Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Cold Iron

The inherent Magic of Smiths and their forges requires that the resulting iron should have special properties: traditionally it resists or dissolves enchantment. Thus Fairies cannot pass a threshold guarded with CI, usually in horseshoe form; the touch of CI terminates well meaning fairy Bondage in Rudyard Kipling's "Cold Iron" in Rewards and Fairies (coll 1910), and the hero of Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961) may not take CI into Faerie – where weapons are of lighter metal, perhaps aluminium (Mercedes Lackey later imagined Californian Elves building customized racing cars containing no iron at all). Only the CI goods remain when Elementals pillage the hero's Shop in Robert A Heinlein's Magic, Inc. (1940); only CI chains can bind the goddesses in A E van Vogt's The Book of Ptath (1947); magically created gold reverts to sand on contact with CI in The Castle of Iron (1950) by L Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt; a CI bridle tames a Faerie horse in R A Macavoy's The Grey Horse (1987). Lords and Ladies (1992) by Terry Pratchett suggests that elves rely on magnetic senses and are blinded by proximity to CI. More generally, increasing human use of CI tends to be held responsible for Thinning and the departure of Fairy folk, and its anti-magical properties are a recurring Plot Device. [DRL]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.