In Real Life
, a metal is an element of the periodic table which belongs to one of certain groups/columns and has a specific type crystal lattice with free electrons. In fiction, especially fantasy, a metal is shiny stuff with wonderful properties like super strength, lightness, magic resistance and so on, often not resembling any of the metals found in the periodic table. Metals that are brittle, soft, flammable, react violently with water or air or are otherwise useless for smithing swords and shields from them never
appear in fantasy, despite there being a lot of these in Real Life
. This trope (a supertrope to Mithril
) describes the "shiny and wondrous" kind of metals.
Note that this is mostly a Fantasy
trope. Science-fiction examples are only good if they are from a work that is "science" in name only (such as four-color comics or space fantasy like Star Wars
or Warhammer 40,000
); harder-science materials actually explained as high-tech alloys with some verisimilitude aren't. In a nutshell, Wolverine
's adamantium and Boba Fett
's Mandalorian iron are examples of this trope, but a composite alloy of titanium and carbon nanotubes isn't.
examples are only allowed if they are in fact occult superstitions (like hard mercury) or well-known hoaxes (like red mercury).
The most often-encountered types of fantasy metal are:
- Mithril (variously spelled mithral, mythral or mythril): a lightweight, very strong, silvery metal, similar to the real-world metal titanium. The name is Sindarin for "silvery glitter". Appeared in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as an Infinity Plus One Metal, but in later (post-Tolkien) examples it's a mid-level miracle metal only, above steel but below adamantium.
- Orichalcum (variously spelled orichalcon, orihalcon or orichalc): a metal first appeared in Plato's version of the Atlantis myth. The name means "mountain copper" in Greek, and it, indeed, often appears the color of copper or bronze. Orihalcum's properties vary heavily from source to source: sometimes its schtick is strength, sometimes it's high value, sometimes it's magic resistance, sometimes it's room-temperature superconductivity. Sometimes it floats.
- Adamantium (variously spelled adamantine, adamantite or adamant): the name comes from Greek "adamas", diamond. And, indeed, this metal is diamond-hard and much more strong and resilient than diamond to boot. If adamantium isn't of the maaagic! level of indestructibility and is given more down-to-earth properties, then it resembles the real-world metals tungsten and rhenium.
- Meteoric iron (variously called sky iron, thunderbolt iron, star iron, and so on) is a real alloy, but its depiction in fantasy is very often a very different metal than it is in reality. The typical "miraculous" meteoric iron is a jet-black metal that is much stronger than regular iron and often has magical properties as well.
- Cold Iron (variously called cold steel, wrought iron, magnetic iron and so on) is the traditional bane of The Fair Folk. Precisely what constitutes cold iron varies from source to source, such as being forged without heat, forged by hand, being ferromagnetic, possessing trace amounts of iridium, literally being cold, and so on.
- Hihi'irokane (variously translated as crimson ore, scarletite and similar names) is a material which first appeared in the pseudohistorical Takenouchi Documents in the 1930s, where it was more or less the Japanese equivalent of Orichalcum. Its name is Japanese for "flame-colored metal" or "brilliant scarlet metal". In most depictions it's rustproof, ultra-hard, and an excellent conductor of both heat and spiritual energy (sometimes to the point of being warm to the touch).
is a real metal, but fiction and folklore treat it as fantastic. Electrum
also exists in Real Life
, but can also be magic.
The list of fantasy metals is much more than that, but most examples are work-specific and shall be listed in the examples list.
A fantasy-specific subtrope of Unobtainium
. See also Parodic Table of the Elements
, Elemental Crafting
(which ranks these and other normal metals and materials by usefulness).
For fantasy-based metal music, see Heavy Mithril
Anime and Manga
- In the Dragon Ball Z universe, there's katchin metal, which is super-strong, and served as a plot device when it broke an Infinity+1 Sword that was thought to be unbreakable (the Z Sword's legend never actually says it's unbreakable, everyone just assumed it was because it's a legendary magic sword).
- In Magic Knight Rayearth, the Magic Knights' special weapons are made from "Escudo", a material that grows with its wielder. Amusingly when the Ultimate Blacksmith tells them that she needs a special metal, Fuu suggests Mithril; but that doesn't exist in Cephiro.
- Digimon has Chrome Digizoid, the strongest metal known in the Digital World. It's typically seen used by Digimon of Ultimate or Mega tier.
- Greek myth had "grey adamant", from which Kronos fashioned his sickle.
- Marvel Comics has two (aside from a few unique ones): their version of adamantium is a super-metal designed to present threats to invulnerable superheroes (the second X-Men movie states that it's synthesized in liquid form and a "hot chain" must be maintained to keep it usable). Vibranium is another, unusual in that it's not super-strong or super-light (though it's not bad at either) but absorbs kinetic energy (and others Depending on the Writer) far better than ordinary substances. If that sounds like a handy substance to put between yourself and a super-strong punch, well, that's the idea.
- DC Comics possess their own version of Promethium, an alloy when fused with titatium and vanadium that becomes a near indestructible metal.
- In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty acquires material for the whales' tank by bartering the formula for transparent aluminum. (Surely you didn't think all those windows were made of glass?)
- J. R. R. Tolkien's Arda has, beyond mithril, a jet-black metal called galvorn. Galvorn, even stronger than mithril, is invented by Eöl the Dark Elf and the secret of its making was lost when he and his son Maeglin, who also had the know-how, died.
- The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien's very early draft for The Silmarillion, also gives us tilkal, an Infinity Plus One Metal that can only be made by Aulë, the god of blacksmiths. Its name is an acronym of Quenya names for iron, copper, silver, gold, tin and lead, the six naturally occurring metals known to the Elves, used as its ingredients.
- Animorphs has a metal called Ramonite, one of several "living metals", which could among others be stretched thin as to be invisible, negating the need for built-it windows.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has Valyrian steel, and the unnamed white meteoritic metal of the late Arthur Dayne's sword Dawn.
- The Darkangel Trilogy features a blade made of Adamant.
- Inheritance Cycle has Brightsteel.
- Many artifacts of the Mi-Go, Yith, and other Starfish Aliens from H.P. Lovecraft's works were crafted from metals unknown to human metallurgy.
- Although useless for making anything out of (it's chemically fragile and has about the same consistency as lead), atium from Mistborn: The Original Trilogy has extremely powerful magic properties. There is also lerasium, which has the same thing going for it, but is also extremely rare.
- Discworld has the magical metal octiron, and more recently the heat-absorbing black metal stygium (popular for Assassin jewellery, since it says "I'm rich, I wear black, and I don't expect to be out in the daylight much") and the impact-reflecting alloy sorortanium, used in the manufacture of micromail.
- Star Trek: Dilithium, usually found in crystalline form, and Duranium and Tritanium which are used in building ultra-strong ship hulls.
- In Doctor Who Dalekanium is what Dalek casings were made of in the sixties and seventies. In the eighties it got retconned to a much less fantastic sounding "bonded polycarbide".
- In a parody of Star Trek's ship-building materials, the hull of the Swinetrek in the "Pigs in Space!" skits on The Muppet Show is made of Porkanium alloy.
- Mortdred's Magical Metals includes: Orichalcum, Mithril, Kyrrad, Yaddrakk, Blachalcum (Black Orichalcum), Stellaine, Rosantium, Sarabandium, Vartium, True (-copper, -silver, -lead), Steel (Silvered, Volcano-, Soul, Demon-, Glowie-, Emerald-, Ruby-, Sapphire-, Green-), Pitch Metal, Blood Metal, Gods Copper, Irbynite, Peraltoid, Javednite, Wetznite, Sevenril, Eonmite, Mabril, Raysorite, Bolusture, Antine, Magmir, Iclling, Siderite, Irridesium, True (Iron, Copper, Gold), Mithral, Absolute (Iron, Copper, Silver, Gold), Solarite, Exotic Adamantium, Hard Water, Orchallium, Tarnrill, Tsargo, Earth's Blood, Dwarven (Copper, Electrum, Lead), Greater Gold, Solid Quicksilver, Miner's Tin, Star of (Iron, Copper, Silver, Gold, Platinum) and Fixed Mercury.
- Another list of magical metals includes Steel (Dark, Abyssimal Red, Baatorian Green and Forest}, Mithril (Black, White, Silver and Githank), Adamantium, Celestium, Dwarven Blackrock, Illithium, Mechanium, Neutralite and Temporal Silver.
- The core rulebooks of Dungeons & Dragons have adamantine, mithral, cold iron (effective against fey), and alchemical silver (silver alchemically bonded to steel for use against lycanthropes). Secondary materials include many others:
- The Eberron campaign setting introduces byeshk (heavy purple metal useful against abominations), flametouched iron (good-aligned), and Riedran crysteel (psionically charged crystal bonded to iron).
- The supplement Volo's Guide to All Things Magical had a list of magical metals found in that setting: Adamant, Arandur, Darksteel, Dlarun, Hizaagkuur, Mithral, Telstang and Zardazil.
- Ed Greenwood's article "Nine Hells Revisited" in Dragon magazine #91 had two metals that were found in the Nine Hells: arjale and tantulhor.
- The Red Steel setting had Cinnabryl and Red Steel.
- D&D drow (until 4th edition) had their own alloy of adamantine (or mithral, depending on the writer) that gave bonuses to arms and armor, but was instantly rendered brittle and useless by exposure to sunlight.
- Various third edition splatbooks offered some others, such as the naturally toxic morghuth-iron or the critical-hit-averting Ysgardian heartwire.
- Call of Cthulhu's Masks of Nyarlathotep had "The Copper From Above" (an alien metal used to make an object which was used for a spell) and alien metals with Fictional Colors used to create a rocket.
- Iron Crown Enterprises' Shadow World setting had Braizium, Enclatine, Quevite, Tayn, Keron, Eog (regular, Black, Grey, White), Arinyark, Electrium, Ithloss, Kregora, Rularon, Star Iron, Taurith, Trystrium, Vaanum and Xenium.
- The World of Synnibarr had Black Titanium, Forgotten Steel, Gravanium, Hadrathium, Hell Iron, Pelleum, Power Iron, Shadarkeem Metal and Titanite.
- Arduin Grimouire: Silbony, Aurebony, Ethril (Black Mithril), Adamony (Black Adamantium), Black Gold, Black Silver, Cadrium, Brozahrium
- Warhammer'' features fairly classic variants of mithril and meteoric iron, called Ithilmar and Gromril respectively. Ithilmar is a light, silvery metal found in the Annulli Mountains of Ulthuan and worked by the High Elves, while Gromril is the preferred metal of the Dwarfs. The Lizardmen, meanwhile, tend to make weapons from a nigh-indestructible type of black stone called Obsinite.
- Warhammer 40,000 has adamantium, plasteel and ceramite. There's also the unexplained living metal that Necrons (a race of Omnicidal Maniacs with their souls bound to regenerating metal bodies) and their technology are made from, called necrodermis. In a slightly less "metal" way, but still fantasy building material, we have wraithbone for the Eldar, which is essentially crystallized psychic energy that is used by "bonesingers" to make equipment.
- Magic: The Gathering has Darksteel, which is indestructible.
- Exalted features a different magical metal that resonates best with a different Exalt type. Solars have Orichalcum (the strongest, a magical treatment of gold and magma); Moonsilver for Lunars (capable of changing shape); Five flavors of elementally-based Jade for Dragon-Blooded; Starmetal for Sidereals (actually the physical remains of fallen gods worked into metal); and Soulsteel for Abyssals, mined in the underworld. There is also mentioned of Infernal brass and bronze making up the equipment of demonic adversaries.
- The Elder Scrolls Several forms are staples throughout the series.
- Ebony is a dark grayish/brownish/purplish mineral with some characteristics of volcanic glass. It's extremely dense, worth more than gold when used as bullion, and forges into some of the most powerful weapons and heavy armor available in Tamriel. Lore scholars have long theorized that ebony may in fact be the petrified blood of the dead creator god Lorkhan, as it's greatest deposits are near Red Mountain where Lorkhan's heart fell from the sky.
- Daedric metal is a special kind of Ebony which is infused with demonic souls. It's dark gray with red veinlets, and when forged, usually comes out very "spiky." It's almost always the high-end, top of the line metal in the games.
- Dwarven Metal is a Lost Technology alloy that looks like copper or bronze, though its exact composition (and even its proper Dwemer name) is forgotten. According to the lore, the Dwemer would bend the laws of time, physics, and nature in order to make their creations last.
- "Glass", like Ebony, is treated here as a metal-like mineral. It is iridescent-green in color and mined primarily in Morrowind. After most of Morrowind was rendered uninhabitable, it is since smelted artificially by melting moonstone and malachite together.
- Stalhrim is a type of enchanted ice which can be used like a mineral to craft weapons and armor. It is found only on Solstheim, as are the only people who still know how to smith it.
- Mithril is a lightweight, mid-level metal used to make armor. It's otherwise typical and fairly unremarkable.
- Elven and Orcish steel are both stronger alloys of standard steel, with Moonstone added to create the former and orichalcum added to create the latter.
- RuneScape has several melee armors and weapons made from fantasy metals.
- Black items and White items (Level 25, 30, and 40) are made from alloys of steel that players can't make.
- Mithril (level 30) is a dark blue metal that is also significantly lighter than most other melee armors. It can be combined with silver to make an anti-vampire weapon the Rod of Ivandus. Adamantite (level 40) is a heavy green metal. Runite (level 50) is a cyan metal, and is the highest level armor available to free players that does not degrade over time. All three of these metals must have properties similar to iron because they all require an increasingly high amount of coal in order to smelt them from their mineral form into usable metal, just as iron requires coal to turn it into steel.
- Dragon items (level 60) are made from a bright red colored metal. The composition of dragon metal is unknown, as it was created by the Dragonkin.
- Tetsu Armor (level 85) is made from a metal referred to as plate (supposedly some kind of ultra high quality steel) which comes from the eastern lands.
- Malevolent Armor (level 90) is made by combining Malevolent Energy with an item called a Reinforcing Plate.
- Ironically, the current highest level melee weapons in the game (at level 90) are not made of metal, but are made from parts of dead bosses. Drygore Weapons are made from the chitin of the Kalphite King and the Noxious Scythe is made from a spider leg and a spider fang.
- There also are many other types of armor and weapon in the game that can't be smithed by players whose compositions are never explained, although many based on their appearance and where they come from may be high quality, magical, or blessed steel.
- Daemonheim is filled with strange minerals that are not found anywhere else in the game and you aren't allowed to take outside of Daemonheim. From weakest to strongest (Level 1 to Level 99) these metals are called Novite, Bathus, Marmaros, Kratonite, Fractite, Zephyrium, Argonite, Katagon, Gorgonite, Promethium, and Primal. There also are weapons made from metals called Gravite (Level 55) and Chaotic (Level 80) that you can take outside of Deamonheim as a reward.
- There is also a purple colored metal called elemental metal that is used to make Anti-Magic armor. It can be improved by putting it through a priming process that turns it white, and then infusing it with different forms of energy, turning it other colors.
- There is also a blue metal called blurite that is only used for decorating a ceremonial iron sword for a quest, making low level crossbows and bolts (level 16), better than iron but worse than steel, and activating a sacred forge during another quest.
- Team Fortress 2 has Australium, a metal that was able to boost Australian's intelligence and strength by a ridiculous amount, and gave them technologies beyond the 22nd century in the 1800s. It can fetch quite a high price both in-universe, and out.
- Gemstone III: Lysaughton, Mcgrail, Platnite, Catoetine, Elrodnite, Inniculmoid, Boernerine, Neurolite, Fabrinine
- Warcraft III has Thorium and Arcanite-forged weapons as Orc weapon upgrades. Thorium is a real metal (element 90), although it may have been ascribed unrealistic properties.
- World of Warcraft vastly expanded on the list of fantastic metals. The original game added the the old standby Mithril and the exceedingly rare Elementium and Sulfuron. Thorium and Arcanite also returned.
- Each expansion added additional metals. Burning Crusade introduced Fel Iron, Felsteel, Eternium, Khorium, and Adamantite. Wrath of the Lich King had Cobalt, Saronite, Titanium, and Titansteel. Cataclysm brought back Elementium while adding Obsidium and Pyrite. Mists of Pandaria had Ghost Iron, Trillium, and Living Steel. Warlords of Draenor included only True Iron and Truesteel.
- Dragon Age has (in order of quality) Grey Iron, Veridium, Red Steel, Silverite and Starmetal.
- The Awakening expansion also adds White Steel and Volcanic Aurum.
- The Ultima games had Blackrock, which could block magic and which became permeable when electricity was passed through it. Also useful for creating portals between worlds.
- Terraria has several made-up metals, such as "Meteorite", "Demonite" and "Hellstone", all of which can be melted into strong armor and weapons.
- In 1.1, Cobalt, Mithril and Adamantite were introduced, as well as a boss-dropped metal, Hallowed. In 1.2, we were gifted with slightly stronger alternatives to each: Palladium, Orichalcum, and, strangely, Titanium. Also added was Chlorophyte, a new jungle-based ore stronger than even Hallowed, and Crimtane, an alternative ore to Demonite, found in worlds with the Crimson instead of The Corruption.
- ADOM has (in order from least to most impressive) mithril, adamantium and eternium. Note that eternium, though never unwelcome, isn't the ultimate final word as some prefixes and suffixes will show up only on mundane (iron) weapons.
- Final Fantasy has Mithril (spelled Mythril), Adamantite, Hihi'irokane (usually "Scarletite" in the English translations) and Orichalcum, but some games also add Electrum and Darksteel as well. Original note include Gemsteel and maybe Magicite as well.
- Guild Wars 2 has three common fantasy metals and three rare fantasy metals. The common are Darksteel (an alloy of platinum), Mithril, and Orichalcum. The rare are Deldrimor Steel, Cystalline, and Xunlai Electrum.
Other / Multiple Media
- In New Vindicators, there was once a meteor that when it hit the Earth, created a strange kind of tektite called mithral. While really much stronger or better than most metals, mithral is shown to be Kryptonite to Nephilim-half angels, half humans, inflicting great pain on them through touch and in some cases weakening their powers.
- The Star Wars universe contains some:
- Cortosis, which is a metal hostile to the Force and also with an ability to short out lightsabers. Another famous ability of cortosis is that its ores are constantly electrified and capable of electrocuting anyone who handles them carelessly.
- Phrik is similar to cortosis, but more tame. It doesn't short out lightsabers, but is immune to them as well.
- Beskar (Mandalorian iron) is similar to phrik, only much stronger; it's more or less the local version of adamantium. Mandalorian armors are typically made of beskar.
- Glasteel is a transparent metal.
- In real-world occult alchemy, there was believed that a method exists to make mercury hard at room temperature. At least one medieval Hermetic recipe exists to make a ring of invisibility from hard mercury.
- Red mercury was a hoax perpetrated by Soviet KGB. It was ascribed some miraculous properties like making simple and compact nukes; the purpose of the hoax was sting operations to catch terrorists and rogue state agents seeking easy ways to obtain nukes. They forgot to warn the Soviet populace that it's a hoax, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, a red mercury craze started on its ruins.
- Orichalcum was a real material, but because people forgot which one it was, it is now used mostly as a fantasy metal.
- Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.
- Meteoric Iron is also a thing.