Oh look, that goddamn dagger is back. I truly hope that, when all this is said and done, whoever is writing the Westeros history book about the War of the Five Kings dedicates an entire chapter to this Valyrian steel dagger and gives it a really important name like: “The Dagger That Ruined Everything.” It reappeared on Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones when Littlefinger gives it to Bran. He calls it the dagger that started everything. And, oh boy, he’s right.
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Let’s start at the beginning:
We first see this Valyrian steel dagger with a dragonbone hilt in Season One when an assassin uses it in an attempt on Bran Stark’s life. In Game of Thrones terms, this is the McLaren of daggers—it’s far too fancy for some trashy hired assassin. So Catelyn decides to take the dagger to King’s Landing to show Ned.
There, she meets with him, Varys, and Littlefinger, and they gather that it must have been given to the assassin by someone very wealthy. Littlefinger accuses Tyrion Lannister of hiring the assassin to kill Bran (kind of a dumb move to give an idiot hired hand such an identifiable, valuable weapon, but whatever). Catelyn leaves the dagger in King’s Landing with Ned and heads back north. Along the way she kidnaps Tyrion, who claims he doesn’t own the dagger. This act causes Tywin Lannister to invade the Riverlands, setting into motion this entire damn war.
The next time we see the dagger is when Ned Stark is betrayed in King’s Landing. Littlefinger takes the dagger from Ned and holds it to his throat as he’s captured and his men are killed. And there we leave the dagger—in Littlefinger’s custody—for the majority of the series.
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It’s never really resolved who actually owned the dagger before the assassination attempt. While Littlefinger says it’s Tyrion’s, we learn from a Tyrion perspective chapter in A Storm of Swords that he never owned it. Littlefinger had claimed Tyrion won it in a bet after Jaime lost a joust. As a few characters realize, however, Tyrion would never bet against Jaime. It’s also theorized that Joffrey Lannister had stolen it from King Robert and orchestrated the assassination attempt to impress his dad. The simplest answer, however, is that Littlefinger hired the assassin and gave the assassin the dagger to frame Tyrion.
Before Season Seven actually aired, though, the dagger returned for the first time in years hanging on Arya’s belt in some Game of Thrones promo photos in Entertainment Weekly. Its appearance sent fans into a fury, many of whom speculated that she stole it from Littlefinger after killing him.
Now, after Episode Four, we know that’s not the case, as Littlefinger gives it to Fugue State Bran in some sort of creepy-ass gesture of faith. But instead of saying thanks, Bran simply tells him, “Chaos is a ladder.” It’s a direct quote from Littlefinger during a conversation Baelish had with Varys back in Season Three:
Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some, are given a chance to climb. They refuse, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.
It’s a hint that he knows the dagger and Littlefinger’s meddlesome ways. Since Bran now just sits around and pisses off his friends by saying demented shit, he gives the dagger to Arya, who then uses it in a sparring session with Brienne of Tarth.
So, here’s what we know: Whether the dagger was originally Littlefinger’s or not, it still represents the depths of his treachery. We also know that Arya doesn’t steal it from Littlefinger, which kind of debunks that one fan theory. But, she could use it in an assassination of Littlefinger, bringing the dagger to a poetic full circle. If anything, that sparring session could serve as violent foreshadowing to what Arya’s capable of doing with the dagger. A crazy theory would be that Bran used his ability to influence events to send an assassin to kill himself in the past, setting these events in motion (we are aware of a certain Faceless gang of assassins). This is a little bonkers, and I’m not entirely sure how it would work, but it’s not entirely impossible. It certainly would fit with the Bran the Builder theory.
Anyhoo, we know it’s going to be important, as John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarly, even revealed that he was told to linger on a page of a book that showed a picture of a Valyrian dagger. Keep in mind, this is a Valyrian steel blade, which means it’s capable of killing White Walkers, too. As the book in Oldtown reads:
The Valyrians were familiar with dragonglass long before they came to Westeros. They called it “zīrtys perzys” which translated to “frozen fire” in Valyrian and eastern tales tell of how their dragons would thaw the stone with dragonflame until it became molten and malleable. The Valyrians then used it to build their strange monuments and building without seams and joints of our modern castles. When Aegon the conqueror forged his Seven Kingdoms, he and his descendants would often decorate their blades with dragonglass feeling a kinship with the stone.
After all, if it started everything, it could end everything, too.