Today, we’re going to look at three metals from the world of fantasy and legend. And since Wednesday is Video Game Day here in VoVatia, I’ll be sure to mention their relevance to the game world.
Adamant – Although the word is typically used today in a figurative sense to mean remaining firm on something, it traditionally refers to any very hard substance. The Wikipedia article describes how, at various times, it came to refer to diamond and to magnetic substances. The name comes from the Greek “adamas,” meaning “untameable.” The use of the term to actually refer to diamond has fallen into disuse, and now when the word is used to refer to something physical, it’s a metal that’s just as hard as diamond. Obviously this doesn’t really exist, so it’s become the stuff of fantasy. Kronos is said to have castrated his father Ouranos with an adamant sickle, but it’s not known whether this was supposed to be a reference to an actual metal or a legendary one.
The angels in Paradise Lost wear adamantine armor, and the legendary gates supposedly built by Alexander the Great in the Caucasus are also said to have been made of the material.
In Marvel Comics, the name of the substance has been changed to adamantium, presumably to make it sound more scientific. It’s said to be an alloy, and Wolverine’s artificial skeleton and claws are made of adamantium.
Adamant appears in several of the Final Fantasy games, beginning with the very first one, in which a dwarven blacksmith can use the metal to make Excalibur.
This is presumably a combination of legends, since I don’t know of any indication that King Arthur’s sword was made from this metal.
It was said to have been able to cut through iron, though, so I guess that makes a certain amount of sense. The same basic idea can be found in FF4, in which you can trade a tail to a tiny miner in exchange for some adamant, then bring it to the blacksmith Kokkol so he can upgrade Cecil’s sword.
It’s also possible to get adamant armor, but this is very difficult, as it involves locating the elusive Pink Puffs.
Mithril – Unlike the ancient adamant, this substance comes from one relatively recent source, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s quite rare, and is stronger than steel while also being much lighter. Mithril is also quite malleable, and does not tarnish. Bilbo and Frodo Baggins wear a coat of mithril mail during their adventures.
Mithril has appeared in many fantasy universes since then, including the Final Fantasy one, although the games usually spell it “mythril.” There are mythril items in pretty much all of the games, and a few let you visit mythril mines. In the FF world, however, mythril items are typically only middle-grade, even though they were incredibly powerful and valuable in Middle-Earth.
Orichalcum – In Dragon Warrior III, it’s revealed that the Sword of Kings (later to be known as the Sword of Erdrick/Loto) is made of a metal called oricon.
Since the Master Archfiend Zoma shattered the sword, it’s necessary to find the pieces and bring them to a master swordsmith to have the legendary weapon rebuilt.
So is this name a reference to anything? Well, there’s a Japanese music statistics company called Oricon, which is a shortened version of its earlier name, Original Confidence. That doesn’t have anything to do with metal, though. Perhaps the more accurate source is a substance called orichalcum, which Plato claimed was mined in Atlantis.
The word actually means “mountain copper,” and the metal is said to have been second in value only to gold. The exact nature of orichalcum had supposedly been forgotten entirely by Plato’s time, however. There has been some speculation as to what it might have been, but I have to suspect it was just made up.