Spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7 episode 4 follow.
If you’ve just watched ‘The Spoils of War’, you’ll undoubtedly be thinking about its kickass firestorm battle, not the dagger Littlefinger gave to Bran – but the Valyrian steel weapon has been around since season 1, and the show placed plenty of importance on it in this episode. To understand it, we have to look at an important question:
Where did Bran’s dagger come from?
In season 1 of Game of Thrones, Bran was pushed out of a tower window by Jaime Lannister after he witnessed Jaime and Cersei having sex. The fall crippled him and he lost his memory. While he was recovering in bed, an assassin was sent to kill him, carrying this very expensive Valyrian Steel dagger, which at the time belonged to Robert Baratheon. As Littlefinger says, the mystery of who sent the assassin is what started the events of Game of Thrones, but we still don’t know who it was.
Most book-readers theorise that Joffrey was behind the assassination attempt. They believe he stole the dagger from his father Robert, then gave it to a random low-life to kill Bran; Catelyn Stark thwarted the attempt with the help of Bran’s direwolf, Summer, but the assassin was killed and we still don’t really know who sent him – could be Joffrey, could be Cersei, could be Littlefinger.
What we do know is that Littlefinger lied to his supposedly beloved Catelyn Stark, telling her that he had lost the dagger in a bet with Tyrion Lannister, implicating him in the assassination attempt. Cat then took Tyrion prisoner in the Vale, adding to the tensions that led to the War of Five Kings, the death of her and her son, Robb.
It’s unclear why Littlefinger gave Bran the dagger. Perhaps he was trying to get him to talk about what he had seen in the tower. Bran doesn’t do this, though: instead he shows Littlefinger that he knows about all his lies, repeating his famous line back at him – “Chaos is a ladder”. Littlefinger is aghast, because he said this in a private conversation with Varys in King’s Landing, one Bran could never have witnessed himself. He’ll probably be watching Bran even more closely from now on.
What is the significance of Bran giving the dagger to Arya?
There are a few theories about this, and each one gets a little stranger. Whichever it is, we know that Bran gave it to her for a reason. Remember: he knows everything now.
1. Arya’s going to kill Cersei with it
Cersei’s had a spot on Arya’s list for ages, and these days she’s one of the few left on it – alongside the Mountain, Melisandre and the Brotherhood without Banners. Fans who theorise that Cersei was behind the assassination attempt on Bran think that Arya using the same dagger on her would be a poetic way for her to exact revenge.
2. Arya’s going to kill Littlefinger with it
Bran is well aware of Littlefinger’s treachery – he knows he lied to Cat about the dagger and that he helped cause Ned Stark’s death. If Bran reveals any of this to Arya, it’s likely that she’ll use his old dagger on him: again, pretty poetic.
3. Arya’s going to kill the Night King with it
Valyrian Steel is one of two materials known to kill White Walkers – the other is Dragonglass. It’s unlikely that the show would be giving Arya one of these extremely special weapons if she wasn’t going to use it on some wights soon, so some fans are guessing that Arya’s new dagger will be the one to take down their leader, the Night King.
4. Arya’s going to kill Bran with it
Viewers have noted that Bran looked a bit wistful as he handed Arya the dagger, as if he knows something bad is going with it, and he can’t stop it. Some have connected this to the mad theory that Bran is going to become the Night King. If we take that out-there idea as a given, then perhaps Bran means for Arya to use the knife on him after his transformation. But, like, really?
5. Something to do with a long-dead Targaryen
Fans reckon that when Bran asked Littlefinger who the dagger belonged to, he knew that the blade once belonged to a Targaryen. Arya has always been obsessed with Visenya Targaryen, who had a Valyrian steel sword called Dark Sister: you might remember her talking about it in a conversation with Tywin Lannister. Redditors think the sword might have been melted down and reforged to create multiple weapons, including the dagger.
In the book’s history, the Dark Sister sword eventually found its way to the Brynden Rivers, the man who would go on to become Bran’s teacher, the Three-Eyed Raven, before being lost – so if the dagger was once Dark Sister, it’d form interesting parallels between Bran and his teacher, and Arya and her hero Visenya. Probably a bit much to explain all that in the show, though.