43

Different characters say more than once that a sword forged in a castle is a pretty expensive thing. But nobody, even a totally broke person would loot a defeated enemy to take his weapon and sell it.

Why? Looks like a smart move to me.

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    Isn't that almost exactly how Arya lost Needle? Aside from the selling part, Polliver finds a sword that's much nicer than anything he owns, so he takes it. – Telestia Jun 7 '16 at 13:17
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    I may be mis-remembering, as its been awhile since I've read the books, and I've only seen a single TV episode (Arya leaving wounded Hound). Don't the losers in a tournament pay a "ransom" for their equipment? The more I think about it, this probably is not GoT, though I'm surprised it wouldn't be included by GRRM. – Michael Richardson Jun 7 '16 at 13:37
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    @MichaelRichardson I don't remember how much it comes up in ASOIAF, but ransoming of equipment lost in tournaments plays a fairly large role in the Dunk and Egg novellas which occur in the same universe. – ssell Jun 7 '16 at 14:26
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    swords cost a lot to make, but have little resell value, as there is not really a second-hand market for custom-made swords. – njzk2 Jun 7 '16 at 15:48
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    @njzk2 Yup some smiths are pretty picky about second hand equipment. Like Steely Pate told Ser Duncan the tall that he will not buy his second hand armor except to melt it for metal. – Aegon Jun 7 '16 at 16:21
19

Let's rephrase the question: "Why does no one take the murdered victim's sword to sell it?"

CSI doesn't really exist in the Game of Thrones world, so if there are no witnesses to your fight with an enemy, you normally can get away with it. However, carrying the victim's belongings, especially something as valuable as a sword, will implicate you in the killing enough for anyone that wants you hanged to get you hanged as a murderer.

As mentioned in the other answers: If the fight was an honorable duel in public, you are a noble and probably don't need the money from selling a sword, and you certainly don't need a reputation of a looter.

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    I'd watch "CSI: King's Landing" for sure – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 7 '16 at 15:29
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    Every episode would end with "It was Tyrion!" – Azor Ahai Jun 7 '16 at 18:56
61

The Focus on Highborns/Higher Social class

A Lord or an anointed knight would find looting corpses below them. They normally own a fortune so they do not need to sell swords from corpses.

Common soldiers do loot corpses or whatever they fancy in posessions of their victims.

GoT focuses on Knights, Lords, Kings, Theocrats etc. None of them are exactly the sort who would sully their hands in mud to strip weapons off a corpse. The kind of people who would do that are not worth the air-time on screen.

Are your victims weapons better?

Anyways who is to say that fallen man has better weapons than you? Yours might be way better so there won't be any desire to pick up the junk anyways.

What's better? Heavy or Shiny?

Besides, carrying extra swords and weapons is just extra weight to bear when you're a common soldier. Which is why soldiers prefer to loot more lighter possessions such as valuables, boots, clothes etc. You have to carry your things for hundreds of miles as a soldier. Why burden yourself with something you may or may not get to sell in future?

Can you use the said weapons yourself in future?

On a side note, A person is more familiar with his own weapon. Give a man a new sword and he will spend some time trying to familiarize with the thing. For example, if we consider books, Ser Vardis Egen died because Lysa insisted that he should fight with Jon Arryn's sword instead of his own. From AGOT, Catelyn's POV:

The engraved silver blade was beautiful beyond a doubt, but it seemed to Catelyn that Ser Vardis might have been more comfortable with his own sword. Yet she said nothing; she was weary of futile arguments with her sister.

Do people carry multiple swords in GoT universe?

Also it is not normal (Although not unheard of) to wield/carry dual swords as Jaime told Brienne in S03E02:

I never understood why some knights felt the need to carry two swords.

Conclusion

So in conclusion, there are several reasons:

  1. You might be highborn and above such acts.
  2. You are happy with your current weapons and do not wish to burden yourself with extra especially if you are a foot soldier. Swords look fun but they are very heavy.
  3. You prefer your spoils of war to be in form of Golden dragons. Who are you going to sell the sword to anyways, with all the armorers taken and smallfolk robbed?
  4. You prefer to go to battle with a weapon you know and a weapon you have worked with. You don't want to risk your life with an unfamiliar blade.
  5. You probably do switch your old rusted and nicked blade with a finer one of a fallen foe but since you are not really a noteworthy character so nobody bothers to give you any air-time.
  • 4
    I agree with this - and note that a common soldier would typically only loot weapons to replace or supplement his own. Weapons are heavy, and in the middle of the battle you're unlikely to be near a merchant - besides, prices will be low anyway with such easy supply around. You're better off looting coins, jewellery etc. – Jon Story Jun 7 '16 at 17:18
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    Furthermore: if a poor soldier doesn't own a sword, looting one won't be of much help. Those things are difficult to use, and you need months of training before you are more of a danger to your enemy than to yourself. – Davidmh Jun 8 '16 at 15:20
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    Spoken like a true Targaryen :) – J A Terroba Jun 9 '16 at 15:21
  • "4) ..with a stranger blade." Slight tweak suggested: either "..with a stranger's blade." (he did not know the man whose blade he took) or "..with a strange blade." (a blade which he was not familiar or used to wielding). The way it is written makes both old and new blades sound strange or weird. ;) – Andrew Thompson Jun 9 '16 at 17:54
  • One minor point you didn't add, which I think would also be important: At least higher quality weapons wouldn't be mass produced. They're uniquely crafted and trying to sell Lord So-and-so's blade coincidentally to someone who might have liked Lord So-and-so could be reason enough to get unwanted attention, even for lower class soldiers. – Mario Jun 10 '16 at 6:27
20

This does happen, albeit in the books more than the TV series.

In Season 6, Episode 7 it is stated that the visitors to the camp are looking for Money, Food or Steel as payment for protection.

Also remember that (most) of the characters that we follow are:

a) rich

b) honorable

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    Well, rich anyway. Honorable, not so much. – Joe L. Jun 7 '16 at 17:53
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    Perhaps, "see themselves as honorable and above such acts" would be closer to the mark? – Todd Wilcox Jun 7 '16 at 18:46
  • The thing is, at the end of that same episode (The Broken Man) when we come back to the scene of a massacre there are weapons scattered all over the place (and in several bodies). So if they were so keen on collecting "steel" why did they leave so much of it behind? – Matt Burland Jun 7 '16 at 20:26
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    I don't think it has yet been revealed who did the massacre and why. – DariM Jun 7 '16 at 22:10
  • I did consider placing scare quotes around the honorable. – Dan Kelly Jun 8 '16 at 14:50
13

There are many instances in ASOIAF of victors taking weapons from fallen enemies. Few instances of this have been shown on the GoT T.V. show. This is because screen time is valuable and, as has been pointed out in other answers, most victors are lords and knights who do not need to loot corpses. Below are some examples of it happening implicitly or explicitly in the books and show.

Needle is taken from Arya. (Shown in show and books) Mentioned in previous answer.

Ice is taken from Ned Stark. (Implied in show and books)

Dawn is taken by Ned Stark. (Implied in books) Returned by Ned to the Daynes.

Wildlings main source of steel weapons is looting rangers of the nights watch. (Implied in books)

  • 2
    Ice and Dawn aren't examples of someone taking a sword to sell it, though... – recognizer Jun 8 '16 at 16:37
  • Dawn wasn't stolen. Technically, yes, he "took" it from the body of Arthur Dayne, but he only picked it up to return the sword to the house who owns it. – Darrick Herwehe Jun 8 '16 at 18:33
  • Also, Ice being taken is not "implied", it's downright shown in both book and show. Hell, they used it to cut off his head and forge both new Lannister blades. This last one is even shown in the show. – J A Terroba Jun 9 '16 at 15:23
3

It very much depends on the circumstances. Looting battlefields is well documented throughout the middle ages as was taking prisoners for ransom. It is certainly the case that common soldiers or men at arms might well take the opportunity to strip fallen enemies (or even friends) for nay bits of equipment that they would find immediately useful.

There are also a few other considerations.

Firstly is pure logistics. If you have won a decisive victory and are about to go home you might take anything of any value off a battlefield to sell later but this presents the immediate problem of how you get it back with you. In medieval type warfare logistics were severely limited and a common soldier might struggle to carry just their own arms, equipment and supplies so they need to sort out some way of physically taking any plunder away with them.

In this context soldiers would tend to concentrate on higher value and more portable items like coins, jewellery or even teeth. while you might swap your own sword for a better quality one carrying two or three extras is quickly going to become a major chore.

Also military discipline may make very obvious plunder difficult, whether for moral reasons or just not wanting the baggage train encumbered with loot, especially if the campaign is ongoing.

There is also basic supply and demand. After a major war mediocre swords will be in high supply and low demand and you also need to take them to a market whre they have some value.

All of the above tend to favour local scavengers or more organised and professional outfits who follow battles rather than soldiers who may be a long way from home and more interested in more readily negotiable booty.

1

Hypothetical reason:

Most highborn, merchants and men of wealth had a very distinguished looking swords.

And when it was rare to carry around two swords, carrying two swords would raise suspicions.

There could be a possibility of someone knowing the previous owner of the sword.

There would be rumors about you selling someones sword to the merchant and someone potentially dangerous to you could be fast enough to inquire the merchant about the freshly sold weaponry.

Now there would be more talk about you taking another mans life as long as the loved ones of that fallen man hear nothing of it you are safe, but when they do you will most likely be poisoned or stabbed to death in some alley.

In conclusion: Not taking the sword of a slain man is a life insurance of it's own.

0

It does happen. Tywin Lannister took Eddard's sword "Ice", melted it and forged "Oathkeeper" and "Widow's Wail". Obviously he did not sell it - valyrian steel is nearly priceless and on top of that he is a Lannister, therefore loaded.

In normal combat that would not happen very often - the swords used by the common soldiers appear fairly standard and thus of little interest to either lords or commoners.

I suspect that the bodies of any lords killed in battle are claimed by the winning lord. I don't have any references at this time, I'll try to find some later tonight.

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