing it. The default is that it's simply a descriptive term for regular iron.
- Faery's Tale allows you to implement cold iron, though it's optional. Under the game's take, cold iron is simply wrought iron (as opposed to cast iron), and although it can't truly kill faeries (nothing can kill faeries), the merest touch of it will send a faery into a deep sleep for anywhere from hours to weeks.
- Champions adventure The Coriolis Effect. Ch'andarra and her daughter the Black Enchantress both take damage when touched by raw (cold) iron.
- In Final Fantasy IV the Dark Elf is vulnerable to iron and has enchanted his cave to be heavily magnetic, requiring you to reach him without wielding anything metallic. When you reach him, at first it is a Hopeless Boss Fight but if you talked to Edward in the castle, he gives you a harp which breaks the spell, allowing you to wield metal.
- Or you can go to the one town that sells silver (i.e. non-magnetic) equipment beforehand. It's a bit of a trip, but worth it.
- In Ancient Domains of Mystery, playing as a Mist Elf will make you suffer damage with each turn you are in contact with iron or steel items.
- In Pokémon, Steel-type attacks are super effective against Fairy-type Pokémon, and Steel-type Pokémon resist Fairy-type attacks.
- Borderlands 2's Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep DLC is chock full of the fair folk, the best solution to those walking problems? fill 'em with lead basically if you're a fan of non-elemental weapons.
- Team Fortress 2's Merasmus is a wizard who goes after the mercs after a fallout with the RED Soldier, so you get to kill him as part of the Spectral Halloween event, with a multitude of weapons, most of them bullet based.
- In Touhou's Phantasmagoria of Flower View, though it's never directly stated, it is implied there exists things capable of permanently killing the otherwise nigh-immortal fairies which make up most of the enemies in the game, in a manner to how similar Youkai are banished.
- Tomb Raider Chronicles: During the segment set in Ireland (when Lara was 15 and therefore without weaponry) she is attacked at several points by small imp-like creatures. Throwing a piece of iron at them reduces them to a smoking puddle.
- Princess Maker 2: In the adventure section of the game, there is an NPC Elf that can change your daughter's statistics. However, he will run away if your daughter is equipped with iron weapon or armor.
- Elves in Dragon Mango are extremely vulnerable to iron, but through Training from Hell can learn to resist it. Afterwards they use iron armors as a Power Limiter. Half-Elves are completely immune to it, likely due to their human half's iron-based blood.
- Cold iron in Never Never prevents Pookas from using any of their special abilities, including changing size and increased luck.
- Tales of the Questor makes extensive use of this trope. Although it claims "cold iron" is a mistranslation of "north iron" ie lodestone.
- In Roommates cold iron seems to be the default weakness of the fae, because, well, it's believed to be. It's literally one of the two known things to be able to injure the resident one (the other being a magic sword specifically designed to hurt him and his subjects). There is no agreement in the comic what makes anything cold iron, though, but experience showed that steel swords don't count, but iron frying pans do.
- In Codename Hunter, the Fey are extremely vulnerable to iron, but not so much to iron alloys.
- Demons in The Salvation War have a deep rooted fear of Iron. It apparently is toxic and screws up their regeneration abilities. While it's never really explained why, the Human forces are quick to exploit it.
- In the Whateley Universe, magical girl Fey is susceptible to cold iron (and synthetics) as soon as she gets her powers and changes into one of the true Sidhe. As she finds out the moment she picks up her mom's iron frying pan. "Cold iron" is cold-forged iron or wrought iron, according to Word of God.
- Little One in Tales From My D&D Campaign wields a Cold-Iron sword. Per standard D&D rules, it cuts through the defenses of any sort of Fey creature, which saves the party more than once.
- Cold Iron is described as an effective tool against faeries in The Saints.
- In Gargoyles, Oberon's Children were all weak to cold iron, up to and including Oberon himself. This is utilized in a number of ways - iron chains to bind Puck and the Weird Sisters, an iron robot named Coyote to catch the mythical Coyote, and ringing an iron bell to take down Oberon when he agreed to use only as much power as one of his children for a contest (though when he was at his full power an iron harpoon to the chest only slightly injured him).
- In Justice League and the next series, Hawkgirl's mace is made of "Nth metal" which is anti-magic. It's used to take down magic users, gods and extra dimensional beings. To everything else, well, it's big, metal and spiky and hits really hard.
- In the life cycle of larger stars, when they run out of hydrogen in their core to produce energy, stars start fusing other elements in order to maintain itself. The star keeps on building layer after layer within the core fusing heavier and heavier elements, and getting less and less return. Fusing iron will give no energy return. A few days after it starts to make iron in its core, it will go supernova. So iron is the star killing metal.
- In real life, iron is typically found in three ores, hematite and magnetite, found in certain geological layers, and limonite, aka "river iron" or "bog iron". All of these are iron oxides, that is, iron that was exposed to oxygen and formed a new compound - rust, essentially. Germany had some of the greatest accessible hematite reserves in medieval times, and this was largely the reason why german steel was revered (and teutonic knights so feared). Magnetite is more rare and a product of volcanism. Limonite is a very low quality ore, producing inferior steel, but is abundant and found literally everywhere. All of these ores are basically rocks, and have to be molten to iron in highly specialized ovens - bloomeries - at temperatures of about 1500°C (almost 3000°F), more than 500° hotter than you can get things to heat up with a regular fire, and the whole process sucks coal like you wouldn't believe. This is the reason why copper came before iron - you can melt copper ore (such as the middle eastern malachite deposits) in any old fire. The result iron ore melting and shedding the excess oxygen is iron, which can be forged and worked and wrought at a much lower temperature than what is needed to melt the ore. What is almost never found in nature is "native iron" aka "telluric iron". The only known larger deposit is in greenland. Being bona fide iron, not ore, it does not have to be molten first - you can warm it up and forge it right away. One final type of iron exists, and that is meteoric iron. Sometimes a meteor falls on earth and due to not having been exposed to earths oxygen in space, it contains an intact core of iron. You can imagine how rare that is. So those are two extremaly rare types of iron that don't have to be molten first. Those, I reckon, would deserve to be called "cold iron".