Let’s start by reviewing what we think we know so far. In Astronomy Explains the Legends of Ice and Fire, I proposed that the Long Night was the result of a celestial catastrophe – a comet striking a formerly existent second moon, that moon exploding in the sky and raining down fiery meteors on the planet, and the resulting debris clouding the atmosphere and blocking out the sun.In addition, there were likely magical elements at play – the comet seems to be magical in nature, and perhaps the moon as well. Much like the Doom of Valyria, the Long Night disaster was a magically-infused version of a natural catastrophe which has left behind lasting and significant magical fallout. The unbalanced and irregular seasons are the result of this cataclysm disrupting the balance of magic and even nature itself.
Indeed, it seems apparent that in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, the forces of nature are themselves magical. Whether it’s the sacred volcanic fires of the “fourteen flames” of Valyria or the dragonglass, which is “frozen fire” and contains the essence of fire magic; whether it’s the eternal weirwood trees or the terrifying Heart of Winter; we see that various parts of nature can be sources of magical energy. Nature and magic go hand in hand, inextricably intertwined, twin threads that form the weave of the very universe. A disruption to one seems to be a disruption to the other, just as it was with the Doom. The Long Night was a multiple-disaster compound cataclysm on magical steroids, and it left such a mark on the planet that its seasons have been all screwed up ever since.
Scattered memories of this celestial moon cataclysm can be found lurking within the folds of the myths, legends, and folktales of the story, disguised in the mist of centuries gone by. Yet they are not unrecognizable if we know how to look; if we know how to translate the language of the “Bard’s truth.” I have found several ancient A Song of Ice and Fire myths which I believe are telling different parts of the same story, like multiple witnesses to a complex crime scene who all saw a different piece of the action. Chief among these are the two myths which involve a cracking of the moon: the Qarthine “origin of dragons” story and the legend of the forging of Lightbringer.
Most people are familiar with the Azor Ahai / Lightbringer story, but I’ll quote the final portion just to refresh our memory. This is Salladhor Saan talking to Davos in A Clash of Kings:
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
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.
..And now the slightly less famous Quarthine tale of the lunar origin of dragons, relayed to Daenerys by her handmaiden Doreah 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.
We can square these two stories as really being the same story if we draw the following correlations:
Lightbringer, the bloody & flaming sword = a “fiery” red comet
Nissa Nissa, the blood sacrifice = the second moon
Azor Ahai, the warrior of fire = the sun
The sun and moon are husband and wife, just as Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa were, while comets can be perceived as dragons or flaming swords. Therefore, the celestial version of Azor Ahai stabbing his wife with a sword would be the sun striking his lunar wife with a fiery comet. Because I believe that the Qarthine legend describes a moon in eclipse formation – it is said to have “wandered too close to the sun” – the comet would have appeared to have been sticking out like a sword from the sun-moon conjunction, a fiery sword wielded by the solar king against his moon queen.
It would also look a bit like a sperm fertilizing an egg, and that is indeed another connotation of this combined myth: besides being perceived as the sun’s sword, the comet can also be seen as his fiery seed… dragon seed, to be specific. The moon is an egg and the wife of the sun, after all, and she gives birth to dragons after being impregnated by the Lightbringer comet.
The Qarthine tale tells us what happened to the moon after it cracked open: dragons burst forth and drank the fire of the sun. Of course in the language of myth-speak, describing falling meteors as dragons is only about a several-thousand year old idea, and its a good one. Dragons fly and breathe flame, and falling meteorites fly through the air and breathe flame. Any kind of moon-cracking or moon-exploding would certainly result in meteors falling into the planet’s atmosphere, so it’s a pretty short intuitive leap to understand that what poured forth from the dying moon was actually a storm of fiery meteors, or if you prefer, a storm of flaming swords. And yes, I do think this is a second meaning of the title “A Storm of Swords.” The moon is described as an egg from which the dragons were born, so consider the moon to be a mother who died in childbirth. Compare this to the Lightbringer legend, which has a flaming sword as the product of the moon-maiden’s sacrifice, and we see that the stories match. A moon maiden dies, and either fiery dragon meteors or flaming swords are born.
We supported the above conclusions by comparing this unified myth to the scene in which Daenerys walks in the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo and wakes her dragon children from stone eggs, a scene which I like to refer to as the “Alchemical Wedding of Daenerys Targaryen.” Dany is the “moon of Khal Drogo’s life,” and he her “sun and stars,” so the relationship here is clear. She receives her dragon’s eggs on the day of her wedding (and copulation) with Khal Drogo, recreating the sun’s insemination of the moon with dragon seed, and when moon-maiden Daenerys ‘wanders too close to the sun’s fire’ by walking into Drogo’s pyre, the eggs crack open just as the second moon did, thereby making Dany the mother of dragons, just as the moon was. The Lightbringer comet which cracked the moon is symbolized by Khal Drogo’s flaming lash which appears to crack open the first egg and of course by the appearance of the red comet itself, while Dany’s dragon children represent the dragon meteors which poured forth from the moon.
I’d like to hone in on the family portrait being painted here. The sun and moon both die in the process of creating a child, but that child is both of his parents “reborn,” just as every child is a version of their father and mother writ small, a mixture of the two. The sun and moon are both reborn in their child, in other words. If the scribes of ancient Asshai weren’t quite so patriarchal in mindset, they might have written that it will be Nissa Nissa reborn who will wake dragons from stone… but as long as we know that they are the same thing, that “Azor Ahai reborn” IS “Nissa Nissa reborn,” we’ll have to let it slide for now.
The next detail that needs recapping is the notion of the comet having split in half as it rounded the sun, before impacting with the second moon. The best metaphorical example of this in the text was when Tywin split Ned’s sword Ice in half to make two red and black swords. Tywin is the sun symbol here – he’s the head lion of Lannister. The Lightbringer comet, meanwhile, is symbolized by Ned’s sword – it was forged in dragonfire and covered in Ned’s blood, just as Lightbringer was made with fire and blood, and of course Arya perceived the red comet as Ice, running red with her father’s blood. This is an important detail, because if the comet does not split, it would have been destroyed in the moon explosion and there would be no comet to return to the story like a red banner of vengeance. Instead, it appears that only one half of the split comet impacted with the moon, while the second half streaked by along a slightly different trajectory. The comet that missed would seem to emerge from the other side of the moon explosion intact, like a flaming sword emerging from the heart of a dying moon maiden. The surviving comet seems to have been transformed to a red color by this explosion, and this would be the same red comet that we see in the main story, notably at the moment when Dany burns Khal Drogo and wakes the dragons.
What I am trying to say is that two kinds of flaming sword / dragon meteors emerged from the moon explosion: one big burning and bleeding red comet, and a thousand thousand meteors burning red as they fell to earth, like smaller versions of the red comet. Both are the offspring of the sun and moon, and so both represent Lightbringer. If we want to be more specific, we might say that the surviving comet half is Azor Ahai reborn, while the dragon meteors are the dragons which are woken from stone. Just as the comet is seen as an extension of the sun which carries the sun’s fire, Azor Ahai’s dragons and his flaming sword are really just an extension of himself. In essence, Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer are the same thing, two parts of a greater whole.
Consider the Dothraki beliefs about what is actually happening when Dany burns Khal Drogo. The Dothraki see the stars as the spirits of the dead, and so when the Khal burns, his spirit supposedly “rises on his fiery steed to take his place among the stars,” being reborn as a Khal in the Nightlands who leads the starry khalasar. Drogo’s star is the red comet, and Drogo is playing the role of solar king Azor Ahai in this little metaphorical drama. In other words, what this scene is telling us that when solar king Azor Ahai dies, he is indeed reborn as the red comet. Azor Ahai reborn is the one who wakes dragons from stone, just as the red comet was the thing which woke dragon meteors from the stone egg of the second moon. It’s also interesting to think of Azor Ahai reborn as “King of the Nightlands.”
In the alchemical wedding scene, Daenerys actually plays two roles: that of moon mother, bride of fire and dragons; and that of Azor Ahai reborn, daughter of fire and dragons. First she plays the moon mother role, becoming the bride of fire as she burns in the sun’s fire and symbolically dies. She is then reborn in the fire, and wakes dragons from stone – clearly, she is now playing the role of Azor Ahai reborn, who is reborn to wake dragons from stone. As I mentioned last time, this makes Dany the child of herself, after a fashion. What’s going on here? Why is she playing two roles? Well, because the child of sun and moon can also be perceived as the rebirth of the sun and moon, this process can be depicted as either the birth of a new child entirely, carrying the essence of their parents, or as a literal resurrection of one of the parents. Jon Snow is one manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn, and his parents die at the time of his birth. Dany’s original parents die around the time of her birth too – these are depictions of Azor Ahai reborn as a new child carrying on the legacy of their dead parents. But in this alchemical wedding scene, Dany shows us the resurrection side of things: she begins as the mother of dragons, dying in fiery childbirth, but then also plays the role of the new child, Azor Ahai reborn, who is reborn in fire to wake dragons from stone.
I believe Dany correlates to the surviving half of the comet, “Azor Ahai reborn,” while her dragons symbolize the dragon meteors. I mentioned that reborn Azor Ahai’s flaming sword and his dragons woken from stone are essentially an extension of himself (or herself), and indeed, Dany’s dragons are very much an extension of herself. As Dany thinks to herself about Drogon in A Dance with Dragons, “He is fire made flesh, and so am I.” They can be seen as individual things, but in the end they are smaller parts of a greater whole, sharing the same nature.
In other words, to the extent that Dany is a manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn, the dragons are her Lightbringer, as many have suggested. However, there are other manifestations of this entire pattern involving other characters, which means that Daenerys is not the only incarnation of reborn Azor Ahai, and her dragons are likely not the only manifestation of Lightbringer. Jon Snow fans needn’t fear – we’re going to talk a bit about Jon in just a second.
And just to keep the gender equality flowing, I’ll mention that if the Nissa Nissa moon is the mother of dragons, then solar king Azor Ahai is the father of dragons. The moon maiden is the bride of fire, and the solar king the warrior of fire. Their child is Azor Ahai reborn, who is the “son of fire” according to Melisandre, completing the family portrait. Notice that as Dany steps into the firestorm to be reborn, she names herself “daughter of dragons” as well as bride and mother of dragons. Just as Azor Ahai reborn is the “son of fire,” Dany is reborn in the fire – a child of fire in her own right. This moment is when she transitions from the bride of fire and dragons to the mother of fire and dragons and finally to the daughter of fire and dragons, a manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn.
Speaking of Azor Ahai as the father of dragons, the name Azor Ahai is actually not just a couple of made up words – it can be pretty well translated in the language of Vedic Sanskrit, the language and culture which gave us the legend of Mithras. It seems logical to look for a translation of Azor Ahai in Sanskrit, because George based a lot of his Azor Ahai and Lightbringer ideas on Mithras. So, what does his name mean? Well, it’s “fire dragon.” Azor Ahai, father of dragons, is a fire dragon – let it be known. That’s no surprise – he’s supposed to wake dragons from stone, after all. It may be that Azor Ahai was in fact a dragonlord… this is an idea we’ll come back to. (Hat-tip to Westeros.org forum user J Stargaryen)
As for Mithras’s influence on the Lightbringer myth, the full rundown is to be found in Schmendrick’s essay which I mentioned last time, R + L = Lightbringer, but I’ll give you an important part of it here. Mithras is often depicted as being “rock-born,” a young man emerging from a stone-like egg. He holds a sword in one hand a torch in the other. The sword represents death, and the torch rebirth – and Mithras himself aids the righteous in being reborn after death. Mithras is known as the mediator – and in this instance, he has the power to mediate between death and life. George calls out to this idea with an obscure God that Arya witnesses in Bravos while getting the tour of the city’s temples in A Dance with Dragons:
Three-headed Trios has that tower with three turrets. The first head devours the dying, and the reborn emerge from the third. I don’t know what the middle head’s supposed to do.
The middle head represents the underworld, the Bardo realm, the in-between place – it’s the place where the dying go and the reborn emerge from. And it’s a clear reference to Mithras and this famous depiction of him as rock-born Mithras, with his sword and his torch.
So if a sword represents death, and a torch life, what do we make of a sword which is also a torch? Consider the Nightswatch vows, in which they declare themselves to be a sword in the darkness and the light that brings the dawn. Like the Lightbringer of legend, they are both sword and torch. This gets to the very heart of what this essay is about – what is the nature of Lightbringer, and of Azor Ahai reborn?
That’s actually our last item to recap – what have we seen so far about the nature of Lightbringer and Azor Ahai? We examined several things in the last essay which represent Lightbringer, the offspring of sun and moon, and all of them are associated with blood, flame, shadow, and death. There was the black dragon egg, the black dragon in Dany’s dream, Drogon himself, burning dream Rhaego and actual dead lizard baby Rhaego, Ned’s black dragon-forged sword called Ice, Aegon the Conqueror’s black dragon sword called Blackfyre, and of course the burning dragon meteors of the ancient past and the red comet of the current story. There are many more Lightbringer symbols to come, and I can promise you that they fit this pattern as well. We’ll be seeing several of them in this essay.
Consider this one simple idea: in the Azor Ahai story, the moon cracks when Azor Ahai stabs his wife. In other words, Azor Ahai destroyed the moon by forging Lightbringer. It’s right there, without any other corroborations or comparisons to other myths – Azor Ahai broke the moon. Doesn’t breaking the moon kind of make you a villain? Much like stabbing your wife, it seems like a messed up thing to do.
When we look to the astronomy represented by the Azor Ahai story, we arrive at the same conclusion: the celestial forging of Lightbringer in the heart of the moon was the cause of the Long Night, not the cure. If the moon explosion caused the Long Night, that means that Azor Ahai caused the Long Night, because Azor Ahai cracked the moon. The evidence is mounting: the story of Azor Ahai the noble hero who saved the world might have a few holes in it. Many of you will have suspected this already – perhaps the first time you heard the part of the story where he stabs his wife in the heart with a freaking sword. You might have also picked up on the fact that the most prominent advocate for the the concept of “Azor Ahai” reborn is fond of burning people alive, including children, and has a habit of birthing assassin-demons made of pure darkness, which the fandom has somewhat affectionately dubbed “shadow babies.” Melisandre says the shadows are the servants of the light… but I’m giving that claim a rating of “highly dubious.” Consider this: when you stand outside and cast a shadow on the ground, is the sun casting the shadow, or are you? The sun creates light, but the shadow appears only when an object blocks the sun. It is the object blocking the sun that creates the shadow, not the sun. Mel says we cannot have shadow without light, but that’s not so either. Without light, all is shadow. Shadow IS darkness, the opposite of light. Not the servant of light. Azor Ahai and Lightbringer brought the darkness.
Consider Dany’s inner musings in A Dance with Dragons on the nature of dragons:
Mother of dragons, Daenerys thought. Mother of monsters. What have I unleashed upon the world? A queen I am, but my throne is made of burned bones, and it rests on quicksand. Without dragons, how could she hope to hold Meereen, much less win back Westeros? I am the blood of the dragon, she thought. If they are monsters, so am I.
Elsewhere in A Dance with Dragons, Xaro Xoan Daxos makes a similar observation to Daenerys, with bonus points for comparing the dragons to a flaming sword flying in the air like a comet:
“When your dragons were small, they were a wonder. Grown, they are death and devastation, a flaming sword above the world.”
What this comes down to is a fundamental question about how things work in A Song of Ice and Fire: can human sacrifice and blood magic somehow be used to create a tool which brings life and works to the common good of man? We all understand Martin’s fondness for shoving grey characters with conflicted hearts into difficult moral dilemmas, but I do not believe that means there is no right and wrong in the story. Is blood magic an abomination, as the Dothraki say, or is it a machiavellian tool in the hands of the anti-hero who sorta kinda saves the world in bittersweet fashion?
For the record, I lean towards #teamabomination – I’m not only a client, I’m also the founder – but I realize that that could be a projection of my own morality onto the story, and so I’m doing my best to keep an open mind. Perhaps its like one of those Darth Vader things where a life-long instrument of evil finds redemption at the end… Whatever the case, I believe that we don’t have to simply guess or take sides – I think we have a fair amount of evidence to review which might help us discern the truth.
We’ll begin our quest to discover who the Azor Ahai really is, and what it means to be Azor Ahai reborn, with a look at what we’ve been told about the warrior of fire and the red sword of heroes. We’ll be taking a short break from the murk and mire of metaphorical myth to consider the more straightforward and logistical evidence concerning Azor Ahai, such as it is, and then we’ll dive back into the depths of that slimy swamp of symbolism which I like to call “the good stuff.”
FIVE HERO DEATH PUNCH
One of the new pieces of information we received about Azor Ahai in the World of Ice and Fire is that the legend of a warrior with a flaming sword exists in several places, but with different names: Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar, Neferion, Eldric Shadowchaser, and of course Azor Ahai. These are all interesting for various reasons. Let’s start with talking about where these different names might have originated from.
Azor Ahai: We have always been told that the Azor Ahai myth comes from Asshai and the red priests. This is very important, so I will include several quotes:
Melisandre was robed all in scarlet satin and blood velvet, her eyes as red as the great ruby that glistened at her throat as if it too were afire. “In ancient books of Asshai it is written that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” She lifted her voice, so it carried out over the gathered host. “Azor Ahai, beloved of R’hllor! The Warrior of Light, the Son of Fire! Come forth, your sword awaits you! Come forth and take it into your hand!” (ACOK, Davos)
According to Melisandre of Asshai, the legend of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer comes from old books in Asshai. It’s interesting to note that the prophecy of his return is also from these same books in Asshai, and that prophecy is clearly a central part of R’hllorism. This is a direct link between the R’hllorists and Asshai. It’s probably not a coincidence Melsiandre is both a shadowbinder from Asshai and a red priest: they have some areas of mutual interest, to say the least.
“Lord Snow, I left a book for you in my chambers. The Jade Compendium, it was written by the Volantene adventurer Colloquo Votar, who travelled to the east and visited all the lands of the Jade Sea. There is a passage you may find of interest. I’ve told Clydas to mark it for you…. Knowledge is a weapon, Jon. Arm yourself well before you ride forth to battle.” (ADWD, Jon)
“The Jade Compendium. The pages that told of Azor Ahai. Lightbringer was his sword. Tempered with his wife’s blood if Votar can be believed. Thereafter Lightbringer was never cold to the touch, but warm as Nissa Nissa had been warm. In battle the blade burned fiery hot. Once Azor Ahai fought a monster. When he thrust the sword through the belly of the beast, its blood began to boil. Smoke and steam poured from its mouth, its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks, and its body burst into flame.” (ADWD, Jon)
Colloquo Votar, who wrote the Jade Compendium, travelled to the lands of the Jade Sea – most likely to Asshai itself, where almost certainly obtained this knowledge of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer. We can see that Aemon Targaryen considers it to be of critical importance, as his parting advice to Jon Snow was to read an understand it. We can deduce that Rhaegar was also well familiar with the Jade Compendium, as we know he and Aemon discussed the Azor Ahai prophecy together. This is also a clue that Aemon, at least, thinks that the Azor Ahai information is relevant to the Nights Watch, the people fighting the Others, strengthening the idea that there is a connection between Azor Ahai and the Last Hero.
It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest ages when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. (TWOIAF)
Again we see the connection between R’hllorism and Asshai, and that the legend of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer does in fact come from Asshai. It seems likely Azor Ahai himself came from Asshai, I would suggest. I mean, if not from Asshai, then where?
Hyrkoon the Hero can only come from the formerly existent Patrimony of Hyrkoon, to the east of the Bones Mountains. Hyrkoon’s former empire is now the Great Sand Sea, with the only remnants being the three fortress cities of Bayasabhad, Samyriana, and Kayakayanaya in the Bones mountains, all of which are populated by fierce warrior women who don’t take BS from anyone.
Neferion similarly must come from the “secret city” of Nefer, the sole remaing city of the N’ghai, also east of the Bones mountains. Nefer is the lone port on the coast of the Shivering Sea east of the Bones.
Yin Tar seems to be an obviously Yi Tish name. Their “first and most glorious” capital city is “Yin.” The Golden Empire of Yi Ti is east of the Bones mountains on the coast of the Jade Sea.
Eldric Shadowchaser is the hard one – “Eldric” sounds like a Westerosi name – House Stark has had two “Edrics Starks” (shoutout to Edric Snowbeard) and one “Elric Stark” that we know of. There is no similar-sounding name or word to be found anywhere in Essos. All of the other ‘red sword legends’ are from far eastern Essos, and the Worldbook mentions these five names while telling the story of the Great Empire of the Dawn, a lost civilization of the Dawn Age whose domain was basically all of the habitable land east of the Bones mountains. Thus it would seem odd for Eldric Shadowchaser to be from Westeros. If however, the Last Hero and his dragon steel sword do indeed have a connection to Azor Ahai and his Lightbringer sword as many have proposed, that would mean that Azor Ahai (or perhaps his son?) came to Westeros with his fiery red sword. Perhaps “Eldric Shadowchaser” has something to do with this – it could be the name he was known by in Westeros.
Now, keeping mind that the question is whether or not Azor Ahai was really a heroic savior figure, let’s take a brief look at these places which tell a story of a warrior with a flaming sword. We don’t know where Eldric Shadowchaser is from, and Yi Ti seems to have its share of refined culture and depravity both over the course of its long existence – not especially better or worse than anywhere else. But these other three… well…
Before the Dry Times and the coming of the Great Sand Sea, the Jogos Nhai fought many a bloody border war against the Patrimony of Hyrkoon as well, poisoning rivers and wells, burning towns and cities, and a carrying off thousands into slavery on the plains, whilst the Hyrkoon for their part were sacrificing tens of thousands of the zorse-riders to their dark and hungry gods. (TWOIAF)
Okay, bloody border war, that’s nothing especially heinous… OH HEY THERE, sacrificing thousands of humans to your dark and hungry gods, that’s the kind of thing we are on the lookout for. How many people did Hyrkoon the Hero sacrifice to the dark gods, I wonder?
Nefer, chief city of the kingdom of N’ghai, hemmed in by towering chalk cliffs and perpetually shrouded in fog. When seen from the harbor, Nefer appears to be no more than a small town, but it is said that nine-tenths of the city is beneath the ground. For that reason travelers call Nefer the Secret City. By any name, the city enjoys a sinister reputation as a hunt of necromancers and torturers. (TWOIAF)
I know necromancy and torture are just par for the course at this point, but let’s stop to consider: torturing people and reanimating corpses. That’s what this city is known for, plus the fog. Basically, it’s like a partially-undergound version of Seattle, with grunge bands and the space needle swapped out for necromancy and torture. Kidding aside, the necromancy in particular seems relevant.
And now let’s see what The World of Ice and Fire has to say about Asshai:
Few places in the known world are as remote as Asshai, and fewer are as forbidding. Travelers tell us that the city is built entirely of black stone: halls, hovels, temples, palaces, streets, walls, bazaars, all. Some say as well that the stone of Asshai has a greasy, unpleasant feel to it, that it seems to drink the light, dimming tapers and torches and hearth fires alike. The nights are very black in Asshai, all agree, and even the brightest days of summer are somehow gray and gloomy.
The dark city by the shadow is a city steeped in sorcery. Warlocks, wizards, alchemists, moonsingers, red priests, black alchemists, necromancers, aeromancers, pyromancers, blood mages, torturers, inquisitors, poisoners, godswives, night-walkers, shapechangers, worshippers of the Black Goat and the Pale Child and the Lion of Night, all find welcome in Asshai-by-the-Shadow, where nothing is forbidden. Here they are free to practice their spells without restraint or censure, conduct their obscene rights, and fornicate with demons (!) if that is their desire.
Most sinister of all the sorcerers of Asshai are the shadowbinders, whose lacquered masks hide their faces from the eyes of gods and men. They alone dare to go up river past the walls of Asshai, into the heart of darkness. (TWOIAF)
It gets much worse from there, going up the river Ash, where demons and dragons making their lairs, a corpse city lies at the Shadow’s heart, etc. Septon Barth also tells us that there are no children or animals in Asshai-by-the-Shadow, and that the malign influence of polluted waters of the River Ash may be to blame. That river is said to be black during the day and to glimmer with phosphorescence at night, and the fish that swim it are blind and deformed.
Asshai is basically a magical version of a nuclear wasteland inhabited by the absolute worst and most depraved sorts of black magicians. It’s called “Asshai-by-the-Shadow,” and this is where the legend of Azor Ahai comes from. These are the folks naming him a “hero.”
As for the people who prophesy his return as a savior figure, the R’hllorists? With their shadow babies and burning of the unbelievers and sacrificing children to wake magical stone fire-monsters they hope to control? With their longing for a summer without end, which would be just as bad a winter without end? Are anyone’s red flags going off yet? Is it really so crazy to think that maybe the hero of places like Hyrkoon, Nefer, and Asshai-by-the-Shadow is actually, how shall we say, “The Prince of Darkness?” (cue evil laughter) We also may want to keep an open mind as we look at the other supposed “heroes” and “villains” of the ancient legends. This may potentially be good news for the Nights King fanclub (quick shoutout – hey guys!)
Smithing and Stealing
We continue our exploration of the idea that Azor Ahai was not the darkness-slaying hero he is remembered as, but rather the ‘bad guy’ who murdered his wife and was associated with the cause of the Long Night by looking at another legend about a bad guy who murdered a woman and caused the Long Night. This excerpt is from The World of Ice and Fire and concerns the Yi Tish legend of a lost civilization called the Great Empire of the Dawn and its downfall, a tale of usurpation and murder remembered as the Blood Betrayal.
In the beginning, the priestly scribes of Yin declare, all the land between the Bones and the freezing desert called the Grey Waste, from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea (including even the great and holy isle of Leng), formed a single realm ruled by the God-on-Earth, the only begotten son of the Lion of Night and Maiden-Made of Light, who traveled about his domains in a palanquin carved from a single pearl and carried by a hundred queens, his wives. For ten thousand years the Great Empire of the Dawn flourished in peace and plenty under the God-on-Earth, until at last he ascended to the stars to join his forbearers.
Dominion over mankind then passed to his eldest son, who was known as the pearl Emperor and ruled for 1000 years. The Jade Emperor, the Tourmaline Emperor, the Onyx Emperor, the Topaz Emperor, and the Opal Emperor followed in turn, each reigning for centuries… Yet every reign was shorter and more troubled than the one preceding it, for wild men and baleful beasts pressed at the borders of the Great Empire, lesser kings grew prideful and rebellious, and the common people gave themselves over to avarice, envy, lust, murder, incest, gluttony, and sloth.
When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror. He practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, enslaved his people, took a tiger woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh, and cast down the true Gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky. (Many scholars count the Bloodstone Emperor as the first High Priest of the sinister Church of Starry Wisdom, which persists to this day in many port cities throughout the known world).
In the annals of the further east, it was the Blood Betrayal, as his usurpation is named, that ushered in the age of darkness called the Long Night. Despairing of the evil that had been unleashed on earth, the Maiden-Made-of-Light turned her back upon the world, and the Lion of Night came forth in all his wroth to punish the wickedness of men.
How long the darkness endured no man can say, but all agree it was only when a great warrior – known variously as Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser – arose to give courage to the race of men and lead the virtuous into battle with his blazing sword Lightbringer that the darkness was put to rout, and light and love returned once more to the world.
Yet the Great Empire of the Dawn was not reborn, for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others, and war and lust and murder endured, even to our present day. Or so of the men and women of the further east believe. (TWOIAF)
Here we have a story of a powerful sorcerer king who caused the sun to hide its face and the Long Night to fall by killing his wife and practicing dark magic. Since we suspect that Azor Ahai caused the Long Night by cracking the moon when he stabbed his wife in a blood magic ritual, we must consider the possibility that these two myths might be speaking of the same events. They seem to have the same skeleton, and both are from the far east. Both stories are tied to the Long Night. Both involve blood magic or dark magic. Azor Ahai killed his wife, Nissa Nissa, and the Bloodstone Emperor killed his sister, the Amethyst Empress.
As a final comparison between the myths, notice that Azor Ahai cracked the moon, which poured forth dragon meteors, while the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped a black meteor. Could this black stone that fell from the sky that the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped have been one of these “dragon meteors” which fell to earth after the second moon exploded? If I’m right about the second moon-cracking being the cause of the Long Night, we should see myths about meteor strikes during the Long Night… and here we have that very thing. If Azor Ahai, remembered as the hero, was really the villain who caused the Long Night, then somewhere, we should find a legend about some kind of dark sorcerer who caused the Long Night, the true story of Azor Ahai … and here we find that very thing. Is it possible that these stories are mixed up somehow, and that this Bloodstone Emperor who corrupted and destroyed the great Dawn Age empire in the far east was actually Azor Ahai?
That’s exactly what I mean to suggest – all hail the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, First of his Name, God-Emperor of the Great Empire of the Evening and High Priest of the Church of Starry Wisdom and King of the Nightlands, practitioner of dark arts, torture, and necromancy; enslaver of his own people and eater of human flesh; he who slew the Amethyst Empress Nissa Nissa, cast down the true gods, and worshipped the black stone which fell from the sky. Now that’s the kind of fellow who you would expect to reign supreme during the Long Night.
Since we know that Nissa Nissa represents the moon, celestially, the Amethyst Empress should as well. This makes sense, for in the legend, the death of the Amethyst Empress resulted in the fall of the Long Night, and of course our main hypothesis is that the death of the second moon was the physical mechanism which brought the fall of the Long Night. And if Azor Ahai the “fire dragon” was indeed a dragonlord – and whats the point of waking dragons if you aren’t a dragonlord – it’s well possible that the Amethyst Empress Nissa Nissa was both Azor Ahai’s wife and sister, given what we’ve seen of dragonlords and incest.
I think that the Bloodstone Emperor’s “casting down the true gods” is symbolically the same thing as killing the Amethyst Empress, Nissa Nissa, since she represents the moon, and the moon is a god. “Moon is god, woman wife of sun. It is known,” as Irri and Jiqui tell Dany immediately after we hear of the second-moon-cracking-to-pour-forth-dragons story. The excerpt above even uses the “cast down” phrase for both the Amethyst Empress and the “true gods,” which of course makes sense if they are both symbols of the fallen second moon. In other words, if Azor Ahai wielding a fiery sword is equivalent to a fiery comet coming from the sun, then the killing of the Amethyst Empress Nissa Nissa is equivalent to the murder of a moon goddess, or “casting down the true gods.” High crimes, indeed.
Casting down the gods, pulling down things from heaven, stealing fire or knowledge from heaven, gods descending from heaven with divine knowledge and dying, only to be resurrected – these are all variations of the same idea, and it’s one of the very oldest in mythology. The serpent in the Garden of Eden story encouraged Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so that he might become like gods, while the biblical Lucifer challenged God and was cast down from heaven to become the lord of hell. Prometheus stole the fire of heaven for mankind, Gilgamesh (and Moses) recorded the wisdom of God on stone tablets, and Jesus descended from heaven to give the gift of spiritual rebirth. Queztalcoatl brought all the knowledge of the gods to the natives of the Americas, including astronomy, farming, metallurgy, and many other gifts of civilization, and he too died, descended to the underworld, and was resurrected. Osiris was sacrificed and dismembered, only to be reassembled by Isis and resurrected as the Lord of the Underworld. Most of these mythological characters and deities are associated with the Morningstar, Venus, and are sometimes called “Morningstar deities.” In our case, the ‘stealer of heavenly fire’ is the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, and the stolen fire of heaven that takes the form of a goddess is the Amethyst Empress, Nissa Nissa. I’ll have an essay dedicated to the various Ironborn legends of the Grey King, but I’ve already mentioned that they involve slaying an island-drowning sea dragon, which I take for a falling meteor, and the very Prometheus-like story of the Grey King stealing the fire of the gods via the Storm God’s thunderbolt. These stories seem to share a common theme, if not a common origin.
As my friend and nerd-celebrity Brynden BFish of the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire blog recently wrote on Reddit, the Azor Ahai story is the “monomyth” of A Song of Ice and Fire. The Bloodstone Emperor Blood Betrayal story seems to be a different version of the Azor Ahai Lightbringer legend, and I have found many other myths and legends which may also be referring to the same events, as I have alluded to. Consider the concept of pulling down things from heaven which I just mentioned, and let’s see how many ancient folktales concern something falling from heaven, the death of a goddess, people trying to be like gods, etc. Keep in mind that I believe one of these falling moon meteors landed in the ocean, provoking floods, and so sometimes the moon goddess is depicted as a mermaid or as an aquatic woman of some kind:
Azor Ahai – killed Nissa Nissa in blood magic ritual to obtain flaming sword, cracked the moon
Qarthine Origin of Dragons – the moon cracked, flaming dragons poured forth
Bloodstone Emperor – killed Amethyst Empress, cast down the true gods, worshipped a black stone that fell from the sky, possessed starry wisdom
Grey King – slew sea dragon which drowns islands, stole Storm God’s fire via thunderbolt, took a mermaid to wife, long life
Durran Godsgrief – stole daughter of the wind and sea gods, dooming her to eventual death & provoking floods, long life
Hugor Hill – the Father pulled down seven stars from heaven for his crown, married maiden with eyes like blue pools. He is probably the same as the Andal hero Hukko, who slew the seven swan maidens
Lann the Clever – stole the fire of the sun to color his hair, impregnated maidens without their knowledge, long life
Night’s King – married a woman with moon-pale skin, committed horrible magical atrocities & sacrilege
Hammer of the Waters – something “hammered” the land and broke it, sorcery (“Old Gods”) was part of the cause
Ser Galladon of Morne – the Maiden herself “lost her heart” to Galladon and gave him a magic sword, which I believe refers to the second moon and Lightbringer
Dawn – a magic sword made from a pale stone which is the heart of a fallen star
Pretty impressive, when you look at them all together, isn’t it? Eleven different stories from the Dawn Age or Age of Heroes (I don’t think there’s really a difference), and all of them containing similar key elements. We’ll be getting into all of these myths sooner or later, but I wanted to lay them out here so you can see the continuity of theme: challenging the gods, stealing from the gods, pulling gods down, gods descending from heaven, and things falling form the sky in general. Most of these stories also involve cataclysms of some kind, being either tied to the Long Night directly or referring to floods and earthquakes, etc. Many of these stories also involve legendary figures who had many, many children and founded nations.
There’s also a modern echo of this story in the Doom of Valyria. One story about the Doom says that the priests of R’hllor “called down the fire of their god,” while another says that red clouds rained down dragonglass and the black blood of demons. The Valyrians, meanwhile, believed themselves to be like gods and defied nature itself by harnessing the 14 flames and enslaving or even wiping out whole peoples and nations. Obviously this story doesn’t describe the Long Night, but I believe George is using it as a parallel to give us clues about the Long Night disaster.
While we’re talking about stealing, we can’t pass up one of the occurrences in the series of actual astronomy – observation of the stars – as Jon demonstrates his starry wisdom in A Storm of Swords:
So many stars, he thought as he trudged up the slope through pines and firs and ash. Maester Luwin had taught him his stars as a boy in Winterfell; he had learned the names of the twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each; he could find the seven wanderers sacred to the Faith; he was old friends with the Ice Dragon, the Shadowcat, the Moonmaid, and the Sword of the Morning. All those he shared with Ygritte, but not some of the others. We look up at the same stars, and see such different things. The King’s Crown was the Cradle, to hear her tell it; the Stallion was the Horned Lord; the red wanderer that septons preached was sacred to their Smith up here was called the Thief. And when the Thief was in the Moonmaid, that was a propitious time for a man to steal a woman, Ygritte insisted. “Like the night you stole me. The Thief was bright that night.”
“I never meant to steal you,” he said. “I never knew you were a girl until my knife was at your throat.”
Now first of all, raise your hands if you can look up at the night sky and locate the twelve constellations of the zodiac and perhaps a few others. If your hand is up, congratulations – you’re a real renaissance man, or woman. Jon Snow is actually a halfway decent amateur astronomer, and what’s interesting is that he is one of the only characters to really observe the stars in any detail, and he does it again later on in A Storm of Swords as well. There are a couple of times where a constellation is made note of in the narrative, Davos has a very cool scene at Dragonstone observing the stars, and a feverish Daenerys has a long conversation with Quaithe’s mask of starlight at the end of A Dance with Dragons, but Jon is one of the only people besides Davos and the maesters that we see really observing the stars. Observing the stars doesn’t necessarily make you the Bloodstone Emperor reincarnate, but I’m just saying – Jon has a bit of starry wisdom.
The term “wanderer” refers to the concept of stars which do not move with the backdrop of all the other stars – these are the five planets visible from earth with the naked eye, plus the sun and moon to make seven. In antiquity, these were commonly referred to as the seven celestial “wanderers” or just “wandering stars” in general. Comets too are called wandering stars, for the same reason – they are “a star with a tail, lost in the heavens” as Maester Cressen puts it in the prologue of A Clash of Kings.
The red wanderer which is associated with both the Smith and the Thief is almost certainly Mars, the red planet. We could go off on a tangent about mythology associated with Mars, but I just want to stick to the Westerosi mythology here. The red wanderer in this story makes for a good stand-in for the red comet, a wandering red star. And look – it’s trying to impregnate the Moonmaid! That’s pretty on-the-nose.
In turn, the two mythic figures associated with the red wanderer, the “the Smith” and “the Thief,” both seem to be aspects of the Azor Ahai archetype. Azor Ahai was known for being a smith in a literal sense, because he created the sword Lightbringer – heat, hammer, and fold, oh yes, until the sword was done. He’s also “the Smith” in a more abstract sense, since he forged the burning sword meteors, and perhaps that nasty Hammer of the Waters, which may have been a moon meteor. The Bloodstone Emperor is certainly the thief, as we have discussed, stealing the throne of the Amethyst Empress, the fire of the gods, and even the moon goddess herself. If these are the same person as I suggest, then we can see that the Red Wanderer is actually symbolizing four different aspects of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai – the bleeding, wandering star; the smithing of a sword, the stealing of the fire of the gods, and the impregnation of the moon maiden. In other words, it makes sense for the red wander to to be associated with Azor Ahai symbols and Bloodstone Emperor symbols if they are in fact the same person.
Also emphasized is the killing / procreation dual metaphor of Lightbringer in the custom of “stealing” a woman, which Jon accomplishes with actual violence and near murder. Another time we’ll break down Jon’s entire trip up the Skirling Pass in to meet his lady love, but for now I’ll just mention that from the bottom of the mountain, Ygritte’s “glimmering” watchfire was described as a “fire in the night” which was ” like a “fallen star” which “burned redder than the other stars.” That’s a nice tie-in to the discussion of the red wanderer and Jon’s stealing of Ygritte. The same event is referenced twice, in two different books, with a fire like a fallen red star in one scene and the red wanderer which is a thief and a smith in the other.
Jon is playing the role of Azor Ahai, climbing to the fiery star to steal a moon maiden, who is of course Ygritte, with her hair kissed by fire and eyes “as wide as hen’s eggs.” The moon was an egg that was kissed by the solar fire of Azor Ahai – you get the idea. Jon thinks about killing her with his dragon-forged sword, but falls in love with her instead. Maybe there’s hope for young Jon Snow, even though his raven does call him a thief from time to time.
That’s not a joke, actually – Jon, as an important manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn, should be a thief and a smith. The Thief symbolism is clear – between the raven and Ygritte, it’s unanimous – and the Smith symbolism is there too, though it is more subtle. When Jon becomes commander, he takes up residence in the armory, the former quarters of one of his mentors, Donal Noye, Castle Black’s valiant but fallen smith. The sword Jon’s trying to forge is probably the Nightswatch, the sword in the darkness, although right now that’s not going so well. Regardless, the point is that Jon seems to be wearing both symbols, the smith and the thief, and that these are both part of the Azor Ahai archetype.
Let’s return to the comparison between the stories of the Bloodstone Emperor and Azor Ahai. We see that the Bloodstone Emperor is defined by the killing of the rightful ruler of his kingdom, his sibling, and the usurpation of the throne. Azor Ahai is defined by killing his wife, his love, and fighting the darkness with a sword of red fire. Both of these ideas are combined in one of Jon Snow’s most important scenes of A Dance with Dragons, one which is brimming with Lightbringer symbolism (as well as a non-symbolic, literally-on-fire red sword). As I mentioned before, Jon is the other high-profile incarnation of Azor Ahai reborn, and so I find it highly significant that he seems to again be manifesting the actions of both Azor Ahai and the Bloodstone Emperor at the same time, since I believe them to be the same person:
That night he dreamt of wildlings howling from the woods, advancing to the moan of warhorns and the roll of drums. Boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM came the sound, a thousand hearts with a single beat. Some had spears and some had bows and some had axes. Others rode on chariots made of bones, drawn by teams of dogs as big as ponies. Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.
“Stand fast,” Jon Snow called. “Throw them back.” He stood atop the Wall, alone. “Flame,” he cried, “feed them flame,” but there was no one to pay heed.
They are all gone. They have abandoned me.
Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. Too late he recognized Ygritte. She was gone as quick as she’d appeared.
The world dissolved into a red mist. Jon stabbed and slashed and cut. He hacked down Donal Noye and gutted Deaf Dick Follard. Qhorin Halfhand stumbled to his knees, trying in vain to staunch the flow of blood from his neck. “I am the Lord of Winterfell,” Jon screamed. It was Robb before him now, his hair wet with melting snow. Longclaw took his head off. Then a gnarled hand seized Jon roughly by the shoulder. He whirled… and woke with a raven pecking at his chest. “Snow,” the bird cried. (ADWD, Jon)
Jon performs the entire range of deeds here: he slays his love with a sword of red fire, just as Azor Ahai did, and he kills his sibling and usurps their throne, just as the Bloodstone Emperor did. At first he appears to be the Last Hero, abandoned and alone but heroically fighting the wildling invaders, who sound like Others (“howling” like the north winds, “scuttling up the ice like (ice) spiders”). But we know that the wildlings aren’t really inhuman ice demons, and Jon’s dream of valor quickly warps into a nightmare as he realizes he’s killing innocent people, but cannot stop himself. The killings of Ygritte and Robb symbolize the forging of Lightbringer and the Blood Betrayal both, the moment Jon becomes the Bloodstone Emperor, Azor Ahai reborn.
After that, the world dissolves into red mist – recall Dany’s blood boiling and turning to mist in her wake the dragon dream – and he commits betrayal after betrayal, murdering his closest friends, culminating in his murder and usurpation of Robb’s throne. A nightmare indeed… Just what exactly does it mean for someone to show signs of being Azor Ahai reborn? What kind of sword was this “Lightbringer?” These are two of the important questions which we will attempt to shed light on, if you’ll pardon the pun, as we unravel the legend of Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, and Lightbringer. At the very least, I believe this scene supports the notion that Azor Ahai and the Bloodstone Emperor are the same person, the same archetype, and that anyone who is “Azor Ahai reborn” will be dealing with the dark legacy of the Bloodstone Emperor in some way.
Consider Jon’s black ice armor and burning red sword. Azor Ahai reborn is symbolized by the red comet, as we saw with Khal Drogo being reborn in the night lands as the red comet. Since a comet is really just a dirty ball of ice and rock – and dirt is what makes ice “black” to begin with – Jon is actually a depiction of the red comet in this dream. Black ice, burning red – that’s our red comet, symbol of Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer. This corroborates what I was suggesting before, that Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer are the same thing. It also would seem to corroborate the idea that Azor Ahai’s sword was a black sword which burned red. Just as black ice and red fire Jon represents the comet, he also represents Lightbringer the sword – Jon is a sword in the darkness, after all. A sword of black ice, burning red.
We’ve seen a sword of black ice before, and it’s a sword that symbolizes Lightbringer. Ned’s Ice is a black sword – a grey so dark it looks black, to be technical – which was forged in dragon fire. Black – Ice, get it? Ha ha. In Jon’s dream, it is Longclaw, another virtually-black Valyrian steel sword, which burns red. I think all of this suggests that Lightbringer and the dragonsteel of the Last Hero may be related to Valyrian steel, or at least steel made with dragon fire. Azor Ahai was a fire dragon, and he forged his sword in the “sacred fires” – perhaps those sacred fires were the fires of dragons.
If black ice / red fire Jon symbolizes the red comet, he should also symbolize the moon meteors, since the moon meteors and the red comet are both manifestations of Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer, two parts of a greater whole. Literal black ice is a good match for the comet, a ball of dirty ice, and the idea of black ice as a symbol for Valyrian steel is a good match for the moon meteors, since meteors usually contain iron (as steel swords do) and are symbolized as flaming swords.
There’s a great corroboration of the idea that red fire and black ice are symbols which represent Jon Snow to be found elsewhere in A Dance with Dragons. The night before Jon is preparing to let the wildlings through the Wall, Jon looks at the cracks of the Wall, which has been weeping, and sees and interesting optical illusion. The last light of the sun reflects off the meltwater in the cracks and the cracks “go from red to grey to black, from streaks of fire to rivers of black ice.” What is interesting is that in her House of the Undying visions, Daenerys saw the blue rose in the chink in the Wall, the same place that we see red fire and black ice. Most people interpret the blue rose in the Wall as a reference to the legacy of Lyanna flowering at the Wall, Jon’s Stark heritage. I would suggest that the red fire and black ice refers to his dragon heritage, passed down to him from the Valyrians and Azor Ahai himself. Both are personal symbols for Jon, and so we find them in the same place – at least, that’s my interpretation.
After seeing the red fire and black ice, Jon thinks to himself that the Wall must be manned. That’s exactly where he was in his dream of being armored in black ice and wielding a burning red sword, and thus we can see that the two scenes are connected.
As for the astronomy of that scene, it’s pretty easy – when the sun shone it’s last light, streaks of red fire (meteors) triggered rivers of black ice – the black tide. These are the floods of the sea dragon which drowns whole islands and the floods of the sea and wind gods’ wrath sent against Durran Godsgrief after he stole a goddess. These are the waves of blood and night associated with Ned’s “Black Ice,” and thus Lightbringer. Jon also muses that by letting the wildlings through the Wall, they are “dancing on rotten ice,” and that one crack means that they will all drown. Again, we see that the black ice leads to drowning.
Elsewhere in A Dance with Dragons, the wall walks of Winterfell are said to be “treacherous with black ice.” That’s a link between black ice and Winterfell – and thus between Ned’s sword and the concept of “black ice.” Black ice is rotten and treacherous, just like the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai and his black sword.
All in all, Jon’s Azor Ahai dream of being armored in black ice and wielding a burning red sword is quite the densely packed bundle of symbolism. It shows Jon playing the combined role of Azor Ahai and Bloodstone Emperor, and Jon’s black ice and red fire symbols show us the nature of the comet, the meteors, and of Lightbringer the burning black sword. And unfortunately, all of it seems very dark and bloody.
Like Jon, Daenerys also performs the actions of Azor Ahai, being reborn and waking dragons from stone, and the Bloodstone Emperor, by participating in the killing of her sibling – justified, yes, but she did participate – and in doing so she took his place as exiled monarch of Westeros. I’m not judging, I’m just saying – that the symbolism matches. Dany also killed Khal Drogo, her mate, and became what he was: a Khal(eesi). Again, it was arguably the right thing to do – it was a mercy killing – but the pattern is still there. Killing your love, and taking their place as ruler. Killing your sibling, and taking their place as ruler. The fact that Dany and Jon act out the deeds of both Azor Ahai and the Bloodstone Emperor seem to corroborate the idea that they were the same person.
As we’ve seen, the various symbolic manifestations of Lightbringer are always associated with darkness and shadow, black blood, fire transformation, and death. Now let’s consider the symbolism around Jon Snow a bit further. He’s the man with “an evil name” (Ygritte, A Clash of Kings) who always dresses in black (or black ice armor, as above) and is described as “a shadow among shadows” (A Clash of Kings). Jon’s hunger for Winterfell is described as being as sharp as a dragonglass knife inside of him – and dragonglass, being frozen fire, may be another aspect of the black ice symbol. The black brothers of the Nightswatch are also said to have black blood. This is a euphemism of course, just like a Dodger fan would claim to “bleed Dodger Blue,” but it’s also symbolism. Symbolism, disguised as euphemism. If Jon is in fact Rhaegar’s son, then he’s a dragon as well. He has burnt hands, even – recall the fiery hand of R’hllor in the Benerro scene, the hand that flings the burnt and bloody meteors. From top to bottom, Jon’s symbolism is consistent with Azor Ahai reborn / Lightbringer archetype.
Is Jon the son of sun and moon, symbolically speaking? Well yes, absolutely. Rhaegar the dragon prince plays the role of solar king, with his extensive Apollo symbolism. He’s even got two wives, or at least one wife and one baby-momma, just as the sun would have have two moons before the Long Night disaster. Lyanna, with her lunar halo-like crown of blue roses, is the moon maiden who dies giving birth to dragon seed.
He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood.
“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow, he could hear Lyanna screaming. “Eddard!” she called. A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.
Lyanna’s bed of blood recalls the blood of Lightbringer’s tempering and the dual metaphor of battle and birth, as well as the somewhat murky concept of ‘moon blood’ which I will clarify in due time. The bed of moon blood was the death of the moon and the birthing of Lighrbringer, just Lyanna’s bed of blood signifies the birthing bed and the deathbed both. Her apparent death in the Tower of Joy places her up in the celestial realm, and Eddard sees her deathly blue rose petals and what is probably meant to be her blood streaked across the sky in his dream recall of the scene. Her rose petals are actually called a storm, in fact, and that’s exactly the idea. The birth of Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer and the death of the moon are accompanied by a great bloody storm. If you’re thinking of Daenerys Stormborn and the horrendous gale that raged on Dragonstone at her birth, you’ve got exactly the right idea and you’re a total smarty-pants.
As an aside, I should mention that the ‘maiden in the tower’ is a well known mythological archetype (in Arthurian myth especially, shout-out to Lady Gywnhyfvar of Radio Westeros), and George has adapted it here to his moon maiden archetype. All throughout the books, we’ll see the top of the tower used to represent the celestial realm, and the tops of mountains and castles as well. Here’s a great quote from A Dance with Dragons which makes this point nicely:
Dany broke her fast under the persimmon tree that grew in the terrace garden, watching her dragons chase each other about the apex of the Great Pyramid where the huge bronze harpy once stood.
. . .
Up here in her garden Dany sometimes felt like a god, living atop the highest mountain in the world.
The pinnacle of a mountain or pyramid is also viewed as a place to communicate with the heavenly realms in many real world cultures and belief systems. The Egyptians, for example, viewed the pyramids as the place where the Pharaoh ascends to heaven and becomes like Osiris. The top of the pyramid is called the ben-ben stone, and the original ben-ben was supposedly a stone that fell from heaven. George is really just carrying forward this real-world mythological association into his own mythos. This quote gets bonus points for placing dragons at the apex of the pyramid with moon goddess Daenerys; dragons came from the moon, way up in the sky, and that’s what the tops of these places symbolize – the celestial realm.
Consider Ashara Dayne, the lady of “Star-fall,” who falls into the sea from atop a tower called the Palestone Sword, and was said to have died of a broken heart. I don’t know what’s up with Ashara Dayne – if she’s still alive, or if she had a surviving child – but I do know she is part of the moon maiden archetype, leaping from a tower into the sea to her death just as the second moon fell from the sky like a falling star and in some cases, landing into the sea. Her broken heart calls to mind Nissa Nissa’s heart, pierced by Lightbringer, an idea which I believe is echoed in the Ser Galldon tale, where the Maiden loses her heart to Galladon and gives him a magic sword.
The Tower of Joy is a tower “long fallen,” symbolizing the fall of a heavenly body, and there are a few other towers that we will run across that are being used the same way, such as Queenscrown, the Children’s Tower at Moat Cailin, towers at Harrenhall, the Eyrie, and the Hammerhorn Keep, and Sea Tower of castle Pyke on the Iron Islands. At Dany’s alchemical wedding scene, the role of the tower was played by the tall wooden platform which became Drogo’s pyre. The platform shifts and collapses around Daenerys and unleashes a “firestorm” amidst the thunderous cracks of the dragon’s eggs.
Lyanna’s apparent death in her bed of blood at the top of the tower fits with her playing the role of moon maiden to Rhaegar’s solar dragon. I can’t help but notice that her blood streaking across the sky sounds a bit like a red banner unfurled in the heavens, which matches the Greatjon’s description of the red comet as a “red flag of vengeance for Ned,” unfurled by the old gods. The Greatjon’s claim is followed up immediately by the Blackfish’s declaration that the comet represents blood in the sky, another tie-in to the blood-streaked sky at the tower of Joy. We also saw fiery banners unfurled at the alchemical wedding scene, where moon maiden Daenerys symbolically dies giving birth to dragons, just as Lyanna does in her bed of blood. Each time, the red banner is unfurled. Here’s another quote from A Game of Thrones about Lyanna:
He could hear her still at times. Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister’s eyes. Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black.
Here we see the all-important color transformation – blue rose petals turning black. Instead of red blood turning black, we have blue roses turning black – but the point is, it’s a death transformation that brings darkness for the mother of Azor Ahai reborn. This in turn brings us back to Jon Snow, the black-blooded shadow among shadows armored in black ice. He’s a perfect fit with the other Lightbringer / Azor Ahai reborn symbols we have examined so far. He’s the right guy to dream of a burning red sword, as he seems to have inherited some part of the legacy of the Bloodstone Emperor, Azor Ahai. When he dreams of killing Ygritte and Robb with his burning red sword, Jon is even placed at the top of the Wall, and thus, in the celestial realm. When Jon stole Ygritte, he did so at the top of the Skirling Pass, high in the Frostfangs – and thus, once again, Lightbringer is forged high in the celestial realm.
Jon’s Caesar-like assassination at the end of A Dance with Dragons may well be the legacy of the sacrificed Amethyst Empress, Nissa Nissa, coming home to roost, because as I said, Azor Ahai reborn is also Nissa Nissa reborn. There’s actually some more stuff to analyze here at the Tower of Joy which we will come back for once we introduce some concepts later in the program that need to be understood first.
BREAKER OF (HELIO)TROPES
The Bloodstone Emperor worshipped a “black stone” that fell from the sky around the time of the onset of the Long Night. If the destruction of the second moon was in fact responsible for the Long Night, then this black stone is almost certainly a piece of the exploded moon. The Bloodstone Emperor comes from a line of God-Kings said to have descended from the stars, and he is also said to be the first High Priest of the “Church of Starry Wisdom.” Clearly, there is a lot of astronomical ideas swirling about the Bloodstone Emperor, this man who would be like a god, who stole the fire of the heavens by plucking a star from the sky. But what about the “bloodstone” itself? Why did George choose this stone to represent the “prince of darkness?” The answer to this question reveals much, I have found.
It turns out that although it kind of sounds like some made up fantasy name for a magic stone, “bloodstone” is a real gemstone, and it’s proper name is “heliotrope” (many of you will know this, but it must be said). In A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin has personified the natural qualities of obsidian (cooled and hardened magma) into magical qualities (frozen fire, possessing the essence of fire magic), and he seems to have done the same with his fantasy-novel version of bloodstone (heliotrope). To see just what kind of magical stone we might be dealing with here, let’s take a look at the (as it turns out) exceedingly rich folklore surrounding bloodstone / heliotrope. I have to warn you – this is going to blow your mind a little. In a nutshell, what I found is that all of the mythical associations of bloodstone seem to match some aspect of the proposed Lightbringer / moon-destruction scenario. There are way too many specific correlations for me to believe George chose the name “Bloodstone Emperor” for the dude who caused the Long Night by happenstance. I don’t know which idea came first for him, what idea led to what, but after looking into the bloodstone stuff I am left with the impression that Mr. Martin has had these ideas in mind more or less from the start. You’ll have to judge for yourself. I’m going to first list the properties and associations in bullet point form, and then expound on each in their own section.
Bloodstone is associated with the following ideas and symbols:
- increasing personal power, physical & spiritual – it’s called the “the warrior’s stone” & “stone of courage”
- magical warfare, divination, alchemy, and astrology
- “the martyr’s stone” – associated with Christ’s blood dripping on stone
- healing, blood circulation, vitality
- curing blood poisoning, drawing out snake venom from a wound
- turning, reflecting, or bending the sun’s light; or turning to face the sun
- turning the sun’s reflection to blood when submersed in water
- “sun stone” – as a sun-mirror, heliotrope possess the power of the sun
- predicting eclipses
- predicting and even causing lighting and thunderstorms
- heliotropic plants which turn to face the sun
- “mother goddess stone,” Isis, Astarte, Innana, etc – lunar goddesses who resurrect the sun god
As we go through each of these ideas, we will examine how they correlate to two things: the cataclysmic events involved in the Long Night disaster, and the character and nature of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer. I know I’ve said it a bunch of times by now, but the nature of Lightbringer and Azor Ahai is darkness and shadow, burning blood and fire transformation, and of course, death.
(I must also pause to give a huge shout-out to Westeros.org user Durran Durrandon, who pointed me towards the associations of heliotrope early on in the process. Durran has been one of my most important collaborators from the very start, contributing several key ideas. Thanks buddy. Here’s a link to several of his essays: The Amethyst Empress Reborn | The Long Night and the Great Summer | Melisandre and the Night’s Queen | Jon and Beric: Fire Consumes. Cold Preserves)
Magical Properties, Warrior’s Stone
Bloodstone is considered to have many magical properties by ancient man. The Babylonians and Egyptians used it for divination and to achieve victory in magical warfare. It was thought to increase personal power, spiritual first and foremost, but also physical power, which is why it was sometimes known as the “warrior’s stone” and the “stone of courage.” It was a must-have for ancient magicians, alchemists, and astrologers, as it was thought to aid in communication with the celestial realms. All of that fits with our idea of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, a sorcerer-king with starry wisdom who was known as the warrior of fire. The warrior associations are more general and could be coincidental, but the bit about communicating with heavenly realms is a very specific and central theme of the Bloodstone Emperor. He worshipped a black stone, which seems likely to be a moon meteor, and I think the implication is that it aided him in his dark magic. Are these black moon meteors to be thought of as “bloodstones?” Well, yes, that’s the case I am making, as you will see. This is a major premise of this essay, one which we will build on as we go.
The Martyr’s Stone
The most important connotation of bloodstone is the association with Christ’s blood, or more generally speaking, the notion of bloodstone as a stone consecrated with the blood of a dying god. Actual heliotrope stone is a type of dark green chalcedony with bright red (and occasionally yellow) inclusions. The red spots usually resemble smears of paint or blood – hence the name “bloodstone.” At some point in history, the idea came about that Christ’s blood had dripped on to some green chalcedony at the foot of the cross, creating the bloodstone, and that bloodstone was therefore symbolically or spiritually connected to his blood and its power. I believe this is exactly how we should think of George’s fantasy version of bloodstone – the corpse of the sacrificed moon goddess, soaked in her blackened blood. These meteors represent Lightbringer, and Lightbringer was covered in the blood of Nissa Nissa, who represents the moon goddess. I think it’s a nice parallel.
Real bloodstone is green and red, as I mentioned, but as we’ve seen, fire transformation produces black blood, and so his bloodstone is black. It figures that these meteors would be black, since the moon’s blood was burned black when it was transformed by the fire of the Lightbringer comet. This idea appears in the Qarthine tale as the moon dragons drinking the sun’s fire. As I have hopefully made clear, Lightbringer is the offspring of sun and moon, of solar fire and moon blood. The result is black bloodstone moon meteors, burning with red fire as they descend through the atmosphere. They’ve been consecrated with the blackened blood of the moon goddess, making them bloodstones in this very important sense of the word.
We discussed the nature of fire transformation a bit last time, taking a look at the examples of when someone “has the fire inside them.” We saw that Dany had the fire inside her after her wake the dragon dream, where she dreams of undergoing dragon transformation while Mirri Maz Durr delivers dead baby Rhaego in the tent of dancing shadows, and again during the Alchemical Wedding scene where she steps into the fire to wake dragons from stone. Both scenes also involve burning blood and symbolic moon maiden death. Dany’s earlier dragon dream, where the bloody black dragon engulfs her in fire, also matches these fire transformation scenes, complete with burning blood and Dany being “tempered” like a sword.
We also looked at two Melisandre fire transformation scenes – the birthing of the shadow baby and her fire vision in A Dance with Dragons – and we saw burning black blood and copious Lightbringer symbolism in both. In the latter scene, Mel has “the fire inside her, searing and transforming her,” giving us a clear indication that human beings can literally transform their bodies with fire and sorcery into something… less than human. It’s not just a symbolic transformation – Melisandre doesn’t need to eat, and barely needs to sleep – and even hopes to get to the point where she no longer has to sleep at all. We don’t know if she always has black blood, or just during these ecstatic experiences, but it’s clear black blood and fire transformation go together.
There are actually a couple of other instances of black blood worth taking a look at as well, beginning with the Lightning Lord, Beric Dondarrion, in A Storm of Swords. There’s quite a lot of rich symbolism around “the Lord of Corpses,” most of which will come in one of upcoming sections concerning lighting and thunderstorms, but the main thing to understand for the moment is that he has undergone fire transformation, and therefore bleeds black blood:
“Finish him!” Greenbeard urged Lord Beric, and other voices took up the chant of “Guilty!” Arya shouted with the rest. “Guilty, guilty, kill him, guilty!”
Smooth as summer silk, Lord Beric slid close to make an end of the man before him. The Hound gave a rasping scream, raised his sword in both hands and brought it crashing down with all his strength. Lord Beric blocked the cut easily …
“Noooooo,” Arya shrieked.
… but the burning sword snapped in two, and the Hound’s cold steel plowed into Lord Beric’s flesh where his shoulder joined his neck and clove him clean down to the breastbone. The blood came rushing out in a hot black gush.
I couldn’t just quote the last line – it seemed disrespectful of Lord Beric to not give his death scene a tiny bit of lead-in. Plus I’m a big fan of Mortal Kombat and so I had to get the “Finish him!” in there. But yeah, once again, we that fire transformed beings have blackened blood. As we know, Beric has been reanimated by Thoros’s fiery kiss, so the black blood is to be expected. Lady Stoneheart was in turn resurrected by Beric’s fiery kiss, and she too has blood that is described as black. Finally, notice that the Hound’s blow clove Beric clean down to the breastbone – this is a match for Nissa Nissa bearing her breast and being stabbed in the heart. Quite often we’ll see mentions of a breast or a heart being burned or stabbed.
Another nice little hidden example of having the fire inside you comes from A Dance with Dragons, where Varamyr Six-skins recalls being burnt out of the sky while skinchanging Orell’s eagle:
His last death had been by fire. I burned. At first, in his confusion, he thought some archer on the Wall had pierced him with a flaming arrow … but the fire had been inside him, consuming him. And the pain …
. . .
He died his first death when he was only six, as his father’s axe crashed through his skull. Even that had not been so agonizing as the fire in his guts, crackling along his wings, devouring him. When he tried to fly from it, his terror fanned the flames and made them burn hotter. One moment he had been soaring above the Wall, his eagle’s eyes marking the movements of the men below. Then the flames had turned his heart into a blackened cinder and sent his spirit screaming back into his own skin, and for a little while he’d gone mad. Even the memory was enough to make him shudder. (ADWD, Prologue)
The black blood symbol in the scene, Varamyr’s heart, which has been burnt to a blackened cinder. The flaming arrow is a definite Lightbringer / meteor symbol, and “shuddering” is a phrase we’ve seen used often when the moon maiden dies. Varamyr is no maiden – that’s for sure – but that’s okay, symbolism can be gender-flexible. He’s burnt out of the sky by a fire sorcerer, and I believe that is a match for the idea of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, certainly a fire sorcerer, using dark magic to cause the fall of the Long Night by burning the moon goddess out of the sky. We’re not sure how he did it, what method was used – but all of the myths which involve things descending from heaven which we examined earlier seem to place a human in the role of fire-stealer, goddess-stealer, etc. I’ve got some ideas about this, but this is most definitely a huge subject which will need to wait for it’s own airtime.
So, fire transformation equals black blood and burning blood. We got that. Now let’s get back to the idea of bloodstone representing a stone which is consecrated with the blood of a deity by taking another look at Dany’s “dragon dream” from A Game of Thrones:
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)
Drogon and the other two dragons are referred to often as Dany’s children, and it seems likely that this black dragon in her dream is a representation of Drogon, as Dany directly compares it to Drogon’s egg after waking. Indeed, the dream dragon is slick with Dany’s blood, just as if it were her child. The whole idea here is that the moon dies and bleeds upon her stone meteor children, creating bloodstone, and here we see Dany’s dragon child covered in her blood as she undergoes symbolic death and fire transformation. Her child is depicted as a black dragon, covered in her blood, which is also burning in this scene. Lightbringer caught on fire after it was covered in blood. The red comet is either described as burning or bleeding. Fire and blood, people, that’s the recipe. That’s exactly how I am seeing the meteors – black dragon stones, covered in burning moon blood. Black bloodstones, on fire.
I mentioned before that we’d return to the Tower of Joy, and now it’s time, because we’ve got a moon maiden making some bloodstone. Here is Ned, recalling the tower “long fallen” in A Game of Thrones:
Martyn Cassel had perished with the rest. Ned had pulled the tower down afterward, and used its bloody stones to build eight cairns upon the ridge. It was said that Rhaegar had named that place the tower of joy, but for Ned it was a bitter memory. They had been seven against three, yet only two had lived to ride away; Eddard Stark himself and the little crannogman, Howland Reed. He did not think it omened well that he should dream that dream again after so many years.
Bloody stones as cairns, do you say? It’s not clear who’s blood is on the stones, or if this is even a literal sentence – I believe the thought Ned is having here is that the stones of the fallen tower are symbolic of the death of so many good people. The entire site is “covered in their blood,” in the sense that they all died there. Of course chief of all these deaths is that of Lyanna, although Ned does not bury her with the rest. Assuming that her bed of blood was in that tower – it’s not specifically stated, only strongly implied, to be technically accurate – the stones are first and foremost covered in her blood. This completes the symbolism of Lyanna as the Nissa Nissa moon maiden, mother of Lightbringer: as she lay dying, her blood covered the stones, and she gave birth to a dragon. Lightbringer is born amidst the bloody stones of the dying moon maiden – you get the idea.
Considering again the symbol of the tower as reaching into the heavens, we can see that the pulling down of the tower adds to the falling celestial object imagery. The stones that that fell from the heavens are the ones with moon maiden blood on them, that’s the message here.
There’s a great match to this to be found in Dany’s “wake the dragon” dream in A Game of Thrones, which we have discussed quite a bit already. Early on the dream, we read:
“You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” She was walking down a long hall beneath high stone arches. She could not look behind her, must not look behind her. There was a door ahead of her, tiny with distance, but even from afar, she saw that it was painted red. She walked faster, and her bare feet left bloody footprints on the stone.
Dany is creating bloodstone, just as Lyanna did. This dream culminates in Dany’s symbolic fire transformation into the Last Dragon, where her blood burns and she sprouts wings of shadow. This process represents the forging of Lightbringer – the death of the moon by fire and the pouring fourth of dragons. There’s no real reason for her feet to be bleeding in this dream, except for the symbolic purpose of showing the moon goddess creating bloodstone with her own blood as she undergoes fire transformation. Later in the dream, her feet progress to melting the stone, just as the comet stone would melt and fuse with the moon rocks, and just as those moon meteors would melt and fuse with the earth where they landed. Recall also the Alchemical Wedding, where Dany visualized walking into the fire so that she and Drogo can melt together and fuse as one as they forge a Lightbringer together. Bloody stone and melting or burning stone belong together, and that’s why they keep appearing together in the middle of Lightbringer forging metaphors. Dany’s wake the dragon dream has most of the key elements of a Lightbringer forging – a moon maiden with burning blood transforming into a dragon, bloody stones and melting stones, and there’s even an appearance of flaming swords in there, although I didn’t quote it here. Therefore, I don’t think it’s coincidence that we find moon maidens making bloody stones both in this dream and at the Tower of Joy.
And finally, it must be said, making swords involves melting metal as well, and of course these moon meteors can be seen as flaming swords, so we can see that all of these ideas have a certain unity. Lightbringer is all about fire and blood, as we’ve seen. The bloodstone meteors make a lot of sense as Lightbringer symbols, both having been made with goddess blood and solar fire. Both are made with blood sacrifice, and both set on fire. Both can symbolize dragons. But are the moon meteors merely symbolic of Lightbringer? If Azor Ahai was in fact the Bloodstone Emperor as I propose, then it seems to me that he may well have made his sword from the the black meteor which the Bloodstone Emperor was said to have worshipped. I’m not sure if this is like an inverted, parallel version of the legend of Dawn and Starfall, or if the Dawn story originated in the east and was transplanted to Starfall – we’ll certainly ponder these questions in the future. The point is that the Starfall legend gives us the general concept of a sword made from a meteor, a mythological precedent if you will, and from the Dawn Age as well.
In addition to these reasons, I like the idea of Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer being made from the Bloodstone Emperor’s black stone because falling stars seem like the place where the celestial and terrestrial stories are interacting. Indeed, that’s the very significance of meteorites as fallen stars, the fire of the gods, etc – they represent the celestial realm descending to the realm of man. Lightbringer is a word which is synonymous with “Morningstar,” as I said, and the defining characteristic of deities and mythological figures associated with the Morningstar is that they descend from heaven and bring celestial knowledge and power to mankind. I believe that the A Song of Ice and Fire equivalent of the hermetic principle of “as above, so below” dictates that the events in the celestial realm should be manifested on the ground in parallel events. Nissa Nissa represents the second moon, but I do think she was also a real person or perhaps even a whole tribe of people who were slaughtered to work blood magic and create Lightbringer the flaming sword.. something along those lines. The falling stars are the thing which connects the celestial and terrestrial realms, and they are the heart of the Lightbringer story. If Lightbringer was made from a moon meteor, then we have a perfect nexus point for all the various incarnations of the Lightbringer story.
When I think about a sword made from a black meteor, I can’t help but think of Valyrian steel, which is a grey so dark that it looks practically black. Ned’s Ice is said to have a “dark glow” and Valyrian steel in general to have a “smokiness to its soul.” These swords are forged in dragonfire, of course, and it’s rumored that blood sacrifice is involved as well. Marwyn the Mage tells us that all Valyrian magic was in fact rooted in blood and fire. Blood magic and fire magic… hmm. Sounds a bit like that old Lightbringer recipe we’ve heard so much about.
The “heat, hammer, and fold” language of the Azor Ahai myth suggest a folded steel making process, which is how Valyrian steel is described. It makes a lot of sense for Azor Ahai’s sword to be a kind of predecessor to Valyrian steel, if indeed Azor Ahai the fire dragon was a dragonlord. And like Valyrian steel, Lightbringer must have been a black sword, if was in fact made from a black meteor. Perhaps Salladhor Saan was right when he called Lightbringer a “burnt” sword – that’s a match for bloodstone meteors who have been burned black by drinking the sun’s fire and coated in burning black moon blood. It’s also a match for black ice / red fire Jon Snow as a symbol of Lightbringer, a black sword burning red in the darkness. Although Lightbringer was a burnt sword, it also burned, just as the falling black meteors would have burned red in the sky. Jon’s actual burning red sword in the scene is Longclaw, also a black sword.
All the symbolism seems to agree: Azor Ahai had a black sword that burned red. Or perhaps it burned with fire that matches the fire of the black dragons, Drogon and Balerion (and presumably the Cannibal): black fire, shot through with streaks of red, or sometimes red and gold. The ancestral sword of House Targaryen is named Blackfyre, after all. Perhaps that’s a foggy memory of Lightbringer. I suppose that at night, you’d really only notice the red parts of the black fire anyway, so you could still describe it as burning red.
Speaking of House Targaryen, their sigil is a three headed red dragon on a field of black – that sounds a lot like three dragon meteors, burning red against the night sky. Let’s review: their words are “fire and blood,” a recipe for Lightbringer; their sword is called Blackfyre; their sigil is a blood red dragon on a field of night; and they are famous for making black swords, probably with blood sacrifice. I think we can see the picture George is painting for us, and it’s remarkably consistent: black swords, burning red, which were made with fire and blood, and in more than one sense. The swords were forged with dragon fire and human blood sacrifice, and they were smithed out of “bloodstone” moon meteors, which were themselves made with solar fire and moon blood.
House Blackfyre takes their name from the sword Blackfyre, and they invert the Targaryen colors, showing a black dragon on a field of red. If the Targaryen sigil shows burning red comets or meteors against a field of night, then perhaps the Blackfyre sigil is just a zoomed in view of the same – now we see the core of the comet or meteor, a black dragon, which is surrounded by red fire. Like the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, Daemon Blackfyre was a famous usurper who tried to take his sibling’s throne. It’s probably not a coincidence to find that legacy of the Blackfyres, the Golden Company, was lead for a long time by a man called “the Blackheart” – Miles Toyne, who is himself descended from famous usurpers. Recall also Varamyr’s heart, burned to a blackened cinder by the power of R’hllor, and the black blood which is the hallmark of fire transformation. What pumps black blood? Black hearts, of course. Lightbringer boils and burns the blood, and it stabbed Nissa Nissa in the heart, so we should expect to see blackened and burned hearts connected to Lightbringer. Lightbringer is like a fiery spider or vampire – it burns hearts and then drinks the blackened blood.
While we’re talking black fire, we should also mention shadow-fire. The term shadow fire is from one of Dany’s visions in the House of the Undying in A Clash of Kings. The exact line is “from a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire.” Most have interpreted this as a reference to Young Griff, who claims to be Aegon VI Targaryen but who is probably a Blackfyre, and Jon Connington, the “Griffin reborn” who is turning to stone via his greyscale infection (the “Griffin Reborn” is one of the chapter titels for Jon Connington, in case you’re wondering where I got that). The idea here is that JonCon is the stone beast, fAegon Blackfyre is the shadow fire, with the two of them combining to invade Westeros. This interpretation may or may not be correct – it probably is – but I think there’s also a layer of astronomical symbolism which his easy to decipher. The top of the tower tells us we are talking about a celestial scene; the smoking tower indicates fire in the heavens and celestial catastrophe; the stone beast taking wing from the heavens is of course the meteors and the reborn red comet; and the shadow fire is a reference to black fire – fire which brings not light, but shadow. That’s the sort of fire these black meteors are associated with, I think, and quite possibly the kind of fire that Lightbringer had. We see the black dragons breathing black fire, and we see that the shadow baby that was created from Stannis’s life fires has a “shadowsword” version of Lightbringer. Essentially, the idea of black or shadowy fire bursts the bubble of misinformation about Azor Ahai’s sword. A sword of fire? Yes. One that brought light and love to the world? Eh… perhaps not.
Finally, notice that parelles between the JonCon / fAegon interpretation and the astronomical one I just laid out. The stone beast refers to either JonCon, “the Griffin reborn” who is kissed by fire, or to Azor Ahai reborn, the fiery red comet. Both are red & fiery reborn things, and for what it’s worth, the griffin as a mythological beast is really an offshoot of dragon lore, as are basilisks. The shadow fire either refers to “fAegon Blackfyre” (if that’s who he is), a black dragon and would-be usurper, or to the usurping black dragon Azor Ahai the Bloodstone Emperor and his black sword which may have lit up with black and red fire. To add to the symbolic parallels, it seems possible or even probable that Illyrio possessed the sword Blackfyre and has passed it along to fAegon in one of those chests of goods he sent with Jon Connigton. Many have proposed this, and I think that the astronomy angle here might be a corroboration of this idea. Usurping black dragons should wield swords of black fire, according to everything we’ve examined so far.
One last thing about “fAegon Blackfyre” – many see a parallel between the black iron dragon pieces of the sign of the inn formerly known as the “Clanking Dragon” as metaphor for fAegon as a Blackfyre. These are the ones which the Elder Brother refers to as having washed up on the Quiet Ilse in A Feast for Crows. The notion is that the black iron dragon pieces turned up on the other side of a body of water coated in red rust, and that that is a metaphor for a black dragon (a Blackfyre) from across the Narrow Sea claiming to be a red dragon (a Targaryen). This too builds on the idea that the Blackfyre sigil represents the black hearted moon meteors and black Lightbringer burning red. Black iron dragons coated in red, a black dragon on a field of red, a black sword burning red – it’s the exact same image. Just as Dawn was supposedly made from the “heart” of a fallen star, I am proposing that Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer was made from the black and burned heart of the moon, the black heart which became the bloodstone meteors. The black bloodstone meteors are coated in burning black heartblood, and they are pieces of the black heart of a burned star.
Ned’s black Valyrian steel sword Ice, a Lightbringer symbol in its own right, deserves another mention here, because it acts just like a bloodstone. Ned’s own sword drinks his blood, just as the moon meteor “swords” are coated in the moon’s own blood, and just as Lightbringer drank Nissa Nissa’s blood. If the original Lightbringer was made from a moon meteor, then Lightbringer really did drink Nissa Nissa’s blood, in more than one sense. The legend tell us that the blood and soul of Nissa Nissa went into the steel when she was sacrificed to light the sword, and if Lightbringer was a moon meteor sword, the bloody stones of the dead moon goddess also went into the steel of Lightbringer. Either way, Lightbringer contains the blood of the moon maiden.
Consider again black ice / red fire Jon Snow as a symbol of both the bleeding stars and Lightbringer the sword. If Lightbringer was made from a moon meteor, it makes even more sense that black ice / red fire Jon would symbolize both the bleeding stars – black ice or black iron, burning red – and Lightbringer – black steel, burning red.
This means that Dawn probably cannot be Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer – it’s the wrong color. It’s also called the Sword the Morning, and it seems like Azor Ahai’s black sword was more like a sword of the evening, a sword of nightfall. This is probably an opportune time to mention that Dalton Greyjoy, the “Red Kracken,” had a Valyrian steel sword called “Nightfall,” which even has a moonstone in the pommel. Real moonstones are blue and white, but of course the word “moon-stone” also puts in mind of the moon meteors. A sword of Nightfall, made with moon meteors – that’s the picture we are already seeing for Lightbringer as it is.
Thinking about the implications of a milky blue-white stone in the pommel of a black steel sword reminds me of the fact that Jon’s black steel sword, Longclaw, has a pale stone for a pommel. A pale stone makes us think of the sword Dawn, made from a apple stone, and milky blue-white stones remind us of milkglass. Moonstones even have an optical shimmer called adularescence which means that they can be said to be “alive with light,” like the sword Dawn. Perhaps we are seeing a duality here with these two swords that may be made from meteorites, the black sword and the white sword. I certainly think about them as a pair, the swords of the morning and evening.
Did Dawn come from an unburnt moon meteor, or perhaps a piece of the unburnt comet which broke off before impact, left behind in the cometary field of debris? Perhaps it’s a piece of the surviving moon which took a bit of shrapnel and chipped of some pale meteorites? I’ve even speculated that the two moons Planetos used to have were “moons of Ice and Fire” – you have to admit, it makes a certain amount of sense – with the destroyed moon that gave birth to fiery dragons being the “fire moon,” and the surviving moon whose pale light the Others seem to like so much being the “ice moon.” If Dawn comes from a piece of this hypothetical “ice moon,” it makes sense for Dawn to be pale and looking like milkglass, alive with light, just as the Others have “pale swords” which are “alive with moonlight” and bones which are “pale and shiny like milkglass.”
These two swords may perhaps be rooted in the same ancient technology, with Dawn representing a pure form of it and Azor Ahai’s black sword being the corrupted version. This would match with the idea of Lightbringer being white hot and smoking before being covered in blood which we discussed last time as well as the idea that the comet itself had a normal white and blue tail before being transformed to red by the moon explosion.
Finally, I mentioned that Dany’s wake the dragon dream contains a vision of people with gemstone eyes and silver and gold hair who hold burning swords of pale flame and who seem to be her ancestors. The gemstones in their eyes match the gemstones associated with the Great Empire of the Dawn, the rulers who came before the Bloodstone Emperor’s Blood Betrayal and usurpation of the Amethyst Empress, before Lightbringer was created, before the Long Night and before Valyria’s existence. Purple-eyed, silver-haired people from the Dawn Age, and holding swords of pale fire. Perhaps this is a clue that the sword Dawn represents Dawn Age, pre-Lightbringer flaming sword technology, and that Dawn has the ability to light up with pale flame to match the pale stone from which it was made.
The idea of the swords of the morning and evening coming from the same technology might have a parallel in the Morningstar, Venus, which is also the Evenstar. Venus switches between these two positions – between rising just before sunrise and just after sunset – every two hundred-something days, which is why so many Morningstar-based mythical characters die and are resurrected as some kind of lord of night or lord of the afterlife or underworld. Osiris and Quetzalcoatl and Mithras are reborn to rule the afterlife, while the Biblical Lucifer becomes the King of Hell and Biblical Jesus is resurrected as the Lord of Heaven. Azor Ahai is resurrected as the King of the Nightlands – you see the parallel.
The point is, the morningstar and evenstar are kind of the same thing, but kind of not. They are the same star – the planet Venus – but in one configuration, it rules the morning, and the other, the evening. This could mean that the swords of the morning and evening come from the same place, or that they are opposite versions of one another, or anything along those lines. I don’t think it’s likely, but it might even mean that Dawn IS in fact Azor Ahai’s black sword, somehow transformed white. The Sword of the Evening transformed into the Sword of the Morning, just as Venus transforms from Evenstar to Morningstar and back again… something like that. House Dayne produces an occassional Sword of the Evening (Vorian Dayne) or a Darkstar (Gerold Dayne) as well as the better known white knights with flawless reputations that we known as Swords of the Morning. The Amethyst Empress and the Bloodstone Emperor sprang from the same loins… but they are not the same person, either. Pinning down the specifics here is obviously a bit murky, but fun to ponder in any case.
I hope you didn’t mind the little side-track into magic sword talk – I figure that magic swords is the kind of thing everyone likes hearing about, and I figure I should occasionally talk about how all this symbolism might have actual relevance to the plot. We’ll be returning to this question of the origin of Dawn in the future, and I’m also excited to say that I have collaborated with Aziz and Ashaya of History of Westeros for an episode of their podcast on House Dayne. It’s a two part episode, with me appearing on the second episode and talking about the potential ancient origins of House Dayne and various origin theories for the sword Dawn. If you’re listening to this within a couple of weeks of its release, look out for that one in January of 2016. If January of 2016 is already history for you, then simply most on over to the History of Westeros youtube channel to see me sitting in front of a book case talking about 12,000 year old fake history. 🙂 I’m also on part one, reading the voices for Darkstar and a couple others.
Predicting and Causing Lightning and Thunderstorms
You’ve heard me say a few times now that I think the thunderbolt of the Storm God which the Grey King used to “steal the fire of the gods” was in fact a moon meteor. I’ve mentioned that because the meteors of the moon explosion are seen as flaming swords, the phrase “A Storm of Swords” is a clever reference to the meteor shower. We are going to take an in-depth look at Ironborn mythology and theology another time, where we will examine the thunderbolt and lightning motif at length, so I’m just going to introduce it here as being related to Bloodstone. I’ve also got some really great “storm of swords” symbolism quote pulls for you in that one which I’m looking forward to sharing, such as this one from, appropriately, A Storm of Swords:
When they reached the top of the ridge and saw the river, Sandor Clegane reined up hard and cursed. The rain was falling from a black iron sky, pricking the green and brown torrent with ten thousand swords.
For now, I just want to introduce the concept: the moon meteors are like a huge thunderbolt, a storm of moon meteors is the penultimate storm of swords, and bloodstone is associated with predicting and causing lightning and thunderstorms. As we examine various scenes which symbolize the forging of Lightbringer, I’ll just point out the occurrences of lightning, and you can think to yourself “there’s the lightning again, right in the middle of the lightbringer forging.” 😉 We saw it pop up in the alchemical wedding scene as the second dragon’s egg cracked “as loud and sharp as thunder” while the “firestorm” erupted from the solar pyre. Because the moon was theoretically in eclipse formation when it exploded, the firestorm can be perceived as coming from both the sun and the moon, just as it does in the alchemical wedding, where the moon maiden walks into the sun’s fire, unleashes the firestorm, and crack’s open the dragon’s eggs. Consider again the idea of Daenerys “Stormborn,” born on “dragon-stone” amidst a gale which killed hundreds, and also Lyanna’s “storm” of rose petals flung across a bloody sky. The storm and thunderbolt motifs pop up quite often when moon death is being symbolized, and I believe this is because the thunderbolt of the Storm God was indeed a moon meteor.
I think a good way to show how the lightning relates to the Azor Ahai archetype is to have a look at the “Lightning Lord,” Beric Dondarrion. As a flaming sword wielder, who’s undergone fire transformation, Beric is a prime candidate to be manifesting signs of the Azor Ahai archetype. As you are about to see, his symbolism is very specific and intentional, so I don’t think it’s happenstance that he is known as the Lightning Lord. This is his speech about the unifying principle of the Brotherhood without Banners from a Storm of Swords, but don’t pay attention to his speech – pay attention to the descriptions of Beric.
“When we left King’s Landing we were men of Winterfell and men of Darry and men of Blackhaven, Mallery men and Wylde men. We were knights and squires and men-at-arms, lords and commoners, bound together only by our purpose.” The voice came from the man seated amongst the weirwood roots halfway up the wall. “Six score of us set out to bring the king’s justice to your brother.” The speaker was descending the tangle of steps toward the floor. “Six score brave men and true, led by a fool in a starry cloak.” A scarecrow of a man, he wore a ragged black cloak speckled with stars and an iron breastplate dinted by a hundred battles. A thicket of red-gold hair hid most of his face, save for a bald spot above his left ear where his head had been smashed in. “More than eighty of our company are dead now, but others have taken up the swords that fell from their hands.” When he reached the floor, the outlaws moved aside to let him pass. One of his eyes was gone, Arya saw, the flesh about the socket scarred and puckered, and he had a dark black ring all around his neck. “With their help, we fight on as best we can, for Robert and the realm.”
And this is later in the same chapter, before the battle with the Hound:
Unsmiling, Lord Beric laid the edge of his longsword against the palm of his left hand, and drew it slowly down. Blood ran dark from the gash he made, and washed over the steel.
And then the sword took fire. Arya heard Gendry whisper a prayer.
“Burn in seven hells,” the Hound cursed. “You, and Thoros too.” He threw a glance at the red priest. “When I’m done with him you’ll be next, Myr.”
This one’s pretty straightforward – Beric wields a flaming sword which he lights on fire with blood magic (he use his own blood, as a true gentlemen does), and he wears a starry cloak. And he’s called the Lightning Lord. His hair is red gold – kissed by fire. His other nickname is the Lord of Corpses, for he is a corpse himself – and of course the Bloodstone Emperor practiced necromancy. Again we see a combination of Azor Ahai traits and Bloodstone Emperor traits in the same person – the starry cloak and necromancy matches the Emperor, and the flaming sword created with blood magic and R’hllor worship speak of Azor Ahai.
A few other tidbits on Beric: he lives in a black castle, Blackhaven, perhaps a call out to the black city of Asshai which I believe our dark lord hails from. I can’t help but notice that young Jon Snow is the Lord of Castle Black… and that Dragonstone, the original home of House Targayen and current home of Azor Ahai impersonator Stannis Baratheon , is a black castle… and that the Valyrians are basically known for their fused black stone castles in general… perhaps there’s a theme here.
Beric was engaged to a Dayne, and had a Dayne as a squire, bringing up the subject of Dawn, a magic sword made from a meteorite, and House Dayne itself, a family that continues to manifest purple eyes and silver hair here and there. I have a whole theory about that, actually, which I simply cannot go into here in any detail, but please visit the link on my wordpress page and take a look at the evidence I’ve gathered, or you can hold off until I turn that one into a podcast. Suffice it to say that I think the Daynes may have a common ancestor with Valyria, which would of course be the Great Empire of the Dawn of the Amethyst Empress and the Bloodstone Emperor, which I believe Asshai was the capital of. If there is any connection between Azor Ahai, who is definitely from the east, and the Last Hero of Westeros, then at some point one or both of those two must have travelled from Asshai to Westeros before or during the Long Night. I believe that this did occur, and that the Daynes are a genetic legacy of those ancient Asshai’i, and so Beric’s connection to House Dayne is intriguing to say the least. Remember when I speculated that perhaps the Westerosi name of Azor Ahai was Eldric Shadowchaser, or that perhaps Eldric Shadowchaser was the Last Hero, who might have been the son of Azor Ahai? Well, Beric’s squire is “Edric” Dayne. Edric and Eldric… Eldric and Edric… Finkle and Einhorn, Einhorn and FInkle… Oh my god Eldric Shadowchaser is a homicidal ex-Miami Dolphins kicker! “Would you like a cookie son? Laces out…”
Alrighty then, that’s enough of that. My point is that I think the various characters who manifest Azor Ahai imagery are all telling us something about Azor Ahai and who he was. To see Beric, the Lightning Lord corpse with a flaming sword and a starry cloak, engaged to a Dayne and with a Dayne as a squire – which is very like a son – may suggest that Azor Ahai or perhaps his son married a Dawn Age Westerosi woman and founded House Dayne. Similarly, King Stannis, the Lord of a black castle with a flaming sword and two queens, so to speak, has his nephew Edric Storm in his care. Not a son, but much is made of his blood tie to Stannis. Again, Edric and Eldric, one letter apart, and the storm reference certainly fits. To be onset, I’ve actually done a break down of the chapter where Davos smuggles Edric off of Dragonstone, and it’s chock full of Lightbringer stuff, and seems to confirm that Edric Storm is acting like the son of Azor Ahai, Eldric Shadowchaser. That’s actually where I first spotted the “Eldric as the son of Azor Ahai” pattern. Stannis and Beric are both Azor Ahai figures, and both have a young Edric placed in their care. Again, future essay coming. I have a lot of things in notes and drafts which I am very much looking forward to putting out, but it’s a matter of finding time to do so.
The last thing I’ll say about Beric is this, and it’s more teasing of ideas I don’t have room for in this essay: he sits in a throne of weirwood roots, in a cave – not an official greenseer throne, but very evocative of one, and Bloodraven’s cave in particular. Like Bloodraven, he has one eye missing. Bloodraven has a mixed heritage, part dragon (magic rooted in fire and blood) and part First Men (magic rooted in greenseer abilities). Beric worships R’hllor (magic rooted in fire and blood) in the cave of the Old Gods – a cave of weirwood roots. He seeks the counsel of the Ghost of High Heart, which may or may not be the same “Hollow Hill” the Brotherhood’s cave is under – and the Ghost of the High Heart uses the power of the Old Gods and may be part children of the forest herself. Beric is also called the “wisp o’ the wood,” and wisp means ghost. Bloodraven is a tree ghost after a different fashion, but that’s a pretty good description. We’re seeing an intersection of greenseer magic and fire magic with both Beric and Bloodraven… very interesting. And isn’t Jon Snow part First Men and part dragon? And part corpse, for that matter? I suppose he’s part “Ghost” too, if you will. Jon even received an eye wound, like Beric and Bloodraven, and wears a black clock (though it’s sadly deficient in the way starry-ness). Jon and Bloodraven were crows, and Beric is called the Scarecrow Knight. Hmm… Hmmm indeed… Clearly these connections between greenseer magic and fire magic are worthy of more investigation, especially in such proximity to Azor Ahai manifestations like Beric and Jon Snow. This also raises the possibility that Bloodraven may be participating in the Azor Ahai archetype manifestation parade, kind of a frightening thought on many levels.
To sum up, I believe that Beric shows us that the “lightning lord” is one of the many facets of the Azor Ahai archetype. I’ve got a lot more lightning-related evidence to come in the future, and we’ll see it again a couple of times in this essay, but for now let’s move on to the next mythical association of bloodstone which seems to playing a role in the Long Night disaster mythos.
Healing, Blood Circulation, Vitality, Anti-venom
“Healing properties” is definitely one of those generic associations which is made with many, many gemstones – any charlatan by the side of the road can sell you a rock and tell you it will make you feel better – but the idea that bloodstone can effect blood circulation and has the ability to draw out poison (particularly snake venom) is a bit more interesting. We’ve seen that blood plays a highly important symbolic role in the fire transformation sequence, and that beings that have undergone fire transformation tend to have black blood, either literally or symbolically. Lightbringer burns the blood, leaving it black. The other primary cause of black blood in the novels is when someone is poisoned in some way, such as Ser Gregor Clegane after his fight with the Red Viper, or poor old Ralph Kenning at Moat Cailin, poisoned by the darts of bog devils; or when Khal Drogo’s arakh wound became infected and mortified. Indeed, there is a connection here, because I believe we are supposed to see the moon’s blood as having been poisoned by Lightbringer the comet as well as burned. Comets can of course be perceived as snakes as easily as dragons, since dragons are thought of as a type of snake or wyrm, and I believe we should think about the poisonous snake idea as one aspect of Lightbringer.
Here’s a little quote to demonstrate the idea of the moon being poisoned by the sun, as well as a hint about “two moons.” This is from a Tyrion chapter of A Dance with Dragons:
Only the brightest stars were visible, all to the west. A dull red glow lit the sky to the northeast, the color of a blood bruise. Tyrion had never seen a bigger moon. Monstrous, swollen, it looked as if it had swallowed the sun and woken with a fever. Its twin, floating on the sea beyond the ship, shimmered red with every wave.
This language seems like a match for the twin swords that symbolize Lightbringer, Oathkeeper and Widows Wail, with its waves of blood and night that shimmer. We have twin red swords and twin red moons, as well as the implications of a moon that swallowed the sun and become sick and a moon which drowns in the sea. The “brightest star” phrase may be a reference to the Morningstar, Venus, which is the brightest star in the sky. The monstrous moon conjures to mind a moon which gives birth to monsters. “Mother of dragons? Mother of monsters,” as Dany muses to herself. The idea of a moon having ingested the sun and become sick is also a parallel to Lyanna, who lies sick in her bed of blood. She had the dragon seed inside her and gave birth to Lightbringer, so of course she is sick. Dany too was in the depths of fever dream that lasted for days when dead-dragon-baby Rhaego, a Lightbringer symbol, was born.
The magic associated with Lightbringer seems to be some kind of shadowy fire magic, such as they practice at Asshai – and indeed, the entire region of the Shadowlands by Asshai seems to be exhibiting symptoms of magical toxicity. We saw earlier that Asshai is built entirely from greasy black stone which “drinks the light” – perhaps this is the same black stone which the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped, or perhaps it’s related to it in some fashion. If the greasy black stone is moon meteor stone, it makes sense that it would be toxic, as anyone who’s read much H. P. Lovecraft, one of Martin’s major influences, will know. I certainly think that the current state of Asshai is a result of the Long Night disaster, perhaps the epicenter of Azor Ahai’s dark magical experimentations. It very well could have been hit by a meteor, or perhaps it had some kind of symbiotic relationship to the destroyed moon. I’ve wondered if perhaps we might be talking about ice and fire moons, with the destroyed fire moon being tied to what is now the Shadowlands, and the ice moon tied to the heart of winter. Maybe Asshai used to the “heart of summer,” but was turned to the shadowlands when the moon was destroyed via this magical link.
If the oily black stone at Ashhai and perhaps elsewhere is moon meteor stone, perhaps the “oil” or “grease” on the stone is the physical manifestation of the idea of moon blood. Of course the moon doesn’t literally have blood – who knows what the oil actually is. It’s like asking if the weirwood tears are really blood or sap – we aren’t sure, but we are supposed to see them and think of blood sacrifice, which is indeed a part of ancient Northern weirwood ritual and perhaps the magic needed to activate them. Similarly, the bloodstones seem to be associated with blood magic and fire transformation, as well as toxicity or poison. There are some symbolic links between blood and oil in the books which we’ll examine a bit later than lend credibility to this idea.
The megalithic city of Yeen on Sothoryos is also built from greasy black stone, and although there’s nothing about drinking the light mentioned as there is in Asshai, the World of Ice and Fire tells us that the jungle plants will not grow near the stone of the city, indicating some kind of toxicity. There’s lots of other general creepiness there, including a Jamestown-like story of one of Nymeria’s colonies of Rhoynar disappearing there in a single night without a trace, but the interesting thing to note here is the that Asshai and Yeen, the two places where we see a large concentration of greasy black stone, both exhibit magical toxicity of various kinds and degrees. There’s also a huge stone toad idol on the Isle of Toads in the Basilisks (not far from Yeen), and of course the Seastone Chair. There is some evidence for magical toxicity or weirdness for those two, but it’s not conclusive. In A Dance with Dragons, Theon sees the huge black basalt blocks of Moat Cailin slick with rainwater, and thinks that they appear to be coated in a “fine black oil.” This seems to raise the possibility that Moat Cailin’s black stones might be greasy, but it’s hard to say for sure. Moat Cailin, however, may be showing signs of toxicity as well – everything in the bogs there are poisonous, even the plants. It seems much more of a nasty, deadly swamp than a coastal wetlands, and after all, nobody actually lives at Moat Cailin. The construction style of Moat Cailin matches that of Yeen – huge, square, megalithic blocks. We’ll come back to discuss these places a bit more in due course.
I’ll take a minute to draw a distinction between oily or greasy black stone, which I believe to be either moon meteor rock or rock burnt black by a moon meteor or it’s magic, and fused black stone, such as the Valyrians were known for. We know that fused black stone is simply stone melted by dragon fire and shaped and hardened by sorcery, whereas we are given no explanation for the greasy or oily black stone. We find the fused black stone at Dragonstone, Valyrian cities like Tyrosh and Volantis, in all Valyrian roads, and of course Valyria itself. We also have two pre-Valyrian fused stone structures at Battle Isle in Oldtown and the Five Forts in Essos, which I believe speak of a pre-Valyrian race of dragonlords which can only be from Asshai, and I would say, the Great Empire of the Dawn. The idea of pre-Valyrian stone fortresses in the far east AND in Westeros is actually one of the biggest revelations in The World of Ice and Fire, in my opinion, and it provides a backbone of hard evidence for both the existence of Dawn Age, pre-Valyrian dragonlords and the idea that dragonlords – presumably Azor Ahai – came from Asshai to Westeros some time before the Long Night. This is a big subject which will get it’s podcast, as I mentioned, and of course we’ll be talking about it on the House Dayne episodes of History of Westeros.
In any case, the fused stone we have seen is not greasy, and none of the oily black stone locations seem to be fused stone – the Isle of Toads statue and Seastone chair are carved, and the block of Yeen and Moat Cailin are hewn (cut). Asshai is a wildcard, as we don’t know what the construction type is there – perhaps it’s fused and greasy. Until we see them together, however, we have to consider them different types of black stone, although they both pertain to dragons and dragonlords, if my ideas about the Bloodstone Emperor and the moon meteors are correct.
The Bloodstone Emperor is described as the great corruptor, and indeed these black stones from space, the pieces of the moon, seem to have been burnt, blackened, poisoned, and corrupted in their fire transformation, just like dead and corrupted baby Rhaego. Accordingly, many of the obviously positive mythic “properties” of bloodstone have been inverted, and this is one of those. Instead of promoting healing and blood circulation, instead of drawing out poison from blood, George’s magical bloodstone does the opposite. These meteors don’t draw out snake venom, they are the snake venom, the poisonous sun-spears. If you’re thinking of Oberyn’s poison-tipped spear that he used to fight the mountain, you’ve got exactly the right idea and I promise you, we are getting to that one very shortly, as it has most of the bloodstone ideas going on. As I mentioned above, Ser Gregor’s blood turns black after he’s bitten by the Red Viper.
Let’s take a quick look at the three examples of blood turned black by poisoning or sickening that I mentioned above, plus a couple other victims of poisoning. I’m not going to pull any quotes – we’ll just run through them real quick in summary form.
Oberyn the Red Viper is covered in sun symbols, from his armor to the sigil of his house, and the steel tip of his sun-spear is coated in poison – poison that looks like a “fine black oil,” which seems like a callout to the idea that the oily black stones are sun-spears, meteorites. Oberyn’s poison spear turns Gregor’s blood black.
Ralph Kenning is poisoned and his blood blackened by the darts of “bog-devils” – darts spit from the mouths of devils definitely fit the imagery we have seen elsewhere. Other lightbringer symbols which come out of the mouth are dragon fire, fiery or bloody tongues, teeth, and there’s that one time Butterbumps dresses all in yellow and spits seeds full in moon maiden’s Sansa’s face – how rude. In essence, any sharp, flying object is fair game for meteor symbolism, and poisonous devil darts are a pretty good one.
As for Khal Drogo, a solar king, we could trace his blood poisoning to one or both of the arakh wound and the mud poultice that replaced the one made by Mirri Maz Duur. I’m leaving the poultice alone – yes, we’ve finally found something which I cannot claim to symbolize moon meteors. I dunno – I just don’t see it. Arakh’s, however, have a habit of striking like lightning. Arakhs are also sickle-shaped, which in turn evokes all the moon crescent – sacrificial sickle symbolism, such as in Bran’s last chapter of A Dance with Dragons when the moon is as slender and sharp as the blade of a knife and his weirwood visions end with a person sacrificed to the heart tree with a sickle-shaped blade.
Joffrey is another obvious solar king, and he’s poisoned as well, his bright solar face turned to dark purple, the same color as the poison, which is from Asshai and resembles crystals of black amethysts. Lots of Lightbringer symbolism there – Asshai, amethyst gems to remind us of the Amethyst Empress and purple eyed dragonlords, and of course our running theme of poison which darkens the blood. The Ghost of High Heart perceives Sansa and her poison amethyst hairnet as maiden with snakes in her hair. That’s a nice way to tie together the the poison and black amethyst ideas to that of snakes and snake venom. A moon full of snakes is exactly right – a moon pregnant with poison lightbringer meteors. Sansa makes a great moon symbol, wielding her poisonous snakes, and the amethysts reinforce the connection between Sansa, the Amethyst Empress, and the moon maiden archetype.
Good ole King Robert – he too has black blood in his deathbed scene. Was he murdered by a lightbringer symbol? Well, a boar is a horned animal, so that’s a good start, and Robert calls him a devil, and follows with a “damn me to hell.” That’s good enough for me – Azor Ahai was the devil, isn’t that what I’ve been saying? Robert also makes a declaration that the gods must have sent the boar to punish him for wanting to kill Daenerys – who is of course a moon maiden.
What we see in all these instances are Lightbringer symbols poisoning things and turning blood black. We also see quite a bit of mutual-annihilation, which is exactly what happened when the sun seemed to blow up the moon, only to have the moon debris darken and hide the sun’s face. Like the moon, the sun is poisoned and blackened by Lightbringer.
Just as the healing properties of bloodstone have been inverted, the Bloodstone Emperor is basically an inverted solar king, a dark sun. He’s associated with the Lion of Night, which is interesting because lions are usually solar symbols. What is a lion of night? Perhaps a darkened sun. If nothing else, the story of the Long Night is about the darkening of the sun. The tale of the Blood Betrayal describes the Long Night as the Maiden-made-of-Light turning her face in shame. That makes it likely that the Maiden-made-of-Light is the sun, for the sun hiding its face is by definition what we need to create a “Long Night.” Indeed, elsewhere in the Worldbook it refers to this same Yi Tish tale of the Long Night in summary form, and refers to the “sun hiding its face,” instead of the Maiden hiding her face. The maesters interpret the maiden as the sun, and treat them as interchangeable, and I think they are correct. What is the sun ashamed of? Well, destroying the moon, of course (hat-tip to Free Northman Reborn of the Westeros.org forum).
Now originally, the story of the Great Empire of the Dawn begins with the Maiden-Made-of-Light and the Lion of Night in some kind of harmonious equilibrium. The Long Night disrupts the balance, the Maiden turns her face, and the Lion of Night comes forth in all his wroth during the Bloodstone Emperor’s reign of terror. What I am proposing is just as Azor Ahai, is the champion of R’hllor, the warrior of fire, the Bloodstone Emperor is the champion of the Lion of Night, the warrior of shadow and black fire. Now of course I am proposing that these two are one in the same – what we see here is a binary expression of the bright sun and the dark sun. Just as a person has a shadow, the sun’s shadow is the lion of night, the black dragon. I mentioned last time that this is a principle of alchemy, and that alchemists perceived the bright sun as a lion and the shadow sun as a dragon. The Maiden and Lion duality is the same thing, I believe – they are both solar deities, but one is the bright face of the sun and one is the dark face, the sun’s shadow. You’ll notice that Dany’s animal familiar is called the winged shadow, while Jon’s animal familiar is called a pale shadow. You’ll also notice the color inversions there – Dany is the “silver queen” with a black shadow, and Jon is all black with a white shadow. Just as with the Lion of Night and the Maiden-Made-of-Light, we are seeing the light / dark duality. It was Stannis’s shadow that helped create the shadow baby, just as the sun’s shadow seems to be associated with Lightbringer. Live Stannis has a bright burning sword; Stannis’s shadow has a cold “shadowsword.”
So now let’s consider again the idea of Mithras and the sword and the torch. If Lightbringer was a sword and a torch, we might conclude that it’s one of those terrible powers that can be used for good or evil, based on the intent of the wielder, which is a common idea in literature in mythology – it’s a good lesson to teach and learn, because it reflects the true nature of power. But Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer was not that. Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer is corrupted – it doesn’t bring light at all. It’s an un-torch, a dark-bringer. A sword of Nightfall and Blackfyre, and perhaps even “shadow-fire,” whatever that is. Shadow fire and black fire both sound like fire whose function has been inverted, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about. Inverted fire which is not bright for the inverted solar king who brought darkness, the king of the Nightlands.
We might say that Lightbringer technology in general – flaming sword technology, that is – would be the power which can go either way, for good or evil. If the Great Empire of the Dawn’s pale fire swords represent uncorrupted, pre-Azor Ahai flaming sword tech, then we can see that flaming sword power can indeed go either way. Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer, however, is not a powerful weapon which can go either way – it represents power which already went a certain way – down the dark road. And we aren’t talking about the idea of darkness as a balance to light, or death as a balance to life. We are talking about cheating and defying death, breaking the cycles of life and of the seasons. The Long Night is the epitome of this, a winter and a night which never gives way to day and spring. Lightbringer was the sword that slays the seasons, which is one of the descriptions of the red comet. Lightbringer literally broke the cycle of the seasons when it caused the Long Night.
Generally speaking, one of the most common ways that the knowledge of the gods or fire of the gods is perceived is as the cup or grail of immortality. Those who seek it seek to become like gods, defying death. We see this quest all over A Song of Ice and Fire – with the Bloodstone Emperor of course, as well as most of those other eleven stories I cited above. We also see people defying death in other places – the Undying of Qarth, who are a great example of what I am talking about, or the seemingly eternal Others, whose every act is a defiance of natural life. We’ve got the zombies that the R’hllorists make, the wights raised in the North, and even the greenseers might fall into this category, although I think that situation may be more complex.
But as for the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, we can confidently say that there seems to be very little silver lining to breaking the moon. It’s one thing to seek after the wisdom of the gods, and it’s another thing to pull the gods down from heaven. I think that if there was anything positive derived from the disaster, from his sword, or from one of the meteors, it would constitute a reversal, an atonement, a reckoning. Someone would have had to have figured out a way to undo some of the harm that Azor Ahai caused, perhaps turning his own magic against him or his creations, or something along those lines. Perhaps that’s what the Last Hero did – perhaps he was the son of Azor Ahai who went against the evil magic of his father, maybe even by sacrificing himself. Many have speculated that the Last Hero didn’t simply ride in and slay the Others to end the Long Night – it seems likely to have been more complicated than that, perhaps involving a pact or sacrifice of some kind. I like these ideas and think they fit well with the themes of the novel. The Lightbringer myth combines the parallel but opposing themes of death and life, of vile murder and blasphemous hubris on one hand and procreation and self-sacrifice on the other, and so it seems likely sacrifice and procreation might be what’s needed to wash out the stain of someone willing to use blood magic to gain personal power, such as the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai, the dark solar king.