WTF is "cold iron", and why's it so special?

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So, then, you're not advocating a reason for how the myth started at all, but rather for something else? Okay, strange thread.
I walked into that guy claiming everything that exists is natural no matter what and took the other side, because, well, it's simply not true. His stance is a lot like those who think you can't ever know anything, or that only what you can see exists, and the other fun, but useless philosophical arguments. It's a nice theory to talk about and have fun with, but it's just not reality. He was arguing that it was reality and I'm arguing against that position. In our reality, natural exists, and unnatural exists.

For thread purposes, cold forged iron is iron worked at low/room temperature and since it's worked iron, it's not natural. Hot forged iron is also not natural, but that does't work on the fey, because mythology.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I walked into that guy claiming everything that exists is natural no matter what and took the other side, because, well, it's simply not true. His stance is a lot like those who think you can't ever know anything, or that only what you can see exists, and the other fun, but useless philosophical arguments. It's a nice theory to talk about and have fun with, but it's just not reality. He was arguing that it was reality and I'm arguing against that position. In our reality, natural exists, and unnatural exists.

For thread purposes, cold forged iron is iron worked at low/room temperature and since it's worked iron, it's not natural. Hot forged iron is also not natural, but that does't work on the fey, because mythology.
Um, that last bit is entirely without basis. I mean, good luck being able to ever work unforged iron straight from raw ore.

The first bit is also a bit presumptuous on your part. Your preferred view of nature has no inherent superiority to the one you're dismissing as arbitrary and useless.
 

pemerton

Legend
If man's actions can act against the natural order of things, then you're assuming some supernatural shaper of such an order. It can't otherwise exist without such a will.
Many versions of the philosophies I mentioned in my post - Stoicism, Taoism, Taoist-influenced Buddhism, environmentalism - don't agree with this. They have a conception of nature that is immanent, and identifies the threat to nature as arising from human will/deliberate action as a violation of that natural order.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Um, that last bit is entirely without basis. I mean, good luck being able to ever work unforged iron straight from raw ore.
It occurs very rarely in nature, but metallic ion does occur naturally. Usually, but not always, in the form of meteoric iron.

The first bit is also a bit presumptuous on your part. Your preferred view of nature has no inherent superiority to the one you're dismissing as arbitrary and useless.
My preferred view is the one backed up by both reality and the definitions of natural and unnatural.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It occurs very rarely in nature, but metallic ion does occur naturally. Usually, but not always, in the form of meteoric iron.
Totally sure that people hanging horseshoes over their door to ward away evil spirits and the fairies didn't wait for meteors to get the iron for their horseshoes. Nor did the blacksmith beat them out without heat.

My preferred view is the one backed up by both reality and the definitions of natural and unnatural.
And you're welcome to your preference, but your preference doesn't make your beliefs reality, nor does one entry in a complexly defined word render that one definition exclusive to defining reality.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
In D&D it's definitely about forging.
1) It is edition dependent.
2) In 3.5e, it is not just about the forging, but also the source.
3) Missing the point - You're saying a person has an itch because a mosquito bit them, I'm talking about why mosquito bites itch.
 

Jhaelen

Visitor
1) It is edition dependent.
2) In 3.5e, it is not just about the forging, but also the source.
3) Missing the point - You're saying a person has an itch because a mosquito bit them, I'm talking about why mosquito bites itch.
Well, I'm not sure what edition the OP was referring to, but it's clearly a question about D&D. The question was asked in 2005, i.e. when 3.5 was the current edition.
Here's the quote from the SRD:
This iron, mined deep underground, known for its effectiveness against fey creatures, is forged at a lower temperature to preserve its delicate properties.
So, you're right, it's about the source _and_ the forging.

I'm not sure why you think the OP was asking about mosquito bites. I wonder who's missing the point here? ;)
 

Weiley31

Adventurer
In my 5E games, Silver bypassed demon's mundane weapon immunity.

Cold Iron does that PLUS granting advantage to attack/damage rolls against Demons/Devils and Fey.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I guess while we're here, anyone else know about that whole fey being afraid of modern tech thing? like cold iron is not what they're afraid of anymore, apparently some fantasy thing does this.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
They had a weakness to iron in general.

For the game, they had to change it to iron that was forged a certain way because otherwise they'd just be vulnerable to all the default weapons except clubs and quarterstaffs
The term "cold iron" is far, far older than D&D. The term appears in Francis Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. It appears in Kipling's poem "Cold Iron", which is in his 1910 collection Rewards and Fairies. So, it isn't like "cold iron" is a change for the game, specifically. There's nothing in their texts that indicate Grose or Kipling meant anything other than poetry by it, though.

There is another line of discussion (I don't reacall if it was mentioned upthread) in which "cold iron" refers to the iron used by Romans to crucify people - the spikes so used for death being imbued with import...
 

Len

Prodigal Member
The term "cold iron" is far, far older than D&D. The term appears in Francis Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. It appears in Kipling's poem "Cold Iron", which is in his 1910 collection Rewards and Fairies.
But those usages have nothing to do with fey or a special form of iron.

Grose's definition of "cold iron" is "A sword, or any other weapon for cutting or
stabbing." An ordinary steel blade, in other words.

Kipling uses variations on the phrase "But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all" to mean military weapons and power. Again, nothing about fey or any material different from regular iron or steel.

I'm no philologist, but as far as I can tell, the use of "cold iron" to mean a special material with properties different from regular iron is a D&D thing.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm no philologist, but as far as I can tell, the use of "cold iron" to mean a special material with properties different from regular iron is a D&D thing.
The idea that magically powerufl iron is someting specifically different form other iron goes back at least to L. Sprague de Camp, in The Tritonian Ring, in 1968.
 
My favorite post of the thread, from the first page, 15 years ago:
My favorite fact about iron, as learned in astronomy class in college, back in the day: the atomic fusion process starts with 2 hydrogen atoms fusing into helium, and continues upward through the elemental table until you get to iron. The atomic fission process starts with uranium and move downward, splitting off atoms...until you get to iron.

And iron is anathema to fey. Freaky. :uhoh:
I had the exact same experience, myself, sitting in a junior college planetarium, listening to a lecture about the processes in stars. It's an amusing coincidence that a mystically significant metal (variously anti-magical, or useful in working magic) is also a chemical element with a unique place in those processes.

Of course, gold, silver, and even tin, have been mystically significant metals, along with lost alloys and probably-imaginary metals.
 

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