Hello everyone and welcome! We’re experimenting with format again; last time we tried a chapter-centric episode, and this time we’ll keeping the focus primarily on one character, Tyrion Lannister – who, for my money, is a Targaryen bastard, born of King Aerys II Targaryen and Joanna Lannister. Why do I think this is so? Well, for a start, because of passages like this:
When the magister drifted off to sleep with the wine jar at his elbow, Tyrion crept across the pillows to work it loose from its fleshy prison and pour himself a cup. He drained it down, and yawned, and filled it once again. If I drink enough fire wine, he told himself, perhaps I’ll dream of dragons.
When he was still a lonely child in the depths of Casterly Rock, he oft rode dragons through the nights, pretending he was some lost Targaryen princeling, or a Valyrian dragonlord soaring high o’er fields and mountains. Once, when his uncles asked him what gift he wanted for his nameday, he begged them for a dragon. “It wouldn’t need to be a big one. It could be little, like I am.” His uncle Gerion thought that was the funniest thing he had ever heard, but his uncle Tygett said, “The last dragon died a century ago, lad.” That had seemed so monstrously unfair that the boy had cried himself to sleep that night. Yet if the lord of cheese could be believed, the Mad King’s daughter had hatched three living dragons. Two more than even a Targaryen should require.
The Bloodstone Compendium
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of Ice and Fire
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night and Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper and the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
The Weirwood Compendium
Sacred Order of Green Zombies
Click the player below to play the matching podcast!
The quote you just heard from A Dance with Dragons is basically slapping us about the face with a rubber chicken that looks like a dragon, and it’s not the only one. What we’ll be doing today is examining all of Tyrion’s personal symbolism, with a particular eye on anything that could be a clue about Tyrion’s potential Targaryen lineage.
There is a terrific “Aerys + Joanna = Tyrion (A + J = T)” thread on Westeros.org which covers all the basics of the theory, and I highly recommend that as supplemental reading material. I won’t be covering all the logistical elements of the theory, except to say that The World of Ice and Fire seems to have gone out of its way to suggest that Joanna and Aerys were in the same location sometime in the right window for Tyrion’s conception, and that Aerys was often said to have a thing for Joanna and to have taken” liberties” at the bedding during her wedding to Tywin. Instead what we will be doing is attempting to provide evidence in support of the theory that Tyrion is half Targaryen through the use of mythical astronomy and spiced with a little study of those meta-textual hints which Martin is so fond of. We’ll talk about demon-monkeys and hellish gargoyles, and we’ll consider what Tyrion’s symbolism says about his eventual role in the end game of the series. On the way we’ll deviate into talk of Winterfell and young Brandon Stark, and we’ll start to get to the heart of a burning question that everyone should have asked themselves at one point or another: what do Azor Ahai, dragons, and Lightbringer, which are all from the far east, have to do with a story that is fundamentally about Westeros and the Starks? As well as the related question of: is there a connection between Azor Ahai wielding Lightbringer and the Last Hero wielding “dragonsteel?”
Joining me on the podcast today to perform the readings from the text will be two of my dear friends, Lady Nightwind, whom you all know and love, and the talented Mr. Paige Lawrence, whom you will love in short order. Thanks to both of them, and thanks as always to Animals as Leaders for allowing us the privilege of playing their music on the podcast. Look them up online if you haven’t already, they’re terrific. Thanks to Mr. George R. R. Martin for writing us these wonderful novels, and thanks most of all to you, the listener, reader, and downloader. The matching text of these podcasts can always be found at lucifermeanslightbringer.wordpress.com, where you’ll also get a few images and links.
Warning: there will be spoilers of all types. I generally write from the standpoint which assumes that most listeners and readers will be intaking all of the Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire media – show and books. Today we will be discussing episode 2 of the newest season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, season 6, so fair warning for people trying to ignore the show. I don’t usually talk about the show, but in this case, it’s hard to ignore, so we’ll be doing a little show talk today. We’ll also quote a bit from Tyrion’s Winds of Winter sample chapter, though it’s not particularly spoilerific, as I will only be quoting a short passage and only be really spoiling one minor plot point… but again, fair warning.
So, about that episode, and Tyrion’s scene with the dragons… (if you didn’t see it, Tyrion dares to go into the dragon chamber under the pyramid, tells the dragons his story about wanting a dragon for his birthday – which was taken from the above quote, bravo – and is able to remove the collar chains binding the dragons without being eaten). So raise your hand if you watched that scene and thought to yourself, “that guy is a mother-bleeping Targaryen!” I know I sure did. I’ve always been a believer, so it’s pretty easy for me to see the dragons being friendly or at least tolerant of Tyrion as a pretty good clue pointing in that direction. Most people took it for a sign that he would, at the least, be a dragon-rider, if not an actual Targaryen. The show has not spent time establishing any sort of criteria about who can ride a dragon, and even in the books we don’t know for sure whether having Targaryen or Valyrian blood is absolutely necessary to bond with dragons, though it certainly seems to help and may in fact be necessary. There is some ambiguity raised by the tale of Nettles in The Princess and the Queen – she seems to tame a dragon purely through feeding it sheep every day, however, she may have been a Targaryen descendent.
Disclaimers aside, I think it makes a lot of sense for Tyrion to be the son of Mad King Aerys and Joanna Lannister, and I think the clues for this are abundant. I also think it makes sense for him to be a Targaryen if he is going to be a dragonrider – and I think it’s pretty clear George wants him to be a dragonrider. After all, we know he is George’s favorite character and probably the one which contains the most of George’s own personality. As you saw in the quote above, and as we will see in the following quotes, George has written him to have dragon dreams, dragon associations, and just plain old dragons on the brain. It just makes too much sense.
A little earlier in the chapter cited above where Tyrion drinks firewine and hopes to dream of dragons, George hits us with another strong clue, as Tyrion thinks to himself about Illyrio’s unbelievable tales:
Next you will be offering me a suit of magic armor and a palace in Valyria.
Tyrion is a lost Targaryen princeling / Valyrian dragonlord who rides dragons through the night, has a palace in Valyria, and wears a suit of magic armor. Got it? Good. Case closed. Thanks for coming everyone.
Many have noticed that the vision Moquorro sees of Tyrion snarling amidst various types of dragons may well imply that Tyrion himself is a dragon. Have a look, and this is from A Dance with Dragons:
“Someone told me that the night is dark and full of terrors. What do you see in those flames?”
“Dragons,” Moqorro said in the Common Tongue of Westeros. He spoke it very well, with hardly a trace of accent. No doubt that was one reason the high priest Benerro had chosen him to bring the faith of R’hllor to Daenerys Targaryen. “Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all.”
Dragons… and Tyrion. Why is Tyrion in the midst of dragons here? He doesn’t sound like a victim, but rather more like a dragon himself: he’s got a big shadow and he snarls. Sounds like he is a part of the great dragon dance, to me. If nothing else, this quote indicates that Tyrion’s fate will be intertwined with various types of dragons and dragon people.
Although a lot of Tyrion’s dragon associations are found in the appropriately titled A Dance with Dragons, they actually appeared all the way back in the first book:
“What are you reading about?” he asked.
“Dragons,” Tyrion told him.
“What good is that? There are no more dragons,” the boy said with the easy certainty of youth.
“So they say,” Tyrion replied. “Sad, isn’t it? When I was your age, I used to dream of having a dragon of my own.”
“You did?” the boy said suspiciously. Perhaps he thought Tyrion was making fun of him.
“Oh, yes. Even a stunted, twisted, ugly little boy can look down over the world when he’s seated on a dragon’s back.” Tyrion pushed the bearskin aside and climbed to his feet. “I used to start fires in the bowels of Casterly Rock and stare at the flames for hours, pretending they were dragonfire. Sometimes I’d imagine my father burning. At other times, my sister.” Jon Snow was staring at him, a look equal parts horror and fascination. Tyrion guffawed. “Don’t look at me that way, bastard. I know your secret. You’ve dreamt the same kind of dreams.”
“No,” Jon Snow said, horrified. “I wouldn’t …”
This quote really stands out when you re-read it: Tyrion stares into the fires and dreams of riding dragons and burning people. What the hell is that? It’s the sort of behavior we’d expect from a Red Priest or a Targaryen, quite frankly.
In addition to this startling revelation of Tyrion’s childhood obsession with dragons, I think George is doing a little tricky wording thing in this passage from A Game of Thrones, taking advantage of ambiguous phrasing to imply a double meaning. Tyrion lists two kinds of dreams that he had as a boy: dreams of riding dragons, and dreams of burning his family in dragon fire. Then he says to Jon, “you’ve dreamt the same kinds of dreams,” without specifying which dreams he is referring to. The reader is led to assume the meaning has to do with taking vengeance against a family that doesn’t quite accept you, as Jon and Tyrion are both outsiders amongst their family, and this is certainly the main intent of this passage – but it can also be read to imply that Jon too has dreamt of dragons. Jon Snow is of course in all probability a secret Targaryen himself, so this interpretation would make a lot of sense. Tyrion specifically mentions staring into the flames and seeing visions of a sort – again, very like a red priest – and this chapter ends with Jon doing the same:
One by one the company drifted off to their shelters and to sleep, all but Jon Snow, who had drawn the night’s first watch. Tyrion was the last to retire, as always. As he stepped into the shelter his men had built for him, he paused and looked back at Jon Snow. The boy stood near the fire, his face still and hard, looking deep into the flames. Tyrion Lannister smiled sadly and went to bed.
Look, it’s Jon Snow, staring into the fire and perhaps having “the same kind of dreams.” Now I’m actually not suggesting that Jon has had literal dragon dreams, as he has never mentioned any, but I think the wording here might be implying the potential shared dragon lineage between these two would-be “heads of the dragon.” Jon does have a waking dream-like almost-vision of dragons in A Dance with Dragons, however, which we’ll get to in a moment.
But first, we need to talk about dragon dreams themselves: what they are, and what they imply.
I Dream of Dragons
The phenomena of the “dragon dream” generally refers to a dream about dragons – duh – but more specifically, it refers to the idea of a Targaryen dreaming of dragons which do not exist. After the Targaryen dragons went extinct, members of House Targaryen continued to dream of dragons, even people who had never seen one. Maester Aemon confides as much to us while he is on his deathbed in Braavos in a very memorable scene from A Feast for Crows:
“I remember, Sam. I still remember.”
He was not making sense. “Remember what?”
“Dragons,” Aemon whispered. “The grief and glory of my House, they were.”
“The last dragon died before you were born,” said Sam. “How could you remember them?”
“I see them in my dreams, Sam. I see a red star bleeding in the sky. I still remember red. I see their shadows on the snow, hear the crack of leathern wings, feel their hot breath. My brothers dreamed of dragons too, and the dreams killed them, every one. Sam, we tremble on the cusp of half- remembered prophecies, of wonders and terrors that no man now living could hope to comprehend … or …”
“Or?” said Sam.
“… or not.”
Or… yes! Let’s comprehend them. Aemon pretty much lays it out here – there’s something in that Targaryen blood which causes them to dream of dragons, even people who have never seen them. And it’s such a visceral experience – not only seeing them, but hearing the wings cracking and seeing their shadows on the ground as they fly overhead. Do you know what a dragon’s wings sound like? Unless Maester Aemon has been on one of those illegal wyvern hunting expeditions you hear about in Sothoryos, I’m not sure how he would know what leathern wings sound like. It’s pretty hard to dream of something you’ve never seen or heard in such detail. Aemon even refers to his dreams of dragons as memories, and Martin has Sam call our attention to the strange wording and the mystery of remembering or dreaming of something you’ve never seen, just to make sure we take notice.
Aemon also dreams of the red comet, interestingly enough, which he also has not seen. This might be a clue that the red comet is tied to the magical legacy of House Targaryen, just as dragons are. I’ve certainly proposed as much! This is also a basic clue that comets can be dragons – notice how Aemon seamlessly mentions the red comet in the middle of his diatribe about dragons, as if it too were a dragon. He said “I see them in my dreams, Sam. I see a red star bleeding in the sky. I see their shadows on the snow.” Dragons, then the red comet, then dragons again – because they are the same thing, in a certain sense. This is old news to us now, but when Martin wrote this, nobody had caught on to the red comet / moon disaster / Long Night thing yet, so he was presumably still trying to clue people in to that. Now that we’re on to his trail, I’m sure he’ll make the clues more cryptic from here on out (chuckle chuckle).
The line about the dragon’s shadows on the snow is really fascinating – it matches Melisandre’s vision of the dragons fighting in the snow, and the logical conclusion here would be that these are references to the dragons fighting the Others at some point, in some fashion. Aemon may well be having a prophetic dream here without even realizing it! I’ve never heard anyone raise this possibility, but ask yourself – why does Aemon see dragons in the snow? When Mel sees them in the snow, it makes sense because she is at the Wall and we all know that she believes you need a dragon to fight the Others. But we don’t really know what Aemon believes about fighting the Others and dragons, and Aemon is gone from the Wall when he has these visions. I think he very well might have been receiving a vision of the future here, just as Melisandre probably was.
As for these dragon dreams being the grief of his house and the death of his brothers, Aemon seems to be referencing his brothers Aegon V (Egg of Dunk and Egg) and the monstrous and insane Aerion Brightflame. King Aegon V’s obsession with dragons led to the death of himself, friends, and members of his family at Summerhall, where an attempt to hatch dragon’s eggs turned to “farce and tragedy”, while his older brother Aerion Brightflame killed himself drinking wildfire, thinking that he would transform into a dragon. Aemon seems to be implying that both of them experienced dragon dreams, and this idea is reinforced by the following passage from A Storm of Swords. This is Aleister Florent speaking to Davos in the dungeon of Dragonstone:
“This talk of a stone dragon … madness, I tell you, sheer madness. Did we learn nothing from Aerion Brightfire, from the nine mages, from the alchemists? Did we learn nothing from Summerhall? No good has ever come from these dreams of dragons..”
Aerion’s foolishness came from dreams of dragons in a general sense, and quite possibly in a specific sense. There’s also a cool line about Aerion from Jaime in the bathtub scene from A Storm of Swords where he also mentions Mad King Aerys, dragons, and fire transformation:
The Targaryens never bury their dead, they burn them. Aerys meant to have the greatest funeral pyre of them all. Though if truth be told, I do not believe he truly expected to die. Like Aerion Brightfire before him, Aerys thought the fire would transform him … that he would rise again, reborn as a dragon, and turn all his enemies to ash.
Now we don’t know if Aerys specifically had dragon dreams, but it sure seems possible. Prophetic abilities or gifts of magical sight are often thought to be tinged with madness, both with the real world concept of shamanic ecstasy and in ASOIAF and many other works of literature, and Aerys was plenty mad. It seems quite possible his delusions about dragon transformation may hint at the same type of dragon dreams that have led so many Targaryens down the path of madness. What’s especially interesting is how closely this statement from Jamie about Aerys matches what his daughter Daenerys actually did: being reborn in a great funeral pyre and waking dragons.
As we saw in episode four, John the Fiddler a.k.a. Daemon II Blackfyre had the gift of prophetic dreams, and dreamt of a dragon hatching at Whitewalls, though it turned out to be Egg coming into his own as a Targaryen. The poor fiddling dragon neither hatched a dragon nor transformed into a dragon… or even much of a warrior, or jouster, or leader… ok so we won’t pile on. It didn’t go very well, suffice it to say. As Gorghan of Old Ghis says, “prophecy will bite your prick off every time,” even when it’s true and valid. He may never have stood a chance at sitting the iron throne, but the Fiddler most definitely dreamt of dragons which did not exist and which he had never seen.
Of course the best example of Targaryens dreaming of dragons that don’t exist yet would be Daenerys herself, who twice dreams of Drogon before his egg hatches. Success! Finally. Of course Dany might have been led to perform an abomination, blood magic and human sacrifice, but hey, they hatched, right? The dragon dreams help guide Dany’s course of action and eventually lead to her successful attempt to “call forth her children” from the pyre, just as the dragon dreams of Aegon the V, John the Fiddler, and all the rest created a longing for dragons. The point is: dreaming of dragons is something Targaryens do.
Targaryens… and Tyrion.
Outside the litter night had fallen. Inside all was dark. Tyrion listened to Illyrio’s snores, the creak of the leather straps, the slow clop clop of the team’s ironshod hooves on the hard Valyrian road, but his heart was listening for the beat of leathern wings.
That was from that same Dance chapter we pulled from earlier, as Tyrion drifts off to sleep, full on firewine. Later in that same chapter, Tyrion actually has a dragon dream, right ‘onscreen:’
That night Tyrion Lannister dreamed of a battle that turned the hills of Westeros as red as blood. He was in the midst of it, dealing death with an axe as big as he was, fighting side by side with Barristan the Bold and Bittersteel as dragons wheeled across the sky above them.
This dream is mostly remembered for its end, where Tyrion has two heads – one laughing, and one weeping. I believe this is a reference to Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy, since Tyrion is a moon child in the Azor Ahai reborn sense of the phrase. The idea of Westeros itself running red with blood hearkens back to the symbolic motif of the blood tide we’ve talked so much about, the one which goes back to Mithras and his slaying of the White Bull which washes the earth in blood. But also notable in this dream is the presence of dragons! Tyrion has never seen a dragon, and yet he dreams of them here, and actually, all through his life. He dreams of them frequently as a boy, as we saw in the previous quotes. Then, as an adult, he tells Jon Snow that “I seldom even dream of dragons anymore. There are no dragons.” But even the word seldom here implies that he does still occasionally have them. And sure enough, by book five, he’s dreaming of dragons again. He even sees them in the clouds:
The clouds in the sky were aglow: pink and purple, maroon and gold, pearl and saffron. One looked like a dragon. Once a man has seen a dragon in flight, let him stay at home and tend his garden in content, someone had written once, for this wide world has no greater wonder. Tyrion scratched at his scar and tried to recall the author’s name. Dragons had been much in his thoughts of late.
Tyrions just seems to have dragons on the brain. He dreams about them, he reads about them, he sees them in the clouds. In my opinion, Tyrion’s dragon dreams and the increasing presence of dragon-related themes in his storyline are perhaps the strongest evidence that the blood of the dragon does indeed flow through his veins.
The only other characters we ever hear of dreaming of dragons have Targaryen blood, so far as I can determine. You might recall that in the prologue of A Clash of Kings, we learn that Shireen dreams of dragons eating her. Shireen is a Baratheon, but she inherited a bit of the dragon blood from her great grandmother, Rhaelle Targaryen, who married Stannis’s grandfather, Ormund Baratheon, so it may be that she’s turned up a bit of that Targaryen prophetic dreaming ability.
Now, Targaryens do occasionally have a more general gift of prophetic dream, which the dragon dreams seem to be but one manifestation of. Daenys the Dreamer, author of Signs and Portents, famously dreamt of the Doom of Valyria twelve years before it occurred, giving the ancient ancestors of House Targaryen time to relocate to Dragonstone and survive the Doom. John the Fiddler not only dreamt of a dragon hatching, but also of Dunk wearing the white armor of the Kingsguard – a thing which did come to pass years later. While this prophetic gift is certainly not exclusive to Targaryens by any means, it does appear that the dragon dreams might be the specific province of those who contain the blood of the dragon.
Even if this isn’t a hard and fast rule, we have definitely been shown repeated instances of Targaryens who have never seen a dragon having vivid dreams of dragons which are more like memories of real experiences, so it seems likely this is a connection Martin has intended to create in the mind of the reader. From a narrative standpoint, I just don’t think it makes sense to give a character like Tyrion repeated occurrences of dragon dreams unless he has a dragon heritage, especially in a universe where it’s been well established that dragon people dream of dragons in a prophetic way. Sometimes, the simple answer is the right one: Tyrion probably dreams of dragons because he has Targaryen blood.
Now, about that waking dream-like thing of Jon Snow’s that I mentioned… this is Jon having a conversation with Val about Mance and Dalla’s baby, soon to be named Aemond Battleborn, in A Dance with Dragons:
“See that he stays safe and warm. For his mother’s sake, and mine. And keep him away from the red woman. She knows who he is. She sees things in her fires.”
Arya , he thought, hoping it was so. “Ashes and cinders.”
“Kings and dragons.”
Dragons again . For a moment Jon could almost see them too, coiling in the night, their dark wings outlined against a sea of flame.
We’ve seen clues before about Jon being a king several times, with the idea being that if Jon is Rhaegar’s son, then he is ‘royalty’ in some form or another. This isn’t about Jon vs. Dany in the line of succession, mind you, merely about his royal lineage in a general sense. So when Val says that Mel sees “kings and dragons” in her fire, I think Martin is really talking about Jon Snow, a king and a dragon. We saw what was in Mel’s fire vision – both dragons and Jon Snow – but the only other king she could have seen in her fire would be Stannis, who is conspicuously absent. In other words, Jon is the only possible king that she saw. Ergo, if Mel is seeing kings and dragons in her fire, I think it can only be the potential dragon king (or ice dragon king, to be accurate), Jon Snowgaryen. You’ll recall the talk of staring into the fire with Jon and Tyrion in the scene where Tyrion talks about his dragon dreams, and here these two ideas come up again, side by side. The fire is where you have to look if you want to see dragons or dragon kings.
The language here of Jon almost being able to see the dragons is very close to the description of someone who has seen dragons remembering her dragon. This one isn’t conclusive, so I don’t want to make too much out of it, but the experience Jon has here is interesting: someone mentions dragons, and then for a moment, Jon can almost see them. If this were the only evidence that Jon is a Targaryen, it would be pretty weak, but since we know that’s far from the case, I think Martin may well be feeding us a clue here about old Johnny boy. Anyway, the point is that Jon’s “almost seeing” of the dragons sounds a lot like what happens when Dany thinks of her missing Drogon, a dragon which she has a psychic connection to. This is Dany’s inner monologue from A Dance with Dragons:
And the dragons, what am I to do with them? “Drogon,” she whispered softly, “where are you?” For a moment she could almost see him sweeping across the sky, his black wings swallowing the stars.
It makes sense that she can picture Drogon in her mind, because she has seen him many times, and again, she has a psychic connection to him. But what dragon is Jon almost seeing? I’m not sure exactly what Martin is intending with this passage, but it may be a little dragon-dreamlet to clue us in to the idea that Jon is a dragon person, just as the scene with Tyrion talking about his dragon dreams and then telling Jon he’s had the same types of dreams might be a sly wink at the idea of Jon having dragon dreams.
What is funny to me is that the Jon Targaryen theory has gained much more traction and widespread acceptance than Tyrion Targaryen theory, but in a way, the clues are actually stronger for Tyrion, with his flagrant and repeated dragon dreams. Remember, we heard about Tyrion having dragon dreams all the way back in the first half of book one, and George continues to feed us clues pointing in that direction all the way through A Dance with Dragons and The World of Ice and Fire. Logistically, we may have more evidence for R+L=J than A+J=T, but I’ll leave that sort of thing for others to hash out. When people start up the whole debate around who was were during Robert’s Rebellion I quickly collapse into a coma-like state of boredom and a puddle of my own drool. I don’t believe that’s how the mysteries of the books are to be solved, myself – I tend to prefer analysis of the narrative themes and symbolism, as you all know, and to me, those things scream out “Tyrion of House Targaryen.”
And yes, I know he’d actually be Tyrion Hill by the inheritance laws of Westeros, but again, let’s not get too technical. He’s a dragonspawn, that’s the important thing. If his lineage comes into play, it will be the magical ramifications of that lineage that matter – his ability to ride a dragon, in other words – and not a tangential claim to the throne. I believe it is the same with Jon – the point of R+L=J is magical lineage, not a claim to the throne.
Your own… personal… Mithras…
Jon is Mithras, as we’ve discussed extensively, and as was laid out in Schmendrick’s legendary “R + L = Lightbringer” essay which I like to talk about now and again. And wouldn’t you know it, Tyrion has his own legend of a rock-born hero who wields the fiery weapon of a dragon, and that’s the Chinese monkey demon king, “Sun Wukong.” I discovered this by doing a little research on one of Tyrion’s more interesting nicknames: “twisted little monkey demon.” Apologies for the long quote here, but I simply can’t resist crazy street prophets talking about the red comet and snakes:
The sound of some hubbub in the street intruded on his worries. Tyrion peered out cautiously between the curtains. They were passing through Cobbler’s Square, where a sizable crowd had gathered beneath the leather awnings to listen to the rantings of a prophet. A robe of undyed wool belted with a hempen rope marked him for one of the begging brothers.
“Corruption!” the man cried shrilly. “There is the warning! Behold the Father’s scourge!” He pointed at the fuzzy red wound in the sky. From this vantage, the distant castle on Aegon’s High Hill was directly behind him, with the comet hanging forebodingly over its towers. A clever choice of stage, Tyrion reflected. “We have become swollen, bloated, foul. Brother couples with sister in the bed of kings, and the fruit of their incest capers in his palace to the piping of a twisted little monkey demon. Highborn ladies fornicate with fools and give birth to monsters! Even the High Septon has forgotten the gods! He bathes in scented waters and grows fat on lark and lamprey while his people starve! Pride comes before prayer, maggots rule our castles, and gold is all . . . but no more! The Rotten Summer is at an end, and the Whoremonger King is brought low! When the boar did open him, a great stench rose to heaven and a thousand snakes slid forth from his belly, hissing and biting!” He jabbed his bony finger back at comet and castle. “There comes the Harbinger! Cleanse yourselves, the gods cry out, lest ye be cleansed! Bathe in the wine of righteousness, or you shall be bathed in fire! Fire!”
“Fire!” other voices echoed, but the hoots of derision almost drowned them out, Tyrion took solace from that. He gave the command to continue, and the litter rocked like a ship on a rough sea as the Burned Men cleared a path. Twisted little monkey demon indeed.
We’ll get to the monkey demon thing a second, but first a wee bit of mythical astronomy, because this paragraph is loaded and I can’t just skip on past it. So, take notice of the thousand snakes pouring forth from Robert’s belly, which was opened by a “black devil” of a boar. Robert, with his antlered helm, seems to be playing the role of sacrificed moon here, just as the antlered Renly does when his throat is cut by the shadowsword of Stannis’s shadowbaby assassin. The stag and the bull are both horned animals, and both can be associated with the moon (particularly the horned moon), in real world mythology as well as Martin’s own. Robert’s death unleashes biting snakes, and Renly’s a dark tide of blood – both very recognizable symbols of the disasters which came from the second moon. Think of Sansa’s hairnet of poisonous purple snakes, also representative of the moon dragons, and all the examples of the black and bloody tide which we’ve examined in past episodes. In turn, the weapons which sliced open our sacrificial stag men – the shadowsword and the tusk of the black devil boar – both represent Lightbringer, a.k.a. the red comet, and here we see the comet prominently featured in the scene behind the mad prophet. It’s even specifically compared to a wound, which seems like a clue to associate the comet and Robert’s sliced-open belly which pours forth the biting snakes.
You’ll notice the idea of the stench rising to heaven when Robert is sliced open – this is referring to the idea that the moon-breaking was in fact an abomination, as was Lightbringer. The stench that rose to heaven would have been the column of smoke and ash that quite literally rises to the heaven and blot out the sun and stars. The sun and moon and stars are in turn regarded as gods by many people in A Song of Ice and Fire and the real world, so we can see that the stench did indeed rise into the skies, and a bath of fire did indeed follow after. This idea of a cleansing fire has parallels to Dany’s dragon dream and alchemical wedding experience, as well as the idea of the blood tide from Mithras’s white bull cleansing and renewing the earth. The stealing of heavenly knowledge – the forging of Lightbringer – was the abomination, and the resulting fallout of fire and blood was the cleansing agent, destroying and punishing like the Lion of Night but also wiping the slate clean to start anew.
Finally, the idea of Tyrion being served and attended by the Burned Men from the Mountains of the Moon is entirely in keeping with him as an Azor Ahai reborn figure. Azor Ahai wakes dragons from stone, and we have interpreted those woken dragons as the storm of moon meteors, with Azor Ahai reborn himself being the transformed red comet, at least from a certain perspective. The xor Ahai reborn figures follow this pattern, with a legion of fiery servants of some kind to attend them. Daenerys, the “Last Dragon,” represents Azor Ahai reborn as the red comet, and she is served by her dragon children, who represent the firestorm of moon dragon meteors. Jon is another Azor Ahai reborn figure, and when he dreams of wielding the burning red sword, he’s attended by the burning scarecrow brothers, fiery black-blooded black crows that tumble down like meteors. Tyrion is a reborn red comet, a dragon-spawn, and he’s attended by burned moon men that come from Moon Mountains, as well as other clans with names like “moon brothers,” “stone crows,” and a few others. Tyrion’s burned moon men, Dany’s fire-made-flesh dragons, and Jon’s fiery black-blooded crows – all the same idea. They are the dragons woken by Azor Ahai’s rebirth.
And wouldn’t you know, I almost forgot – Tyrion was slashed across the face with a sword, just like the moon.
And now we come to it: Tyrion is a twisted monkey demon. This cute little nickname is actually brought up four different times in A Clash of Kings, so we can be sure that it’s no idle turn of phrase. Besides being called a monkey demon, Tyrion is separately associated with both demons and monkeys. This is from A Dance with Dragons:
That night at supper Tyrion surprised his sire by walking the length of the high table on his hands. Lord Tywin was not pleased. “The gods made you a dwarf. Must you be a fool as well? You were born a lion, not a monkey.”
And you’re a corpse, Father, so I’ll caper as I please.
Both of Azor Ahai reborn’s parents are corpses – a dead sun and a dead moon, that’s the idea. But yeah, Tyrion is a monkey, and he’ll caper as he pleases. Tyrion’s monkeyhood comes up again in the same book when Illyrio has to make up a false name for Tyrion on the fly:
Illyrio spoke up quickly. “Yollo, he is called.”
Yollo? Yollo sounds like something you might name a monkey.
And then again in Dance, when Tyrion is playing chess with Young Griff a.k.a. fAegon Blackfyre:
The dwarf pushed his black dragon across a range of mountains. “But what do I know? Your false father is a great lord, and I am just some twisted little monkey man.”
That’s pretty nice, the black dragon reference right next to the Tyrion as a monkey reference. There’s actually two more quotes in Dance which refer to Tyrion as a monkey:
“A pity. I once had a monkey who could perform all sorts of clever tricks. Your dwarf reminds me of him. Is he a gift?”
And then later, when he’s becomes one of Yezzen’s pets:
“You know who I am. Yollo. One of our lord’s treasures. Now do as I told you.”
The soldiers laughed. “Go on, Scar,” one mocked, “and be quick about it. Yezzan’s monkey gave you a command.”
Cersei also has nightmares of Tyrion, in which he is twice referred to as a monkey or as being monkey-like. So, I think it’s pretty clear: Tyrion is a monkey.
He’s also a demon, and not only in the twisted monkey demon quotes. First of all, an “imp” can be thought of as a type of goblin, or sometimes a demon. More of a mischievous demon than an evil one, but there it is. Recall also that “nissa” means “helpful elf” or “mischievous elf” in Scandinavian languages, and that fits with Tyrion being an imp that comes from the moon, since Nissa Nissa is the archetypal moon maiden.
Then we have this quote from A Clash of Kings:
“I would suggest a demon’s head for a helm, crowned with tall golden horns. When you ride into battle, men will shrink away in fear.”
A demon’s head, Tyrion thought ruefully, now what does that say of me? “Master Salloreon, I plan to fight the rest of my battles from this chair. It’s links I need, not demon horns.”
What does it say of you? Well, it says you are in fact monkey demon, Tyrion. A monkey demon who rides dragons and wears magic armor in his palace in Valyria while having vivid dreams of dragons and patricide. It’s worth noting that Tyrion fought the Battle of Blackwater Baym which is what he’s preparing for here in this scene, by unleashing the pyromancers’ wildfire, which is called “the Jade Demon.”
Martin has also drawn general associations between monkeys and demons, such as with this line from Victarion in A Dance with Dragons:
The monkeys, though … the monkeys were a plague. Victarion had forbidden his men to bring any of the demonic creatures aboard ship, yet somehow half his fleet was now infested with them, even his own Iron Victory.
Might this foreshadow a conflict between Tyrion the monkey demon and Victarion? It would make a lot sense, since Tyion might be in a position to advise Daenerys, and since a good advisor will probably suggest steering clear of the Ironborn. In any case… monkeys are demonic, it seems.
So one day I asked myself: What’s the deal with this whole monkey demon thing anyway? I wondered if there might be a mythological inspiration out there somewhere, and so I typed “monkey demon mythology” into the google box. There was one prominent result, and that’s Sun Wukong of Chinese myth (he also has parallel incarnations in other related mythologies from that region of the world). He’s a monkey demon king born from a rock whose eyes shine like beams of light and who wields a fiery spear he stole from a dragon, as well as magic armor that he also stole from a dragon.
I kid you not – this is a real thing, and it existed long before George R. R. Martin did.
To be more specific, I will draw from one of the four major novels of Chinese history, published during the Ming Dynasty all the way back in in 1592, whose title is translated as “Journey to the West” and which is often simply called “Monkey,” because the stone monkey demon king Sun Wukong is the central character. It’s attributed to a fellow named Wu Cheng-en, and I’ll be pulling from a translation done by W. J. F. Jenner. Although I did first learn about Sun Wukong by using Google, I’ve now read most of this novel to gain a better understanding of his character and deeds. It’s a terrific read – the battle scenes are quite epic, and the whole thing is packed with mythical astronomy. Most of the main characters are tied to stars, planets, and constellations in vivid fashion. For a great six minute synopsis, I recommend this youtube video by a couple of guys known as “Off the Great Wall” who do fun re-tellings of Chinese myths and folklore.
In any case, here’s the deal. Sun Wukong was born from a magic stone which sits atop something called “the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit.” The magic stone develops a magic womb which, after thousands of years of absorbing the essence of the sun and the moon – stop me if this sounds familiar – bursts open to reveal a stone egg. Then the wind comes along and blows on the egg, causing it to turn into a stone monkey. Upon waking, two golden beams of light shoot out of his eyes and startle someone called the Jade Emperor.
Again, this is not ASOIAF, but ancient Chinese mythology, and as we can see, George has borrowed from it quite a bit – the Jade Emperor is one of the rulers of the Great Empire of the Dawn, for example, and both the Great Empire of the Dawn and the Golden Empire of Yi Ti which followed after seem to be based loosely on Far Eastern culture and mythology. Obviously a stone demon animal waking from a stone egg sets of a few buzzers and sirens, and the “magic rock” reminds us of the pale stone of magical powers from which the sword Dawn was made, as well as the evil black stone that the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped which I believe was the source of the metal for Lightbringer. Lightbringer is a dragon sword, and it was hatched from a magic stone, just as Drogon was hatched from a stone egg.
Even though he’s a demon monkey, he’s called “heaven born” because he was born at the top of a mountain, which the Chinese equated with the heavens. This is a symbolic association shared by many cultures throughout the world, and it’s one George has carried over into A Song of Ice and Fire. You’ve heard me say that a few times, but’s important and bears repeating. Anything that happens at the top of a tower or mountain… pay close attention and think about the celestial realm.
As for those fiery eyes which shoot beams of light, the Lannisters are also noted for their luminous green and gold eyes, and of course we’ve seen the wider phenomena of fiery eyes with people and animals who symbolize moon meteors. Elsewhere in the novel, it’s said of Sun Wukong that “his devil eyes shone like stars.” Surely the equivalency between eyes and stars can found all over the place in world mythology, but my point here is that Sun Wukong is a convenient fit for George’s world building because of his various attributes.
Sun Wukong’s fiery eyes can also see through illusion – he’s constantly exposing body-snatching demons posing as normal people and destroying them. Tyrion doesn’t spot any changelings, but he is very perceptive in King’s Landing and uses elaborate ruses and misdirection to sniff out Cersei’s informant, which turns out to be Pycelle. Could be coincidence, or it could be an echo of Sun Wukong’s magical perception.
There’s more: Sun Wukong can change his form into that of other creatures, a shapeshifting ability somewhat akin to skinchanging. That doesn’t have anything to do with Tyrion, but it might have something to do with the original Azor Ahai being a skinchanger or greenseer, just as Jon Snow is a skinchanger and soon to be resurrected skinchanger.
Sun Wukong simply loves to steal weapons – he’s basically obsessed with it. He travels to the bottom of the ocean and defeats a dragon king of the Eastern Seas, taking from him a glowing iron staff which turns out to be Sun Wukong’s most identifiable and well-known weapon. This staff is really something – it’s made of black iron and and banded in gold, a terrific Lightbringer weapon, you must admit. Even better, Sun Wukong’s gold-banded dragon staff can multiply into a thousand flying staffs, which are described as being like filling the sky with dragons. This amazing staff is actually depicted as the pillar of the heavens and the Milky Way which keeps the seas calm – that’s the same pillar of the universe role played by Yggdrasil and other mythological world trees, or sometimes by an “omphalos” or navel-stone. The general phenomena of representing the celestial axis in mythology is called the ‘axis mundi,’ by the way. Sun Wukong’s possession of this staff makes him the master of the heavens; similarly, he takes on titles like “The Great Sage” and “The Great Sage Who Equals Heaven.” It also gives him great potential for mischief, which is what monkeys are known for.
Sun Wukong then went on to defeat the dragons of the four seas and take from them a golden chain mail shirt, a purple and gold phoenix-winged helmet, and cloud-walking boots – pretty sweet haul, right? Basically, if there is a sea dragon anywhere out there in the wide world who has magical weapons or armor, Sun Wukong tracks them down and takes their stuff. The end result is that Sun Wukong is a rock-born demon king who is decked out in fiery black and gold dragon weapons and black and gold dragon armor. He’s a child of the sun and moon and he can fill the air with a thousand dragons. And we are just getting started.
As an aside, notice that dragons in Chinese myth tend be associated with water, as I’ve mentioned before, and I believe this stems from experiences with violent tsunamis triggered by comet and meteor impacts in the Pacific Ocean. This idea is paralleled in the Ironborn legend of the sea dragon Nagga which drowns whole islands.
One of the major, defining themes of Sun Wukong’s character is that he challenges heaven and rebels against the gods, and even the very order of nature itself. He defies hell’s attempt to collect his soul, barging into hell and dramatically wiping his name from the book of life and death, along with those of his monkey hordes, breaking the reincarnation cycle. He’s literally said to have broken the balance between yin and yang, between light and dark, day and night, male and female. Check out this passage, a plea to the Jade Emperor by a concerned Bodhisattva:
The regions of darkness are the negative part of the Earth. Heaven contains gods while the Earth has devils; Positive and Negative are in a constant cycle. Birds and beasts are born and die; male and female alternate. Life is created and change takes place; male and female are conceived and born; this is the order of nature, and it cannot be changed. Now the evil spirit, the Heaven−born monkey of the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, is presently giving full rein to his wicked nature, committing murders, and refusing to submit to discipline. He killed the devil messengers of the Ninth Hell with his magic, and he terrified the Ten Benevolent Kings of the Underworld with his power. He made an uproar in the Senluo Palace and crossed some names out by force. He has made the race of monkeys completely uncontrollable, and given eternal life to the macaques. He has annulled the law of transmigration and brought them beyond birth and death. I, impoverished monk that I am, importune the might of Heaven by presenting this memorial. I prostrate myself to beg that Heavenly soldiers be despatched to subdue this fiend, bring the Positive and Negative back into order, and give lasting security to the Underworld.
That’s the very essence of that the Long Night is about, breaking the cycle of the seasons and of life and death. The gods are of course very disturbed at Sun Wukong’s actions, and so they decide to invite Sun Wukong to heaven as a ploy to fool him into thinking he is being honored – but the real goal is to control him. This backfires as Sun Wukong sees through their scheme and steals a bunch of really cool stuff from heaven, like the peaches of immortality and the royal wine of the gods, then returns to earth. For this, he is called “the wrecker of the heavenly palace.” Sun Wukong is pretty much on a life-long quest to gain immortality, which he actually does several times over – stealing the peaches here and crossing his name from Death’s book previously. All of this fits very nicely with the themes of the Azor Ahai story – challenging the gods and stealing fire from heaven; breaking the cycles of life and nature and seeking to escape death and live forever. Tyrion himself challenges, defies, and eventually kills his own father, in violation of the most sacred laws of the gods.
Sun Wukong goes on to seriously whoop ass against the army of heaven, who are depicted as star warriors, defeating 100,000 of them single handedly. He doesn’t just defeat them – he makes a mockery of them. In fact, that’s a major part of Sun Wukong’s character, and this is a very good match for Tyrion – he basically talks shit to everyone, without exception. Sun Wukong is even described as impish in the Chinese epic novel, or at least the English translation of it. Basically, Sun Wukong talks a big game, and then backs it up, destroying or driving off everyone that the Jade Emperor can throw at him with his unbeatable black fire staff and various other tricks and weapons and magics.
An egg learned to be a man, cultivated his conduct, and achieved the way. Heaven had been undisturbed for the thousand kappas, until one day the spirits and gods were scattered. The rebel against heaven, wanting high position, insulted immortals, stole the pills, and destroyed morality.
Eventually, however, and not without great effort, Sun Wukong is captured and trapped inside some kind of sacred crucible to be incinerated by a pair of immortal warriors of the Jade Emperor. But after 49 days of burning, the crucible is opened and out pops Sun Wukong, stronger than ever, and now armed with fiery, enhanced magical sight. In other words, Sun Wukong was forged like a sword and reborn in the sacred fires. That’s an amazingly tight correlation to the wording of the Lightbringer myth, and to Dany’s experiences of being forged like a sword and reborn in fire, and more generally to the idea of a flying meteor sword that was born from a burning moon rock.
As for Tyrion, there may be a humorous echo of this story in A Dance with Dragons, when he was trapped inside a wine barrel on his voyage across the Narrow Sea. Not exactly a crucible, but it is a very small box that he was locked in for an extended period of time. Instead of emerging more powerful, he emerged more drunk, but hey, you have to change a few details to make things work for the scene, right?
The Jade Emperor then appeals to the Buddha, who contrives to trap Sun Wukong in his enormous fist and then seal him under a mountain for five centuries (though he is eventually set free and earns honors for himself, and is even granted buddhahood for his service and strength). The idea of Sun Wukong being stuck inside a fist and inside a mountain, or being born from the top a mountain are very reminiscent of George’s fiery hand and riding mountain symbolic motifs which we examined in the last episode, you’ll notice. The moon turning into things is what Azor Ahai’s rebirth is all about, and several of these symbols appear in Sun Wukong’s story: stone demons, fiery dragon spears, huge mountains and divine fists. You can see why George wove this into his Azor Ahai tapestry of ideas – it’s a natural fit.
Personally, I think it would have been funny if George had decided to have Melisandre spend a bunch of time talking about waking monkeys from stone, but hey, artistic freedom and all.
This brings up another potential Tyrion connection: Sun Wukong is from the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers, which is in the east – it is from atop this mountain that the “heaven-born monkey king’s” stone egg hatched. On this mountain lives the monkey army of Sun Wukong… could this be a parallel to the great mountains of the Vale of Arryn, in the east, from which Tyrion gains his mountain clan army? The vale is known for it’s fecundity, and although Tyrion wasn’t born there, he was almost thrown from atop the mountain via the moon door.
Saving the best Sun Wukong correlations for last, it seems that one of the many weapons and magics he can employ is to summon up a storm which sounds a lot like the Long Night. This is Sun Wukong trying to break in to a great city to steal even more magic weapons (the guy can’t get enough weapons, it seems). Actually, in this scene, Sun Wukong is specifically trying to steal weapons to arm his monkey hordes, which reminds us of Tyrion obtaining weapons to arm the mountain clans.
So he made a magic with his fist and said the words of the spell, sucked in some air from the Southeast, and blew it hard out again. It turned into a terrifying gale carrying sand and stones with it.
Where the thunderclouds rise the elements are in chaos;
Black fogs thick with dust cloak the earth in darkness.
Boiling rivers and seas terrify the crabs and fish;
As trees are snapped off in mountain forests tigers and wolves flee.
The thrones of princes are all blown over;
Towers of five phoenixes are shaken to their foundations.
Sun Wukong can summon the Long Night, apparently. That’s pretty potent, I’m not sure why you’d need more weapons if you could do that. In any case, I’m making the claim that Sun Wukong plays into the myth of Azor Ahai reborn, and also that Azor Ahai caused the Long Night, so it’s pretty sweet to see that Sun Wukong carries the Long Night in his back pocket.
On a different occasion, Sun Wukong is battling the demon king of the North (who fights with a shining sword, a helmet of dark gold, and black steel armor, it should be noted) and Sun Wukong actually threatens to pull down the moon with his two hands and bash the demon king with it, I kid you not.
The Long Night parallels continue in another line, where he’s called a “hairy-faced thunder god.” And don’t forget, he pulled out the pillar of the milky way and carries it about with him, giving him true dominion over the heavens and the earth. This also gives him the ability to disrupt the cycles of nature, block out the sun, pull down the moon, shake the world to its foundations, fill the air with flying dragons, and destroy the star-army of heaven.
In addition to the parallels with Tyrion’s story, you can see that the basic elements of the Sun Wukong myth are also very analogous to that of Mithras and Azor Ahai, and that’s not a coincidence. Here’s what I think is going on. Essentially, at some point early in the writing process, Martin must have decided he wanted to create a central fable for his world involving a flaming sword, dragons, comets and meteors, and resurrection. At this point I believe Martin began collecting all the interesting myths of flaming swords, comets, dragons, and resurrection – best of all, stories which contained more than one of these elements. Then, he uses these various myths as starting points for different characters in the story, particularly the major characters which manifest Azor Ahai reborn symbolism.
Let’s very briefly run through a few flaming sword myths and their ASOIAF correlations so you can see what I mean.
- The Azor Ahai myth as a whole draws heavily from Mithras of course, and of all the various Azor Ahai reborn manifestations, Jon Snow in particular is often a specific avatar of Mithras.
- Tyrion seems to draw many things from Sun Wukong the monkey demon king with the fiery spear.
- In Norse mythology, there’s a “devil giant” named Sutr (which means “black” or “swarthy” in Old Norse) who wields a shining sun sword that eventually brings forth flames that engulf the entire world. I’m sure you can see the clear parallels to Azor Ahai there, and possibly to Jon Snow, who dresses and armors in black but dreams of wielding a burning sword, and to Daenerys, who is poised to engulf large parts of the world in blood and fire, and whose dragons are like a flaming sword above the world. Tyrion, besides being a demon, is also a giant on many occasions, so perhaps he’s channeling a bit of Sutr as well.
- Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, and his alive with light sword Dawn, borrows quite a bit from King Arthur’s glowing sword Excalibur. Excalibur was a sword which shone so bright at times that it actually blinded his enemies – a real light-bringer, you might say. In some tales, Excalibur is the same as the sword Arthur pulled from the stone, which might have been part of the basis for the idea of Dawn being made from a magical stone. In other versions, the sword pulled from the stone is eventually broken and replaced by Excalibur, which reminds us quite sharply of the Last Hero and the idea that he broke his sword and later ended up slaying Others with something remembered as dragonsteel. There’s actually a ton of Arthurian references in ASOIAF, as Lady Gwyn of Radio Westeros can tell you, but let’s keep moving for now.
- I’ve even mentioned the old Hanna Barbara cartoon Thundarr as a potential influence on the Azor Ahai / Long Night mythos, because good old Thundarr the Barbarian has a “sun sword” which is kind of like a light saber and the backstory of the show is a red comet streaking in between earth and the moon and causing such environmental disaster that the modern, technical world is thrown back into a kind of medieval “swords and sorcery” environment. Sounds familiar right? Well George is hugely into cartoons and comics, and Thundarr came out way back in 1984, so don’t doubt that he might get an idea from a show like Thundarr. If you do doubt me in any way, just look up the intro to the Thundarr show on YouTube and prepare to lose your mind, it’s like the events of the Long Night animated by Hanna Barbara.
In summary, my hypothesis is that George decided he wanted to write about flaming swords, and so he looked for all the cool flaming sword myths he could find and worked them in wherever it made sense. Sun Wukong works so nicely for Tyrion because Sun Wukong’s story shares so many elements with Mithras, and the idea of Tyrion as a monkey makes a lot of sense with his character and stature. It’s his own personal Mithras!
The conclusion I draw from all of this Sun Wukong stuff, besides “wow that’s pretty cool that George is into Chinese mythology” is that Tyrion gets his own rock-born, flaming weapon-wielding mythological forefather because he is one of the three heads of the dragon and a secret Targaryen. We’ve seen many characters who are definitely not Targaryens play the role of Azor Ahai reborn, but none with the kind of extensive correlations to myths of warriors with flaming weapons which we find in Tyrion, Jon Snow, and Daenerys… with one notable exception.
As for that exception, it’s Arthur Dayne and his Arthurian symbolism, and he’s definitely not a Targaryen. However, I have proposed in an older essay that the occasionally purple-eyed and silver haired Daynes have a common ancestor with Valyria, the vanished Great Empire of the Dawn – and specifically, the purple-eyed Amethyst Empress. Also, the Sword of the Morning archetype seems to be the light half of the Lightbringer yin and yang, with Azor Ahai’s black sword being the dark side, naturally, and so it makes sense to see extensive manifestation of a well-known flaming sword myth like that of King Arthur and Excalibur in the person of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. There can be little doubt that Dawn and House Dayne have something to do with the Lightbringer legend, no matter how you see the details shaking out.
And while we’re talking about yin and yang, I neglected to point out previously in our essay about the Bloodstone Emperor is that yin is the dark side of yin and yang, and, one o fthe names of Azor Ahai is Yin Tar. If you wanted a clue that Azor Ahai and lightbringer are from the dark side… then there you . They are literally the force of yin.
As for Tyrion as a manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn, there are couple of other details about him which fit with the Azor Ahai archetype.
- Like Mithras and Sun Wukong, he was born from a rock – Casterly Rock, that is. That’s the rock in whose bowels he sits while lighting fires and dreaming of dragons.
- His mother died at his birth, which is a standard for any real Azor Ahai reborn player. The moon dying at Azor Ahai’s rebirth is kind of the central event to this whole drama, after all. Jon and Dany’s mothers both die in conjunction with giving birth, and Joanna Lannister does the same.
- We’ve seen Azor Ahai reborn depicted as a monster in the case of dead lizard baby, Rhaego, as well as a dragon which came to life with human sacrifice… and there may be a nod to this in the form of the monstrous rumors about Tyrion’s birth which Oberyn repeats right before his fight with the Mountain. He tells Tyrion that he heard he had been born with a tail, a monstrously large head, thick black hair, an evil eye, lion’s claws, and teeth so large he couldn’t close his mouth.
- Azor Ahai’s re-birth heralded the fall of the Long Night – this is one of my biggest claims in all of my research – and there’s a clue about this in that same scene with Oberyn and Tyrion. Oberyn continues on to say that Tyrion ‘s birth was a curse for Tywin (the sun) and an ill omen for the realm, to which Tyrion quips: “Famine, plague, and war, no doubt. It’s always famine, plague, and war. Oh, and winter, and the long night that never ends.” George is telling us the truth about Tyrion and Azor Ahai in plain language, but he’s hiding it with sarcasm. “Oh yes, his birth heralded the Long Night. He’s got magic armor and a palace in Valyria,” eye-roll eye-roll. “He must be some sort of lost Targaryen prince,” chuckle chuckle, wink wink. Say no more, George, say no more.
To sum up, we have seen that Mr. Martin based large parts of his Lightbringer legend on Mithras, and that he chose to manifest those elements in Jon’s arc specifically. Having already conceived of the character of Tyrion as a Targaryen early on and one of the “three heads of the dragon,” he must have seen the Sun Wukong figure as a kind of personal Mithras-type myth for Tyrion’s character. Sun Wukong is basically the monkey version of Azor Ahai, and that’s more or less what George has done with Tyrion’s character by making him a monkey demon dragon-spawn. Sun Wukong is a chaos agent who has the potential to tip the balance of world events, and I think that is exactly the kind of role Tyrion is shaping up to play. He had a dramatic effect on young Jon Snow, he took many momentous actions at King’s Landing, he had a dramatic effect on Young Griff’s course of action, and soon he’ll be in a position to have an effect on the mother of dragons. “Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all.”
Gargoyles and Bran Muffins
Now it’s time to talk about gargoyles, something Tyrion is associated with all throughout the series, as many of you may recall. The second half of this episode will primarily deal with the connection between Tyrion and gargoyles and its implications for the story, but interwoven throughout will be talk of Winterfell, Bran, and the Last Hero. It turns out to be impossible to talk about Tyrion the gargoyle without bringing up Winterfell, Bran, and the Last Hero, so that’s what we will do. For example, the first place where we see Tyrion described as a gargoyle is Winterfell, and Winterfell is in turn famously decorated with gargoyles. Gargoyles feature prominently in Bran’s early story arc in A Game of Thrones, particularly his fall from the tower, and in turn Tyrion the Gargoyle is connected to Bran by the saddle he designed for him after his accident, and by Catelyn’s fateful decision to accuse Tyrion of attempting to murder Bran which basically shapes the entire story of A Game of Thrones.
And as you guys know, I can never resist a little Last Hero talk when it’s there to be had.
The first mention of gargoyles in A Song of Ice and Fire comes at Winterfell, but refers not to the actual gargoyles on the walls of the keep, but to Tyrion Lannister on the walls of the keep:
The sounds of music and song spilled through the open windows behind him. They were the last things Jon wanted to hear. He wiped away his tears on the sleeve of his shirt, furious that he had let them fall, and turned to go.
“Boy,” a voice called out to him. Jon turned. Tyrion Lannister was sitting on the ledge above the door to the Great Hall, looking for all the world like a gargoyle. The dwarf grinned down at him.
Twenty three pages later, we start hearing about gargoyles on the tops of buildings at Winterfell, and by this time, we’ve most likely forgotten about Tyrion being called a gargoyle as her perched atop a building at Winterfell. But I would suggest that there’s a deliberate connection being drawn. Tyrion is called a gargoyle many, many times in the series, and I believe the reason is this: gargoyles are flying stone beasts associated with hell and dragons, both in the real world and in A Song of Ice and Fire.
The term gargoyle generally refers to any grotesque stone creature which adorns the roof of a buildings, and they come in all different forms. In fact, the same thing is said of gargoyles that is said of snowflakes: no two are alike. There are several variations on the story of how the first gargoyle came to be, but they all involve a fellow named St. Romanus capturing and burning a dragon. The head and neck of the dragon, having been hardened by years of breathing fire, would not burn, and so St. Romanus mounted the head and neck of the dragon on the walls of the newly built church to scare off evil spirits.
Gargoyles come in many forms, but they are first and foremost stone dragons. Most legends of gargoyles involve them waking in the night and flying around, so you’ve got the ‘dragons waking from stone’ idea present in the mythos of the gargoyle as well. Calling Tyrion a gargoyle is very close to naming him a dragon, and at the very least, it’s naming him a hell-beast which wakes from stone, just like the demon monkey king Sun Wukong. In other words, both of Tyrion’s nicknames point towards hellish demons waking from stone, and dragons. Both of them point to … Tyrion Targaryen.
A nice touch on Tyrion’s gargoyle association is the fact that gargoyle statues often have chains about their neck, which reminds us of Tyrion’s famous chain which saved King’s Landing.
As for the gargoyles of Winterfell, they are so worn that you cannot make out their shape, but the truth about them is revealed when they are seen in dream form by Bran. This is from A Game of Thrones:
In his dream he was climbing again, pulling himself up an ancient windowless tower, his fingers forcing themselves between blackened stones, his feet scrabbling for purchase. Higher and higher he climbed, through the clouds and into the night sky, and still the tower rose before him. When he paused to look down, his head swam dizzily and he felt his fingers slipping. Bran cried out and clung for dear life. The earth was a thousand miles beneath him and he could not fly. He could not fly. He waited until his heart had stopped pounding, until he could breathe, and he began to climb again. There was no way to go but up. Far above him, outlined against a vast pale moon, he thought he could see the shapes of gargoyles. His arms were sore and aching, but he dared not rest. He forced himself to climb faster. The gargoyles watched him ascend. Their eyes glowed red as hot coals in a brazier. Perhaps once they had been lions, but now they were twisted and grotesque. Bran could hear them whispering to each other in soft stone voices terrible to hear. He must not listen, he told himself, he must not hear, so long as he did not hear them he was safe. But when the gargoyles pulled themselves loose from the stone and padded down the side of the tower to where Bran clung, he knew he was not safe after all. “I didn’t hear,” he wept as they came closer and closer, “I didn’t, I didn’t.”
He woke gasping, lost in darkness, and saw a vast shadow looming over him. “I didn’t hear,” he whispered, trembling in fear, but then the shadow said “Hodor,” and lit the candle by the bedside, and Bran sighed with relief.
This dream occurs immediately after Tyrion returns to Winterfell on his way back from the Wall and offers up the design for a saddle that will enable the crippled Bran to ride horses – this is done to put is mind of Tyrion right before the dream about fiery-eyed gargoyles, perhaps. In any case, let’s discuss the fiery associations of the gargoyles. They watch Bran with red eyes like hot coals, a match for descriptions of the eyes of Melisandre, Bloodraven, Ghost, and most importantly one the dragons, Viserion. They “might have been lions once,” suggesting a correlation between the gargoyles and the Lannisters, and this of course follows up on the labeling of Tyrion as a gargoyle earlier in the book. It’s also quite suggestive of the gargoyles as an Azor Ahai reborn / moon meteor symbol. Azor Ahai and his meteors “used to be lions” in that they represent a transformed sun – a sun which has transformed into something more monstrous. Those monstrous moon meteors drank the fire of the sun, but they also came from the moon, and indeed, when Bran sees the gargoyles, they appear superimposed over the moon, right at the top of the tower, where heavenly bodies belong. Then the gargoyles “pulled themselves loose from the stone,” implying a detachment from the stone moon, and descend the black tower with red eyes like hot coals. This is all just as it should be if the gargoyle are intended to represent Azor Ahai reborn and his flying dragon meteors.
There can be little doubt this scene is a case of mythical astronomy, with Bran climbing up a black tower through the clouds and into the night sky and the earth a thousand miles below him – that’s about as clear as it gets. The moon appears at the top of the black tower , showing us the idea that the tops of towers are equivalent to the celestial bodies, and then a fiery gargoyle comes down from the moon – that’s also pretty easy to understand. This falling gargoyle idea is an echo of that first scene with Tyrion as a gargoyle when he jumps down from the roof:
“Can you climb down, or shall I bring a ladder?”
“Oh, bleed that,” the little man said. He pushed himself off the ledge into empty air. Jon gasped, then watched with awe as Tyrion Lannister spun around in a tight ball, landed lightly on his hands, then vaulted backward onto his legs.
George has said that he actually regrets depicting Tyrion as being so nimble, because for most of the rest of the series George gives him a limp and a waddling gait. Regardless, Tyrion the gargoyle jumps down from the sky spinning like a ball, giving us the image of a falling moon meteor, just as the gargoyle coming down from the moon in Bran’s dream did. Gargoyles come from the moon because they represent one aspect of the moon meteors. George puts the words “bleed that” into his mouth as he falls, which is the only time anyone uses that expression in the novels, and I think the purpose is to create the image of a bleeding star or a bloody stone falling from the sky. Jon watches with awe.
Since Bran is the one who falls from the tower, it’s pretty clear Bran is also representing the moon’s fall from the heavens. He’s specifically pushed out of the top of a tower by a sun figure, so there’s really not much wiggle room here. His head swims, which creates the image of a moon face going swimming in the ocean, the familiar moon-drowning symbol. Bran weeps with fear, and of course the moon crying meteor tears is a symbol you guys are well familiar with. Then he wakes lost in darkness, just as Azor Ahai reborn wakes lost in the darkness of the Long Night.
As always, the various incarnations of the moon meteors all tell us different things about Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer. It may seem weird that Bran and the gargoyles are representing the same thing, but we can learn different lessons from each. We’ll start with Tyrion.
Generally speaking, the fiery gargoyles show us monsters coming from the moon, which is easy to understand, but I should also point out that gargoyles are pretty consistently associated with protection and warding against evil spirits. We’ve seen Azor Ahai reborn sometimes depicted in this role, such as with Sandor protecting and avenging moon maiden Sansa Stark, and with the idea of Oathkeeper being used to avenge and protect Ned’s children. Tyrion himself also protects Sansa from Joffrey’s abuse, and later plays a protective role for Penny, the dwarf girl, with a gargoyle reference specifically hung on Tyrion in one of those scenes – we’ll check that out in a moment, actually. Tyrion also successfully saves King’s Landing from Stannis – that’s quite the act of protection, and there’s again a great gargoyle quote right in the middle of the battle. Stannis is seen by those in King’s Landing as “the Stranger comes to judge us” who serves a “demon god,” so in this sense Tyrion’s definitely warding King’s Landing against evil.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him play a similar protective role to Daenerys. In fact, there’s a clue about Tyrion helping Dany in The World of Ice and Fire. One story from Yi Ti is that “a woman with a monkey’s tail” somehow helped to end the Long Night. A tail is also the name for the attendants of a monarch, and a monkey for a tail might be Tyrion as an advisor to a woman who might help end the new Long Night – Daenerys.
In any case, the protection aspect of the gargoyle, illustrated by Tyrion, has some potentially serious implications. We’ve seen the protection theme as one aspect of Azor Ahai reborn a few times now, and I think this almost certainly applies to the idea of Azor Ahai protecting all warm-blooded life from the Others with Lightbringer, whether that deed was performed by Azor Ahai’s son, the Last Hero, who would have been righting the wrongs of his father, or else by a reformed Azor Ahai doing something similar, atoning for his own actions. At this point, I think it’s an inescapable conclusion – although Azor Ahai broke the moon when he forged Lightbringer, which seems to have been the cause of the Long Night, Lightbringer and some version of Azor Ahai reborn seem to have later fought off the Long Night and returned the sun to the sky. This makes sense, when you think about it. Azor Ahai is a solar character, and his fall from grace depicts the darkening of the sun. If the sun eventually came back out to shine, as we know it did, it follows that Azor Ahai gained some level of redemption, either through penitence and on his own part or that of his descendent. Thus, the gargoyle actually shows us two things about Azor Ahai reborn and Lightbringer – it’s a fiery monster descending from the sky, but there is some aspect of it which can protect or avenge.
What does Bran as a moon meteor symbol tell us? Well, I think the message has to do with Bran becoming a greenseer. Bloodraven is draped in a certain type of Azor Ahai symbolism, as we’ve discussed before, and he is of course THE greenseer of the north. We’ve also seen many instances of crossover between fire magic and old god / greenseer magic – Jon Snow, Beric Dondarrion, Bloodraven, the leaves of the weirwoods being like fiery and bloody hands, and many more. Azor Ahai broke the moon, and the greenseers supposedly called down the Hammer of the Waters – but I have laid out a strong case that the Hammer was a moon meteor. If Azor Ahai was a greenseer, or worked with greenseers or their magic somehow, then both stories contain an element of truth, which is usually how Martin does things. I actually have a ton to say about the intersection of greenseer magic and fire magic, which will be its own episode, so for now I’ll have to simply say that Bran as a reborn moon child almost certainly plays into that idea.
A bit more on Bran as an Azor Ahai reborn person: Bran skinchanges Hodor, and Hodor too gets the Azor Ahai symbols on occasion – a sword and a torch, one eye wound, etc – and he specifically gets those symbols in scenes where Bran is skinchanging him. There are some great Lightbringer forging metaphors in those scenes, particularly at Queenscrown with all the lightning and it’s broken tower top and the scene at the Nightfort. Another time… another time. This could indicate that Azor Ahai might have done a bit of body snatching, which is exactly the kind of thing we should expect from him if indeed he was a greenseer, as I am coming to suspect he was. His rebirth might have been… well… you know. A body-snatching.
Some people have guessed that Bran will actually skinchange a dragon, and wouldn’t that be just badass! I’ve always liked the idea… and it would totally fit with the symbolism of Bran’s fall from the tower as a parallel to the hatching of the moon dragons. If Azor Ahai was a dragon riding greenseer, then it kind of makes sense for a greenseer like bran to become a kind of dragon rider. So now, read this quote from A Game of Thrones, remembering what the gargoyles represent:
Bran pulled himself up, climbed over the gargoyle, crawled out onto the roof. This was the easy way. He moved across the roof to the next gargoyle, right above the window of the room where they were talking.
“All this talk is getting very tiresome, sister,” the man said. “Come here and be quiet.”
Bran sat astride the gargoyle, tightened his legs around it, and swung himself around, upside down. He hung by his legs and slowly stretched his head down toward the window. The world looked strange upside down. A courtyard swam dizzily below him, its stones still wet with melted snow. Bran looked in the window.
Bran sat astride the gargoyle. <dun dun dun>
I’m not sure if we can interpret this as a foreshadowing of Bran riding a dragon in the future or not, because he’s sitting astride the gargoyle right before the sun figure pushes him out of the tower, which is more like Bran riding a moon dragon down to a fateful impact with the earth. However, we can note that Bran is learning to “fly,” as is said many times, and he’s being taught to do so by a Targaryen greenseer. Who knows – we’ll just have to see what happens. As a side-note, the idea of Bran hanging upside-down from a dragon’s belly like an expertly skilled horsemen is pretty entertaining.
I’ve talked about the theme of the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai being one of stealing from heaven, of trying to climb too high, just like the Morningstar is perceived to be trying to rise before the sun and steal it’s glory as if itself were the sun, the high god, only to fail and fall back down to earth. The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai tries to gain the starry wisdom, the heavenly fire of the gods. There’s an echo of this theme in Bran’s scene, as he’s literally climbing a tower into the heavens, only to be pushed out of the tower because of something he knows. Forbidden knowledge that almost cost him his life. He tries to unhear what he has heard, screaming “I didn’t hear!” but of course he did hear, and he does know, and this knowledge cost him a fall from the tower. Ultimately, this event resulted in a transformation. Bran dreams while in his coma, and actually seems to begin to tap into his greenseer abilities before waking, when he finally learns to fly and astrally projects himself all over Westeros and sees events that are actually occurring, albeit in somewhat symbolic fashion. This is the Azor Ahai reborn story, a man who reached for the stars and got burned, and was transformed. The big question now is, “how did his story end?”
Perhaps the most obvious and important implication of the idea of Bran as an Azor Ahai reborn figure is that Bran seems to be closely mimicking the arc of the Last Hero, and here we will deviate for the aforementioned Last Hero talk. The Last Hero journeyed into the frozen, dead lands seeking out the children of the forest and ended up working against the Others and the Long Night – pretty much Bran’s storyline so far. The Last Hero had a sword, which broke, and twelve companions, who died, as well as a dog and a horse who also died. Bran himself may be the broken sword, if you want to take it that far, with a wolf for a dog and an elk for a horse. My buddy from the Westeros.org forums known as the Last Melnibonean has an interesting theory that Bran has met twelve people on his journey that have either died or will die as a correlation to the Last Hero’s twelve dead companions. Regardless of the smaller details, he’s definitely retracing the important footsteps of the Last Hero (ironic metaphor alert… Bran… footsteps…). Bran as both a falling moon meteor figure and a Last Hero figure is another corroboration that the Last Hero story is somehow connected to the idea of Azor Ahai reborn.
Now, Bran being a Last Hero figure also clues us in to the idea that the Starks are probably connected to the Last Hero as well – an idea we already had, of course – and thus to Azor Ahai reborn. The mystery of how the Starks, the Last Hero, and the Last Hero’s blade of dragonsteel are connected with the myth of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer is one of the biggest mysteries in the books, in my opinion. It’s the whole reason that Jon being half Targyen and half Stark is significant, for one thing, and I believe it will figure into the ultimate endgame of the series.
I mean ask yourself – why all this to-do about Azor Ahai and Lightbringer, a fantastical myth from the other side of the world, in a story which is squarely centered on Westeros and the Starks? There must be some connection, right? I’m claiming Azor Ahai, also called the Bloodstone Emperor, caused the Long Night, but the most famous effect of the Long Night besides the general darkness was the invasion of the Others, in Westeros. In order for all this Azor Ahai stuff to be relevant, there needs to be connection to the main events in Westeros. Everyone can see that the dragons and the Others are on some sort of collision course – people can sense there’s a connection, a date with destiny. Many think the solution to the ice demons might involve heroes who are dragon-blooded people riding dragons, the “three heads of the dragon.” I mean you could look at it the other way round – pun intended – and say that the elegant ice elves are the solution to the fire monsters, but the point is – what’s the connection? Because all things come round again in A Song of Ice and Fire, the same must have happened in the past – this would be the place where Azor Ahai and Lightbringer connect to the Last Hero, dragonsteel, and the Starks.
Similarly, everyone can see the parallels between Jon and Dany, that they both are the clearest manifestations of Azor Ahai reborn – but one is associated with fire, and the other with ice, pun intended again. Now let me tell you – I think the debate about which one is “really” Azor Ahai reborn is quite silly. They’re both Azor Ahai reborn, but one is Azor Ahai reborn in any icy sheath. The interaction between Jon and Dany stands to figure prominently in the conclusion of the story, however you envision that meeting going down. The question is, what happens? What is the interaction between ice and fire, between Other and dragon? I have some ideas about that actually… it’s one of the big conclusions which all of my essays are building up to.
Here’s a bit of a clue about that, and it brings us back to gargoyles again – the real ones carved from stone this time, not people symbolized by gargoyles. I’ve actually been waiting to bring up this topic for a long time… so check this out. There are actually only two castles in all of Westeros – nay, in all of A Song of Ice and Fire – which are warded with gargoyles. And those two castles are: the First Keep of Winterfell, the oldest part which was built by Brandon the Builder, and Dragonstone, the ancestral home of House Targaryen which was built by the Valyrians. That’s quite a fascinating parallel, don’t you think? Putting gargoyles on castle walls is nothing special – that’s where you’d expect to see them, after all – and if George had randomly sprinkled them on various castles throughout the land, we wouldn’t think much of it. But instead, we find them exclusively at these two extremely significant castles. This tells us much and more, I believe.
The gargoyles of Dragonstone are all hell beasts of various kinds, with dragons being chief among them. The two on Cressen’s balcony are a hellhound and wyvern, for example, and of course the dragons are everywhere. The stone gargoyles and dragons are specifically used as meteor symbols in scenes on Dragonstone such as the Cressen prologue of Clash and the burning of the Seven scene, also from Clash, where Stannis and Mel do their little Lightbringer re-enactment ceremony. The gargoyles of Dragonstone themselves are made of fused black stone – stone burnt black and super-hardened by dragonfire, which makes for a very clear and vivid parallel to our burning black moon meteor dragons.
In that scene where they burn the Seven and draw forth fake Lightbringer, the gargoyles and dragons look as though they are about come to life in, just as Winterfell’s gargoyles come to life with fire in their eyes in Bran’s dream:
Heat rose shimmering through the chill air; behind, the gargoyles and stone dragons on the castle walls seemed blurred, as if Davos were seeing them through a veil of tears. Or as if the beasts were trembling, stirring…
This entire scene is laced with talk of waking dragons, and we can see here in the second paragraph of the chapter that the idea of waking gargoyles is akin to waking dragons – they’re lumped in together as stone hell beasts that might be stirring. The veil of tears is an expression which refers to the barrier between life and death, so the resurrection symbolism is really pretty think here. Not only are the dragons and gargoyles coming to life, they are coming back from the dead, through the veil of tears, but in the wrong direction. In the prologue of Clash, Cressen actually talks to his gargoyles and thinks about them talking back, only to scold himself for being crazy. He’s not crazy, but again we see the idea of the gargoyles coming to life. I think it’s all pretty clear – gargoyles in A Song of Ice and Fire are fiery hell beasts woken from stone, and they make up one aspect of Azor Ahai reborn, the flying moon meteor.
And there they are, sitting atop the oldest part of Winterfell.
What does this mean? Well, the fact that the Winterfell gargoyles are so worn that you cannot tell what specific creatures they are is quite suspicious, to me. If George had put dragons on the walls of Winterfell, after all, we’d all look at it quite differently, wouldn’t we? I suggested last time that Winterfell and Ned himself are symbols of the destroyed second moon that gave birth to dragons – this would be the fire moon in my hypothesized ice moon / fire moon scenario. But wait, isn’t Winterfell and House Stark a symbol of the North, the cold and frozen lands? Well, actually, what Winterfell is is a bulwark against the cold. It’s situated on top of a geothermal hot spot, as evidenced by its hot pools which are pumped through it s walls like veins of warm blood:
Of all the rooms in Winterfell’s Great Keep, Catelyn’s bedchambers were the hottest. She seldom had to light a fire. The castle had been built over natural hot springs, and the scalding waters rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing. Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards. That was a little thing, in summer; in winter, it was the difference between life and death.
Winterfell is warm and smoking. It’s a beating heart which may be the difference between life and death. Here’s Jon Snow making the same analogy between hot blood and the hot water at Winterfell in A Game of Thrones:
So cold, he thought, remembering the warm halls of Winterfell, where the hot waters ran through the walls like blood through a man’s body. There was scant warmth to be found in Castle Black; the walls were cold here, and the people colder.
It’s often said that Winterfell is the heart of the north, and we can see that it is a warm heart which pumps hot water through its stone walls like blood. At the heart of Winterfell, of course, we have the heart tree, with its bloody hands and mouth and eyes weeping tears of blood. That’s a lot of warmth!
Many have suggested that the name Winterfell might imply that it was the place where winter fell, and that’s fell as in defeated. The King of Winter rules over winter like a defeated subject, in other words. This idea is reinforced by the description of the crown of the King of Winter, which we receive in A Clash of Kings:
Lord Hoster’s smith had done his work well, and Robb’s crown looked much as the other was said to have looked in the tales told of the Stark kings of old; an open circlet of hammered bronze incised with the runes of the First Men, surmounted by nine black iron spikes wrought in the shape of longswords. Of gold and silver and gemstones, it had none; bronze and iron were the metals of winter, dark and strong to fight against the cold.
To fight against the cold. The King of Winter fights against the cold, and his castle is a warm beating heart and a bulwark against the cold… and its covered in hellish gargoyles of one sort or another. The King of Winter has a beast at his side, too – the direwolf. We’ve seen that all the Stark direwolves have eyes explicitly described to be fiery, and we’ve seen that the direwolves seem to be playing into the archetype of the fiery hellhound, guardians of the underworld. Who is this King of Winter anyway, with his dark metals and fiery hellhounds, and his loathing of the forces of the cold?
Gargoyles ward against evil spirits, and the evilest spirits around are of course the Others, demons made of ice. It makes sense to see fiery gargoyles and hellhounds warding against icy demons, right?
This seems like the right time to mention that Winterfell, as a proper second moon symbol, is burnt and cracked open. Theon reflects in A Dance with Dragons:
The great stronghold of House Stark was a scorched desolation.
And later in the same book, Theon again:
Only a shell remained, one side open to the elements and filling up with snow. Rubble was strewn all about it: great chunks of shattered masonry, burned beams, broken gargoyles. The falling snow had covered almost all of it, but part of one gargoyle still poked above the drift, its grotesque face snarling sightless at the sky. This is where they found Bran when he fell.
That’s a nice tie between falling Brans and falling gargoyles. One gargoyle lies broken, staring sightlessly, just as Bran lay broken in that very spot. This also the spot where the dead body of Little Walder was found – the line was “under that ruined keep, my lord, the one with the old gargoyles.” You’ll recall that Little Walder appears to Theon in the haze of the snow and mist of the godswood as a red bull, and sacrificed bulls are a recognizable sacrificed moon symbol. Fallen moon children, fallen gargoyles, and fallen red bulls – all the same idea. These are dragons which hatch from the moon in a burst of blood and fire and fall to earth, landing with great trauma. The thing I really want to draw your attention to in this passage is the use of the word “shell” to describe Winterfell, something which occurs several times. This is Jon, also in Dance:
“The castle is a shell,” he said, “not Winterfell, but the ghost of Winterfell.”
When Bran surveys the devastation of Ramsay’s burning, he observes:
The First Keep had not been used for many hundreds of years, but now it was more of a shell than ever. The floors had burned inside it, and all the beams. Where the wall had fallen away, they could see right into the rooms, even into the privy.
It’s a burnt out shell,once again. And of course we know what hatched from that shell:
The smoke and ash clouded his eyes, and in the sky he saw a great winged snake whose roar was a river of flame. He bared his teeth, but then the snake was gone. Behind the cliffs tall fires were eating up the stars.
That was Bran’s vision through Summer’s eyes of what sounds an awful lot like a dragon, taken from A Clash of Kings. I will address whether or not I think that was a real dragon on some other occasion – tease tease – but for now it serves to make the point that when Winterfell was burned and cracked open like a shell, a dragon hatching is depicted. A bit later in the chapter, right after that quote about the First Keep being more of a shell than ever before, Osha declares that they “made enough noise to wake a dragon.”
Right before that, we get this paragraph:
The sky was a pale grey, and smoke eddied all around them. They stood in the shadow of the First Keep, or what remained of it. One whole side of the building had torn loose and fallen away. Stone and shattered gargoyles lay strewn across the yard. They fell just where I did, Bran thought when he saw them. Some of the gargoyles had broken into so many pieces it made him wonder how he was alive at all. Nearby some crows were pecking at a body crushed beneath the tumbled stone, but he lay facedown and Bran could not say who he was.
Here we can another equation between Bran and the gargoyles, both of which fell from the tower and landed in the same spot – it’s an identical comparison to the one Theon made in book 5, here in a Bran chapter of book 2. Bran’s fall was depicting the moon disaster, just as the fire which gutted Winterfell was, the body which tumbled facedown in this scene is more of the same – the moon fell face down, that’s the idea. All of the fallen objects are broken or dead or crushed, indicating the dead / undead nature of Azor Ahai reborn and the association of death which Lightbringer bears.
It’s worth noting that the gargoyles of Dragonstone also fell from the walls when Daenerys was born:
Daenerys Stormborn, she was called, for she had come howling into the world on distant Dragonstone as the greatest storm in the memory of Westeros howled outside, a storm so fierce that it ripped gargoyles from the castle walls and smashed her father’s fleet to kindling.
We’ve talked about the idea of incredible storms accompanying the birth of Azor Ahai reborn – the storm of sword meteors, to be specific – and how this is manifest in this story of Dany being born during a legendary storm which flung gargoyles from the walls of “dragon-stone.” Dragonstone is one of the first symbols of the second moon and its meteor children that we discovered, and like Winterfell, we have gargoyles falling to the ground or coming to life when symbolic Lightbringer forgings occur. These repeated parallels between the two fortresses further solidify the interpretation of Winterfell as a symbol of the moon which was destroyed by fire and gave birth to dragon meteors.
Returning to Bran surveying the ruins of Winterfell, we have this:
It took the rest of the morning to make a slow circuit of the castle. The great granite walls remained, blackened here and there by fire but otherwise untouched. But within, all was death and destruction.
Walls blackened by fire may be another parallel to Dragonstone, whose walls were all burnt black by dragon fire. More importantly, this quote reinforces the shell idea – the blackened walls are the shell, and inside the egg is fire and death and destruction. Dragons, in other words. Or, if you prefer, the fiery heart of a star, one which becomes a flying dragon.
I’m tempted to wonder if Martin is making a super nerdy joke about Lightbringer and electricity – they make a circuit of the broken shell, get it?
So, to sum up, Winterfell is a symbol of the destroyed second moon, the potential “fire moon,” which gave birth to dragons. The King of Winter has hellhounds and dark metals to fight the cold. He lives in an oasis of warmth, the warm heart of the north. And his castle is festooned with gargoyles, just like a dragonlord fortress. What’s going on here?
Well, if there’s a connection between Azor Ahai, who is definitely from the east and affiliated with dragons and fire magic, and the Last Hero, who is from Westeros and strongly affiliated with the Starks, then somehow, the Starks should have some ancient connection with dragons and fire magic… and indeed, they seem to be. I think George has hidden this fact in plain sight. Consider: the first time we saw Winterfell, we saw Ned Stark cleaning the blood off of his smoke-dark, dragon-forged sword in the black waters of the godswood pond. This is clearly one of the most important early scenes in the book, and in it, we find Lord Stark, our stand-in the for the King of Winter, honing and admiring his black dragonsword with the dark glow. The very first scene with Eddard was the execution of the runaway Night’s Watchbrother, and again his black Ice sword features prominently. Think about it: the first thing we ever see Ned do is cover his dragon sword in human blood. Yes, that’s deserving of another dun-dun-dun.
I have come to the opinion that here, right at the beginning of the first book, we are being shown the King of Winter archetype. Dark metals to fight the cold – honestly, that sounds like the idea of Lightbringer the black sword fighting the forces of winter, a.k.a. the Others. That’s just what Jon dreams of – fighting the cold forces from the lands of always winter with a black Valyrian steel sword which burns red, with black ice armor to remind us of Ned’s black sword called Ice. And speaking of Jon and heroes, we have this from A Dance with Dragons:
When Jon had been a boy at Winterfell, his hero had been the Young Dragon, the boy king who had conquered Dorne at the age of fourteen. Despite his bastard birth, or perhaps because of it, Jon Snow had dreamed of leading men to glory just as King Daeron had, of growing up to be a conqueror.
From young dragon to Lord Snow – meaning “King of Winter” – is this the path of Azor Ahai the conqueror, or perhaps his son? It’s definitely a nice clue about Jon being a dragon person… AeJon the Conqueror, if you will. Kidding aside, let me be clear: I think the clues indicate that the King of Winter, who may or may not have been Brandon the Builder or the Last hero of the Night’s King or any combination of the three, may have at least some dragon lineage. In particular, I am thinking of Azor Ahai or his son marrying a Westerosi woman of First Men heritage to found the line of House Stark, the Kings of Winter who fight the cold with dark metals and hot castles and fiery hellhounds and gargoyles.
Whew, that was exciting. Dragons in Winterfell and the King of Winter unmasked as a fiery dude who actually is not so fond of the cold! You better believe I am going to come back to all of that. As I mentioned last time, the Last Hero clues just kind of seem to come in drips and drabs as we study other things. This essay is mainly about Tyrion, but the clues about the gargoyles led to that mini-episode about Winterfell and the King of Winter and the Last Hero, and far be it from me to edit cool stuff like that out of my podcast. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, I’m glad I included it.
Now, let’s bring things back to Tyrion by examining a couple of the passages in which he is called a gargoyle, and we’ll just sort of see what we find. We already covered the first occurrence of Tyrion the gargoyle at Winterfell, and the next one is to be found in A Clash of Kings… it’s a hum-dinger, and it opens the chapter:
Motionless as a gargoyle, Tyrion Lannister hunched on one knee atop a merlon. Beyond the Mud Gate and the desolation that had once been the fishmarket and wharves, the river itself seemed to have taken fire. Half of Stannis’s fleet was ablaze, along with most of Joffrey’s. The kiss of wildfire turned proud ships into funeral pyres and men into living torches. The air was full of smoke and arrows and screams.
Right off the bat, we take note of the fact that King’s Landing was built by dragon people, and thus it’s entirely fitting to place a gargoyle like Tyrion atop its walls. That gargoyle is a dragon, after all, according to theory. We see a burned hellscape of desolation, and the deadly kiss of fire which consumes everything it touches, just like the sun kissed the moon and cracked it open. Notice what the fiery kiss does – it turns men into living torches. Think of Beric, animated by fire magic, who was brought back by the fiery kiss, and thus we see once again the idea that undead fire beings were a result of the forging of Lightbringer. Human torches, if you will. The kiss also turns wooden ships into funeral pyres, evoking the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo and the smoke which rises from the meteor impacts to blot out the stars.
As I mentioned before, Tyrion is the protector of King’s Landing, and here he is, literally perching on its walls like a gargoyle, overseeing his efforts to ward the city. This is actually the chapter where Tyrion rides out into battle in defense of the city, making his protection role a direct and visceral one. Besides his own person, the main weapon which he employed to save King’s Landing was his wildfire – the jade demon, as it is called during the battle. The next paragraph:
Downstream, commoners and highborn captains alike could see the hot green death swirling toward their rafts and carracks and ferries, borne on the current of the Blackwater.
Black water and green fire – a match for Tyrion’s green and black eyes, perhaps? Color symbolism is always quite subjective, so who knows, but I thought I would point it out. The chapter continues with an appearance of the Last Hero math: a group of twelve great fires led by one even more terrible fire, which is Tyrion’s demon:
A dozen great fires raged under the city walls, where casks of burning pitch had exploded, but the wildfire reduced them to no more than candles in a burning house, their orange and scarlet pennons fluttering insignificantly against the jade holocaust. The low clouds caught the color of the burning river and roofed the sky in shades of shifting green, eerily beautiful. A terrible beauty. Like dragonfire. Tyrion wondered if Aegon the Conqueror had felt like this as he flew above his Field of Fire.
Well, that was fairly on the nose, wasn’t it? Oh that’s right, I guess shouldn’t make nose jokes about Tyrion. It kind of goes without saying, but in this scene, we see Tyrion’s jade demon compared to dragonfire, and Tyrion might feel kinda like Aegon the Conqueror. Because he’s a secret Targaryen.
There’s also not one, but two monkey-demon references connected to Tyrion’s protection of King’s Landing, which I saved for just this moment. As one of the chapters before the Battle of the Blackwater closes with Tyrion musing about how the people of the city don’t have one of their shining heroic knights to save them, but only the one they hate, “the dwarf, the evil counselor, the twisted little monkey demon.” In another scene before the battle, Tyrion commands Bronn to gather a hundred men and “burn everything you see here between the waters edge and the city walls” in order to deny Stannis wood for scaling ladders. Bronn suggests that the lowly peasants won’t take kindly to that, to which Tyrion quips that “they’ll have something else to curse the evil monkey demon for.” Tyrion the monkey demon is employing fire as a weapon to protect the city on multiple occasions , and sometimes the fire itself is a demon, and sometimes it looks like dragon fire. This all plays in to the themes of using dark weapons and dark powers related to fire to potentially save the day which we’ve seen many times now.
Well, that was a pretty good one. Let’s go to out next Tyrion as gargoyle quote, from a Sansa chapter of A Storm of Swords:
Queen Cersei studied her critically. “A few gems, I think. The moonstones Joffrey gave her.”
“At once, Your Grace,” her maid replied.
When the moonstones hung from Sansa’s ears and about her neck, the queen nodded. “Yes. The gods have been kind to you, Sansa. You are a lovely girl. It seems almost obscene to squander such sweet innocence on that gargoyle.”
“What gargoyle?” Sansa did not understand.
Besides the moon stones draped over Sansa’s kissed by fire head of auburn hair, Cersei also fastens a white maiden’s cloak about Sansa which is “heavy with pearls.” Moonstones and pearls – white ones, at least – are both symbols of pure, shining moon – one that has not been penetrated by burning dragon seed or burning dragon swords. It’s such a shame, wasting such an excellent moon maiden on a gargoyle like Tyrion.
Tyrion represents the gargoyle version of Azor Ahai reborn, which is a child of sun and moon. His lion nature reflects his “dad’s genes,” if you will – the fact that the sun is Azor Ahai reborn’s father. Azor Ahai transforms into Azor Ahai reborn when Lightbringer is forged and the moon cracks, when the Long Night falls and the sun turns dark, and so we can see that giving an innocent moon maiden to the likes of an Azor Ahai reborn character is indeed an obscene act. The thing is, Tyrion is not like his father the sun, who’s all about Tyrion forcing himself on Sansa. Tyrion refuses to do this, and instead he protects Sansa’s chastity and autonomy, like a true gargoyle, leaving the choice of consummation up to her. He also protected Sansa from the beatings of the Kingsguard which came at the behest of another ravenous sun king, Joffrey.
Again, this protection role is a match for Sandor, a hellhound version of Azor Ahai reborn, who also protects Sansa from rape at the hands of the mob during the riot, and from Joffrey when Sansa speaks up for Dontos at Joffrey’s nameday tournament. You remember that whole thing about what a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year, right? In other words, the takeaway here is that moon maiden Sansa is protected by hellhounds and gargoyles. Once again, if Tyrion were to end up protecting Daenerys, it would match the symbolism perfectly. Sansa and Daenerys are moon maidens with very similar imagery, as we have seen.
Consider also that Tyrion’s great shame is that he did not protect his first love Tysha – instead he did nothing while a hundred of his father’s guardsman raped her. This is a deep violation of Tyrion’s calling to protect moon maidens, and accordingly, it haunts him throughout his storyline. Similarly, he choked Shae until her face turned black – and this too haunts his memories. Of course Shae’s face turning black is a vivid depiction of the moon turning black when it was killed. The opening of the fiery hand of the king in the sky was the death of the moon, and Shae dies with golden hands embedded in her flesh.
Moving right along, there’s another occasion of Tyrion being called a gargoyle in Storm, when Sandor curses out Tyrion to Arya as he sets out to take her to the Twins for “your uncle’s bloody wedding,” a.k.a. the Red Wedding. That passage is mostly about Sandor, so I have chosen not to quote it, but it involves Sandor declaring that he is through with the Lannisters and leaving King’s Landing, which is a depiction of the hellhounds flying from the sun, landing, and then turning against the sun as they throw up the smoke which blots out the sun’s face. This may also be another clue about the Last Hero turning against his evil father Azor Ahai, or perhaps his sword being taken from him and used to undo his evil deeds.
In A Feast for Crows, we get a Tyrion gargoyle reference when Cersei receives a severed dwarf’s head which is not Tyrion’s, and says..
There are gargoyles on Dragonstone that look more like the Imp than this creature.
That’s a pretty sweet tie-in to Dragonstone. Tyrion has now been associated with gargoyles on all three of the castles we’ve discussed: Winterfell, King’s Landing, and now Dragonstone. The plot didn’t provide a convenient way for Tyrion to perch on Dragonstone’s walls like a gargoyle, as he did at Winterfell and King’s Landing, but this comparison by Cersei does the trick nicely. Once again, the fact that King’s Landing and Dragonstone were both built by dragon people kind of raises the possibility that the First Keep of Winterfell was built by dragon people too.
There’s a few lines worth looking at leading up to Cersei’s line about Tyrion, as the would-be informers present Cersei with their head:
He laid his hand upon his chest. “I bring you justice. I bring you the head of your valonqar.”
The old Valyrian word sent a chill through her, though it also gave her a tingle of hope. “The Imp is no longer my brother, if he ever was,” she declared. “Nor will I say his name. It was a proud name once, before he dishonored it.”
“In Tyrosh we name him Redhands, for the blood running from his fingers. A king’s blood, and a father’s. Some say he slew his mother too, ripping his way from her womb with savage claws.”
What nonsense, Cersei thought. “ ’Tis true,” she said. “If the Imp’s head is in that chest, I shall raise you to lordship and grant you rich lands and keeps.”
That’s a fabulous description of Azor Ahai reborn, the dragon, ripping its way out of its moon-mother shell. Red hands is a nice one, tying into the well-established bleeding and burning hands symbolic motif. Well-established, anyway, if you’ve been listening to these podcasts in order, which I highly recommend. Tyrion killed his father too, as everyone well remembers, and this is simply another depiction of the moon meteors, children of sun and moon, turning against their sun father by darkening the sky with ash and smoke.
I have to say, I think it’s becoming increasingly likely that the original Azor Ahai had a son who turned against him. Remember that Azor Ahai “reborn” can refer to either a child of Azor Ahai or to a resurrected Azor Ahai, and my best guess is that we had both the first time around. An undead dad and a son who went against his father. Perhaps the son slew the father, who was then resurrected. That’s taking the whole odeipus thing to a whole new level, right? Son slays father, father rises from the dead, sacrifices son in bloodmagic ritual on alter made of ice? Something like that, surely.
We saw this idea of two Azor Ahai reborn figures clashing a moment ago in the idea that Sandor, the hellhound version of Azor Ahai reborn, wishes death on Tyrion, the gargoyle version of reborn Azor Ahai. We also see it in the Battle of Blackwater Bay itself, when the army led by Tyrion clashes against that of Stannis, a distinct Azor Ahai reborn figure in his own right. I think we have to ask the question: Is this a conflict between Azor Ahai reborn the resurrected dad and Azor Ahai reborn the child? Or were there more than one child? It seems possible, since we have all this in the current story about three heads of the dragon, and the original three heads of the dragon – Aegon, Visenya, and Rhaenys – were all siblings. That’s a hole we’ll have to fall down another time. It’s safe to say there is a lot of familial conflict of every sort in A Song of Ice and Fire, and it’s likely a lot of this is echoing familial conflicts from the Dawn Age.
Our final Tyrion as gargoyle reference comes from A Dance with Dragons, and it’s actually from the same chapter where Moqorro sees Tyrion snarling amidst all the dragons in a fire vision. This is from the page before that vision, as Tyrion feels empathy for Penny, the dwarf girl:
And the sight of me can only be salt in her wound. They hacked off her brother’s head in the hope that it was mine, yet here I sit like some bloody gargoyle, offering empty consolations. If I were her, I’d want nothing more than to shove me into the sea.
Tyrion does indeed play the protective gargoyle for Penny all through their time together, so we can see that this is an apt evocation of the gargoyle aspect of Tyrion’s character. Tyrion is a bloody gargoyle, even better, and perhaps he should be shoved into the sea like some sort of falling sea dragon. We’ve seen many references to moon or moon meteor drowning throughout these essays, and this is yet another. The equivalency drawn between Tyrion and Penny’s dead brother is another suggestion of Azor Ahai reborn as being a dead person.
The quote continues:
He felt nothing but pity for the girl. She did not deserve the horror visited on her in Volantis, any more than her brother had. The last time he had seen her, just before they left port, her eyes had been raw from crying, two ghastly red holes in a wan, pale face. By the time they raised sail she had locked herself in her cabin with her dog and her pig, but at night they could hear her weeping. Only yesterday he had heard one of the mates say that they ought to throw her overboard before her tears could swamp the ship. Tyrion was not entirely sure he had been japing.
Penny is playing a pure moon maiden role here – she’s a weeping maiden with two ghastly red holes for eyes, and she has a wan, pale face. That’s the wan light of a moon pale face and the torn out eyes of the moon which became the bleeding stars. The side-by-side appearance of tears and torn-out eyes is impossible to miss at this point, and unmistakable as well. I don’t have to summarize the whole moon tears / eyeless skulls thing again do I? We’ve talked about it enough, I trust. Penny’s tears might even swamp the ship – that’s a flood tide of tears, in other words, enough to drown things.
Finally, we see a parallel to the idea of throwing Tyrion into the sea, as moon maiden Penny is also associated with being thrown into the sea. Elsewhere in the same chapter, there’s also a mention Penny becoming suicidal and jumping into the sea. Sea dragon moon meteors drown in the ocean, and then then drown whole islands, get it? Also recall that pennies are called copper stars in Westeros, so the weeping, eyeless, moon-faced Penny who is drowned in the sea also shows us a star having its eyes torn out, weeping a flood tide, and drowning in the sea. Once again, I am left to marvel at the density of Martin’s mythical astronomy – he touched on all these ideas in multiple ways in the space of just two paragraphs.
And then, just a moment later, Moquorro sees Tyrion snarling and casting long shadows in the midst of dragons. There’s another line about Penny here, as Tyrion suggests that perhaps it was Penny he saw in his dream – this makes sense because Penny is a moon maiden, and dragons come from the moon.
Well, that does it for the gargoyle – I think it’s a fabulous use of real-world myth, and we can see that Tyrion has a well-established track record of protecting moon maidens. Again, I think it’s pretty likely Tyrion will be doing the same for the penultimate moon maiden, Daenerys Targaryen. What better way to protect a moon maiden like Daenerys than by riding on the back of a dragon?
And so, I will close this essay by leaving you with a possible foreshadowing of Tyrion’s future dragon-riding, and this is the very mild spoiler from one of Tyrion’s Winds of Winter sample chapters which I spoke of at the beginning. I left it to the end so that you can tune out if you don’t want Winds of Winter spoilers, for whatever reason. This scene takes place in the command tent of the Second Sons, where a Yunkishman comes in to give more incredibly foolish battle commands to the Brown Ben Plumm, the captain of the Second Sons. You’ll recall that the Second Sons betrayed Daenerys by turning their cloaks and going over to the Yunkish forces – in this scene, Tyrion has been trying to convince Brown Ben to go back over to Daenerys, who seems like the wining side. The Yunkish man arrives with his crappy orders:
Out went Kem. When he returned, he held the tent flap open for a Yunkish nobleman in a cloak of yellow silk and matching pantaloons. The man’s oily black hair had been tortured, twisted, and lacquered to make it seem as if a hundred tiny roses were sprouting from his head. On his breastplate was a scene of such delightful depravity that Tyrion sensed a kindred spirit.
Oily black roses which have been tortured and and twisted – you guys caught that one right? That’s the moon flower of oily black stone, unfolding like an iron rose such as we saw with Tywin’s army at the battle of the Green Fork. The Yunkishman is called kindred and wears yellow to draw an analogy to Tywin, the solar character, who wields the iron rose. In fact, Tyrion recalls that battle scene in this Winds chapter, just a couple of pages previous, and uses the same symbolic language that we saw all the way back in the first book:
“I was just recalling my first battle. The Green Fork. We fought between a river and a road. When I saw my father’s host deploy, I remember thinking how beautiful it was. Like a flower opening its petals to the sun. A crimson rose with iron thorns. And my father, ah, he had never looked so resplendent. He wore crimson armor, with this huge greatcloak made of cloth-of-gold. A pair of golden lions on his shoulders, another on his helm. His stallion was magnificent. His lordship watched the whole battle from atop that horse and never got within a hundred yards of any foe. He never moved, never smiled, never broke a sweat, whilst thousands died below him. Picture me perched on a camp stool, gazing down upon a cyvasse board. We could almost be twins… if I had a horse, some crimson armor, and a greatcloak sewn from cloth-of-gold. He was taller too. I have more hair.”
Penny kissed him.
The moon wandered too close to the sun and kissed it, chuckle chuckle.
The choice to use the same symbolic language about the iron rose six books and twenty years apart shows specific intention on the part of the author, I would suggest, and the black rose theme is reinforced by the oily black hair of the Yunkishman that is tortured to look like roses. Previously on Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire, we have examined a long series of solar characters who have some sort of black moon weapon symbol, beginning with Tywin’s unfolding iron rose and also including Jon Snow’s rivers of black ice and black ice armor, Drogo’s oily black hair which is like a river of darkness, Jamie and Joffrey’s “waves of blood and night” swords , and Oberyn’s oily black sun-spear. I forgot to mention last time that Oberyn’s eyes are described as being “as black and shiny as coal oil.” As you can see, the oily black rose hair of the yellow-cloaked Yunkishman fits very tightly into this established pattern, and presented in close proximity the repetition of the iron rose army of Tywin Lannister idea… well let’s just say it’s not a coincidence. The thing to remember is that this a depiction of the sun using the moon as a black weapon – so while all these characters are solar figures, their symbolism also includes the moon, and that is where there black and bloody tides and the black sword meteors come from.
In Tyrion’s memory of the battle scene, Tywin watches from atop his horse like a sun in the sky, and this is compared to Tyrion watching the cyvasse table from atop his stool. They could almost be twins! Tywin’s iron rose army is drawn as an equivalent to Tyrion’s chess pieces, and this is where the dragon-riding clue comes in. After our oily-rose head Yunkishman gives his commands, Jorah has a second opinion:
Mormont’s longsword was in his hand. As the rider turned, Ser Jorah thrust it through his throat. The point came out the back of the Yunkishman’s neck, red and wet. Blood bubbled from his lips and down his chin. The man took two wobbly steps and fell across the cyvasse board, scattering the wooden armies everywhere. He twitched a few more times, grasping the blade of Mormont’s sword with one hand as the other clawed feebly at the overturned table. Only then did the Yunkishman seem to realize he was dead. He lay facedown on the carpet in a welter of red blood and oily black roses. Ser Jorah wrenched his sword free of the dead man’s neck. Blood ran down its fullers.
A bloody sword, a face-down sun figure, a pool of blood and oily black roses. That’s a nice summary of episodes 2 and 3 of the podcast, complete with references to blood tides, black roses, oily black stone. Just as Tyrion the twisted monkey demon killed his solar father figure, this oily Yunkish solar figure has been killed by Jorah, who wears the demon mask. Once again, we see the idea that sun is killed by a demon-spawn, which would Azor Ahai reborn, the sun’s own son. And then comes the dragon reference:
The white cyvasse dragon ended up at Tyrion’s feet. He scooped it off the carpet and wiped it on his sleeve, but some of the Yunkish blood had collected in the fine grooves of the carving, so the pale wood seemed veined with red. “All hail our beloved queen, Daenerys.” Be she alive or be she dead. He tossed the bloody dragon in the air, caught it, grinned. “We have always been the queen’s men,” announced Brown Ben Plumm. “Rejoining the Yunkai’i was just a ploy.”
“And what a clever ploy it was.” Tyrion gave the dead man a shove with his boot. “If that breastplate fits, I want it.”
Viserion, the white dragon, has just been flying above the battle scene and eating corpses as they are flung into the air by the catapults – so I think there can be little doubt that this bloody white dragon which Tyrion claims is a reference to Viserion, if it’s a reference to anything. There’s also a link drawn to weirwood, pale wood veined with red – and of course, this makes be think of Bloodraven, who’s sigil is a white dragon, and who is transforming into a weirwood. There’s a whole mysterious connection between white dragons and weirwood – you’ll notice this coloring matches Ghost’s as well – and that we will have to save for another day.
But the chess analogy here is quite clear: Tyrion deploys the chess pieces just as Tywin deploys his army. Tywin’s army is a black iron rose, and Tyrion’s is a bloody white dragon. This connection was reinforced with a line earlier, which was Tyrion saying “This is just a cyvasse game to the Wise Masters. We’re the pieces. They have that in common with my lord father, these slavers.” We are the pieces, he says, and the pieces are a bloody white dragon. Tyrion is a bloody white dragon, in other words, and perhaps he will ride one too, deploying it like a chess piece to protect his dragon queen. Tyrion tosses the dragon into the air – that’s where you ride them, after all – and says ‘all hail queen Daenerys.’
Last but not least, Tyrion wants the armor of the dead sun figure, the one with all those depraved scenes, despite the fact that it might have blood and black oil on it. Tyrion has always wanted that magic armor from Valyria, right? As a monkey demon following in the tradition of Sun Wukong, he needs a suit of magic armor. Earlier, Tyrion remarks that he’d be like Tywin, if only he had that splendid armor. Well, he’s getting the armor of the sun, but it’s the armor of a dead sun – the dead solar king we know as the black dragon, Azor Ahai reborn.
Attentive listeners will remember that we quoted a scene earlier where Tyrion plays cyvasse with Young Griff, a.k.a. probably fAegon Blackfyre, and Tyrion was noted to move the black dragon around the board instead of the white in this scene. Like chess, cyvasse has a black and a white “wooden army,” as they are called, and it’s interesting to compare Tyrion’s role as dragon advisor in the two scenes. When he had the black dragon, the yin side if you will, he was deceiving Young Griff, both on the game board and his strategic advice and manipulation. In this scene here with the white dragon, it certainly appears that Tyrion genuinely is on team Daenerys. This recalls Sun Wukong’s nature as a trickster god who can push the balance in either direction.
I’ll close by mentioning that there’s actually a white dragon in the story of Sun Wukong told in “Journey to the West.” Later in life, after escaping from the mountain under which the Buddha had imprisoned him, Sun Wukong works to atone for his evil deeds by playing the role of protector to the main character in the second half of the story, Tang Sanzang. That’s a nice overlap to the protection aspect of gargoyles. Tangs horse is eaten by this a dragon prince who takes the form of a white dragon. Sun Wukong fights and drives off the white dragon, who retreats underwater. Sun Wukong tracks him down, after which the white dragon transforms into a kind of dragon-horse and serves as Tang’s new steed for the rest of the journey. Sun Wukong himself doesn’t ride the whet dragon, but he subdues it and gains it’s loyalty, and then Sun Wuong serves the rider of the dragon. As we have seen, George never writes his stories and characters as exact, one-to-one correlations to their mythological forefathers, so I think the important takeaway here is simply that Sunk Wukong has a white dragon on his team, and it is my prediction that Tyrion will soon have the same.
Thanks for listening everyone, and I need to give a bit of credit where credit is due. There were a few essays by others that proved handy as I was writing this, which I will have links to on the wordpress version of this essay. My buddy from the Westeros.org forums known as Mithras has two essays worthy of note: one is called “A Theory on The Evil Twisted Litlle Monkey-Demon,” which has analysis on the monkey demon quotes, and another one which is simply recommended reading, called “Dany’s Dragonriders” which talks about the idea of Tyrion riding Viserion. My Pobeb from the ASOIAF sunreddit has written a nice piece called “Tyrion, Gargoyles, and the Implications.” I’m pretty sure that’s a clever imp word pun (imp-lications, get it?) and I recommend that as a supplement to this essay. Pobeb made the astute observation that the gargoyles statues on top of medieval buildings served not only to ward off evil spirits, but to divert rainwater off the roof – and this is manifest in the fact that Tyrion was given the job of making sure all the drains and cisterns in Casterly Rock flowed smoothly, which he achieved with brilliant success. Very clever gargoyle reference there, nice catch Pobeb.
As a final note on Sun Wukong, there’s actually a major-studio Chinese 3D action movie in the works based on Journey to the West., set for release some time in 2016. The white dragon horse is on the cover, and Sun Wukong will feature prominently. I’m definitely looking forward to that one. With any luck, the movie will be released right around the time of episode 9 of the HBO show when Tyrion rides a dragon.