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Metallic Motifs
Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he's copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day.
Donal Noye, A Clash Of Kings

Stock symbolism attached to various metals and metallic alloys and applied to characters associated with them. Most common include:

  • Iron: strong, durable, but rough and unwieldy
    • Steel: like iron, but sharper and more dangerous
  • Gold: either king of metals (leader role; Authority Equals Asskicking optional), or fancy but completely useless
  • Silver: mystical metal, invariably badass; occasionally, "second best"
  • Bronze: durability, antiquity, old ways, classic art; at other times, "third-rate"
  • Copper: utility, cheapness, deformability
  • Tin: toy-like, ineffective, utility
  • Brass: loudness, cheapness, antiquity
  • Mercury: speed, volatility, unpredictability, shapeshifting
  • Lead: slow, heavy, impenetrable
  • Platinum: like gold, but even more so
  • Aluminum: modernity, high-tech, lightness; occasionally, cheapness
  • Chrome: modernity, high-tech, shine, cleanliness

May overlap with astrological motifs (mainly Western Zodiac), since each celestial body is associated with a metal in astrology (e.g. Sun with gold, Moon with silver, etc.).

Subtropes include: Chrome Champion, Iron Lady, Iron Woobie.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Sailor Moon's magic crystal was known as the Silver Crystal, and her kingdom was known as the Silver Millenium. Mamoru's magic crystal was known as the Golden Crystal. Both of these are in keeping with the associations given in the description, since Sailor Moon was the incarnation of an all-powerful goddess, and Mamoru was a king (and also somewhat useless when his powers were compared to hers).
  • In One Piece, we have the Pirate King Gol D. "Gold" Roger and his first mate Silvers Rayleigh, as well as a member of Roger Pirates called Scopper Gaban.
  • In Naruto, the Fourth Kazekage uses "Gold Dust," which reflects his beliefs and attitude in life. To be specific, he measured the "value" of things/people, including his own son Gaara, though those evaluations were never necessarily right. For example, he judged Gaara to be a failure. He was obviously wrong. Though he didn't realize it until he saw Gaara again after being revived by the Edo Tensei.

    Comic Books 
  • The Metal Men consisted of The Leader Gold, The Big Guy Iron, the slow-witted Lead, the temperamental Mercury, the insecure Tin, and the vain (female) Platinum.
  • Superman is known as the Man Of Steel.
  • Doc Savage is "the man of Bronze," both for his strength and his bronzed skin. The Superman people "borrowed" it for their "man of Steel" sobriquet (as well as Savage's "Fortress of Solitude").
  • The Incredible Hulk: one member of the U-Foes, an evil version of the Fantastic Four, is Ironclad, the Thing equivalent.
  • There was an old Spider-Man villain-turned-somewhat hero called Molten Man who was colored gold but was not a nice guy. When he reformed, instead of turning into a full-fledged superhero as most Heel-Face Turn cases do, he mostly tried to lead a normal life after he gave up villainy.
  • The Silver Surfer is a cosmic herald, who can fly through space and draw on raw cosmic force to blast his enemies.
  • Iron Man wears Powered Armor, which is the source of his strength.

    Film 
  • The T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day very much resembles mercury, and its shapeshifting properties are definitely thematic.

    Literature 
  • In the Arcia Chronicles, the Praetorian Guard of Tayana are split into the king's personal unit and the crown prince's unit. The former are associated with gold and mainly deployed to parades and celebrations. The latter are associated with silver and regularly carry out force recon and special operations.
  • Both the "fanciness" and the "royalty" symbolism of gold are invoked by Moist Van Lipwig after picking up a golden suit in Going Postal to go with his golden postal worker's hat (in the next book to star him, he covers a top hat in gold glitter for the same effect on being put in charge of the bank). As a former Con Artist, standing out is pretty much how he succeeds. Made a plot point when it turns out an army of ancient golems will listen to him, because the gold suit is similar to what their handlers would have worn.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the former blacksmith to the Baratheon family compares each of the 3 Baratheon brothers to different types of metal. Youngest brother Renly is copper, pretty and looks nice, but not worth much in a medieval society. Lawful Stupid middle brother Stannis is like iron; hard, inflexible, but brittle too. He'll break before he bends. Oldest brother Robert was the one that the blacksmith considered true steel, but 15 years trapped in a loveless marriage doing a job he hated ruined Robert's "true steel".
    • Iron (strength and simple practicality) and bronze (antiquity and tradition) are both strongly associated with the North. Of the initial settlers of the North, the Children of the Forest used bronze tools and the First Men used iron tools. The crown of the Stark kings is also made of iron and bronze.
    • Both in- and out of universe, the Lannisters are associated with gold they're very proud and ambitious. Justified, since their ancestral seat, Casterly Rock, is built over a gold mine, so they grew very rich as a result.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the Ent Treebeard says at one point that the wizard Saruman "has a mind of wheels and metal". This implies a cold, intellectual, sterile view of the world that has no place in it for the love of anything organic or growing. Considering the Green Aesops of LOTR, this is not a good thing to be in that series, and Saruman is dominated by Pride, Resentment and Jealousy, all of which cause his downfall.
  • Prince Nigel Haldane, Duke of Carthmoor in the Deryni novels is nicknamed "the Iron Duke". He's proven himself at combat from the age of twenty onwards, and he has Gray Eyes to boot.
  • The Steel General in Creatures of Light and Darkness is an ancient warrior from Old Earth who fights for the downtrodden, the underdog, and the rebel. As he's been wounded in battle, he's had parts replaced with steel, till all that remains of his original body is a ring of flesh he wears on his pinky.
  • The various Land of Oz books had a handful of metal-themed characters. The best known is Nick Chopper, the Tin Man, however there was also Tik-Tok the mechanical copper man, and an iron man who guarded the Nome King's palace.

    Live Action TV 
  • Sapphire And Steel: Steel, Lead, and Silver all have symbolic connections to the metals they're named for.

    Music 
  • The origin of Led Zeppelin's name. To quote TOW: "One account of how the new band's name was chosen held that Moon and Entwistle had suggested that the supergroup with Page and Beck would go down like a "lead balloon", a British idiom for disastrous results. The group dropped the 'a' in lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, so that those unfamiliar with the phrase would not pronounce it "leed". The word "balloon" was transformed into "zeppelin", perhaps an exaggeration of the humour, and to Page the name conjured the perfect combination of heavy and light, combustibility and grace."

    Poetry 
  • Rudyard Kipling's "Cold Iron".
    Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid,
    Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.
    "Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
    But Iron - Cold Iron - is master of them all.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
  • Warhammer 40,000 has plenty of metallic themes.
    • For the Space Marines, The Iron Hands, and the Iron Warriors.
    • Brass tends to show up where Khornate warriors are involved, Tzeentch's servants tend to prefer silver and gold.
    • When they use metallic colours at all the Eldar favour bright polished silver and gold.
    • Orkish metallic parts are usually rusted.
    • The Imperial Guard goes for plain utilitarian steel in most cases.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The use of metal titles for "ages" of man: Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age, reflecting the basic level of technology.
  • The use of the term "Golden Age" to mean "a period of great happiness, prosperity, and achievement." E.g. the Comic Book culture has adopted Golden Age as well as Silver Age, Bronze Age (and sometimes Copper Age for post-Bronze & Platinum Age for pre-Gold) to delineate the history of comic books.
  • Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington was nicknamed "the Iron Duke" for "his consistent political resolve" (as The Other Wiki says).
  • Prince Otto Von Bismarck was known as "the Iron Chancellor", in part for his diplomacy of realpolitik and his powerful rule and in part for a famous speech he gave advocating strong military power in a unified Germany.


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