The Long Night is the single most important event in the history of the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, and yet, we have basically no idea what caused it, and only the foggiest of notions as to how it was ended. However, I believe that George R. R. Martin has cleverly hidden the cause of the Long Night and the important events of the War for the Dawn inside of the folklore and local legends of the books. It is my hypothesis that when we compare the stories of Azor Ahai, the Grey King, Durran Godsgrief, and a few Others, we begin to see a coherent story emerge. It’s a story about comets, falling meteors, earthquakes, floods, and a nuclear winter, and about the humans that were alive at the time and what they did to survive and overcome the darkness. These legends represent a kind of “bard’s truth,” and I believe they can be understood if we consider them as metaphorical references to real events.
George seems to have taken this one step further. I submit that the main action of the text is often written in the form of symbolic metaphor, just like the ancient myths of the story. These metaphorical scenes in the main text in turn refer back to a corresponding legendary event in the Dawn Age. To say it plainly, when someone like Stannis or Beric or Jon Snow wields a flaming sword, they are probably playing the “archetypal role” of Azor Ahai and telling us something about what he did and who he was. When we are reading a Theon chapter, we’re likely to get metaphors which refer to past events involving the Iron Islands and the Grey King.
George has apparently used this technique throughout the entire series; I have come to the opinion that most of the main characters of the story are actually reprising archetypal roles set out in the Dawn Age, or replaying some part of an important event from that time. This means that we can compare the metaphors in the main action to the older legends in order to decipher their ultimate meaning. By learning about these reoccurring archetypes and events, we can gain insight as to what the heroes and anti-heroes of our story might need to do to restore harmony and balance to the song of ice and fire.
Arianne Martel gives us the mechanism in A Feast For Crows, describing the arms of House Toland, a dragon eating its own tail:
“The dragon is time. It has no beginning and no ending, so all things come round again.”
The Bloodstone Compendium is my collection of essays attempting to uncover this astronomical backstory. As you will soon see, the scope of these events is nothing short of earth-shattering and world-shaping. The true complexity of the mind of George R. R. Martin is revealed in the tapestry of past and future events which he is simultaneously weaving at both ends.
“For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them. The oak is the acorn, the acorn is the oak. And the weirwood … a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past.” (ADWD, Bran)
The world that George R. R. Martin has created, the Planetos, if you will, is a most definitely a magical one. Therefore, all of these disasters should be thought of as magically enhanced versions of natural disasters, just as the Doom of Valyria was a magically “enhanced” version of a massive volcanic eruption. The magic of A Song of Ice and Fire is rooted in natural forces, such as ice and fire; water and air; earth, stone, and tree; light, shadow, and blood; suns, moons, stars, and comets. Thus it is only natural that disasters like earthquakes, meteor strikes, and floods have magical origins and come with magical consequences.
What we will not be doing it trying to explain the mysteries of A Song of Ice and Fire with science or astrophysics. “Mythical astronomy” means mythology based on observation of nature and the heavens. The most basic definition of astronomy is just that – observation of the heavens. Man has always used mythology and religion to try to understand the forces of the universe, and George has recreated this phenomena with the ancient legends of A Song of Ice and Fire.
✧ Greenseer Kings of Ancient Westeros
✧ Return of the Summer King
✧ The God-on-Earth
End of Ice and Fire
✧ Burn Them All
✧ The Sword in the Tree
✧ The Cold God’s Eye
✧ The Battle of Winterfell
✧ Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
✧ The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
✧ Waves of Night & Moon Blood
✧ The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
✧ Tyrion Targaryen
✧ Lucifer means Lightbringer
Sacred Order of Green Zombies A
✧ The Last Hero & the King of Corn
✧ King of Winter, Lord of Death
✧ The Long Night’s Watch
Great Empire of the Dawn
✧ History and Lore of House Dayne
✧ The Great Empire of the Dawn
✧ Flight of the Bones
Moons of Ice and Fire
✧ Shadow Heart Mother
✧ Dawn of the Others
✧ Visenya Draconis
✧ The Long Night Was His to Rule
✧ R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons
The Blood of the Other
✧ Prelude to a Chill
✧ A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
✧ The Stark that Brings the Dawn
✧ Eldric Shadowchaser
✧ Prose Eddard
✧ Ice Moon Apocalypse
Weirwood Compendium A
✧ The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
✧ A Burning Brandon
✧ Garth of the Gallows
✧ In a Grove of Ash
✧ Venus of the Woods
✧ It’s an Arya Thing
✧ The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa
Weirwood Compendium B
✧ To Ride the Green Dragon
✧ The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
✧ Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
✧ A Silver Seahorse
Signs and Portals
✧ Veil of Frozen Tears
✧ Sansa Locked in Ice
Sacred Order of Green Zombies B
✧ The Zodiac Children of Garth the Green
✧ The Great Old Ones
✧ The Horned Lords
✧ Cold Gods and Old Bones
We Should Start Back
✧ AGOT Prologue
~ Comets, Dragons, Flaming Swords ~
From A Clash of Kings, here is the legend of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes:
A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. ‘Nissa Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes. (ACOK, Davos)
With that in mind, the story of the second moon, from TWOIAF:
…while in Quarth, the tales state that there was once a second moon in the sky. One day this moon was scalded by the sun and cracked like an egg, and one million dragons poured forth.
Now, the original version of the Qarthine legend, as told to Daenerys by a Dothraki handmaiden in A Game of Thrones:
“A trader from Qarth once told me that dragons came from the moon,” blond Doreah said as she warmed a towel over the fire ….
Silvery-wet hair tumbled across her eyes as Dany turned her head, curious. “The moon?”
“He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi,” the Lysene girl said. “Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame. One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.”
The two Dothraki girls giggled and laughed. “You are foolish strawhead slave,” Irri said. “Moon is no egg. Moon is god, woman wife of sun. It is known.”
“It is known,” Jhiqui agreed. (AGOT, Daenerys)
Here we have an association between the forging of Lightbringer and the origins of dragons via the common link of the cracking of the moon. In one story, the moon cracked at Nissa Nissa’s death cry, while in the other it was the sun’s heat that cracked the moon like an egg. In one story, Lightbringer is born; in the other, dragons are born. Now a quote from Xaro Xoan Daxos, speaking to Dany in A Dance with Dragons:
“When your dragons were small, they were a wonder. Grown, they are death and devastation, a flaming sword above the world.”
So, dragons can be a symbol for a flaming sword, specifically one hanging above the world in menacing fashion. Has anything else been compared to a flaming sword above the world? Gendry, speaking to Arya in A Clash of Kings:
It was splendid and scary all at once. “The red sword,” the bull named it. He claimed it looked like a sword, the blade still red-hot from the forge. When Arya squinted the right way, she could see the sword too, only it wasn’t a new sword, it was Ice, her father’s great sword, all ripply Valyrian steel and the red was Lord Eddard’s blood on the blade after Ser Ilyn the King’s Justice had cut off his head.
The comet can either be seen as a flaming sword or a bloody sword, which is interesting because Azor Ahai created his flaming sword Lightbringer by covering it in blood. Blood and fire, blood and fire… the words of House Targaryen, the “blood of the dragon.” Marwyn the mage tells us that all Valyrian magic was rooted in blood and fire, in fact. The “dragonbinder” horn that Euron Crow’s Eye gave to Victarion is inscribed with Valyrian glyphs which say “blood for fire, fire for blood.” That’s basically the recipe we are given for Lightbringer the flaming sword – blood for fire. Dragons and flaming swords share much of the same symbolism, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence that George compares the comet to a flaming sword and a bloody sword in the same passage.
The very first sentence of A Clash of Kings compares the comet’s tail to a sword wound, with dragonstone in the background:
The comet’s tail spread across the dawn, a red slash that bled above the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky.
The first sentence of a chapter, book, play, or other type of story is generally seen as significant, as setting the tone for the book to come. And here we see the comet, “bleeding” in the sky above Dragonstone. A paragraph later, we read:
The maester did not believe in omens. And yet … old as he was, Cressen had never seen a comet half so bright, nor yet that color, that terrible color, the color of blood and flame and sunsets. (ACOK, Prologue)
Blood and flame and sunsets – all the same red, and that’s the red of the comet, which is described as either “burning” or “bleeding” in various scenes. The inclusion of “sunset” in this list of ominously red things seems like it might be a reference to the Long Night, when the sun set for a good long time. This suggests an association between the comet and the Long Night. Lightbringer was forged during the Long Night, and it is associated with the comet, so this appears to match up so far.
Of course Melissandre sees the comet and Lightbringer as being connected:
“Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai come again, the warrior of fire. In him the prophecies are fulfilled. The red comet blazed across the sky to herald his coming and he bears Lightbringer, the red sword of heroes.” (ACOK, Davos)
Mellissandre again, from a Jon chapter in A Dance with Dragons:
“I have seen it in the flames, read of it in ancient prophecy. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt.”
Between these two quotes we can see that Azor Ahai, warrior of fire, and Lightbringer, the flaming sword, are associated with “bleeding stars” and waking dragons from stone. Comets, dragons, and flaming swords – that’s the song we are singing here.
Naturally, we have to hear from the most reliable source in Westeros, Old Nan. Of course Old Nan knows what’s up with that red comet:
“Dragons,” she said, lifting her head and sniffing. She was near blind and could not see the comet, yet she claimed she could smell it. “It be dragons, boy,” she insisted. (ACOK, Bran)
Don’t even ask how she knows, she just knows.
Now lest we find ourselves short on comets-as-dragons metaphors, we get this interpretation of the comet from Osha the wildling. She’s just heard the master’s suggestion that the wolves think the comet is the moon, and suddenly finds the words of House Targaryen on her lips:
“Your wolves have more sense than your maester,” the wildling woman said. “They know truths the grey man has forgotten.” The way she said it made him shiver, and when he asked what the comet meant, she answered, “Blood and fire, boy, and nothing sweet.” (ACOK, Bran)
The person for whom the comet holds the most significance is undoubtedly Daenerys Targaryen:
Jhogo spied it first. “There,” he said in a hushed voice. Dany looked and saw it, low in the east. The first star was a comet, burning red. Bloodred; fire red; the dragon’s tail. She could not have asked for a stronger sign. (AGOT, Daenerys)
Again we see that the comet is symbolically equivalent to a dragon. We also find yet another confirmation that blood red and fire red are the same color – dragon red – and thus bear a symbolic relationship. “Fire and blood” are exactly the right words for House Targaryen, the blood of the dragon. And indeed, the dragons hatch immediately after the bleeding star appears. Indeed, we could not have asked for a stronger sign. 😉
So – comets, dragons, flaming swords – they all seem related to each other, and to Lightbringer, the sword of blood and fire. The comet is compared to dragons and flaming swords both, and signals Azor Ahai’s return. Dragons and flaming swords are the product of the two moon cracking stories – the Qarthine origin-of-dragons legend and the Lightbringer legend. So what’s up with the comet? What does it have to do with anything? To answer this, lets return to the idea of the the second moon cracking like an egg after a scalding from the sun, and the subsequent pouring forth of “a thousand thousand dragons.”
Dragons are associated with comets and meteors the world round (that’s here on planet earth we’re talking about). Chinese mythology is full of this. They usually depict their dragons as being rather fish-like and partially immersed in the ocean, because they had to worry about comet and meteor impacts in the Pacific Ocean triggering tsunamis along their sizable coastline. A “dragon” that falls into the sea – a “sea-dragon,” if you will. The founding hero of the Ironborn was the Grey King, who supposedly slew a “sea dragon” in the Dawn Age. That sea dragon, Nagga, was said to have drowned whole islands in her wroth. An island-drowning sea dragon – that sure sounds an awful lot like a meteor impact, in the same way that giants waking in the earth sounds very much like an earthquake. These are two great examples of what I mean by the phrase “mythical astronomy” – myth and legend based on observation of the heavens and of nature.
The famous “plumed serpent” himself, Quetzalcoatl of various Mesoamerican legends, is associated with both a comet and with Venus, the Morningstar. The ‘plume’ refers to the head of the comet, like a lion’s mane, and the serpent’s tail is the comet’s tail, just as Dany sees it as the dragon’s tail and Edmure as the tail of a fish. Quetzalcoatl is sometimes depicted as the “smoky-eyed star,” further suggesting his association with comets (and star-eyes, for what it’s worth). The Morningstar connection is important because the latin word “lucifer” translates to both “light-bringer” and “morningstar,” and was used to refer to the planet Venus. These connections are actually so important that I have a short essay dedicated to them, titled “Lucifer Means Lightbringer.”
It’s easy to understand why comets are seen as dragons, particularly falling meteors, as they ignite in the atmosphere on their descent to the planet, and sometimes crash to the earth with a mighty roar and concussive impact. It’s also easy to see why they are associated with the divine or supernatural, because they are literally ‘stars’ (meteorites) descending from the heavens to the earth. It calls to mind the Greek myth of Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods on top of Mount Olympus, and it’s A Song of Ice and Fire counterpart of the Grey King stealing fire from the Storm God and his mighty thunderbolt. The Grey King is also the guy associated with slaying the sea dragon and possessing its fire, so we may have two versions of the same story here. This guy is pulling down fiery things from heaven, and this “fire of the gods” which he possessed may well have taken the form of a comet or meteorite.
With all this in mind, let’s consider again the Qarthine story of a moon cracking like an egg after being burned buy the sun’s fire. A thousand thousand dragons pouring forth, all at once, is a perfect mythological interpretation of a meteor shower. A shower of moon meteors.
There’s evidence for the idea of a meteor shower being symbolically equivalent to flying dragons right before Daenerys hears this Qarthine legend from her handmaiden, Doreah. It’s from the very same chapter:
But it was not the plains Dany saw then. It was King’s Landing and the great Red Keep that Aegon the Conqueror had built. It was Dragonstone where she had been born. In her mind’s eye they burned with a thousand lights, a fire blazing in every window. In her mind’s eye, all the doors were red.
If these dragons of the Qarthine myth were really flaming meteorites, pieces of the moon itself which drank the sun’s fire, then they easily be described as “dragon stones.” The moon cracked like an egg to hatch dragons, just as Dany’s dragons wake from stone eggs. Indeed, I think George is using the fortress of Dragonstone to symbolize the destroyed second moon, in this scene and many others. Here we see that Dragonstone has a thousand lights inside which are blazing fires. The dragon-stone moon also had a thousand fires inside, waiting to hatch. We’ll return to this idea in a moment.
The fires blazing in the windows are also symbolically linked to the red door. In Daenerys’s dream of finally waking the dragon, she “wakes the dragon” when she crosses the threshold of the red door. In the Prologue of A Clash of Kings, this idea is really hammered home, so we will return to the final hours of poor, valiant old Maetser Cressen:
A night wind whispered through the great windows, sharp with the smell of the sea. Torches flickered along the walls of Dragonstone, and in the camp beyond, he could see hundreds of cookfires burning, as if a field of stars had fallen to the earth. Above, the comet blazed red and malevolent.
A pair of guardsmen opened the heavy red doors before him, unleashing a sudden blast of noise and light. Cressen stepped down into the dragon’s maw. (ACOK, Prologue)
This paragraph has it all – a red comet, torches, a field of small fires like stars fallen to earth, red doors and dragon’s maws and a sudden blast of light and sound. Sounds like a bright, loud, fiery dragon explosion. Just like the thousand blazing fires and red doors of Dragonstone represent the thousand dragons that poured forth from the second moon, we see that the red door is symbolic of a dragon’s mouth, open and roaring.
I’d like to highlight a specific technique that George is using here, as it’s one he goes to often to show us symbolic associations. Multiple things which are meant to represent the same concept are presented in rapid succession, one after another. Flickering torches, dragonstone, and hundreds of fires, then a field of stars fallen to the earth – and above, the comet, red and malevolent. The field of stars fallen to earth is one of the most transparent clues about the moon-meteor shower – that’s exactly what it was, shooting stars (meteorites) falling to earth. The falling stars were dragon stones, and they are directly tied to that red comet.
Let’s return to the Daenerys chapter where she hears the origin of dragons story:
Dany gave the silver over to the slaves for grooming and entered her tent. It was cool and dim beneath the silk. As she let the door flap close behind her, Dany saw a finger of dusty red light reach out to touch her dragon’s eggs across the tent. For an instant a thousand droplets of scarlet flame swam before her eyes. She blinked, and they were gone. Stone, she told herself. They are only stone, even Illyrio said so, the dragons are all dead. She put her palm against the black egg, fingers spread gently across the curve of the shell. The stone was warm. Almost hot. “The sun,” Dany whispered. “The sun warmed them as they rode.”
In this second paragraph, a finger of red light (there’s our red comet) touched the dragon eggs, and a thousand droplets of scarlet flame swam before her eyes. This is another clue that a swarm of a thousand fiery dragons can come from a dragon-stone-egg. Shortly after this, we get the payoff quote:
“Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame. One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.”
Later in A Game of Thrones, just after seeing the red comet for the first time and just before lighting Khal Drogo’s pyre, we get the motif again:
She told herself that there were powers stronger than hatred, and spells older and truer than any the maegi had learned in Asshai. The night was black and moonless, but overhead a million stars burned bright. She took that for an omen.
The takeaway here is that a million stars burned bright when the moon disappeared. That’s because the million stars symbolize the million dragon meteor shower, and they appeared when the moon was destroyed during the Long Night – a moonless night, indeed.
It must have been a hell of a meteor shower! But then, we are told we used to have a second moon, which exploded. That makes sense – if you can come up with a way to explode a moon, much of the debris would reign down on the planet it orbits. Most pieces would burn up in the atmosphere, like flaming dragons… and a few big chunks would likely make it all the way down, causing huge detonations – ones capable of “drowning whole islands,” like the Sea Dragon which the Grey King slew in the Dawn Age, or like the “Hammer of the Waters” that the children of the forest supposedly used to break the Arm of Dorne (I’m not sure the children did this, necessarily). In fact, it only takes a decent sized meteor impact to cause quite a bit of damage, and if it’s a larger impact, well, the lights go out – so much debris is thrown back into the atmosphere that the skies can go black for years. This is known as a nuclear winter, and it matches the description of the the Long Night to a “t.” This explanation fits, but only if one or more fairly large chunks of exploded moon made it all the way to the surface of Planetos. There’s definitely evidence to support this, which we will show.
So, our theory so far is that the story of dragons pouring forth from an exploded moon is actually a clever mythological description for the destruction of a small moon exploding in the sky and reigning down objects onto the planet, some of which burn up in the atmosphere as a gigantic firestorm and meteor shower, and some of which impact the surface of Planetos. The resulting debris from the explosion and impacts darken out the sky for several years, causing the global mega-disaster remembered as the Long Night.
This event seems to be connected to the forging of Lightbringer, per Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy which cracked the moon, as well as the general symbolic interchangeability of dragons, comets, and Lightbringer. We’ll attempt to corroborate these connections further as we go, but it must be said: it seems as though Bennero, High Priets of the Red Temple of R’hllor in Volantis, knows something about this ancient moon destruction:
The knight nodded. “The red temple buys them as children and makes them priests or temple prostitutes or warriors. Look there.” He pointed at the steps, where a line of men in ornate armor and orange cloaks stood before the temple’s doors, clasping spears with points like writhing flames. “The Fiery Hand. The Lord of Light’s sacred soldiers, defenders of the temple.”
Fire knights. “And how many fingers does this hand have, pray?”
“One thousand. Never more, and never less. A new flame is kindled for every one that gutters out.”
Benerro jabbed a finger at the moon, made a fist, spread his hands wide. When his voice rose in a crescendo, flames leapt from his fingers with a sudden whoosh and made the crowd gasp. The priest could trace fiery letters in the air as well. Valyrian glyphs. Tyrion recognized perhaps two in ten; one was Doom, the other Darkness. (ADWD, Tyrion)
If you were trying to explain this theory in a game of Charades, you couldn’t do any better. It’s unclear whether Benerro is teaching the people about the ancient moon’s destruction, or prophesying the destruction of the remaining moon, but either one supports our theory. The destruction of the moon by fire led to doom and darkness, that’s easy enough to understand, even with our limited knowledge of High Valyrian. Ostensibly the point of bringing up the past destruction of the moon would be to warn against the possibility of it happening again, so it seems that must be the purpose. Indeed, Benerro’s speech causes quite a reaction in the crowd, as shouts erupt, women weep, and men shake their fist. Tyrion thinks to himself “I have a bad feeling about this.” Quite right, Tyrion; nobody likes doom and darkness. Well, most people don’t like doom and darkness, but there are some others who do…
Also take note of a couple new symbols here for the meteor shower – a fiery hand with a thousand fingers. The fingers of the fiery hand are the soldiers of the red temple, who wield fiery spears. A thousand fiery spears, a thousand flaming dragons, a thousand fiery fingers – it’s all the same symbolism. Any time we see a thousand (or a million) fiery things, we should think of the meteor shower and start looking around for other Lightbringer symbolism. Benerro points at the moon and makes a fist, to show us that the closed fist represents the moon before impact. When his hand opens, flames leaping from his fingers, we should imagine the thousand fiery fingers pouring forth from the moon explosion like fiery spears, or like flaming dragons.
~ The Helpful Elf Moon, (Grand)Mother of Dragons ~
Let’s talk about Nissa Nissa for a minute. I think Nissa Nissa is playing the role of the moon in the Lightbringer legend, for several reasons. The moon was the mother of the thousand thousand dragons, dying in childbirth. Nissa Nissa was, in a way, the “mother” of Lightbringer, and she too died giving birth to it. Lightbringer and dragons are symbolically equivalent, as we’ve seen, so placing Nissa Nissa in the role of the moon would makes a certain amount of sense.
If you’ll indulge me a small detour from the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, I’d like to take a look at some of the real-world translations of the word Nissa, because they seem relevant to the matter at hand. Nissa is a Norwegian word, which means “helpful elf” or “michevious elf.” It’s a well known word in Scandinavian countries, a part of their Christmas lore, so when we consider the large influence of Norse mythology on the books, it seems likely George is aware of this meaning, and may first heard of it in this context. Nisha is a not-uncommon Vedic Sanskrit female surname which means “night,” while in Arabic it just means “woman.” In addition to Norse myth (and many others), George has also pulled some ideas from the Hindu legends of the Vedas, so it’s likely he is aware of these translations of Nisha as well. That’s pretty good so far – the moon is certainly a “night woman,” and you could see a moon as a kind of “elf planet,” a smaller version of a planet. Nissa Nissa helped to forge Lightbringer, but I wonder, was this a helpful act, or an act of mischief? We’ll have to see if we can figure that out.
Another idea we can only file away in our back pocket for now is the implication that Nissa Nissa may have been a helpful elf in the sense that she was actually an elf – one of the children of the forest, perhaps. I can’t help but think of the story of the Last Hero and his broken sword – we are told he received some kind of critical help from the children of the forest to defeat the Others, and in the annals of the Night’s Watch it talks of the Last Hero wielding “dragonsteel” against the Others, and that they could not stand against it. Bran the Builder also received help from these “helpful elves,” so maybe it’s a thing.
I have also found something floating around in several places on the internet (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) called the “Seneca Moon Song,” which claims to translate Nissa as “grandmother moon” in the language of the Seneca Nation Native Americans, who are from the area which is now New York and Ontario. This is a really juicy translation – grandmother moon – so I had to mention it, but I must add the disclaimer that I have not been able to verify the authenticity of this translation, so please take it with several grains of salt. Whether or not the translation is accurate, the song itself appears to have been around for quite a while, so perhaps George is aware of it. Regardless, the translations of “helpful elf,” “night,” and “woman” are certainly suggestive.
Nissan is also the name of one of the months of the Hebrew calendar (a lunar based calendar, it should be noted). What’s significant about that in regards to our inquiry here is that passover falls during the month of Nissan. Passover celebrates the story of God’s judgment being meted out to he Egyptians though a variety of horrific plagues, which culminate in the death of every firstborn Egyptian male child. God’s angel of death “passes over” the homes of the Hebrews, sparing them. The take away here is the association between “Nissa” or “Nissan” and divinely-wrought plagues and disasters.
Nissa Nissa was already tied to the cracking of the moon, so these translations really just seem to confirm what we already suspected: Nissa Nissa is a moon-maiden, a maiden who symbolizes the moon. Just like this second moon which was burned by fire and blown to smithereens – into a million pieces, to be accurate – Nissa Nissa was absolutely destroyed by Lightbringer. Not just killed; “her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel.” Lightbringer drank her blood and soul, and if that sounds ominous to you, we’re in the same boat, my friend. She was fried, cooked, incinerated – just as the second moon was scalded and cracked like an egg. If this cracking of the second moon had something to do with the origin of actual dragons or the magic needed to tame them, then it was the original “mother of dragons.” This is a good fit with the idea of the moon being an “egg” from which things hatch, as well as being a “grandmother moon.”
Since comets and meteors can be seen as dragons OR flaming swords, perhaps those meteorites had something to do with the forging of Azor Ahai’s lightbringer sword, the prototype for dragon-steel. In this case, the second moon is the mother of dragon-swords as well, which would agree with my notion that the Qarthine origin of dragons story and the Lightbringer story are really referring to the same series of events. Nissa Nissa died to create Lightbringer, so if Nissa Nissa is the moon, making Lightbringer with moon meteors would make sense. We already have a conspicuous story about a magic sword made from a falling star, so this idea isn’t exactly out in left field. Lightbringer and these moon meteors are going to be the subject matter for the next several essays in one form or another, so we will be returning to this idea periodically.
To wrap up the Nissa Nissa stuff, I think the fact that George has repeated the word Nissa twice in her name might be meant to imply the idea that there are two moons, or at least there were two moons. I also think the elf connotation may imply that this exploded moon was smaller than the remaining one, an idea which makes the logistics of the overall scenario I am proposing a tiny bit more plausible. A smaller moon is easier to “explode,” and a larger moon might have created meteors big enough to wipe out all life on earth. I’m not overly worried about scientific logistics here, and I don’t think George is either – as I said in the outset, it’s a fantasy story, not hard science-fiction, and George has said that these issues of the seasons cannot be solved with rational science. Still, a smaller moon makes sense, and seems to be implied, so for what it’s worth, I am theorizing a smaller moon, and further away than the surviving one.
So, Nissa Nissa is analogous to the the elf Moon that exploded. Lightbringer the sword killed Nissa Nissa, so what killed the elf moon? Lightbringer the comet, of course! But wait, the legend says the moon cracked because it got too close to the sun. That doesn’t make sense though – moons don’t just wander out of orbit. So how was the sun perceived as being responsible for cracking the moon? Well, Lightbringer the sword didn’t just kill Nissa Nissa by itself – it was forged and wielded by Azor Ahai, ‘Warrior of Fire.’ If we place this warrior of fire, Azor Ahai, in the position of the sun, I believe that we can extrapolate a celestial alignment which creates both images – that of the moon wandering too close to the sun, and that of the sun stabbing the moon with a comet.
At the moment of impact, the comet would indeed look like a sword about to stab the moon. If the elf moon was in eclipse position – superimposed over the sun – it would really look like the moon got too close to the sun and cracked. It would also appear as though the comet, sticking out like a sword from the sun-moon conjunction, was being wielded by the sun. There’s actually good evidence for just such an alignment to be found all over the place – in the legend of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, in the story of the greenseers calling down the Hammer of the Waters from the God’s Eye, and in many metaphorical scenes throughout the series. I don’t want to give too much away of a future essay devoted to those topics, so I’ll leave it at that for now. But that’s what I am proposing – the legend of Lightbringer depicts a solar king stabbing his moon-wife with a comet sword, which translates in the sky as a comet striking the second moon while it was in eclipse position, resulting in a fiery explosion of dragon meteors. As the Dothraki say: “moon is god, woman-wife of sun.”
~ The Treacherous Sun, Comet-Splitter ~
Can a comet impact cause a moon to explode? Well, in real life, it’s a stretch, although a smaller moon is definitely a good place to start. The comet would have to be really massive, maybe as big as one-quarter or even one-half the size of the moon to be destroyed. Perhaps this comet was that freakishly large – the size and brightness of the red comet is certainly remarked upon many times in the book. Now add some magic to the equation, and we might be cooking with gas and a grill. That’s really the key here – even though George is using astronomical ideas and natural catastrophes as a starting point for this Long Night disaster, we cannot hold the mechanics of it to scientific standards. I’ll use the Doom of Valyria again as an example – it’s not important how big the volcanoes actually were, and how much damage fourteen massive volcanoes all erupting at once should actually cause in real life (hint: everyone living would probably die). it’s a magic volcano, and it does what George wants it to do. It’s the same idea here.
In other words (scientists cover your ears for a minute), a magic comet can absolutely destroy a moon. But here’s the problem with that – if Lightbringer was a comet that struck the moon, how is it back? How has it returned? Presumably, it’s the same comet, or else, why would it trigger the rebirth of Azor Ahai? Clearly, if it struck and killed a moon last time, there wouldn’t be anything left to return in the main story.
I think the answer lies hidden in the ice. Even though a comet appears to be a blazing fireball on the outside, it is basically a big ball of ice and dirt and rock (usually iron), often containing a few useful trace elements and minerals, such as nickel and phosphorus. Far out in space, the comet is cold and dark, but when it enters the inner solar system it gains a tail (two tails, to be exact: the dust tail which appears white, and the ion tail, which appears blue). Sometimes, when comets pass close by a large celestial body, like a planet or a sun, they fragment due to the gravitational pull of the celestial body. Comets orbit the sun like planets, but have very elliptical orbits which take them far outside the solar system at their furthest point, and sometimes very close to the sun on their way back around (the point at which the orbit of a celestial body passes closest to the sun is called perihelion – and yes, that’s me trying to win the scientists back over).
What if our Lightbringer comet split in two while orbiting around the sun, and on the way back, only one half of it was involved in the moon collision? Again, if the second moon was in solar eclipse position, the comet would have been seen to have come from the sun, seemingly blazing with the sun’s fire. It plunges into the heart of the moon, igniting everything in a blazing fireball, and pouring forth the thousand dragon meteor shower, along with a few large chunks of exploded moon. That makes sense logistically, but we need textual corroboration.
And again, we find it in the Ice: Ned’s sword Ice, that is. Ned’s Ice is directly compared to the red comet by Arya, who sees the comet as Ned’s sword, red with blood. Ice was split in two by… Tywin, the “head lion” of House Lannister – and of course lions are by far the most common symbol of the sun in world mythology. The two new swords made from Ice are Widow’s Wail, referring to Nissa Nissa’s “cry of anguish and ecstasy,” and Oathkeeper, which I think portends a fulfilled promise – the return of the half of the comet that survived. The Qarthine legend prophesies that one day our remaining moon will crack and return dragons to the world. That’s one hell of an oath to keep!
I can’t help but notice that Joffrey, owner of Widow’s Wail, is dead, like the half of the comet that obliterated the elf moon, and like Nissa Nissa herself. When Melisandre reports Joffrey’s death to Stannis in A Storm of Swords, she says that she heard “his mother’s wail” in the nightfires. Cersei was a widow at this point, so that was a widow’s wail, in a nightfire. This scene has several Lightbringer forging symbols, concluding with Stannis drawing Lightbringer, so I don’t think it’s coincidence that that Cersei the widow’s anguished cry is referred to as a “wail” in a nightfire. Nissa Nissa wasn’t a widow, but the theme of a dead spouse is there in her story. Really, the sun and moon kill each other, since the destroyed moon has the effect of blotting out the sun for years and leaving the earth cold and dark. There are many other occurrences of a “widow’s wail” in the story which seem to be referring to Lightbringer, and we will be taking a look at some of these down the line.
Brienne, on the other hand, bearer of Oathkeeper and keeper of oaths, is still alive, based on her very apropos last word: “sword,” as GRRM confirmed in an interview. She’s alive, just like the “Oathkeeper” half of the returning comet and the moon which survived. Interestingly, she’s also offering blood to weirwood trees with Oathkeeper, just as Ned did with Ice at the black pond in the Winterfell godswood. When Brienne kills a couple of the leftover bloody mummers with Oathkeeper at the whispers, she does her killing in front of a weirwood tree, and even buries poor old Nimble Dick Crabb right beneath the tree. The last place we saw her was headed down into Stoneheart’s lair, with Jaime in tow. It’s highly likely more killing will happen there with Oathkeeper, and the weirwood roots in the cave will again drink the blood. We will return to this idea in a future essay, but the point here is that not only can Ice symbolize the red comet, and therefore Lightbringer; Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper are also associated with Lightbringer and it’s family of symbolism.
There’s another link between Ned’s sword here and the meteors of the thousand thousand dragon meteor shower to be found when Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail are unveiled. This is from a Tyrion chapter of A Storm of Swords. Keep in mind that the sun is what (hypothetically) split the comet, so watch out for the sunlight acting on the sword.
“The colors are strange,” he commented as he turned the blade in the sunlight. Most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black, as was true here as well. But blended into the folds was a red as deep as the grey. The two colors lapped over one another without ever touching, each ripple distinct, like waves of night and blood upon some steely shore. “How did you get this patterning? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Nor I, my lord,” said the armorer. “I confess, these colors were not what I intended, and I do not know that I could duplicate them. Your lord father had asked for the crimson of your House, and it was that color I set out to infuse into the metal. But Valyrian steel is stubborn. These old swords remember, it is said, and they do not change easily. I worked half a hundred spells and brightened the red time and time again, but always the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it. And some folds would not take the red at all, as you can see.
Noting that Oathkeeper now bears the colors of House Targaryen, the blood of the dragon, compare that language about drinking the sun to this quote from the tale of the dragon meteor shower:
A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun.
Remember the the “finger of dusty red light” which touched the dragon eggs and caused the thousand droplets of scarlet flame to appear? We see it again when Brienne sees Oathkeeper for the first time:
She picked the treasure up gingerly, curled her fingers around the leather grip, and slowly slid the sword free of its scabbard. Blood and black the ripples shone. A finger of reflected light ran red along the edge.
Earlier in the scene where Tyrion sees Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper for the first time, we get this description:
“A wedding gift for Joffrey,” he told Tyrion. The light streaming through the diamond- shaped panes of glass made the blade shimmer black and red as Lord Tywin turned it to inspect the edge, while the pommel and crossguard flamed gold. “With this fool’s jabber of Stannis and his magic sword, it seemed to me that we had best give Joffrey something extraordinary as well. A king should bear a kingly weapon.”
The light streaming down comes through a diamond-shaped pane of glass: the diamonds evoke the concepts of twinkling starlight, cutting and sharp edges, and the stars themselves. The glass also evokes cutting and sharp edges, and further calls to mind dragonglass and the windows with blazing lights on Dragonstone which symbolized the meteor shower. We’ve even got a direct comparison to Stannis’s “Lightbringer” here. Take note of the “crossguard flamed gold” language and have a look at these quotes, one with Stannis’s flaming sword and the other with Beric Dondarrion’s, both of which are clearly symbolizing Lightbringer:
The Maiden lay athwart the Warrior, her arms widespread as if to embrace him. The Mother seemed almost to shudder as the flames came licking up her face. A longsword had been thrust through her heart, and its leather grip was alive with flame.
Lord Beric himself waited silent, calm as still water, his shield on his left arm and his sword burning in his right hand. Kill him, Arya thought, please, you have to kill him. Lit from below, his face was a death mask, his missing eye a red and angry wound. The sword was aflame from point to crossguard, but Dondarrion seemed not to feel the heat. He stood so still he might have been carved of stone.
The descriptions of the three swords is remarkably similar. As we can see, there really seems to be a lot of common language and symbolism between Lightbringer and Ned’s Ice, Oathkeeper, and Widow’s Wail, all of which strengthen the idea that the splitting of Ice is meant to be associated with the Lightbringer comet.
Honestly, I’ve kind of buried the lead here. In the story of Azor Ahai and the forging of Lightbringer, there are three attempts to temper the sword: once in water, a second time in the heart of a lion, and the third and fateful tempering in Nissa Nissa’s heartblood. The language of the second forging attempt, in the lion’s heart, is interesting: “the steel shattered and split.” The first attempt fails also but the word “split” is only used for the lion tempering. Taken together with Tywin the Lion Lord’s splitting of Ice, I think we might be on to something here. The idea of the comet splitting makes sense from a purely rational point of view, since we need a way for the comet to both destroy a moon eighth thousand years ago and still be returning to the story, and we find that it is has support in the text as well. I’ve also found some other scenes which appear to be Lightbringer forging metaphors that seem to depict the comet-splitting. We’ll delve deeper into this topic in an future essay dedicated to finding examples of the “three attempts to forge and temper Lightbringer” pattern. The splitting of the comet by the sun seems a good match for the second attempt to temper Lightbringer in the heart of a lion, and of course the collision with the moon would constitute the third and successful tempering of Lightbringer, when it lit up with red fire.
Now consider the color transformation. When Azor Ahai thrust the sword into Nissa Nissa, it was described as “white-hot” and “smoking,” only turning red after he withdrew it from her heart, stained with her blood. Ned’s sword starts out the standard color for Valyrian steel, very dark and smoky grey, but when Ice is melted down and reforged, not to mention defiled with Lord Eddard’s blood, the two new swords come out black and red, like “waves of night and blood.” When undead Lord Beric sets his sword afire before the duel with the Hound, he does so by smearing the blade with his own blood. Fire and blood, as they say. The inscription on Euron’s “dragonbinder” horn, which supposedly comes from Valyria, is even more specific. It reads “Blood for fire, fire for blood.” That seems to be what Lightbringer wants – to be covered in blood, so it can do it’s thing. It’s blood magic, just as original story suggests. If the original Lightbringer comet followed this pattern, it should not have turned red until after the moon exploded.
Regular, non-magical comets do not have red tails, but rather blue and white tails (with occasional localized exceptions due to atmospheric conditions). This must be stated clearly: for scientific reasons, red comets do not, and cannot, exist. The red color of the comet probably indicates that it is a supernatural comet, and has undergone transformation. In alchemy, red is the color of transformation, and so the transformed comet appears red. In fact, that’s likely the point of George making it red: to tell us that this is not an ordinary comet, that something special has happened to it. Transformation is a very important concept – it’s basically the beating red heart of the Lightbringer story. As we examine the waking of dragons scene at the end of A Game of Thrones, which we’ll do next, we’ll figure out who is transforming into what and try not to make any bad Decepticon jokes.
The last thing I will say about comet tails is this: the tail of the comet is what makes it look like a sword. Therefore, I think the logical way to look at the three attempts to forge and temper Lightbringer in terms of the comet is to consider the tail. If the first tail was white and blue, like a normal comet, this may represent the first tempering in cold water. When a comet’s orbit brings it into the inner solar system, it begins to break up, shedding rock and ice and leaving behind a trail of debris. When the earth passes through these debris fields, we experience a meteor shower. I can’t but wonder if the pale stone meteorite that the white sword Dawn was supposedly made from might have come from a piece of the original comet which broke off before it impacted with the moon. Dawn, the white sword that is pale as milkglass and alive with light, seems like a good symbolic match for the water forging, the white and blue comet tail, and the white hot and smoky description of Lightbringer pre-Nissa Nissa stabbing. Dawn is also the first part of the day, and so associating it with the first forging attempt makes a certain amount of sense. We’re about to see that the fiery dragon meteors of the moon’s destruction are likely to have been black, and associated with darkness and shadow, with drinking the light instead of giving it off. The idea of the Dawn meteorite coming from the comet before the moon impact provides an potential explanation for it being white, and alive with light. We’re about to take a close look at the scene in which Daenerys wakes her dragons from the stone eggs in Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, and in that the scene the first egg to crack open sends a bit of its shell bouncing and rolling out of the pyre, and it is described as “a chunk of curved rock, pale and veined with gold, broken and smoking.” I’m not sure if the three dragon hatchings are meant to parallel the three attempts to forge Lightbringer, but it certainly seems possible, and if so, it’s interesting that the first egg to crack was the one made of pale stone, just as Dawn was made from a pale stone meteorite.
~ Wake the Dragon: Sex and Swordplay ~
As we come down the home stretch, let’s turn our attention to the crux of this entire Lightbringer myth – the destruction of the moon and the waking of dragons from stone. As we listen to this next passage, look for all the different ways Azor Ahai is equated with the sun. The two are paralleled in this quote: the sun will be reborn, and Azor Ahai will be reborn. That’s because Azor Ahai is a living avatar of the sun, the “warrior of fire.”
“It is night in your Seven Kingdoms now,” the red woman went on, “but soon the sun will rise again. The war continues, Davos Seaworth, and some will soon learn that even an ember in the ashes can still ignite a great blaze. The old maester looked at Stannis and saw only a man. You see a king. You are both wrong. He is the Lord’s chosen, the warrior of fire. I have seen him leading the fight against the dark, I have seen it in the flames. The flames do not lie, else you would not be here. It is written in prophecy as well. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. The bleeding star has come and gone, and Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt. Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai reborn!” Her red eyes blazed like twin fires, and seemed to stare deep into his soul. (ACOK, Davos)
Although Melisandre’s interpretations of prophecies and flame-induced visions are highly suspect, her knowledge of prophecy is certainly accurate where it concerns Azor Ahai. Azor Ahai is associated with waking dragons from stone, and with being reborn. The ‘waking dragons from stone’ part makes a bit more sense when we think of Azor Ahai as the sun, waking the flaming dragon meteors from stone by destroying the second moon with a giant red comet sword. Nice guy, huh? This is the dude who stabbed his wife with a sword, after all. We’ll discuss the morality of the “warrior of fire” in just a moment, but at least we can say we think we understand the celestial meaning of Azor Ahai “waking dragons from stone.” But what does it mean for Azor Ahai to be reborn? Celestially speaking or terrestrially speaking, for that matter?
To answer this question, I’ll need to introduce the other side of the coin of the Azor Ahai & Nissa Nissa legend. Appropriately, Lightbringer is a dual-edged metaphor. On one hand, the forging of Lightbringer tells the story of a man who stabs his wife in the heart, sacrificing her life and soul to create a terrible, burning sword of magical power. Now, the first time I heard the story of Azor Ahai, I had the same reaction as Davos – this is an evil thing. Davos thinks to himself that he must not be made of the stuff of heroes, because he cannot fathom stabbing his own sweet wife with a sword, no matter how great the need for a magical talisman. Frankly, I agree – such an act can only produce an evil sword, and blood magic is not the stuff of heroes. Anti-heroes perhaps, and maybe there’s a machiavellian need for such dark magic or a way to cleanse and purify such an evil weapon… but I know who I would trust to make the right decision with the world’s fate in the balance – characters like Davos, Jon Snow, Brienne, Sansa, Samwell Tarly, Septon Meribald, etc.
To be clear, I am suggesting that the story of Lightbringer is a lie, in a certain sense. I could be wrong, but I do not think the darkness was repelled by the use of blood magic to create a burning sword. The celestial mechanics seem to confirm this, because it was the murder of the moon by the sun which caused the Long Night. The forging of Lightbringer created the darkness. Furthermore, I suspect that Nissa Nissa was not a willing sacrifice, but a victim of foul, red murder, just as the second moon appears to have been.
But this is only one side of the metaphor.
The other side, hidden beneath the surface, is the story of procreation. It’s the story of a mother, every mother, who risks her life in order to bring a new life into the world. Before the advent of modern science, the risk of dying in childbirth was very, very real, and so each time a mother choose to become pregnant and attempt to bring a new human being into the world, she was in fact risking her life, laying it down as a potential sacrifice. You’ll note that Martin has included this reality in his depiction of quasi-medieval life, and has even made it a central focus. The mothers of dragon people frequently die in childbirth, from the historical mothers of Targaryens to the mothers of Jon Snow, Daenerys, and Tyrion. I’m of the opinion that all three are in fact the blood of the dragon, but even if you aren’t sure about Jon or Tyrion, the pattern remains – the mothers of dragon people, and also non-dragon people, frequently die in childbirth.
The very first connection that led to the unravelling of this entire ‘comet striking the moon’ scenario was the link between the cracking of the moon in the Lightbringer story and the Qarthine ‘origin of dragons’ story. Connecting these two stories also gives us the two sides of the metaphor. From a certain perspective, the sun murdered the moon with a fiery comet sword, destroying it utterly and causing further devastation to the Planetos with those moon meteors. But it’s also a procreative act, because from a different perspective, we could say that the second moon died in the process of giving birth to dragon meteors. She was “impregnated” with dragon seed by the Lightbringer comet, and then cracked like an egg. This means that, symbolically, the comet is the sun’s fiery “shiva linga.” That means penis, by the way. That’s right: not only is the comet the suns sword, it’s also the sun’s penis. Or if you prefer, the sperm, the seed of life. Laugh it up, if you want – by all means, make your best floppy fish jokes. Where’s Tom o’ Seven Strings when you need him? Seriously though, there’s a great little quote from A Dance with Dragons which makes this symbolism abundantly clear. A sword can be a sword… or it can a “sword.” This conversation takes place between Lady Barbrey Dustin and Theon Greyjoy in the crypts of Winterfell. Note that Lady Barbrey’s eyes take fire when she speaks of receiving the bloody sword, a reference to the moon taking fire when it was impregnated by the Lightbringer comet:
She pulled off her glove and touched his knee, pale flesh against dark stone. “Brandon loved his sword. He loved to hone it. ‘I want it sharp enough to shave the hair from a woman’s cunt,’ he used to say. And how he loved to use it. ‘A bloody sword is a beautiful thing,’ he told me once.”
“You knew him,” Theon said.
The lantern light in her eyes made them seem as if they were afire. “Brandon was fostered at Barrowton with old Lord Dustin, the father of the one I’d later wed, but he spent most of his time riding the Rills. He loved to ride. His little sister took after him in that. A pair of centaurs, those two. And my lord father was always pleased to play host to the heir to Winterfell. My father had great ambitions for House Ryswell. He would have served up my maidenhead to any Stark who happened by, but there was no need. Brandon was never shy about taking what he wanted. I am old now, a dried-up thing, too long a widow, but I still remember the look of my maiden’s blood on his cock the night he claimed me. I think Brandon liked the sight as well. A bloody sword is a beautiful thing, yes. It hurt, but it was a sweet pain. (ADWD, The Turncloak)
As you can see, the bloody sword has two meanings. When it’s literally a sword, the blood comes from killing. From murder and from battle. Unwilling death. But when we are speaking of a “bloody sword” euphemistically as a reference to sex, it carries a different meaning, one of procreation and maiden’s blood, or, perhaps we should say, “moon blood.” Again, laugh it up if you want, but George is using this moon blood double entendre for a good reason – the second moon was the first maiden to be impregnated by Lightbringer, and there was definitely a lot of blood involved.
This sex and swordplay dual metaphor actually runs all through A Song of Ice and Fire. By way of example, here is the beginning of Jaime’s dream on the weirwood stump, the dream in which he and Brienne wield flaming swords in the bowels of Casterly Rock:
He closed his eyes, and hoped to dream of Cersei. The fever dreams were all so vivid …
Naked and alone he stood, surrounded by enemies, with stone walls all around him pressing close. The Rock, he knew. He could feel the immense weight of it above his head. He was home. He was home and whole. He held his right hand up and flexed his fingers to feel the strength in them. It felt as good as sex. As good as swordplay. Four fingers and a thumb. He had dreamed that he was maimed, but it wasn’t so. Relief made him dizzy. My hand, my good hand. Nothing could hurt him so long as he was whole. (ASOS, Jaime)
Sex and swordplay, or as TV show Bronn says, “fucking and fighting.” The bloody sword. There are plenty more quotes along these lines, but let’s keep it moving. Someone could probably write a good essay on this topic alone, if it doesn’t exist already.
So that covers the act of impregnation as implied by the bloody sword, so now let’s bring the concept of childbirth into this same dichotomy. This scene takes place as Robb’s army camps for the night in A Clash of Kings. Take note of the mentions of a “hungry” sword amidst a wash of red blood, bright red banners, and the red light-bath of the setting sun. These seem like clever allusions to Lightbringer, the glowing red sword associated with blood and flame and sunset, the one that drank Nissa Nissa’s blood:
Outside, she found song of a very different sort. Rymund the Rhymer sat by the brewhouse amidst a circle of listeners, his deep voice ringing as he sang of Lord Deremond at the Bloody Meadow.
And there he stood with sword in hand,
the last of Darry’s ten …
Brienne paused to listen for a moment, broad shoulders hunched and thick arms crossed against her chest. A mob of ragged boys raced by, screeching and flailing at each other with sticks. Why do boys so love to play at war? Catelyn wondered if Rymund was the answer. The singer’s voice swelled as he neared the end of his song.
And red the grass beneath his feet,
and red his banners bright,
and red the glow of setting sun that bathed him in its light.
“Come on, come on,” the great lord called,
“my sword is hungry still.”
And with a cry of savage rage,
They swarmed across the rill …
“Fighting is better than this waiting,” Brienne said. “You don’t feel so helpless when you fight. You have a sword and a horse, sometimes an axe. When you’re armored it’s hard for anyone to hurt you.”
“Knights die in battle,” Catelyn reminded her.
Brienne looked at her with those blue and beautiful eyes. “As ladies die in childbed. No one sings songs about them.”
“Children are a battle of a different sort.” Catelyn started across the yard. “A battle without banners or warhorns, but no less fierce. Carrying a child, bringing it into the world … your mother will have told you of the pain …”
“I never knew my mother,” Brienne said. (ACOK, Catelyn)
We have seen that swordplay is like sex, and now we see that childbirth is like a battle. This is the dual nature of the Lightbringer myth: on one hand, bloody battle and murder, the snuffing out of the life of another human being, weapons of destruction that leave only death and sorrow in their wake; and on the other hand, the battle of childbirth, the bloody bed, the pain and sacrifice of bringing another life into the world, the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. Sacrifice, creation, and procreation.
In this way, we can see that Lightbringer not only represents a sword, but also a child. The mothers of our dragon people die in childbirth, but these children are their parents, reborn. Each child is both his mother and father “reborn,” a merging of the two life essences to create a third. This is one meaning of the phrase “Azor Ahai reborn:” the carrying on of a bloodline, the passing of the torch of life. And in turn, we see that a heroic person is both a sword and a torch:
“I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn…”
At this point, I must confess: I am standing on the shoulders of giants here with this analysis. Specifically, the giant known on the Westeros.org forums as Schmendrick, author of the magnificent essay “R + L = Lightbringer.” In my humble opinion, this essay is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand what George is doing with the story of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer. This was one of the essays which inspired me as I was beginning this process, and it is universally regarded as some of the best A Song of Ice and Fire analysis to be found anywhere. The procreative aspects of Lightbringer’s forging which I’ve introduced here are developed much further, and it doubles as an exploration of the heavy, heavy influence of Roman Mithraism on the Azor Ahai / Lightbringer legend.
So now that we have a basic understand of the dual edged nature of this story, let’s apply this back to the celestial events of Lightbringer’s forging. The sun stabs and impregnates the moon-egg with his dragon-seed comet-sword, and the moon explodes, giving birth to dragon meteors. It would seem that moons have much shorter pregnancies than humans, as this is essentially the impregnation and the childbirth in quick succession. The children here are the dragon meteors, which are quite literally pieces of the moon, pieces of the mother. The Qarthine legend says these dragon meteors “drank the fire of the sun” – that’s a reference to the moon’s exploding pieces having been bathed in fire of the solar comet. The meteors are the rebirth of the dying moon, and the dying sun. I say “dying sun” in the sense that the sun was hidden during the Long Night, having turned its face from the world. Thus, the meteors are Azor Ahai (the sun) reborn, and also Nissa Nissa (the moon) reborn, just as a child represents the rebirth of both of his parents.
Appropriately, Lightbringer is compared to both the sun and the moon, in symbolic fashion. First, here’s the lightbringer comet being compared to the moon:
Jon clapped him on the shoulder with his burned hand. They walked back through the camp together. Cookfires were being lit all around them. Overhead, the stars were coming out. The long red tail of Mormont’s Torch burned as bright as the moon. (ACOK. Jon)
Colloquo Votar’s Jade Compendium also tells us that Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer sword was always warm, as Nissa Nissa had been warm, because it drank her blood and soul, further illustrating the idea that Lightbringer contains the essence of the moon.
Lightbringer also contains the essence of the sun: we’ve seen that Ned’s sword, which symbolizes Lightbringer, drinks the sun’s light, darkening the steel, and the dragon meteors which also symbolize Lightbringer are said to have drank the sun’s fire. This is a very thirsty sword, folks. It drank Nissa’s blood and it drank the sun’s fire. It’s hungry, too, of course: recall the line in the tale of Lord Deremond and the bloody meadow, “my sword is hungry still.” Leaf, one of the children of the forest that Bran meets, builds on this idea by telling us that “fire is always hungry,” and when Melisandre’s “Queen’s Men” are all hot and bothered to set someone on fire during the snowstorm in A Dance with Dragons, a captive Asha Greyjoy observes that “at night, the Red God must be fed.” Ice preserves, but fire consumes, we are told by Maester Aemon. All of these ideas basically reflect the same concept, and it should clue us in to the idea that Azor Ahai’s sword was not a light-bringer, but a light-drinker. A dark-bringer. Now, perhaps it’s drinking in all this light only to release it again at the crucial moment – we’ll have to keep an open mind on that one, because George loves to surprise us. But at least at first, it seems to be a consumer, rather than a producer, of light.
Stannis Baratheon’s fake Lightbringer is shiny enough, but of course it is, after all, a fake. However, George is still creating the symbolic association of Lightbringer as a “sun sword” in these passages:
Stannis Baratheon drew Lightbringer. The sword glowed red and yellow and orange, alive with light. Jon had seen the show before … but not like this, never before like this. Lightbringer was the sun made steel. When Stannis raised the blade above his head, men had to turn their heads or cover their eyes. Horses shied, and one threw his rider. The blaze in the fire pit seemed to shrink before this storm of light, like a small dog cowering before a larger one. (ADWD, Jon)
“Lightbringer was brighter than I’d ever seen it. As bright as the sun.” Jon raised his cup. “To Stannis Baratheon and his magic sword.” The wine was bitter in his mouth. (ADWD, Jon)
To sum up: both Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa are reborn in the warrior of fire, and the essence of both sun and moon went into the resulting dragon meteors. They drank the moon’s blood and the sun’s fire. Now we can see why Azor Ahai’s “rebirth” involves waking dragons from stone, celestially speaking. The dragons woken from stone are Azor Ahai reborn, child of moon and sun.
There’s just one more wrinkle to add here, but it’s an important one. According the proposed scenario of the comet splitting in half, only one half would have slammed into the moon and been consumed in the conflagration – the second half of the comet, on a slightly different orbital trajectory, would have seemed to emerge from the other side of the conflagration, burning red. The legend of Lightbringer says that the sword was “white hot” and “smoking” when it entered Nissa Nissa’s heart, and burned red afterward, so I would guess that the surviving half of the comet was transformed to its current burning and bleeding red color as it passed by and through the firestorm. In this sense, the surviving half of the comet also represents Lightbringer, or Azor Ahai reborn. If we wanted to be more specific, we might regard this comet as reborn Azor Ahai, and the dragon meteors as the dragons woken from stone, but all of them are the children of sun and moon and all of them are really the same thing, symbolically. The dragon meteors burned red in the atmosphere, smaller versions of the red comet which burns across the sky like a flaming sword. They are all manifestations of Lightbringer, child of sun and moon. Both comets and meteors can be dragons and flaming swords.
~ The Alchemical Wedding of Daenerys Targaryen ~
The most important manifestation of the forging of Lightbringer takes place at the climax of A Game of Thrones, as Daenerys wakes dragons from stone eggs in the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo. This event, which I like to refer to as the Alchemical Wedding of Daenerys Targaryen, gives us a detailed model of the moon’s destruction in the fire of the sun. The relationship between Daenerys and Khal Drogo is made clear early on: Khal Drogo is Dany’s “sun and stars,” and he refers to Dany as the “moon of his life.” These seem like nothing more than affectionate nicknames when we first hear them, perhaps reflections of the Dothraki belief that the moon is a goddess, the wife of the sun, who is himself a god. Of course, in light of the astronomical pattern presented by the Lightbringer myth, we can see that these pet names are no accident. Daenerys is the “Bride of Fire,” the moon maiden who marries the sun in all his blazing glory.
The Qarthine myth says that the moon wandered too close to the sun, and was scalded by its fire, causing it to crack like an egg and pour forth the dragons. That’s exactly what happens in the waking of dragons scene – moon maiden Daenerys “wanderers” into the fire of her solar king, Khal Drogo, symbolically immolating herself. Her dragons eggs are scorched in this solar pyre and cracked open, and dragons do indeed pour forth. As I mentioned previously, I think this myth is best explained by an eclipse alignment, which would create the image of a moon bathing itself in the fire of the sun, just as Daenerys does in this scene. This would immediately followed by the birth of dragons.
Here, then, is the Alchemical Wedding of Daenerys Targaryen. We’re going to pause for a bit of analysis between each paragraph or two to illustrate the important aspects of the Lightbringer forging metaphor. This scene is essentially a template for all Lightbringer forging metaphors throughout the books.
When a horselord dies, his horse is slain with him, so he might ride proud into the night lands. The bodies are burned beneath the open sky, and the khal rises on his fiery steed to take his place among the stars. The more fiercely the man burned in life, the brighter his star will shine in the darkness.
Jhogo spied it first. “There,” he said in a hushed voice. Dany looked and saw it, low in the east. The first star was a comet, burning red. Bloodred; fire red; the dragon’s tail. She could not have asked for a stronger sign.
Here we see several associations created right off the bat: Khal Drogo, Dany’s sun and stars, is identified with a star shining in the darkness, just as Lightbringer supposedly shines in the darkness, and just as the men of the Night’s Watch are a sword in the darkness. The Khal’s personal star is the red comet, symbol of Lightbringer and Azor Ahai, and of course dragons. Khal Drogo is quite clearly playing the role of Azor Ahai, warrior of fire and solar king. Dany immediately associates the comet with blood, fire, and dragons.
The comet is an extension of the solar king, and represents his impregnation of the moon with his fiery dragon seed. Dany first received her dragon’s eggs at her wedding to Khal Drogo, tying the dragon’s eggs to the copulation of sun and moon. Dany’s first wedding and this second, alchemical wedding are symbolically linked, and work together to tell the same story, as we shall see.
Dany took the torch from Aggo’s hand and thrust it between the logs. The oil took the fire at once, the brush and dried grass a heartbeat later. Tiny flames went darting up the wood like swift red mice, skating over the oil and leaping from bark to branch to leaf. A rising heat puffed at her face, soft and sudden as a lover’s breath, but in seconds it had grown too hot to bear. Dany stepped backward. The wood crackled, louder and louder. Mirri Maz Duur began to sing in a shrill, ululating voice. The flames whirled and writhed, racing each other up the platform. The dusk shimmered as the air itself seemed to liquefy from the heat. Dany heard logs spit and crack. The fires swept over Mirri Maz Duur. Her song grew louder, shriller … then she gasped, again and again, and her song became a shuddering wail, thin and high and full of agony.
The heat of the solar pyre puffs on Dany’s face like a lover’s breath, beginning the stream of procreative language which runs through this scene. Actually, it may have begun with the torch-thrusting, as the torch is a comet symbol (such as when the comet is called Mormont’s Torch), and thrusting is, well, thrusting, and of course Lightbringer was “thrust” into Nissa Nissa’s heart. Mirri’s shuddering wail of agony evokes Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy, as well as the sword Widow’s Wail, which is one half of the sword that symbolizes Lightbringer, just as the comet which hit the second moon was one half of a split comet.
The idea of the air liquefying from the heat is noteworthy, because there is an important connection between fire and liquid – specifically, blood. The red comet is frequently said to either be bleeding or burning, and of course the moon blood flows when flaming dragons are born. The idea here is one of fiery, burning blood. All throughout this Alchemical Wedding scene we see watery language used to describe the fire: shimmering, swirling, whirling, sweeping over MIrri Maz Duur like a wave, etc. It’s no coincidence that we also get a ton of watery imagery in the scene where Tyrion first sees Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, describing it thusly: “The two colors lapped over one another without ever touching, each ripple distinct, like waves of night and blood upon some steely shore.” The sunlight also “streams” through the diamond shaped panes of glass and makes the blade “shimmer” black and red, while the cross guard flames gold. This same set of phrases and motifs will appear most any time Lightbringer is being symbolically forged.
Burning blood in particular is an important component of the moon’s fire transformation from an egg to a storm of flaming dragons. When Daenerys lies in the tent of dancing shadows and has her fever dream of waking her own dragon, sprouting wings and flying through the red door, her blood burns.
She raced, her feet melting the stone wherever they touched. “Faster!” the ghosts cried as one, and she screamed and threw herself forward. A great knife of pain ripped down her back, and she felt her skin tear open and smelled the stench of burning blood and saw the shadow of wings.
And Daenerys Targaryen flew.
“… wake the dragon …”
The door loomed before her, the red door, so close, so close, the hall was a blur around her, the cold receding behind. And now the stone was gone and she flew across the Dothraki sea, high and higher, the green rippling beneath, and all that lived and breathed fled in terror from the shadow of her wings. She could smell home, she could see it, there, just beyond that door, green fields and great stone houses and arms to keep her warm, there. She threw open the door.
“… the dragon …”
And saw her brother Rhaegar, mounted on a stallion as black as his armor. Fire glimmered red through the narrow eye slit of his helm. “The last dragon,” Ser Jorah’s voice whispered faintly. “The last, the last.” Dany lifted his polished black visor. The face within was her own.
After that, for a long time, there was only the pain, the fire within her, and the whisperings of stars. (AGOT, Daenerys)
As we can see here, having the fire inside of you equates to undergoing fire transformation, and this involves both burning blood and waking the dragon. Dany lifts Rhaegar’s visor to see herself, because she has become the Last Dragon. Also note the association with shadow and terror that comes along with waking the dragon.
Drogon, the black dragon, breathes black flame, and even has burning black blood as well:
Black blood was flowing from the wound where the spear had pierced him, smoking where it dripped onto the scorched sands. He is fire made flesh, she thought, and so am I. (ADWD, Daenerys)
To continue this idea of burning blood, recall that Jon Snow reads in the Jade Compendium that when Azor Ahai thrusts Lightbringer into a monster, its blood boils. Now, listen to the description of Melisandre’s transformative fire vision from her one POV chapter in A Dance with Dragons:
The red priestess shuddered. Blood trickled down her thigh, black and smoking. The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. Shimmers of heat traced patterns on her skin, insistent as a lover’s hand. (ADWD, Melisandre)
The phrase “agony and ecstasy” is a nearly identical match to Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy. We see the burning, black blood, tricking down her thigh to imply childbirth and moon blood. “Shuddering” is used again, just as it was with Mirri Maz Duur, and we also have the important phrase “the fire inside her.” Dany has the fire inside her in her wake the dragon dream, Melisandre has it in this scene, and in a minute we will see that Dany again has the fire inside her during the alchemical wedding. Finally, note that Melisandre’s experience is also described as sexual, as the fire’s heat is like a lover’s hand.
When Melisandre gives birth to the shadow-baby under Storm’s End, the scene is much the same, and we see the same motifs and phrases:
Davos raised a hand to shield his eyes, and his breath caught in his throat. Melisandre had thrown back her cowl and shrugged out of the smothering robe. Beneath, she was naked, and huge with child. Swollen breasts hung heavy against her chest, and her belly bulged as if near to bursting. “Gods preserve us,” he whispered, and heard her answering laugh, deep and throaty. Her eyes were hot coals, and the sweat that dappled her skin seemed to glow with a light of its own. Melisandre shone.
Panting, she squatted and spread her legs. Blood ran down her thighs, black as ink. Her cry might have been agony or ecstasy or both. (ACOK, Davos)
This scene is great because she’s actually giving birth – well, it’s actually horrible because she’s giving birth, because she’s birthing a horror, but for our more metaphorical purposes, it fits quite nicely. The “agony and ecstasy” phrase puts in another appearance, as does the black blood. Melisandre is a shining, glowing moon mother, a red priestess or a “Red Queen,” as she is sometimes called. The fact that the Lightbringer child in this scene is a black shadow builds on what I have been saying about Azor Ahai’s dread sword – it was a light-drinker and a night-bringer. It’s mother may have glowed bright in the sky when she gave birth, but Lightbringer’s fire was the shadowy kind. I believe the burning black blood also refers to the offspring of the moon destruction, the bleeding or burning dragon meteors, which further suggests these meteors have been burned black and transformed. It seems consistent – the subjects of fire transformation come out black and shadowy.
Now, we return to the alchemical wedding, and be on the lookout for sexual or procreative language:
And now the flames reached her Drogo, and now they were all around him. His clothing took fire, and for an instant the khal was clad in wisps of floating orange silk and tendrils of curling smoke, grey and greasy. Dany’s lips parted and she found herself holding her breath. Part of her wanted to go to him as Ser Jorah had feared, to rush into the flames to beg for his forgiveness and take him inside her one last time, the fire melting the flesh from their bones until they were as one, forever.
The idea of the sun and moon melting into one is exactly the formula for Lightbringer’s forging, and a great example of the idea that the offspring of sun and moon contains the essence of both. The Lightbringer meteors and the actual sword itself contain both aspects, sun and moon, fused into one. The fire melting the flesh from their bones is another reoccurring motif, and a match for one of Dany’s dragon dreams earlier in A Game of Thrones, a dream which directly foreshadows the alchemical wedding:
Yet when she slept that night, she dreamt the dragon dream again. Viserys was not in it this time. There was only her and the dragon. Its scales were black as night, wet and slick with blood. Her blood, Dany sensed. Its eyes were pools of molten magma, and when it opened its mouth, the flame came roaring out in a hot jet. She could hear it singing to her. She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it swallow her whole, let it cleanse her and temper her and scour her clean. She could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam, and yet there was no pain. She felt strong and new and fierce. […]
“Khaleesi,” Jhiqui said, “what is wrong? Are you sick?”
“I was,” she answered, standing over the dragon’s eggs that Illyrio had given her when she wed. She touched one, the largest of the three, running her hand lightly over the shell. Black-and-scarlet, she thought, like the dragon in my dream. The stone felt strangely warm beneath her fingers … or was she still dreaming? She pulled her hand back nervously. (AGOT, Daenerys)
I hope the word “temper” jumped out to you, because it sure did to me. The fire transformation, the melting of flesh and blood, is also a tempering. That’s because this fire transformation we are discussing in all of these scenes is a description of the forging of Lightbringer. The bathing of the moon in solar fire is the third attempt to temper Lightbringer, the one which produced flaming swords and dragon meteors.
The black dragon is slick with her blood, because it will be Dany’s child – Dany draws a direct association between the egg which will be her dragon-child Drogon and the black dragon in her dream. Just like Mel’s shadow babies, the black dragon represents Lightbringer, child of moon and sun. It’s also a match for Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail’s “waves of night and blood,” as the dragon is black as night and covered in blood. Drogon’s black and scarlett egg is elsewhere described as “black as a midnight sea, yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls.” Again, notice the thematic continuity here with the various manifestations of Lightbringer. It’s shadow-black, and associated with black water and black blood.
At the end of the dream we see the fire burning blood and melting away flesh, just as Dany imagines while watching Drogo’s pyre. As we continue with the alchemical wedding, we’ll see more language matching this dream.
She could smell the odor of burning flesh, no different than horseflesh roasting in a firepit. The pyre roared in the deepening dusk like some great beast, drowning out the fainter sound of Mirri Maz Duur’s screaming and sending up long tongues of flame to lick at the belly of the night. As the smoke grew thicker, the Dothraki backed away, coughing. Huge orange gouts of fire unfurled their banners in that hellish wind, the logs hissing and cracking, glowing cinders rising on the smoke to float away into the dark like so many newborn fireflies. The heat beat at the air with great red wings, driving the Dothraki back, driving off even Mormont, but Dany stood her ground. She was the blood of the dragon, and the fire was in her.
I would suggest that the descriptions of thickening smoke and greasy smoke represent the cloud cover of the Long Night, a choking miasma of debris generated by the moon’s destruction and the ensuing meteor impacts on the planet. The Dothraki cough and back away to make the point. Yeah, the Long Night was no fun for anyone, I’m guessing. This cloud cover is also the death of the sun, and would have emerged from the conflagration of sun and moon in the sky, represented here by Dany joining Drogo in the pyre.
The fiery language picks up a lot here, as we see fiery banners unfurled, a hellish wind, long tongues of flame and even great red wings of heat… sound alike the dragons are waking. Most importantly, Daenerys the moon maiden “has the fire inside her,” just as Nissa Nissa and the second moon did before her.
The fire pit has become a great roaring beast which causes drowning, building on all the watery language associated with Lightbringer. This is a reference to the concept of burning moon blood and waves of blood and night coming from the destruction of the moon, but I think it’s also talking about a literal, non-metaphorical flood caused by a meteor strike on the planet during the darkness of the Long Night. Consider the link between black water and the Lightbringer meteors. We just saw that Drogon’s egg is “as black as a midnight sea.” The first time we see Ned’s black sword, which of course symbolizes Lightbringer, he’s cleaning the blood off of it by dipping it in the cold black water of the pond in the Winterfell Godswood – the exact wording is: “he was cleaning the blade in those waters black as night.” He’s creating waves of blood and night, albeit miniature ones. Dany, covered in stallion’s heart blood, immerses herself in the cold black water of the Womb of the World to cleanse the baby inside her. Dany’s baby is the child of sun and moon, and therefore also represents Lightbringer. The black stone fortress of Dragonstone even sits in the Blackwater Bay, which doesn’t seem like coincidence when taken with these other examples. Things which represent Lightbringer keep dipping themselves into black water, and I don’t think that’s an accident.
Therefore, I believe that one of the meanings of the black water / waves of night motif refers to the black waters of the sea during the Long Night, and the connection to Lightbringer implies a black dragon meteor landing in those black waters. The “Sea Dragon” of the story of the Grey King was said to drown whole islands, which reads to me like a dragon meteor landing in or near the sea and causing massive devastation. This stands to reason, as any large meteor impact in the ocean or along the coast would in fact generate massive and deadly tsunamis. The tale of Durran Godsgrief tells the story of a great king who stole a goddess from heaven, a sacrilegious act which triggered the wrath of the gods in the form of a deadly tsunami. This great flood came at his wedding, no less, and killed everyone there save for Durran and Elenei. We’ll surely have to return to the tales of Durran Godsgrief and the Grey King another day, but they bear mentioning here. Now back to the scene at the alchemical bonfire, where we will now see a direct link drawn between the two weddings of Daenerys:
She had sensed the truth of it long ago, Dany thought as she took a step closer to the conflagration, but the brazier had not been hot enough. The flames writhed before her like the women who had danced at her wedding, whirling and singing and spinning their yellow and orange and crimson veils, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat. Dany opened her arms to them, her skin flushed and glowing. This is a wedding, too, she thought. Mirri Maz Duur had fallen silent. The godswife thought her a child, but children grow, and children learn.
This is a wedding, too, Daenerys thinks to herself, and indeed, it is. It is an “alchemical” wedding because the principle of alchemy is transformation. All of these “having the fire inside you” experiences are transformation experiences. The color of transformation in alchemy is red, as I mentioned earlier, and indeed this is also the ultimate meaning of the red door. That’s why Daenerys sprouts her dragons wings and smells burning blood as she crosses the threshold of the red door in her “wake the dragon” fever dream. It represents her transformation into a dragon, “the Last Dragon” as she thinks to herself as the dream ends and she sees her own face beneath Rhaegar’s visor. Another alchemical concept which seems relevant here is their concept of the sun, whose “bright face” is depicted as a lion, as is common practice the world round, but the alchemists saw the “shadow self” of the sun as a dragon. That’s the kind of dragon being born here, a black dragon whose wings shadow the world, as Drogon’s do in many scenes in the book. I’ll be quoting those in a future essay, don’t you worry. Drogon is a planet-darkening, sun-eclipsing machine.
She has this “wake the dragon” fever dream while giving birth to dead baby Rhaego inside the tent of dancing shadows. She sees a vision of a living Rhaego in her dream: his heart is consumed by fire and fire comes out of his mouth like a dragon before consuming him utterly and turning him to ash. The actual baby Rhaego comes out of the womb dead, stinking of the grave, with bat wings and a lizard tail and scales. As a child of the sun and moon, dead and burnt baby Rhaego is another symbol of Lightbringer – a horrifying one, yes, but entirely in keeping with the pattern of Lightbringer representing darkness, shadow, death, and nightfall. Salladhor Saan calls Stannis’s Lightbringer a “burnt” sword, as opposed to a burning one, and I think he is more right than he knows. Lightbringer is the child of fire, but it is a burnt and blackened thing.
Here is the conclusion of the alchemical wedding, the actual waking of dragons.
…only the fire mattered. The flames were so beautiful, the loveliest things she had ever seen, each one a sorcerer robed in yellow and orange and scarlet, swirling long smoky cloaks. […]
The painted leather burst into sudden flame as she skipped closer to the fire, her breasts bare to the blaze, streams of milk flowing from her red and swollen nipples. Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing.
She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. The platform of wood and brush and grass began to shift and collapse in upon itself. Bits of burning wood slid down at her, and Dany was showered with ash and cinders. And something else came crashing down, bouncing and rolling, to land at her feet; a chunk of curved rock, pale and veined with gold, broken and smoking. The roaring filled the world, yet dimly through the firefall Dany heard women shriek and children cry out in wonder. Only death can pay for life.
And there came a second crack, loud and sharp as thunder, and the smoke stirred and whirled around her and the pyre shifted, the logs exploding as the fire touched their secret hearts. She heard the screams of frightened horses, and the voices of the Dothraki raised in shouts of fear and terror, and Ser Jorah calling her name and cursing. No, she wanted to shout to him, no, my good knight, do not fear for me. The fire is mine. I am Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of dragons, bride of dragons, mother of dragons, don’t you see? Don’t you SEE? With a belch of flame and smoke that reached thirty feet into the sky, the pyre collapsed and came down around her. Unafraid, Dany stepped forward into the firestorm, calling to her children.
The third crack was as loud and sharp as the breaking of the world.
Khal Drogo’s flaming lash plays the role of the Lightbringer comet, snaking and hissing and cracking the stone egg. The shattered stone shell of the dragon’s egg is described as a piece of curved rock, evoking a crescent moon. Daenerys bares her breasts to the flame, just as Nissa Nissa bared her breast to Azor Ahai when Lightbringer was forged. We see a firefall, a firestorm, a shower of ash and cinders, and a roaring that fills the world. This is all a description of the meteor shower which rained down on Planetos at the fall of the Long Night.
The last sentence firmly ties the the forging of lightbringer and the impact of these moon meteors to the breaking of the world – that’s the breaking of the Arm of Dorne we are talking about, I believe. The Hammer of the Waters could very well be one of these meteors, breaking the world by severing the bridge between Westeros and Essos. I can’t help but notice that the Dornish city of Sunspear lies at the tip of the broken arm – a sun spear is an apt description for a fiery moon meteor, and it’s in the right place. This is a topic we will be taking a very close look at in a future essay, but the breaking of the world language requires that we mention it here.
Last but not least, we see that Daenerys is not only the mother of dragons, but daughter of dragons and the bride of dragons. That’s because when she is reborn here and in her “wake the dragon dream,” she becomes the “Last Dragon” – Azor Ahai reborn. Illyrio sums it up in A Dance with Dragons, speaking to Tyrion:
“The frightened child who sheltered in my manse died on the Dothraki sea, and was reborn in blood and fire. This dragon queen who wears her name is a true Targaryen.”
Daenerys first plays the role of moon maiden. She is the bride of dragons, as she is impregnated by the solar king, and the role of mother of dragons, as she gives birth to dragons, as the moon did. But now, she has transitioned to the role of the last dragon, the daughter of dragons, Azor Ahai reborn. She represents the comet half which emerged from the firestorm, blazing red in the sky like a flaming sword, while her dragon children represent the moon meteors which come crashing down to earth to break the world. Remember he dream of being bathed in dragon fire, where she is “tempered?” Dany herself now represents the fiery red sword, Lightbringer, which in turn is an extension of Azor Ahai reborn.
It’s a bit confusing because this makes her the daughter of herself, in a way, but that’s what is happening when she symbolically dies as the moon maiden and is reborn as the Last Dragon. She will go on to be a solar king in her own right, leading a Khalasar as only men have done before. As an earthly incarnation of the red comet, the last dragon, she follows the path of the comet and leads her people through the red waste. She goes on to conquer the cities of Slaver’s bay and become both Queen and Khaleesi. She takes to wearing the White Lion pelt in the aftermath of her ritualistic immolation in Drogo’s pyre, which seems like a symbol denoting her solar status. She also begins braiding her hair, when it grows back, to signify that she has Khal Drogo’s strength inside her. I believe all of these symbols work to corroborate what the astronomy pattern seems to be saying, that Daenerys has become a solar king, Azor Ahai reborn, of whom the red comet is merely an extension. I believe this explains why Daenerys is not only the mother of dragons, but also the daughter of dragons and the bride of dragons. She is the bride of fire, but also fire made flesh herself. She is Azor Ahai reborn, as well as Nissa Nisa reborn, and she has not only awakened dragons from stone, but she has woken her own dragon as well.
“…and all that lived and breathed fled in terror from the shadow of her wings.”
~ In Closing ~
To sum up the hypothesis so far: the legend of the forging of Lightbringer originated with a celestial event of great magnitude which occurred in ancient times, the destruction of a second moon by a comet. Lightbringer is, among other things, a metaphor for the comet. It was forged in water and ice as it entered the inner solar system, it was forged by the lion when it was split in half as it rounded the sun, and it was forged in the heart of Nissa Nissa when it struck the second moon and exploded in a truly gigantic fireball. The debris from the destruction of the second moon and its impacts on Planetos triggered the Long Night, and some part of the ensuing magical fallout is likely responsible for the irregular seasons. The remaining half of the comet is the red comet which we see in the current story.
But wait, hasn’t George said that the cause of the irregular seasons was magical in nature? Well yes, he did. We’ve only scratched the surface of this second moon; it seems that it was intrinsically tied to the presence of magic on Planetos. The comet, too, seems to be magical in nature. It’s destruction was a physical act, yes, but also a magical one. Indeed, this is the pattern of nature and magical forces in A Song of Ice and Fire – the Doom of Valyria was a volcanic explosion, yes, but a magical version of a volcanic explosion, with magical causes and magical fallout. The Long Night disaster should be viewed the same way.
The Azor Ahai myth is a likely description that an ancient human would invent to describe what they saw in the sky that day. But I think it goes further, as I said in my hypothesis: as above, so below. Whatever happens in the heavens manifests below, and that is the story of this fellow who lived eight thousand years ago, the original Azor Ahai, Warrior of Fire. We’ve seen Lightbringer manifest in the current story as a comet and a person and a dragon all three, and of course the main legend talks of a flaming sword. I think it’s likely that all of these manifestations occurred at the time of the Long Night as well, and this will be the topic of the next several essays.
check out this bonus essay: Lucifer Means Lightbringer
for a short essay about Morningstar deities, mythical astronomy, and the meaning of “Lightbringer”, or…
continue to Chapter 2: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
if you would rather stick with the straight book material and come back for the Morningstar stuff later.
Motifs and Symbols
“∆ =” means “can be symbolically equivalent to”
Comets, Meteors ∆=
- swords (flaming and bloody)
- fiery hands and fingers
- dragon eggs
- spears (w/ skulls or fiery points)
- sunlight (shafts, fingers, rays, etc)
- red doors
The Moon ∆=
- an egg
- a woman
- the wife of the sun
- a goddess
- a city
- an apple
- a fist
We will be adding to this list at the end of each essay to develop a master list of symbolic correlations.
This essay is a revised an updated version of my first version, which appeared on Westeros.org. There are a ton of great folks over there – Durran Durrandon, J Stargaryen, Evolett, Mithras, Equilibrium, Crowfood’s Daughter, Voice of the First Men, and many others – who have improved and refined this essay, a million thanks to all the crew. Radio Westeros and History of Westeros podcasts also contributed greatly to this work. I gained inspiration from their ideas, but perhaps more valuable were their methods of literary analysis, which trained my eye for symbolism and clue-finding. I highly recommend their podcasts, in case anyone has not heard about them.
106 thoughts on “Astronomy Explains the Legends of Ice and Fire”
congratulations for the quality of the work, these are very interesting topics and I agree with the approach in rereading asoiaf. With regard to the theory of the two moons I had come to hypothesize something very similar starting from the hypothesis that the catastrophe connected to the long night was also connected to the anomaly in the seasons. The presence of the moon is what regulate tides and keeps the speed of rotation and the inclination of the earth’s axis constant … the loss of quite great moon could change the tides and the displacement of the seas , the axis would have important and sudden variations making the seasons completely unstable and the earth it would rotate faster causing shorter days ..But because GRRM said seasons were changed by magic I supposed the moon was destroyed by the hammer of the children
Possibly the children used their Hammer to keep the large pieces far from the center of Westeros and landing in the water? Broken arm of Dorne is a coastline. Pyke Islands are a coastline. Dragonstone is literally in the water. And whatever fell in Asshai fell far from the children and their lands and waters, so it wasn’t within the children’s sphere of influence. Just a thought.
Actually I think the Hammer was the moon rocks, so perhaps they used what magic they had to direct the pieces away from Westeros proper.
Pingback: Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things: Broken men and broken boys | Red Mice at Play
Pingback: Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things: Broken Swords | Red Mice at Play
Pingback: The Super Secret Origin of the Azor Ahai Myth in Game of Thrones | Comparative Geeks
Pingback: The Super Secret Origin of the Azor Ahai Myth in Game of Thrones | I Can't Possibly Be Wrong All the Time
I can’t help but notice the Motifs and Symbols list has not been updated in a while, for I does not include the lightning bolt as mentioned in the Weirwood Compendium as symbolising the Comets, Meteors with the Grey King’s parallels to Azor Ahai.
Has anybody put together a visual with each instance of the archetype, who’s playing what role and a little bit of textual support for it? That would help me follow things a lot easier!
It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this
brilliant blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking
and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to fresh updates and will share this blog
with my Facebook group. Chat soon!
Pingback: The Faith and the Walkes Part 2 – Death by Crystal | Tomas Thongstrider
Pingback: Queen's Crown – Purple Serpents In Her Hair
Pingback: The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode II | The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire
Pingback: Part III: A Thousand Orange Torches in the Dark | Red Mice at Play
Pingback: Astronomia wyjaśnia legendy lodu i ognia | The Amber Compendium of Myth
Pingback: Three Heads has the Dragon 2 – Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things – Blue Winter Roses
Pingback: The House of Stone and Wood: Introduction – Up From Under Winterfell
Pingback: Lucifer Znaczy Światłonośca – w odcinkach | The Amber Compendium of Myth
Pingback: Góra kontra Żmija i Młot Wód – w odcinkach | The Amber Compendium of Myth
Pingback: Fale Nocy i Księżycowej Krwi – w odcinkach | The Amber Compendium of Myth
Pingback: Part II: The alchemists’ delight | Red Mice at Play
Pingback: Part I: fire vs flame | Red Mice at Play
The Red Comet could be a Planet on an eccentric orbit by the Sun, massive as Planet Nine. If it’s orbit passes closes to the Earth, it could be seen big as a Moon on a naked eye.
When it’s get close to the Sun, it would burn red, and it’s atmosphere can leave a tail, just like a comet, but more intense. It could have moons and meteors on it’s orbit, and those could be captured by the Earth and Sun.
Pingback: A Tragedy of Ice and Fire | Plowman's Keep