The Grey King and the Sea Dragon

Hey there friends, patrons, and fellow myth heads of the Starry Host! It’s your starry host, Lucifer Means Lightbringer, and today I am bringing you a slight update to an old episode: Weirwood Compendium 1: The Grey King and the Sea Dragon. We are going to be building on this episode so much in the Signs and Portals series that I decided it was worthwhile to revisit it, and with the benefits of hindsight and two years of podcasting experience, a revision seemed in order as well. So whether you’re listening again or for the first time, listen closely, for these are some of the most important symbols and myths we have covered in the history of our podcast. I’ll also note that I live performed these on the lucifermeanslightbringer YouTube channel the past two weeks, so check that out if you like your Mythical Astronomy spiced with a bit of discussion and humor, plus Sanrixian’s amazing weirwood submarine work of art. This, however, is the standard edited and cleaned up podcast version.

We spent the entire Bloodstone Compendium talking about Azor Ahai, dragons, moon meteors, Lightbringer, and what you might call “fire magic.” Of course in ASOIAF, there are really three major powers: fire magic and dragons, yes, but also ice magic and the Others, and of course the weirwoods and the magic related to greenseers and skinchangers. If Others are your thing, you’ll want to check out the Moons of Ice and Fire series, but this is of course the Weirwood Compendium, and that means it’s time to talk about those creepy bleeding trees with faces and leaves like bloody hands!

The great thing is that we don’t have to quit Azor Ahai and his moon meteors cold turkey, oh no. As it happens, the amazing and fairly esoteric mythology of the Ironborn actually serves to unite all that fiery moon meteor / Lightbringer stuff with the greenseers and the weirwoods. As strange as that sounds, that’s the best way I can sum up the symbolic purpose of Ironborn folklore: it puts the fire in the weirwood tree. That’s the overarching framework for this episode: a dichotomy of fiery moon meteors and weirwood tree. As you’ll see, these can be considered the two forms of the fire of the gods… and that’s always what we’re reaching for.

Bloodstone Compendium
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer

Moons of Ice and Fire
I: Shadow Heart Mother
II: Dawn of the Others
III: Visenya Draconis
IV: The Long Night Was His to Rule
V: R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons

The Blood of the Other
Prelude to a Chill
I: A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
II: The Stark that Brings the Dawn
III: Eldric Shadowchaser
IV: Prose Eddard
V: Ice Moon Apocalypse

Sacred Order of Green Zombies
I: The Last Hero & the King of Corn
II: King of Winter, Lord of Death
III: The Long Night’s Watch

Weirwood Compendium
I: The Grey King and the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash
V: To Ride the Green Dragon

Weirwood Goddess
I: Venus of the Woods
II: It’s an Arya Thing
III: The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa

Signs and Portals
I: Veil of Frozen Tears
II: Sansa Locked in Ice

Now in PODCAST form!

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Hearken back, if you will, to chapter four of the Bloodstone Compendium, where we analyzed the trial by combat between Ser Gregor the Mountain vs. Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne.  The highlight of that entire scene was the Gregor eclipse – Gregor the moon warrior creates a solar eclipse by standing in between Oberyn and the sun.  At that moment, Oberyn’s oily black sun-spear flashed like lightning and finally made contact with Ser Gregor, punching through his armor to strike him in the arm.

We interpreted this and many other arm-wounding scenes where lightning is featured as clues about there being a link between the Hammer of the Waters which struck the arm of Dorne and the Storm God’s thunderbolt. That connection, of course, would be that they are really ancient, mythical accounts of moon meteor impacts. We talked about how the Norse Storm God Thor has a hammer which hurls thunderbolts, cluing us in to a link between divine hammers and thunderbolts from the Storm God. We also talked about how meteorites were sometimes called “thunder stones” in the ancient world.  We examined scenes in which dragon attacks from the sky were described as being like thunderbolts.  All in all, I think I laid out a strong case that the Hammer of the Waters and the Storm God’s thunderbolt were indeed moon meteors.

The most important aspect of the Grey King story, however, is that he stole the fire of the gods and possessed it for mankind, like Prometheus and Lucifer and so many others. We have identified this as a major, defining theme of the Azor Ahai story, and it’s certainly got our attention that this idea is prominently featured in the Grey King folklore. The Grey King was actually said to posses divine fire by two different methods: by taunting the Storm God into setting a tree ablaze with a thunderbolt, and also by slaying the sea dragon Nagga. Aaron Damphair gives us the quick summary of the sea dragon slaying in A Feast for Crows:

Nagga had been the first sea dragon, the mightiest ever to rise from the waves. She fed on krakens and leviathans and drowned whole islands in her wrath, yet the Grey King had slain her and the Drowned God had changed her bones to stone so that men might never cease to wonder at the courage of the first of kings. 

And then a bit, later, we hear about the Grey King’s possessions of the Sea Dragon’s fire:

The hall had been warmed by Nagga’s living fire, which the Grey King had made his thrall.

Somehow not satisfied with making the living fire of the sea dragon his thrall, The World of Ice and Fire tells us that the Grey King also obtained fire from the Storm God’s thunderbolt:

The deeds attributed to the Grey King by the priests and singers of the Iron Islands are many and marvelous.  It was the Grey King who brought fire to the earth by taunting the Storm God until he lashed down with a thunderbolt, setting a tree ablaze.

According to our theory, both the Storm God’s thunderbolt legend and the slaying of the sea dragon legend are mythicized descriptions of moon meteor impacts – fire from heaven, in other words. Both legends imply the Grey King as essentially calling down that fire from heaven, and then somehow possessed that fire. That… sounds a lot like someone else we know, right?  Azor Ahai called down the fire from heaven by breaking the moon, and he possessed this fire of the gods by making Lightbringer the sword out of the fiery moon meteors. That’s practically the same story!

Furthermore, I suspect that just as Azor Ahai possessed the fire of the gods in the form of black weapons made from the moon meteorite, the Ironborn may have also quite literally possessed black moon meteor material.  Consider this quote from The World of Ice and Fire which I left you at the end of chapter three, Waves of Night and Moon Blood:

“And when battle was joined upon the shores, mighty kings and famous warriors fell before the reavers like wheat before a scythe, in such numbers that the men of the green lands told each other that the Ironborn were demons risen from some watery hell, protected by fell sorceries and possessed of foul black weapons that drank the very souls of those they slew.”  

Lightbringer supposedly drank Nissa Nissa’s blood and soul when it slew her, and I’ve been proposing that Lightbringer was a black steel sword made from a moon meteor from the very start, so it’s quite tempting to draw a connection between Azor Ahai’s dark Lightbringer sword and these sorcerous, soul-drinking black weapons in the hands of the Ironborn. Lightbringer was the fire of the gods, and I believe it was a black weapon. The Grey King and the Ironborn possessed the fire of the gods, and they also had these suspicious black weapons.

interesting, but not exactly...

interesting, but not exactly…

The Ironborn also have that big, mysterious Seastone Chair, carved in the shape of a kracken from an oily black stone.  As we examined in The Mountain vs. The Viper, there is abundant evidence tying the oily or greasy black stone to moon meteors – I have proposed that the oily black stone is either moon meteorite material or earth stone burnt black by the toxic magical fire of the moon meteors. The fact that the Ironborn possess the fire of the gods AND an oily black stone tends to make me wonder if that wasn’t the truth of those soul-drinking black weapons – that they were weapons made from oily black stone, the fire of the gods which was pulled down to earth. Perhaps the Seastone Chair used to be a couch before they carved so many swords off of it.

So the slaying of the Sea Dragon and the Storm God’s Thunderbolt – two myths about moon meteor impacts. Also, two myths about weirwoods. That’s right! For example, the means by which the Grey King took possession of the Storm God’a fire was the burning tree, set ablaze by the divine thunderbolt. As we mentioned at the end of the Mountain vs. the Viper essay, the weirwood tree is a symbolic depiction of a burning tree. Its five pointed red leaves are frequently described as “bloody hands,” when Theon sees the rising sun hitting the tops of the trees in the Winterfell godswood, “the red leaves of the weirwood were a blaze of flame among the green.” Together with the screaming face weeping blood, it’s basically the image of a tree person burning alive. Intense, I know. Burt the point is – when we hear about this special burning tree which brings the fire of the gods to earth, we should think of the weirwood tree, which looks like a burning tree and… well, it can impart the power of the Old Gods to man, can’t it?

Yes! The “fire of the gods” as a general concept represents the knowledge and power of the gods, and this is exactly what the weirwood bond bestows upon the greenseer. Furthermore, and as we’ll see in future Weirwood Compendium episodes, the Yggdrasil / Odin mythology behind the weirwoods and greenseers is absolutely saturated the notion of obtaining the fire, magic, and knowledge of the gods. So – a burning tree that imparts the “fire of the gods” to man? That’s probably a weirwood tree, especially when we think of the obvious parallel here with the burning bush that spoke to Moses with Gods voice.

The Sea Dragon myth is also related to weirwood trees, because the arching pillars of pale stone know as Nagga’s Ribs are almost certainly made of petrified weirwood. Weirwood trees, once cut down or killed, will turn into pale stone after thousands of years, and there is abundant evidence that’s exactly what the pale stone “ribs” of Nagga are made of, petrified weirwood.

A third Grey King myth also seems to involve weirwood – this one has him making the first longships of the Ironborn from the “hard pale wood of Ygg, a demon tree who fed on human flesh.”  The name Ygg is a pretty blatant call-out to Yggdrasil, the mythical world tree on which the weirwood ideas are heavily based, and weirwoods are pale trees that occasionally receive human sacrifice – feeding on human flesh, if you will – so the implication here is that the Grey King was making boats out of weirwood. As it happens, there’s a good theory we will talk about today that the pale stone pillars that are seen as the ribcage of the sea dragon may actually be the upside-down frame of the hull of a large boat made of weirwood! I mean, the Worldbook is suggesting the Grey King built ships from weirwood – or more likely ships with keels and ribbing made from weirwood – and if one were beached and flipped over, the weirwood portion would indeed turn to stone after thousands of years and look something like a ribcage. More on this in a moment.

So, in our first foray in the stormy world of Ironborn theology, we’ll answer the question of why the Sea Dragon, Storm God’s thunderbolt, and the other elements of the Grey King mythology seem to reference both meteors and weirwoods. As strange as it sounds, there is a very logical and clear answer, and it reveals a dramatic truth about Azor Ahai, perhaps the most important thing I’ve told you about him since I first told you he was a bad guy who broke the moon and caused the Long Night. But you’ll have to wait till the end of the episode for that one 🙂

Let’s get this weirwood compendium underway!


The Sea Dragon

This section is brought to you by the Long Night’s Watch: Charon Ice-Eyes, Dread Ferryman of the North, Wielder of the Staff of the Old Gods, a weirwood staff banded in Valyrian steel; Cinxia, Frozen Fire Queen of the Summer Snows and Burner of Winter’s Wick; Antonius the Conspirator, the Red Right Hand of R’hllor, Knower of the Unknowable, Dispenser of Final Justice, and BlueRaven of the Lightning Peck, the frozen thunderbolt, whose words are “the way must be tried”


The first thing I need to do is convince you that the Grey King’s slaying of the sea dragon is in fact an account of a moon meteor impact.  We’ve already talked about the thunderbolt a bit in the Mountain vs. the Viper essay, and we’ll certainly come back to it, as well as to the idea of burning trees.  But we’ve been mentioning the sea dragon in passing all throughout the Bloodstone Compendium, and I haven’t really given you my full body of reasoning and evidence for the sea dragon being a moon meteor, so let’s start with that.

It begins with very basic logic: if the mythical idea of “dragons coming from the moon” really refers to falling meteors, then a “sea dragon” is probably nothing more than a dragon meteor which fell into the sea. We’ve seen that the Chinese have been keeping track of comets for thousands of years and have a history of depicting comets and falling meteors as fire-breathing dragons… but not just any old fire-breathing dragons – the Chinese always depict their dragons as water dragons and sea serpents. This is almost certainly the result of the Chinese having dealt with tsunamis brought on by the landing of dragons in the Pacific Ocean. The sea dragon Nagga was noted to “drown whole islands in its wroth,” and this is an excellent description of the enormous tsunamis which do indeed accompany the oceanic impact of a fair-sized meteor.

The Hammer of the Waters, another likely moon meter impact story, also involves drowning a lot of land: the formerly-whole-and-now-broken Arm of Dorne.  I mentioned that Thor’s lightning hammer suggests a connection between the Storm God’s thunderbolt and the Hammer of the Waters, and the drowning of land involved in both tales sounds similar too.  As we examine the sea dragon ideas here, watch out for hammers and hammering waves. When George references one moon meteor symbol, he usually finds a way to reference others as well. We’re going to see a lot of that today!

By tracing out the “moon blood” symbolic motif in past episodes, we have seen that floods are a major fallout of the Long Night / moon explosion disaster.  George is doing a pretty clever, if uncouth, wordplay thing by using the phrase “moon blood” as a reference to the real floods of the Long Night that would have been triggered by moon meteor impacts, as well as to the meteors themselves. Remember that meteors can be called bleeding stars, so a storm of bleeding stars flooding the sky is like a tide of blood coming from the moon. As always, it’s a symbolic meaning piggybacking on a literal meaning – we have a metaphorical “flood” of bleeding stars that causes literal floods when they lands near or in water.

As we know, our earthly moon is the cause of the ocean tides, but this takes it to a new level – moon meteors causing titanic flood tides. To get a bit more scientific, a planet with multiple moons that lost one of them, even a small moon, would have some pretty serious issues with irregular tides. Scientists, correct me if I’m wrong, but the moon meteors wouldn’t even have to hit the ocean to cause flooding. Regardless, the Ironborn legends aren’t just about a flood, but a great, fiery thing falling from the sky, so it seems like someone around here actually saw something fall from the sky.

Turning from science to pseudo science (which is bad for people but good for folklore), consider also that in ancient times, the moon was (wrongly) believed to trigger a woman’s menstruation cycle, which is why menstrual blood is referred to as ‘moon blood.’ Since Martin is imagining a moon goddess dying while giving birth to bleeding stars and floods, the “moon blood” metaphor really does work well. It captures the sacrificial aspect of Lightbringer’s forging as well as the reproductive aspect, and we know both are important parts of the Lightbringer myth. It’s also a call-out to the tale of Mithras and his slaying of the white lunar bull whose blood flowed over the entire world and transformed it… that’s right, he slew the moon bull and the world was flooding with moon bull blood.

The description of Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail’s black and red rippled steel as “waves of night and blood crashing upon some steely shore” was so important that I used for the title of an episode, and it happens to contain one of our first hints about the sea dragon aspect of Lightbringer. Lightbringer is a sword which brought darkness (waves of night) and flood tides from pieces of drowned moon (waves of blood), and that entire story is told right there in the folds of the swords formerly known as Ice.

The likely truth here is fairly simple – a moon meteor probably impacted on or near the Iron Islands, drowning the land and probably collapsing some of the land too, such as the area around Castle Pyke. The second Theon chapter of A Clash of Kings, which serves as our introduction to the Iron Islands, is some one the most vivid examples of mythical astronomy in the entire series, and it tells the tale in fairly clear language, all while the red comet hangs in the sky above the castle in typical menacing fashion:

The point of land on which the Greyjoys had raised their fortress had once thrust like a sword into the bowels of the ocean, but the waves had hammered at it day and night until the land broke and shattered, thousands of years past.  All that remained were three bare and barren islands and a dozen towering stacks of rock that rose from the water like the pillars of some sea god’s temple, while the angry waves foamed and crashed among them. 

Castle Pyke is a part of a point of land which thrust into the bowels of the ocean like a sword, and then broke. We took a long look at broken swords in the Tyrion Targaryen essay, and we saw that the broken sword is an important symbol which refers to the splitting of the Lightbringer comet, and to a long list of Azor Ahai / Last Hero figures with broken swords. Here in this quote, we read about a broken sword which was thrust into the bowels of the ocean thousands of years in the past: that’s our island-drowning sea dragon, thrusting into the ocean like a sword at the place where the waves hammer the land.

One of the things HBO's Game of Thrones got very, very right: Castle Pyke

One of the things HBO’s Game of Thrones got very, very right: Castle Pyke

The castle Pyke itself seems to be a part of the broken sword land, as is noted several times in the chapter, and in the very next paragraph, we see that the Sea Tower at the point of the broken sword peninsula sounds a lot like Lightbringer:

The Sea Tower rose from the outmost island at the point of the broken sword, the oldest part of the castle, round and tall, the sheer- sided pillar on which it stood half- eaten through by the endless battering of the waves. The base of the tower was white from centuries of salt spray, the upper stories green from the lichen that crawled over it like a thick blanket, the jagged crown black with soot from its nightly watchfire.

A jagged black crown which lights on fire at night? You don’t say. Remember that the golden crown worn by kings was originally meant as a depiction of the sun’s rays which signifies that the king has the divine authority of the sun god.  A black crown inverts this symbolism and implies a dark sun, or perhaps one who has taken his divine authority through force.  The Ironborn kings sometimes wear a black iron crown such as Balon Greyjoy speaks of, and of course there are a lot of black crowns in A Song of Ice and Fire – and I believe they all refer to the idea of a darkened sun or an illegitimate sun king, the two things that define Azor Ahai. Thus, for the black tower at the tip of the broken sword to have a flaming black crown… well… let’s just say ‘that’s our man.’  Salt and smoke are here too – the soot which darkens the top of the tower, and the salt which turns the base of it white. I’ll quickly point out that the colors here – white, green, and black – mirror the colors of Dany’s dragons.

Only two paragraphs later, the red comet itself, infamous symbol of Lightbringer, makes an appearance to clue us in to what kind of dragon sword falls into the sea:

Theon had never seen a more stirring sight. In the sky behind the castle, the fine red tail of the comet was visible through thin, scuttling clouds. All the way from Riverrun to Seagard, the Mallisters had argued about its meaning. It is my comet, Theon told himself, sliding a hand into his fur-lined cloak to touch the oilskin pouch snug in its pocket. Inside was the letter Robb Stark had given him, paper as good as a crown. 

So we have a castle with a very Lightbringer-like tower that sits on a point of land which thrusts into the bowels of the sea like a longsword or a sea dragon, and right behind it, like a red flag calling our attention to it all, we have the red comet, Lightbringer symbol par excellence.

Theon has a crown too; the parchment from Robb that was “as good as a crown.” It ends up mirroring the black, fiery crown of the Sea Tower when Balon casually tosses it in the fire upon receiving it later in the chapter.  The parchment crown “curled, blackened, and took flame,” a good match to the curved Sea Tower with its black crown of flame. Before it is burnt, we see that Theon’s paper crown is kept in an oilskin pouch, perhaps to symbolize the oily black stone of the Lightbringer comet and the moon meteors. Theon is fingering the paper crown in the oilskin pouch as looks up and thinks that the comet belongs to him. And yes, all the wording in that last sentence was intentional.

In other words, the symbolism here paints Theon as a man with a flaming black crown to whom the Lightbringer comet belongs. We know who that is, right?

There’s actually one other Ironborn story about how they came to posses fire, and it leads right back to the conclusion that this fire we are talking about was Lightbringer.  This is also from A Clash of Kings, and begins with Aeron Damphair speaking to Theon:

“Every morning brings a new day, much like the old.” 

“In Riverrun, they would tell you different.  They say the red comet is a herald of a new age.  A messenger from the gods.”

“A sign it is,” the priest agreed, “but from our god, not theirs. A burning brand it is, such as our people carried of old. It is the flame the Drowned God brought from the sea, and it proclaims a rising tide.  It is time to hoist our sails and go forth into the world with fire and sword, as he did.” 

The red comet is like a burning brand, and proclaims a rising tide, which in retrospect, is pretty straightforward. The red comet = a time for floods. It also proclaims the time to go out with fire and sword… or perhaps with a “fiery sword?” It’s interesting that the Drowned God brought this fiery brand from the ocean – how did fire get in the ocean, I wonder?  We think we know the answer – a fiery & wrathful sea dragon-comet-sword was thrust into the bowels of the ocean, shattering the land. Aeron directly compared the red comet to the burning brand the Drowned God brought from the see, so it seems we are to imagine a god emerging from the waves wielding the red comet as a fiery sword. This lines up well what the Ironborn say about themselves and their origins: the Iron Islands are named for their people, who are like iron, and that the Ironborn themselves come from the sea. Iron people that emerge from the sea with burning brands who will go forth with fire and sword, in other words. As we will begin to see, bringing fire out of the sea is an important aspect of the Ironborn mythos, starting here with the tale of the Drowned God carrying the burning brand from the sea.

As for the burning brand as a symbol, Aeron directly compares it to the red comet, but there’s actually another famous scene where the burning brand is used to symbolize the fallen star fire that is Lightbringer. This is from a Jon chapter of Clash, as Jon and Stonesnake prepare to climb up to the pass in the Frostfangs:

They could see the fire in the night, glimmering against the side of the mountain like a fallen star.  It burned redder than the other stars, and did not twinkle, though sometimes it flared up bright and sometimes dwindled down to no more than a distant spark, dull and faint.  {…} 

“The wolf will remain with us,” Qhorin said. “White fur is seen too easily by moonlight.” He turned to Stonesnake. “When it’s done, throw down a burning brand.  We’ll come when we see it fall.” 

A “stone snake” will throw down a burning brand when he climbs high enough to reach the flaring bright red fallen star fire suspended in the night.  Got it.

Taking a look at the major events of this chapter, we see that a stone snake (comet) collides with a red star fire (the fire moon), blood is spilled (three people at the fire for the three dragon meteors), Azor Ahai reborn-symbol Jon Snow does a Lightbringer forging scene with kissed-by-fire moon maiden Ygritte, and then the burning brand is thrown down to the earth below. That burning brand symbolizes the dragon meteors which fell from the moon, one of which became the sea dragon meteor which was thrust into the bowels of the sea at the Iron Islands, and that’s why we see it falling from the red star fire in the sky after a Lightbringer forging goes down.

Thus we see that the story of the Drowned God carrying the burning brand out of the sea is the same story as the Grey King possessing the fire of the sea dragon – that burning brand and the sea dragon’s fire represent moon meteors that fell into the sea and are then brought out of the sea by either the Grey King or the Drowned God.  Even better, one of the wildlings Jon fights against at the fire actually uses the burning brand as a weapon before they thrown one down the cliff, drawing a connection between the burning brand symbol and the idea of fiery weapons that come from a fallen red star.

And who is the Drowned God anyway?  Remembering that the moon is a goddess, the “woman wife of the sun,” the pieces of moon which drowned in the ocean as sea dragons would be pieces of a drowned moon goddess.  In other words, what we really have here with the sea dragon is a Drowned Goddess, not a drowned god.

I’d also like to point out that burning brands, such as the Drowned God carried from the sea, are burning wood, and of course a burning tree represents fire of the gods in the myth of the Grey King and the Storm God’s thunderbolt. The burning brand is therefore connected to the fire of the gods concept in three ways: it’s burning wood like Grey King’s burning tree, it’s directly compared to the red comet, and it is the form of fire which the Drowned God carried from the sea, making it the fire of the sea god.  You’ll recall that the pillars of the broken sword of land on which Pyke sits are described as the pillars of a sea god’s temple.

Putting it all together, we have a series of mythical metaphors, both in the main text of the story and in Ironborn folklore, which seem to be describing a meteor plunging into the ocean near the Iron Islands at the time of the Long Night and causing deadly floods. And lo and behold, all throughout those paragraphs we quoted concerning Theon’s arrival at Pyke, we have a ton of references to island-drowning waves, as well as a lot of hammering connected to waves to call us to mind of the hammer of the waters. We’ve seen it said of the broken sword of land that “the waves had hammered at it day and night until the land broke and shattered, thousands of years past,” and that “the angry waves foamed and crashed” among the remaining pieces of the peninsula, which are “like the pillars of some sea god’s temple.” We saw that “the sheer- sided pillar” on which the sea tower stood was “half- eaten through by the endless battering of the waves.” There’s more I could quote, but you get the idea.

Could these angry waves that did so much damage in the ancient past be the ones generated by the sea dragon’s fall from the heavens? The same event which was remembered as a Hammer of the Waters breaking the land and drowning islands? Aaron Damphair, from A Feast for Crows:

Outside, beneath the snoring of his drowned men and the keening of the wind, he could hear the pounding of the waves, the hammer of his god calling him to battle.

The same waves which “hammered” the land of Pyke are described here as God’s hammer. I would say that the sea dragon, a fallen moon goddess, was itself the hammer which broke the land and brought the drowning waves. This is a delightful parallel to the Hammer of the Waters drowning and breaking the land of the arm of Dorne. At the same time, the sea dragon meteor hammer is also the Storm God’s thunderbolt, which lines up well with Thor being a Storm God who hurls thunderbolts from his hammer. Again we are left with the idea that the hammer of the waters, the island drowning sea dragon, and the Storm God’s thunderbolt all refer to the same thing: moon meteor impacts.

Let me say this: although the Hammer of the Waters seems to refer to an impact on the Arm of Dorne and the sea dragon and thunderbolt myths seem to refer to an impact on or near the Iron Islands, both meteors would be from the same moon explosion, and therefore George has chosen to weave all the moon meteor symbols together.  Thus the Ironborn myths have a ton of hammer references, and hammer of the waters scenes have dragons and spears and lightning and so forth.

A great example of this kind of parallel between different meteor myths are the waves of night and blood that appear to crash onto the steely shore of Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail and their parallels to the scene at Pyke. Pyke sits on a point of land which is a broken sword, one which was washed over by the moon blood flood of the sea dragon, and in similar fashion, Ned’s split or broken swords have waves of blood washing over them. The bloody sea dragon flood came during the Long Night, and Ned’s swords have the waves of night to symbolize the Long Night. In turn, Aeron sees pounding and crashing waves as the hammer of his god, creating the image of a divine hammer pounding the steel of the broken sword peninsula at the Iron Islands. That broken sword of land thrusts into the bowels of the ocean, and thrusting swords into the ocean is how you get hammering sea dragon waves, the waves of moon blood which came in the Long Night and which are alluded to in the folds of Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper. Back before Ned’s Ice was split and reforged, we saw it being dipped into the night-black waters of the pond in the Winterfell godswood while still bloody from the execution in A Game of Thrones, creating very miniature waves of night and blood.

The idea of god’s hammer being the one to smash the Iron Islands is reinforced all through this chapter via references to Robert Baratheon’s attack on Pyke during the Greyjoy rebellion.  As I mentioned before, King Robert and his hammer are a rather clear manifestation of Thor and his mighty hammer mjolnir, and Robert’s entire attack on the Iron Islands is replaying the Storm God’s thunderbolt strike, the sea dragon landing, and the Hammer of the Waters… all at the same time.

It was nigh on sunset when they reached the walls of Pyke, a crescent of dark stone that ran from cliff to cliff, with the gatehouse in the center and three square towers to either side. Theon could still make out the scars left by the stones of Robert Baratheon’s catapults. A new south tower had risen from the ruins of the old, its stone a paler shade of grey, and as yet unmarred by patches of lichen. That was where Robert had made his breach, swarming in over the rubble and corpses with his warhammer in hand and Ned Stark at his side. Theon had watched from the safety of the Sea Tower, and sometimes he still saw the torches in his dreams, and heard the dull thunder of the collapse.

Pyke’s walls of dark stone are called a crescent, which puts in mind of the lunar crescent that was broken to create the sea dragon meteor, as well as all the related sickle / curving knife / crescent moon symbolism.  Robert hurled stones at this crescent, then came through with his war hammer. As you’ll notice, Theon’s reference to thunder gives us the thunderbolt idea to go along with Storm King’s Robert’s hammer.

Continuing the pattern of weaving hammer ideas in with flaming sword ideas, we find that there was a flaming sword on the scene at the Battle of Pyke as well!  Like I said, the gang is all invited. This is Gendry talking to Arya in A Storm of Swords:

“He liked feasts and tourneys, that’s why King Robert was so fond of him.  And this Thoros was brave.  When the walls of Pyke crashed down, he was the first man through the breach.  He fought with one of his flaming swords, setting Ironmen on fire with every slash.”

“I wish I had a flaming sword.  I can think of a few people I’d like to set on fire.”

The Ironborn were “set on fire” by a flaming sword, the one which crashed through the breach in the crescent of dark stone along with the thunderous hammer.  That’s our sea dragon meteor, ‘giving the Ironborn fire,’ just as the Grey King was said to posses the sea dragon’s fire.  Setting the Ironborn on fire serves as a nice metaphor for giving them fire, in this case the fire of a flaming sword in service to the Storm King Robert Baratheon. The flaming sword also parallels the Storm God’s thunderbolt which gave the Grey King fire as it “gives fire” to the Ironborn here.

Moving away from that Theon chapter of Clash, we find more confirmation that the idea of hammering waves can be connected to the sea dragon when Aeron prays to the Drowned God in A Feast for Crows:

My god, he prayed, speak to me in the rumble of the waves, and tell me what to do. The captains and the kings await your word. Who shall be our king in Balon’s place? Sing to me in the language of leviathan, that I may know his name. Tell me, O Lord beneath the waves, who has the strength to fight the storm on Pyke?

The word leviathan has a couple of meanings: it can refer to any large sea creature, particularly whales, and sometimes large people are derisively called leviathans.  Sam is called a grey leviathan by Lazy Leo Tyrell, for example, while Yezzan the Yunkish slave master is called a yellow leviathan.  But Leviathan is actually a well known mythological sea creature with a very specific description: it’s a monstrous, multi-headed sea dragon.  That’s right, we’re talking about a multi-headed, fire-breathing dragon which lives in the ocean – a real sea dragon.  So when Aeron is praying for the drowned god to speak to him through the waves in the language  of leviathan, it’s simply another clue that that the Drowned God is actually the island drowning sea dragon, and that the hammering waves come from the sea dragon. The language of the sea dragon is the flood, the one which hammers and drowns the land.

While we are defining words that mean sea monster, we should briefly talk about the name which George gave the sea dragon – Nagga.  Although the word nagga had sort of become a common word for snake in many fantasy universes, it is actually a specific word – ‘naga’ is the Vedic Sanskrit word for “cobra,” and the same word is used to refer to a specific type of deity or being which incarnates as a great snake – usually a king cobra (which is native to India), although it can sometimes be other snakes.  In the Mahabharata, nagas are beings with both human-like and snake-like attributes.

The myth of the naga evolved as it travelled from India and sees other forms in nearby mythology, most of which show various forms of the snake-man idea.  In Hindu myth, they are more like nature spirits which can bring fertility or sometimes floods and storms, and most notably, they are said to posses the elixir of immortality – the fire of the gods, in other words. In Buddhist mythology, naga became merged with myths of wise dragons and dragon men, and is frequently depicted as a man with multiple snake or dragon heads above him, or just as a multi-headed dragon or snake. The emphasis here is on a transcendent being who has gained the knowledge of heaven and attained enlightenment, which they specifically associated with a dragon’s fire. There are versions of naga in Laos, Thailand, Java, and Indonesia, and many of those are assorted with lakes or rives or oceans, but my favorite is the Cambodian idea of nagas: they were thought to be a reptilian race of beings under the King Kaliya who possessed a large empire or kingdom in the Pacific Ocean region until they were chased away to India by the Garuda, a phoenix-like incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  The daughter of these lizard people married a brahmin from India and from their union sprang the Cambodian people. Thus, the Cambodian people have a saying which means “born from naga.”

So if we were to sum up the body of ideas which George may be implying by naming his sea dragon ‘nagga,’ we would include beings who are both snake and man or even dragon and man, multi-headed snakes or dragons, beings who posses magic and the knowledge and fire of the gods, and frequent associations with water. I think it’s easy to see how these ideas are generally in sync with George’s own dragon mythology, which encourages us to draw a link between the sea dragon ideas and the rest of his dragon lore – Azor Ahai, the three-headed dragon, people that are the blood of the dragon, and so on.

Next I’d like to turn our attention to the leviathan whose voice Aeron was seeking in the hammering of the waves, and also to the broader real-world phenomena  of dragon-slayer myths where the slaying of the dragon results in a transformational global flood.


The Language of Leviathan

This section is brought to you by Visenya Ice Eyes, Starry Jewel-Queen of the Frozen Veil of Tears and Ser Brian the Prodigal Stark, the Good Other, Knight of the Last House, Wielder of the Valyrian Steel blade Red Song, two members of the Long Night’s Watch… and also by Ser Imriel Jordayne of the Tor, Spinner of the Great Wheel and Guardian of the Sword of the Morning, and Ser Harrison of House Casterly, the Noontide Sun, whose words are “Deeper than did Ever Plummet Sound,” Guardian of the Shadowcat


“Leviathan” is a Hebrew word meaning “twisted, coiled,” or “that which gathers itself into folds,” referencing the way that snakes coil up and fold in on themselves.  The biblical sea dragon leviathan was probably based on similar, older ideas in the same region; specifically, that of “ocean of chaos” dragons Tiamat and Lotan (or his Greek incarnations Ladon and the Hydra ), all of whom were slaughtered to effect some kind of creative process on the world, usually accompanied by floods and storms.  The legend of the island-drowning sea dragon Nagga and it’s associations with the fallen moon maiden myth we’ve been tracing out in all of the previous episodes could fit right in with this mythological family, which includes a long line of myths about dragon-slaying and world-transforming cataclysms, and thus I think it is appropriate to view it in that context.

As for Biblical leviathan, a true sea dragon, we read that in the beginning, Yaweh (who was originally a Storm God akin to the Canaanite Yam) created two leviathans, but he killed the female and neutered the male.  Since we have one moon which gave birth to dragons as it died, and one moon that still survives, it’s tempting to draw a correlation.  Many of these types of myths have one big dragon-slaying in the past and one big one prophesied yet to come…. exactly like the Qarthine moon dragons myth, which speaks of a second moon that perished in the past and a surviving moon that will crack in the future.  I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but there is some potential  foreshadowing that the red comet will return and crack open that remaining moon.  That’s a subject we’ll dig into when we start our upcoming series called “Moons of Ice and Fire.”

“Destruction of Leviathan” | 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré

Even more interesting is the association with the skin of the Leviathan and light-bringing: Yaweh makes clothes of light from the skin of the slain female leviathan.  That’s a very close match to the idea of making the sword Lightbringer from the moon meteors, and it also reminds us of the Grey King making a longhall from the skeleton of the sea dragon.  Supposedly Yaweh will make an illuminating cover for the entire sky out of the skin of the male leviathan at the end times, showing us the “dragon slaying yet to come” idea I just referred to.

George seems to referencing these ideas, but inverting certain aspects, as he does with his inspirations – darkness covers the sky when the sea dragon was slain instead of light, and the body of the slain sea dragon seems to drink the light instead of giving it off as the Biblical leviathan’s skin does.

Returning to the idea of a leviathan or sea dragon being slaughtered to effect some huge transformation upon the world, let’s take another look at Persian and Vedic mythology.  We’ve seen that much of the Lightbringer mythology comes from Persian Zoroastrianism, as well as Roman Mithraism, which itself was at least partially based on Persian ideas of Mithra (though there are many important differences and scholars dispute the level of connection).  The loose translation of Azor Ahai as “fire dragon” derives from Avestan (which is an older dialect of Persian) and Vedic Sanskrit phonetic roots, and here I’ll actually clarify what was a bit of an oversimplification from the first essay.

The “Middle Persian” word for fire is ‘ādur,’ while the Avestan form is ‘ātar,’ and the modern version of the word is ‘āẕar.’  That’s where we get the similarity between Azor and “fire.”  Meanwhile, ‘aži‘ is the Avestan word for “serpent” or “dragon.”  For example, in Zoroastrian myth, there’s an evil three-headed dragon (or perhaps a dragon-man, the tales are not clear) named Aži Dahāka or sometimes ‘Aždaha’ who is chained up but is prophesied to burst his bonds at the end of the world and ravage the earth, Lion-of-Night-style.  There’s another dragon that was apparently in need of slaying called ‘Aži Sruuara,’ the poisonous horned dragon.  ‘Aži’ is a cognate to the Vedic Sanskrit word ‘ahi,’ which also means “snake” and sometimes “dragon.”  The name of the big bad serpent-dragon villain of the Rigveda is usually named Vritra, but he is also called Ahi, and he’s a snake who has to be slaughtered by the hero, Indra, an act that unleashes a global flood.  The Rigveda also speaks of the “dragon of the deep,” called ahi budhnya, who is said to dwell at the bottom of the heavenly rivers.

So, to sum up our loose translation of the name Azor Ahai, “Azor” is similar to the old Persian and Iranian words for fire, and Ahai is very similar to the Vedic Sanskrit word ahi, which means dragon or snake.  The Avesta form of ahi is azi, which reminds us of the az- in ‘Azor.’

And then we have the fire dragon Gōčihr, who comes to us from Zoroastrian and Manichean astrology.  Manicheanism was a highly dualistic religion that sprang up in Persia around 200 AD which was in part based on the Book of Enoch, and it has much in common with early Christian Gnosticism and the later gnostic beliefs of the Cathars of southern France, and the Cathars are another self-acknowledged point of inspiration for George R. R. Martin.  The Manichean cosmology tells of two dragon monsters which are the enemies of the sun, moon, and stars, Gōčihr and Mūšparīg, who are chained to the sun so as to prevent them from causing harm.  They are placed opposite of one another in the sky and are made to turn the celestial wheel of the sky.  Mūšparīg may be the original demon responsible for lunar eclipses, which are of course know as “blood moons,” while Gōčihr seems to be associated with constellations and comets both.  Here I will quote from the Encyclopedia Iranica’s summary of a work called the Bundahišn, which is a compilation of Zoroastrian cosmology derived from two older codices from the 8th and 14th century AD.

At the end of time Gōčihr will fall down on the earth, which it will terrify like a wolf does a sheep; its fire and halo will then melt the metal of Šahrewar in the hills and mountains, thus providing the river of molten metal necessary for the purification of men.  At the end, after Ohrmazd himself has come down to earth to send Āz and Ahriman back to the Darkness whence they had come, Gōčihr the serpent burns in the molten metal and the pollution of Hell burns and Hell becomes pure (Bundahišn TD1, pp. 193.11-16, 195.17-196.2; TD2, pp. 225.3-8, 227.12-15; tr. Anklesaria. pp. 288-91; tr. West, pp. 125f., 129).

Gōčihr, as I said, is not an actual dragon, but a comet; or said another way, a stars which fell from a constellation to the earth. You remember when I said that many people all around the world have mythicized comets and meteors as fiery dragons, right? Well here you go, this is a pretty fantastic one. The comet dragon falls from heaven and melts the metal of the earth for means of purification, which is right in line with all the myths of dragons being slain to transform the world through floods as well as our own theory about the Long Night. A world-transforming comet dragon impact connected with rivers of molten metal has to remind us of the of making of Lightbringer from the moon meteor dragons, and also of the idea that George sometimes symbolizes the storm of falling stars as wave of blood in the sky – waves of “bleeding stars” or “bloodstones.”  The idea of two dragons chained to the sun reminds us of the idea of the comet being split in two as it orbited the sun, creating two dragon comets; and the fact that one of these Manichean celestial fire dragons also causes eclipses of one sort or another is obviously something that makes me take notice.  My point isn’t to say “Ah ha! George got all of this from the Gōčihr story! I’ve solved the puzzle!” but rather to point out that associating comet impacts with dragon slaying and world-changing cataclysms is a tradition which George is participating in with his own myth-making. He’s speaking the common language of myth and building off of established symbolism.

You can see the clear echoes of the Gōčihr story in the Tauroctony, Mithras’s slaying of the white lunar bull which was a part of himself. Mithras sacrifices the white bull, and the bull’s blood flows out into the world and triggers a regeneration of life. One of the differences between Roman Mithraism and its Persian ancestors is that dragons are pretty much always evil in Persian myth, while the same is not true for Roman Mithraism. In the Tauroctony, the white bull plays the role of the slain dragon, but the white bull is a friend to Mithras, just as dragons are seen as a source of knowledge and enlightenment by the initiates of the Mithraic Mysteries, as the Roman adherents to this secretive religion were named.

Part of the point of bringing all of this up is to speak of one of the common universal myths which can be found from the Middle East to India to the far east – that the slaying of the dragon to transform the world. The oldest version of this story may be the Babylonian myth of Tiamat and Marduk, as I alluded to at the beginning of this section.  Tiamat is a symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, originally a shining mother goddess embodying femininity. When her children kill her husband, however, she incarnates in the form of a monstrous sea dragon, only to be was slain by Marduk, who used her divided body to form the heavens and the earth. She also gives birth to dragon children, monsters with poison instead of blood. The tale of Yaweh slaying the leviathan is thought to have been a version of this Babylonian myth, and it’s certainly very similar.

I would suggest that all of these dragon-slayer myths, many of which are derivative of one another, are playing into the same ideas and themes: death and resurrection, and word-changing natural and celestial disasters being personified as the wroth of dragons and sea dragons.

We can see many parallels to Martin’s own version of this myth – a sea dragon who makes or remakes the world, a dragon being slain to effect a creative act, a being who is a mother of dragons, etc.  Marduk is actually a storm god, as is Yaweh, so we can see that the idea of a storm god slaying a sea dragon has ample mythological precedent.  One thinks of Robert Baratheon slaying Rhaegar in the river Trident, a scene we’ve examined a couple of times now, which gives us an incarnation of the Norse storm god slaying a black dragon who falls into the water.  We had hammers and falling rubies that flashed like fire in that scene as well. This slaying of the dragon and its line ushered in a new dynasty, with Robert reigning over a long summer of bounty and fertility.

"The Battle of the Trident" by Justin Sweet

“The Battle of the Trident” by Justin Sweet

In Ironborn myth, the Storm God hurls the thunderbolt moon meteor, while it is the Grey King who slays the sea dragon meteor, but since both myths are referring to the slaying of the moon and the hammering of its meteor children, they amount to the same act. Slaying a sea dragon (or more accurately, slaying a moon which becomes a sea dragon) and hurling down the divine thunderbolt are essentially the same act, and that’s also the same thing as swinging the hammer of the gods. The point is – all of these Westerosi fables are derivative of the dragon slayer myths from the real world, and in many myths, it is the Storm King or Storm God who slays the dragon.

For further reading, I recommend this fantastic analysis of dragons in Persian mythology from the Encyclopedia Iranica. It’s their entry on aždaha.

I have a really awesome leviathan quote that I’ve been saving which gives us Robert the hammer-wielding Storm King creating dead leviathans. This is from that first Theon chapter of A Clash of Kings that we’ve been pulling from, the one with the repeated references to Robert’s storming of Pyke.  As Theon is sailing to Pyke, he passes by the ruins of Lordsport and we get this:

When last he’d seen Lordsport, it had been a smoking wasteland, the skeletons of burnt longships and smashed galleys littering the stony shore like the bones of dead leviathans, the houses no more than broken walls and cold ashes. After ten years, few traces of the war remained. The smallfolk had built new hovels with the stones of the old, and cut fresh sod for their roofs. A new inn had risen beside the landing, twice the size of the old one, with a lower story of cut stone and two upper stories of timber. The sept beyond had never been rebuilt, though; only a seven- sided foundation remained where it had stood. Robert Baratheon’s fury had soured the ironmen’s taste for the new gods, it would seem.

Theon was more interested in ships than gods. 

Remember how I said that the bones of Nagga might actually be the flipped-over hull of a weirwood boat? Well here we have a direct comparison between the wooden ships and sea dragons – in this case, burnt and smashed ships are compared the bones of dead leviathans.  Theon is thinking of leviathans as in dead whale skeletons, but the hint here is about leviathan the sea dragon. Shortly thereafter, Theon compares the ships to gods, completing the circle and bringing us back to the notion of the leviathan as a fallen god or goddess. We’re going to get down to the “sea dragon as a boat” thing in a moment, so file that one away for now.

Let’s take a quick look around at the scene here at “Lordsport,” starting with the name.  This is the place where the gods come into port. That’s our sea dragon goddess, coming in to port with  her heavenly cargo. The name is similar in nature to the name “King’s Landing,” which symbolically refers to the landing of King Azor Ahai reborn the moon meteor, and the same is true of the name “Lordsport,” though it might have more literal implications since we think a meteor actually landed at the Iron Islands,

As for Storm King Robert Baratheon, he landed here with his hammer and his wrath, and he transformed it into what Theon remembers as “a smoking wasteland” littered with burnt sea dragon bones. In his attack, he’s reenacting the Hammer of the Waters, the striking of the Storm God’s thunderbolt (setting fire to wooden boats instead of trees), and the slaying of the sea dragon (leaving the burnt bones of leviathans laying around.) Toss in the other references to this battle, and we have the hammer cracking open the crescent of dark stone as well as Thoros’s flaming sword coming through the breach, giving us references to the Lightbringer myth and the Hammer of the Waters again. In fact, you could say that the entire reason the Iron Islands rebellion exists is so that Martin can depict Storm King Robert Baratheon repeatedly striking them with his hammer.

Just as we see Robert hammering away on the Iron Islands to suggest a link to the hammer of the waters and the thunderbolt of the Storm God, we have dragon attacks on the Iron Islands to suggest the sea dragon and flaming sword symbols. The first one involves House Volmark of the Iron Islands, whose sigil is a black leviathan on grey, which certainly invites further scrutiny.

image courtesy awoiaf.westeros.org

image courtesy awoiaf.westeros.org

Geroge R. R. Martin is a well known lover of heraldry, and I believe he often makes use of heraldry to drop massive clues about the mysteries of the series. It turns out that the only significant member of the House of the Black Leviathan in history besides the young Lord Volmark in the main story is Quorin Volmark. He was a distant relation to King Harwyn “Hardhand” Hoare who briefly claimed the Seastone Chair in 2 AC after King Aegon the Conqueror roasted Black Harren Hoare and all his sons at Harrenhall. Quorin Volmark then declared himself the rightful heir of “the black line,” referring to the supposedly “black-blooded” members of House Hoare. Of course we’ve seen that black blood is a very important motif in our collection of moon death symbolism – having the”fire inside you” turns your blood black – so this detail stands out as significant.  Quoin Volmark is a black-blooded, black leviathan, and we know what that’s all about. A black ‘bloodstone’ meteor – turned – sea dragon.

The crux of Quorin’s story is this, from The World of Ice and Fire:

“Other claimants soon arose on Great Wyck, Pyke, and Orkmont, and for a full year and a half their followers fought each other by land and sea. Aegon the Conqueror put an end to that fighting in 2 AC when he and Balerion descended upon Great Wyck, accompanied by a vast war fleet. The Ironmen collapsed before him.  Qhorin Volmark died at the Conqueror’s own hand, cut down by Aegon’s Valyrian steel blade, Blackfyre.  

Aegon wields the sword Blackfyre, while his dragon Balerion breathes black fire – they are matching symbols. Balerion descends upon Old Wyck, the exact location of “Nagga’s bones” – this is reenacting the sea dragon’s landing on the Iron Islands, perhaps on Old Wyk itself, where it might have created the crescent-shaped bay now know as “Nagga’s Cradle.” Meanwhile, Aegon kills Qhorin the black leviathan with Blackfyre the sword. The Grey King slew Nagga, and possessed her fire – and here that is represented by Aegon slaying the black leviathan and also possessing black fire in the form of a sword. Although technically he didn’t actually get the black fire from Quorin, nevertheless the symbolism is there. Aegean slew the sea dragon by slaying the black leviathan, and he possessed black fire in the form of a sword. This would seem a match for the idea of the Grey King and the ancient Ironborn fashioning black, soul-drinking weapons from the sea dragon meteor. It also equates the Grey King with our black dragon / Azor Ahai archetype, an idea we had as soon as we heard that the Grey King was a stealer of heavenly fire. More on this to come.

As a side note, the vast war fleet accompanying the black dragons would represent the meteor shower. This is yet another connection between sea dragons and ships – these ships are owned by a Targaryen, and thus they are dragon-ships, ocean-going dragons… sea dragons, after a fashion. We are totally going to talk about boats in a minute, I promise.

Aegon’s sacking of the Iron Islands is referenced in A Feast for Crows at the Kingsmoot by Eric Drum, wielder of the Valyrian sword Red Rain, and remember that when he refers to the black line being ended, he’s talking about Aegon’s slaying of Quorin Volmark:

“When the black line was consumed by dragon-fire, the ironborn gave the primacy to Vickon Greyjoy, aye … but as lord, not king.”  

I’ve included this quote because its phrasing about the bloodline of the black leviathan being consumed in dragonfire suggests the idea of the moon’s blood being incinerated and blackened by the comet’s impact and the resulting explosion (the dragon fire).  A black-blooded leviathan, burning with black dragon fire – it fits our picture of Lightbringer perfectly.  I mean, that’s it, exactly, and I think the message is that the leviathan or sea dragon meteor was the same kind of black moon meteor from which Lightbringer was made.

There’s a nice companion to Aegon and Balerion’s attack on the Iron Islands to be found in A Dance with Dragons, as Daenerys rides her black dragon, Drogon.  This too reinforces the idea of the Iron Islands having been shaped by the fire of sea dragon, the black leviathan:

In a dozen heartbeats they were past the Dothraki, as he galloped far below. To the right and left, Dany glimpsed places where the grass was burned and ashen. Drogon has come this way before, she realized. Like a chain of grey islands, the marks of his hunting dotted the green grass sea.  

A chain of grey islands in a green sea burnt by black dragonfire – pretty nice, huh?  These grey islands are all places where the dragon landed. It may also be a reference to the chain of islands known as the Stepstones, the former Arm of Dorne, which has a Bloodstone Island and a Grey Gallows island. Grey Islands chains in the sea…

image courtesy awoiaf.westeros.org

image courtesy awoiaf.westeros.org

There’s another nice clue about black fire and black weapons on the Iron Islands at the time of the Long night to be found in House Harlaw and their Valyrian steel sword, Nightfall.  House Harlaw’s sigil is the silver scythe, indicating the harvest season and perhaps a bit of grim reaping – as we know, the Ironborn do not sew, they’re all about reaping.  The silver scythe evoke a lunar crescent, and one that has turned into a deadly weapon.  The lord of the Iron Islands also styles himself “Lord Reaper,” for what it’s worth.  The sword Nightfall itself has a moonstone pommel, as we’ve talked about before, which is a nice clue about moon-stones causing the nightfall of all nightfalls.  Nightfall was taken for House Harlaw by the Red Kracken Dalton Greyjoy.  Nobody knows how the sword came in the possession of House Harlaw, but the Red Kracken himself is an Azor Ahai / Bloodstone Emperor symbol who will receive further analysis in the future – take my word for it, he’s the right guy to be associated with the moonstone Valyrian sword Nightfall.  It’s also worth mentioning that House Volmark of the black leviathan sigil lives in the the Island of Harlaw and takes their lead from House  Harlaw, like a kind of bannerman.

Image from "The Complete Guide to Westeros," a feature on the home version HBO's Game of Thrones Season One

Image from “The Complete Guide to Westeros,” a feature on the home version HBO’s Game of Thrones Season One

House_Goodbrother

image courtesy awoiaf.westeros.org

The parade of Ironborn sigil-based symbolism continues on Great Wyck, in the Hardstone Hills, at the Hammerhorn Keep of House Goodbrother, and here we’ll spice our discussion of black swords sea dragons with a bit more hammer of the waters flavor.  House Goodbrother draws their wealth from their mines, which produce iron and other minerals.  Their sigil is a gold-banded black warhorn on a field of red, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Euron’s dragonbinder horn (which “split the air” as “sharp as a sword thrust” when it is sounded) as well as the “fake” horn of Joramun that Melisandre burns at the Wall in A Dance with Dragons.  These horns are associated with dragons and earthquakes, respectively, both of which come together at the Iron Islands, where the sea dragon caused an earthquake.  The description of the breaking of the Arm of Dorne with the Hammer of the Waters – “giants awoke in the earth, and all Westeros shook and trembled” – matches the description of the horn of Joramun’s supposed effects, and here we find a “Hammerhorn” keep. If that weren’t enough, cadet branches of House Goodbrother are found at places with such symbolically rich names as “Crow Spike Keep,” “Downdelving,” “Corpse Lake,” and “Shatterstone.”

  • Crow Spikes – a reference to the the black meteors, which are described as crows and ravens and of course sharp pieces of iron
  • Down-Delving – literally a reference to the mines where they mine black iron, perhaps that of the sea dragon’s corpse, and it may symbolically refer to the downward trajectory of the falling meteors
  • Corpse Lake – a reference to the corpse of the moon goddess / sea dragon landing in the water
  • Shatterstone –  a reference to Pyke’s broken sword of land which shattered

To reinforce these ideas, here’s a quote from the very first Ironborn chapter A Feast For Crows, where Aeron Damphair is coming up to Hammerhorn Keep after casually drowning some fanatics:

It was long after dark by the time the priest espied the spiky iron battlements of the Hammerhorn clawing at the crescent moon. Gorold’s keep was hulking and blocky, its great stones quarried from the cliff that loomed behind it. Below its walls, the entrances of caves and ancient mines yawned like toothless black mouths. The Hammerhorn’s iron gates had been closed and barred for the night. Aeron beat on them with a rock until the clanging woke a guard.

The hall was dank and drafty,
 full of shadows. One of Gorold’s daughters offered the priest a horn of ale. Another poked at a sullen fire that was giving off more smoke than heat.

If we were wondering whether the name “Hammerhorn” was supposed to be a clue about the Hammer of the Waters, the Hammerhorn’s spiky iron is clawing at the moon, connecting the idea of the moon being attacked and pulled down with hammers and horns and iron claws.  The idea of the celestial horn plays on both the horns of the dragon comet which clawed the moon as well as the sound of the horn, which, again, in the case of dragonbinder, “split the air like a sword thrust.”   I believe the horn and other references to loud sounds and screams refer to Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy – that’s the sound which is actually said to break the moon in the Lightbringer story.  In other words, the comet pierced the moon with its dragon horn, and the sound of the moon’s scream – of the impact – was like the sound of a screaming hell horn.  These horns brought down the hammer of the waters.  And yes, I think the implication here is that the horn of Joramun and dragonbinder may be the same thing, or the same type of thing, and one such horn may have even been involved in bringing down the moon… though that’s a subject for another day.

Returning to the scene, Aeron beats on the iron gate of the keep with a stone, creating a sound that “wakes the sleepers,” if you know what I mean, and I know you do.  George often gives us a metaphor in more than one form in the same scene just to drive the point across.  Aaron being offered a “horn” of ale after he wakes the sleeping folk of the Hammerhorn keep is an example of this technique.

Inside the keep itself, it’s full of shadows, and lit by a fire that gives off more smoke than heat, which is more or less how I have been describing the magic of the R’hllorists for a long time – more shadow than light.  This “fire which does not give off much light or heat” is a reoccurring motif which always seems to apply to the shadowy, corrupted fire magic that we see throughout the series.

Finally, we saw the caves to the mines yawning like toothless black mouths, perhaps the place where they mine the sea dragon bones, or perhaps just symbolic of the general concept.  The Grey King was said to have made a throne from Nagga’s fangs, so perhaps these toothless mouths refer to the defanged sea dragon, although that could certainly be a coincidence.  Said another way, the Ironborn bring black iron out from the inside of the “black mouths” of the mountain’s mines, while the black bloodstone comes from the insides of the sea dragon.

Finally, there’s a sneaky clue about the Hammer of the Waters being connected to leviathan in The World of Ice and Fire.  In the section on the breaking of the Arm of Dorne, which Maester Yandel rightly calls “the single most important event in Dornish history, and mayhaps the history of all Westeros,” they speculate about what real cause of the breaking might have been, given that the maesters reject the magical explanations.

“Archmaester Cassander suggests elsewise in his “Song of the Sea: How the Lands Were Severed,” arguing that it was not the singing of the greenseer that separated Westeros from Essos but rather what he calls the Song of the Sea – a slow rising of the waters that took place over centuries…”

But Aeron Damphair already told us that the Drowned God sings through the waves in the language of leviathan, and so we can see that the song of the sea – at least, the one which drowned the Arm of Dorne –  is really the song of the island-drowning sea dragon whose language is the flood.  Additionally, the lord of House Harlaw of the silver scythe has a boat named “Sea Song,” linking the hammer of the waters with the Ironborn and silver moon scythes, and to the idea of sea dragons as boats… which is what we will discuss next.

“The Sea Dragon of Kaulon” | 6th Century BCE Greek Mosaic | Kaulon, Italy


Some Smelly Fish

Mnemosyne, the poem on two feet, mother of muses, rider of the dragon Saga and Guardian of the Swan; Nienna the Wise, the Persephoenix, Guardian of the Ice Dragon, whose words are “from sorrow, wisdom”; Daphne Eversweet, Queen Bee of the Red Poppy fields, Guardian of the Crone’s Lantern, and keeper of the Black Rabbit with big, pointy, nasty teeth who can leap about… and Manami of the Jade Sea, the Merry Deviant, Keeper of Winter Roses, and Guardian of the Celestial Ghost


Ok, let’s talk about boats!  Like most myth, I believe that the sea dragon and other Grey King mythology does refer to historical events – at least one, if not more. The first would be the moon meteor which seems to have fallen near or on the Iron Islands – the sea dragon as a falling meteor. The second may be a story about a foreign people who possessed fire in in some sense coming to Westeros in boats – sea dragons as boats carrying fire-associated people. What I can say for sure is that the boat is an important part of the sea dragon symbolism, so we’ll follow this line of symbolism and you can decide what you think it means. We are going to work our way to the idea of Nagga’s ribs being a boat, but first I want to break down two scenes involving Targaryens and their boats, because Targaryen boats work fantastically as symbol of the sea dragon as a boat.

We’ll begin with a lovely passage from A Storm of Swords when Daenerys is – and you’re going to like this – sailing to Slaver’s Bay on three ships named after Aegon’s three dragons. That’s right – not only do the boats belong to a dragon, they are actually named after dragons. This chapter begins by introducing the idea that Daenerys loves the sea, and builds on the sea dragon idea through the naming of the ships and finally the activity of the dragons themselves. Picking things up near the beginning of the chapter:

Her Dothraki called the sea the poison water, distrusting any liquid that their horses could not drink. On the day the three ships had lifted anchor at Quarth, you would have thought they were sailing to hell instead of Pentos. Her brave young bloodriders had stared off at the dwindling coastline with huge white eyes, each of the three determined to show no fear before the other two, while her handmaids Irri and Jhiqui clutched the rail desperately and retched over the side at every little swell. 

Three ships for the three dragons of Aegon and Daenerys, and more importantly, for three primary dragon meteors coming from the moon. The three bloodriders play into the symbolism as well – I’ve mentioned before that the term bloodrider builds on the Dothraki’s interpretation of stars as horses by adding blood, creating the symbol of the bloodriders as bleeding stars, and here they have huge white eyes to remind us of the moon.

No squall could frighten Dany, though. 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.

Daenerys, a symbol of both the moon which was the mother of dragons and the reborn dragon herself, is called Stormborn because Azor Ahai was born during the storm that ravaged Planetos and caused the Long Night, you guys know about that.  We saw in the Tyron Targaryen episode how the black stone gargoyles have a heritage involving stone dragons and therefore make tremendous fiery black meteor symbols.  Describing the boats – the Targaryen boats – as kindling evokes the idea of burning wood, just as we saw with the burnt ships of Lordsport which resembled the bones of leviathans.  The sea dragon brings fire to the earth of course, so burning ships fits right in, and also refer to the tree set ablaze by the Storm God’s thunderbolt.

The narrow sea was often stormy, and Dany had crossed it half a hundred times as a girl, running from one Free City to the next half a step ahead of the Usurper’s hired knives. She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well. She liked the dolphins that sometimes swam along beside Balerion, slicing through the waves like silvery spears, and the flying fish they glimpsed now and again. She even liked the sailors, with all their songs and stories. Once on a voyage to Braavos, as she’d watched the crew wrestle down a great green sail in a rising gale, she had even thought how fine it would be to be a sailor. But when she told her brother, Viserys had twisted her hair until she cried. “You are blood of the dragon,” he had screamed at her. “A dragon, not some smelly fish.

He was a fool about that, and so much else, Dany thought.

I’ll cut in here to have a laugh at Viserys’s expense. We’ve already seen that Viserys isn’t too good with symbolism and metaphor – he got burned by that whole “I am the dragon, and I will be crowned!” thing, after all. We, however, pay much closer attention, and we cannot fail to miss all the dragon-fish comparison going on here.

The three ships are named for Aegon’s three dragons, and the narrative weaves the ships and Dany watching her dragons fly through the air together in the very first paragraph.  Dany herself is a kind of sea-dragon, the blood of the dragon who loves the water and the sea.  She’s at one with the storm, unafraid, the Stormborn.  She’s born on a dragon-stone in the middle of the sea (itself a clue about dragons which are stones landing in the ocean), during the worst storm in memory.  Of course, the only memories we have of the actual worst storm in history, one which also raged around dragon stones in the ocean, are hidden under layers of myth… but that’s why we are doing what we are doing, after all.  Chasing down the worst storm in history.

The dragon – fish comparison take flight in the next paragraph with flying fish and dolphins like silvery spears that swim alongside Balerion the dragon-boat.  There’s more talk of Dany herself loving everything about the sea, and then a direct comparison between dragons and fish as Viserys says that a dragon is not a fish.  The next words are “He was a fool about that, and so much else.”  That’s clear enough.  The only way it could be any more clear is if Old Nan showed up with a copy of Septon Barth’s Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History to read us a bedtime story about sea dragons.

Actually, is does get a bit more clear, as someone does directly compare the comet to a fish in A Clash of Kings:

Catelyn raised her eyes, to where the faint red line of the comet traced a path across the deep blue sky like a long scratch across the face of god.  “The Greatjon told Robb that the old gods have unfurled a red flag of vengeance for Ned.  Edmure thinks it’s an omen of victory for Riverrun— he sees a fish with a long tail, in the Tully colors, red against blue.”  

So far, there seems to be a bit of truth to be found in every single thing the comet has been directly compared to, although the “fish with a long tail” description was one of the last ones to make sense.  Returning to the scene with Dany and her sea dragon boats…

The captain appeared at her elbow. “Would that this Balerion could soar as her namesake did, Your Grace,” he said in bastard Valyrian heavily flavored with accents of Pentos. “Then we should not need to row, nor tow, nor pray for wind.”  

 The symbolic association between the boats and the dragons continues all throughout these paragraphs, as Dany and the captain compare dragons and ships to each other as a means of crossing the sea.  And then… we get a more literal manifestation of the sea dragon idea:

Viserion’s scales were the color of fresh cream, his horns, wing bones, and spinal crest a dark gold that flashed bright as metal in the sun. Rhaegal was made of the green of summer and the bronze of fall. They soared above the ships in wide circles, higher and higher, each trying to climb above the other.

Dragons always preferred to attack from above, Dany had learned. Should either get between the other and the sun, he would fold his wings and dive screaming, and they would tumble from the sky locked together in a tangled scaly ball, jaws snapping and tails lashing. The first time they had done it, she feared that they meant to kill each other, but it was only sport. No sooner would they splash into the sea than they would break apart and rise again, shrieking and hissing, the salt water steaming off them as their wings clawed at the air. Drogon was aloft as well, though not in sight; he would be miles ahead, or miles behind, hunting.

He was always hungry, her Drogon. Hungry and growing fast. Another year, or perhaps two, and he may be large enough to ride. Then I shall have no need of ships to cross the great salt sea.

But that time was not yet come. Rhaegal and Viserion were the size of small dogs, Drogon only a little larger, and any dog would have out-weighed them; they were all wings and neck and tail, lighter than they looked. And so Daenerys Targaryen must rely on wood and wind and canvas to bear her home.

There’s nothing I love better a good dragon eclipse.  It comes as the dragons try to get between each other and the sun (creating an eclipse) before dive-bombing, just as the moon was in eclipse position before it sent its moon dragon dive-bombing.  At the moment of the dragon eclipse, we get our sea dragon meteor, plummeting towards the ocean, which is really a terrific confirmation of the eclipse idea and a good match for all the times Drogon’s wings passed before the sun and “darkened the world,” as we’ve seen in previous essays.

The falling dragons splash into the water in a scaly ball and then “break apart” (like the broken sword of land and all the broken sword symbols) and “rise again” – harder and stronger, perhaps?  According to Ironborn theology, the sea dragon rose from the sea, as did the Grey King and the Drowned God himself, and the Ironborn conduct ritual drowning-and-resurrection ceremonies.  As I mentioned, carrying fire from the sea is an important aspect of this combined myth, and that’s what we may be talking about here – harvesting sea dragon material from the sea.

In fact, the hissing and steaming as the dragons plunge into the water and fly back out reminds me of a sword being tempered in cold water, or  a hot meteor stone landing in the ocean, the same idea on a large scale. This idea is directly implied by the choice to describe the dragons as metal – Rhaegal’s dark golden spinal crest, horns, and wing bones “flashed as bright as metal in the sun.” I mean, it really is like dragon metal dropping out of the sky from an eclipse and becoming the sea dragon, landing in the ocean and then rising from the waves. The folded wings of the soon-to-be sea dragon may be meant as callout to leviathan, whose name, of course, means “that which is gathered into folds.” And for what it’s worth, there’s a funny line where Jorah talks about Westerosi tales of dragons big enough to snatch krakens from the sea, reminding us of the idea that the sea dragon Nagga fed on krakens. At the least, it serves a s clue to make us think about sea dragons and Ironborn myth.

I just love the double metaphor in this scene – sea dragon as ships and sea dragons as metal dragons falling into the sea.  Throw in the eclipse, and I’m a happy camper.

This scene is actually quite reminiscent of another dragon attack scene which we examined in the Mountain vs. the Viper episode, and that one also features both a dragon eclipse and a sea dragon symbol, although it is sadly lacking in boats.  I’m speaking of the dragon-on-dragon battle between Daemon Targaryen riding Caraxes “the Bloodwyrm” and Aemond-One Eye riding Vhaegar above the God’s Eye during the Dance of the Dragons, a battle recounted to us in The Princess and the Queen.  The first relevant line was:

The attack came sudden as a thunderbolt. Caraxes dove down upon Vhagar with a piercing shriek that was heard a dozen miles away, cloaked by the glare of the setting sun on Prince Aemond’s blind side. 

In this scene, we have a dragon eclipse to symbolize the moon which wandered too close to the sun, a dragon attack from the eclipse to symbolize the moon dragons, a comparison of the dragon attack to a thunderbolt to remind us of the Storm God’s thunderbolt, and there’s an off-the-charts ear-piercing shriek to remind us of the sound which broke the moon, Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy.  The sea dragon image comes as the dragons lock together – much like the scene with Viserion and Rhaegal – and plunge into the water:

Half a heartbeat later, the dragons struck the lake, sending up a gout of water so high that it was said to have been as tall as Kingspyre Tower.

There’s also a couple of clues about recovering the sea dragon meteor from the water here, because Caraxes, though mortally injured, managed to crawl back on to land beneath the walls of Harrenhall before expiring, while years later, Vhagar’s body was “found,” and we know that at least his skull was recovered, because we supposedly see it beneath King’s Landing in the current story.  Also recovered was the Valyrian steel sword Dark Sister, which Daemon had jammed into Aemond’s blind eye before hitting the water.  I’m not sure if they hired some merlings or squishers to go down there with a bone saw and recover this stuff or what, but somehow they did.  So, recovered from the water, we have a red dragon, a black dragon sword, and at least the skull of another dead dragon, all of which are terrific Lightbringer symbols. It may be that these are metaphors referring to the Ironborn recovering sea dragon material, as their mythology would suggest.

Ah but where were we?  Boats, that’s right, boats.  Ships is really the correct word, but saying boats is more fun.  In any case, the second major scene with Targaryen “ships” involves the burning of the Seven on Dragonstone, a famous scene where the forging of Lightbringer is reenacted literally and symbolically.  This is a really creative one by George, I think you’re going to get a kick out of this.

So, burnt and broken ships can be like the bones of a leviathan, and ships owned by Targaryens are like sea dragons – dragons that swim or sail.  Naming the ships after dragons is one better, especially when those dragons were themselves named after old gods of Vayria.  The sea dragon is a drowned goddess, and the dragonships are named for gods and dragons both.  Well.  What if we could turn those sea dragon boats back into gods, and then.. I don’t know…  set them on fire?  That’d be some pretty cool symbolism…

The morning air was dark with the smoke of burning gods.

They were all afire now, Maid and Mother, Warrior and Smith, the Crone with her pearl eyes and the Father with his gilded beard; even the Stranger, carved to look more animal than human. The old dry wood and countless layers of paint and varnish blazed with a fierce hungry light. 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…  {…}

The burning gods cast a pretty light, wreathed in their robes of shifting flame, red and orange and yellow. Septon Barre had once told Davos how they’d been carved from the masts of the ships that had carried the first Targaryens from Valyria. Over the centuries, they had been painted and repainted, gilded, silvered, jeweled. “Their beauty will make them more pleasing to R’hllor,” Melisandre said when she told Stannis to pull them down and drag them out the castle gates.  

Pulling down the true gods to make a bonfire to forge Lightbringer in – who would do such a thing? Azor Ahai impressionist Stannis Baratheon, that’s who. The wooden sea dragon ships which brought the Targaryens to Dragonstone became wooden gods, and then they became burning wooden gods. The fact that it was the masts of the ships – the part that still looks like a tree – that became the burning gods brings us right back to the burning tree motif, the one from the story of the Storm God’s thunderbolt setting a tree ablaze. That means that the burning wooden gods represent both the sea dragon AND the burning tree, and those are both mediums by which the Grey King obtained the fire of the gods. And what does Stannis pull from this burning tree which is also a piece of sea dragon? Why, Lightbringer, which is also the fire of the gods.

This lines up with what I have been saying all along: the sea dragon and the thunderbolt, both of which gave the Grey King divine fire, are in fact two halves of the same story. They represent different aspects of the same event, and that event is the landing of a black moon meteor near the Iron Islands and the making of evil black swords from its meteoric metal…. and perhaps an invasion of proto-Valyrian dragon people from Asshai.

There are two more quotes from the burning of the Seven scene on Dragonstone I want to pull, as they connect to Ironborn mythology:

 Melisandre lifted her hands above her head. “Behold! A sign was promised, and now a sign is seen! Behold Lightbringer! Azor Ahai has come again! All hail the Warrior of Light! All hail the Son of Fire!” A ragged wave of shouts gave answer, just as Stannis’s glove began to smolder. Cursing, the king thrust the point of the sword into the damp earth and beat out the flames against his leg. “Lord, cast your light upon us!” Melisandre called out. 

They are standing on the beach, and Stannis Ahai shoves his flaming sword in the damp earth… it’s not quiiiiite a sea dragon, but it’s close, and honestly, if the Ironborn somehow harvested the meteorite, then it probably landed close to shore or even right on the shore.  You can’t rule out those Deep Ones recovery units, but still.  The sequence here is great: Stannis is angry, and even curses as he jams Lightbringer into the earth, and then Melisandre says “Lord, cast your light upon us!”  That about sums it up – angry, wrothful sea dragon meteors and a cursed Lightbringer – the light of the lord, everyone.  Soak it in.

Next we have an appearance of the unholy tide:

Melisandre sang in the tongue of Asshai, her voice rising and falling like the tides of the sea. Stannis untied his singed leather cape and listened in silence. Thrust in the ground, Lightbringer still glowed ruddy hot, but the flames that clung to the sword were dwindling and dying. By the time the song was done, only charwood remained of the gods, and the king’s patience had run its course. 

Melisandre is a prime fire moon symbol, and her song brings the tides.  We know which tides those are – tides of moon blood.  Meanwhile, Lightbringer is cooling in the wet ground where it landed. The sea dragon gods are now charwood, much like the burnt  ships at Lordsport which were like the bones of dead leviathans.

As I said a moment ago, the sea dragon and the thunderbolt stories both refer to falling moon meteors and the fire of the gods, but represent two different aspects of this event.  We’ve got a pretty good idea about what the sea dragon is – a black moon meteor – and what its fire was – the black meteorite metal to make magic swords with, the kind Azor Ahai used to make Lightbringer.  As for the Storm God’s thunderbolt, the fire from the sky aspect is easy to understand, and we’ve caught on to the connection to the hammer of the waters via the incorporation of Thor’s lighting hammer symbolism, but what exactly is the meaning of this burning tree?  I’ve suggested that the symbol of a burning tree refers to wierwood trees, with the red hands of blood and flame, and that is where the bones of Nagga and the idea of a weirwood boat come in.


A Fishy Rack of Ribs

This section is sponsored by the Patreon support of Han Never-Solo, the Scorpion Mind, Cyber-Pincher of the Weirwoodnet and Guardian of the Celestial Stallion and the Horned Lord; Direliz, the Alpha Patron, a descendant of Gilbert of the Vines and Garth the Green, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Aquarius; Lord Leobold the Victorious, the Firelion of Lancasterly Rock, earthly avatar of the Heavenly House Leo; Wyrlane Dervish, Woods Witch of the Wolfswood, earthly avatar of Celestial House Scorpio


Let’s talk about those ribs, shall we?  This is the full run down on the Grey King and the sea dragon from Aeron’s “The Prophet” chapter of A Feast for Crows:

On the crown of the hill four- and- forty monstrous stone ribs rose from the earth like the trunks of great pale trees.  The sight made Aeron’s heart beat faster.  Nagga had been the first sea dragon, the mightiest ever to rise from the waves.  She fed on krakens and leviathans and drowned whole islands in her wrath, yet the Grey King had slain her and the Drowned God had changed her bones to stone so that men might never cease to wonder at the courage of the first of kings.  Nagga’s ribs became the beams and pillars of his longhall, just as her jaws became his throne.  For a thousand years and seven he reigned here , Aeron recalled.  Here he took his mermaid wife and planned his wars against the Storm God.  From here he ruled both stone and salt, wearing robes of woven seaweed and a tall pale crown made from Nagga’s teeth.  But that was in the dawn of days, when mighty men still dwelt on earth and sea.  The hall had been warmed by Nagga’s living fire, which the Grey King had made his thrall.  On its walls hung tapestries woven from silver seaweed most pleasing to the eyes. The Grey King’s warriors had feasted on the bounty of the sea at a table in the shape of a great starfish, whilst seated upon thrones carved from mother- of- pearl.  Gone, all the glory gone.  Men were smaller now.  Their lives had grown short.  The Storm God drowned Nagga’s fire after the Grey King’s death, the chairs and tapestries had been stolen, the roof and walls had rotted away.  Even the Grey King’s great throne of fangs had been swallowed by the sea.  Only Nagga’s bones endured to remind the ironborn of all the wonder that had been.  

Before we discuss the ribs themselves, there’s a couple of tasty “sea dragon as a piece of drowned moon” clues I want to point out. The notion of the Grey King’s throne being made from Nagga’s fangs introduces the idea of furniture made of sea dragon, and the table made in the shape of a starfish and mother-of-pearl thrones actually play into this idea as well. By now we know what kind of star becomes a fish – a moon which turns into a sea dragon. The mother-of-pearl thrones suggest same thing, because pearls have always been associated with the moon due to their clear resemblance, and pearls are also found in the ocean, as our sea dragon meteorite was. The point is that all of the “furniture” in this scene is made of things which symbolize the sea dragon.

Now to the important stuff: the bones of the sea dragon look like the trunks of great pale trees. Most people believe that’s exactly whether are – petrified weirwood. They are used in place of beams and pillars, things normally made of wood.  We are given the exact same analogy by Victorian in his “The Iron Captain” chapter of Feast:

The wind was blowing from the north as the Iron Victory came round the point and entered the holy bay called Nagga’s Cradle. Victarion joined Nute the Barber at her prow. Ahead loomed the sacred shore of Old Wyk and the grassy hill above it, where the ribs of Nagga rose from the earth like the trunks of great white trees, as wide around as a dromond’s mast and twice as tall. 

It seems that George really wants us to think of those ribs in relation to weirwood trees.  Best of all, there’s a direct comparison drawn between the sea dragon’s ribs, white trees, and the masts of ships, which does a splendid job of firming up our interpretation of the sea dragon / boat symbolism in the burning of the Seven scene.  Recall that it was the masts of the Targaryen ships that became the burning gods, and so it seems we are indeed meant to associate the masts of ships with the trunks of trees, or burning trees when they are on fire.  Masts are after all made from the trunks of trees, so we are not really talking about anything super esoteric here.  As an aside, this is a really big ship we are talking about if Victarion’s estimation of size is anywhere close to accurate.  This thing is like the Ironborn version of Noah’s arc.

There’s yet another thinly-veiled reinforcement of the idea that Nagga’s bones are made of weirwood in The World of Ice and Fire:

The power wielded by these prophets of the Drowned God over the Ironborn should not be underestimated.  Only they could summon kingsmoots, and woe to the man, be he lord or king, who dared defy them.  The greatest of the priests was the towering prophet Galon Whitestaff, so-called for the tall, carved staff he carried everywhere to smite the ungodly.  (In some tales his staff was made of weirwood, in others from one of Nagga’s bones.)  

Nagga’s bones and weirwood are interchangeable because they are the same thing – that’s the clear implication here.  As for weirwood turning to stone, we learn from Lord Tytos Blackwood that the maesters say that weirwood trees turn to stone after a thousand years or so – they apparently never rot.  Never rotting is a good thing for making boats, but turning to stone is not.  Remember to not skimp on the 500 year warrantee for your weirwood boat – make sure to get at least go with the 1000 year option, you know?  Of course, if your boat does turn to stone, you can always make a building out of it.  Petrifying pale trees give us pale stone, naturally, which is how Nagga’s bones are described.  Also noteworthy is the fact that weirwood trees are repeatedly referred to as “bone white” or “blood and bone.” The trees are like bones… and the bones are like trees.

Stonetree

image courtesy awoiaf.westeros.org

George has given us a sigil-based hint about this too: there’s a House Stonetree who, like  House Volmark of the Black Leviathan, does fealty to House Harlaw of the silver scythe.  The sigil of House Stonetree is, predictably, a grey stone tree on a field of black.  What is this sigil even supposed to mean?  ..and I’m talking about inside the context of the story, not symbolic meaning.  There must be some idea about stone trees floating around out there.  Get it?  Stone trees, floating around? It’s a sea dragon joke… anyway. When Asha comes to Ten Towers, the seat of Rodrick the Reader Harlaw, she sees the stone tree and black leviathan sigils amongst those gathered, which is a nice pairing of sea dragon symbols ready to serve the grim reaper and his moon sickle.  The black leviathan and stone tree are like parallel symbols, each representing one aspect of the sea dragon – the black sea dragon meteorite, and the petrified stone trees remembered as Nagga’s bones.

I think the evidence is overwhelming – Nagga’s ribs are made of petrified weirwood.  I used to think about them as a dead weirwood circle, such as we find on a place called Sea Dragon Point (as a matter of fact), but History of Westeros forum user Vaxis convinced me otherwise with his excellent arguments, pointing to this quote from A Feast for Crows regarding the Damphair:

It was there beneath the arch of Nagga’s ribs that his drowned men found him, standing tall and stern with his long black hair blowing in the wind.

So they aren’t just pillars or tree trunks – they apparently form an arch.  This is what would make them look like ribs – if they weren’t arched together, they would just look like pillars.  The Grey King was said to have built a longhall “about her bones, using her ribs as beams and rafters” in the Worldbook, meaning that he built around the “skeleton” as is, as opposed to sawing the bones into boards and beams and then building out of them. He couldn’t have used the ribs as rafters unless they curved together to make a roof.  No, I think we are to imagine something that really looks like a rib cage – or more likely, the overturned hull of a boat made from weirwood.

As I said at the top, this is exactly what the Grey King was said to do:

The Grey King also taught men to weave nets and sails and carved the first longship from the hard pale wood of Ygg, a demon tree who fed on human flesh. 

As I mentioned, the weirwood trees and the greenseer bond are heavily based on Yggdrasil and Odin, making this talk of Ygg a clear reference to weirwood, and thus to making a boat of weirwood. The reference to feeding on human flesh would seem to refer to the ancient Northman custom of human sacrifice in front of heart trees, again pointing to Ygg as a weirwood. I think it all fits together pretty nicely – the Grey King was said to have made a boat from weirwood, and there it is, flipped upside down and used for a longhall. Very utilitarian of Grey King – waste not, want not, after all. The next question is where the boat was made – locally, as the myth implies, or is this the boat of of an immigrant people sailing to Westeros? It’s certainly big enough to be the sort of ocean-going vessel need for long distance sea travel. Perhaps when they arrived they used the frame of the boat hull for a longhall because it was simply all they had.

The giveaway clue about about the Grey King’s hall being a flipped over boat hull can actually be found when the wildlings attack the Wall with something they call a turtle in ASOS. It says “The turtle had a rounded top and eight huge wheels, and under the hides was a stout wooden frame. When the wildlings had begun knocking it together, Satin thought they were building a ship. Not far wrong. The turtle was a hull turned upside down and opened fore and aft; a longhall on wheels.” And there you have it – the hull of a boat, flipped over, is like a longhall. It’s even named after a sea creature! I know a turtle isn’t quite as impressive as a sea dragon, but then again the turtle god of the Rhoynish, the Old Man of the River, does make quite an entrance in ADWD. He’s even got a mean pair of horns and a fearsome bellow! Anyway, you see the point: if a boat were made of weirwood, and the frame of it flipped over, it would look like a Longhall. After a few centuries, the weirwood would turn to pale stone, everything else would rot away and disappear, and you’d have something that might look like the huge stone skeleton of a sea monster.

Figuring out that Nagga’s “ribs” is actually the hull of giant boat made of weirwood tells us a couple of things.  First, it corroborates the legend of the Grey King making weirwood boats, making his overall legendary status just a bit more historical.  It opens up the question of foreign immigrants to the Iron Islands, or rather adds fuel to that fire which was already burning.  We will return to the discussion about the possible foreign origins of the ancestors of the Ironborn another time, but now I want to focus on the other implication of Nagga’s bones being made of weirwood, and that’s the persistent and seemingly inexplicable involvement of weirwood in Ironborn myth.

I mentioned weirwood circles at a place called Sea Dragon Point a moment ago – you know there’s bound to be some good sea dragon clues at a place called Sea Dragon Point, right?  To begin with, it has weirwood circles, which makes perfect sense when you figure out that Nagga’s bones were once weirwood.  Consider the name, Sea Dragon POINT – sea dragon has a point like a sword because the sea dragon meteor was the sword which plunged into the bowels of the ocean.  That’s a nice one, right? There’s more Sea Dragon point goodness in Asha’s “the Wayward Bride” chapter of A Dance with Dragons, one of my very favorite chapters, and it’s there that we’ll find our next clues about the mysterious presence of weirwoods in Ironborn myth.

“And there is still Sea Dragon Point … if I cannot have my father’s kingdom, why not make one of my own?” Sea Dragon Point had not always been as thinly peopled as it was now. Old ruins could still be found amongst its hills and bogs, the remains of ancient strongholds of the First Men. In the high places, there were weirwood circles left by the children of the forest.

“You are clinging to Sea Dragon Point the way a drowning man clings to a bit of wreckage. What does sea dragon have that anyone could ever want?”
. . . 
“What’s there? I’ll tell you… tall pines for building ships.”

There’s the line about weirwood circles at Sea Dragon Point. Asha thinking about setting up a new kingdom there make me think of the first Ironborn, perhaps setting up a new kingdom at the place where the sea dragon landed, the Iron Islands.  Also found at Sea Dragon Point – tall trees to build ships with, a great sea dragon-as-a-boat clue.  Trisitifer Botley says that Asha clings to Sea Dragon like a drowning man clings to a bit of wreckage, creating the image of sea dragon as the wreckage of a boat in similar fashion to Theon calling the broken hulls of the boats at Lordsport leviathans.

One of the primary conclusions to draw from this repeated association between weirwood and the sea dragon has to do with the hammer of the waters: the greenseers were said to be the ones who called down the hammer. Weirwoods and greenseers go hand in hand, so associating weirwood with the sea dragon makes sense if the sea dragon and the Hammer of the Waters were both moon meteors, as I propose. To support this idea, I will return to the Wayward Bride chapter. By the way, Asha herself is the wayward bride, as she has fled her arranged marriage to Eric Ironmaker, and the phrase more broadly refers to a moon goddess who has wandered out of course.

She wondered who was in command of her foes. If it were me, I would take the strand and put our longships to the torch before attacking Deepwood . The wolves would not find that easy, though, not without longships of their own. Asha never beached more than half her ships. The other half stood safely off to sea, with orders to raise sail and make for Sea Dragon Point if the northmen took the strand. “Hagen, blow your horn and make the forest shake. Tris, don some mail, it’s time you tried out that sweet sword of yours.” When she saw how pale he was, she pinched his cheek. “Splash some blood upon the moon with me, and I promise you a kiss for every kill.”

We have some ship burning being suggested, giving us the burning wood / burning sea dragon idea again, and then talk of the moon maiden’s fleet descending on sea dragon point to represent the fall of the sea dragon moon meteors. Then comes a rapid fire sequence of symbolic references: the sea dragon, then a horn blowing that makes the forest shake – think of the celestial tree shaking here as well as the earth as the horn sounds – then moon maiden Asha wants to see Tristifer’s sweet sword, and finally, there’s talk of splashing blood on the moon amidst some sex and sword play language – “a kiss for every kill.” There’s a line from earlier about killing moons and kissing moons at the same time:

Asha took Tris Botley by the ears and kissed him full upon the lips. He was red and breathless by the time she let him go. “What was that?” he said. “A kiss, it’s called. Drown me for a fool, Tris, I should have remembered— ” She broke off suddenly. When Tris tried to speak, she shushed him, listening. “That’s a warhorn. Hagen.” 

This time Asha the moon maiden says “drown me” right after kissing Tristifer means Lightbringer— I mean Tristifer Botley.  And then, a horn sounds. The wording here is exceedingly  clever – the moon maiden “breaks off suddenly” when the horn sounds. The moon.. breaks off suddenly…  I’ve actually read this passage many times but I only just recently noticed that line. The allusion to the Qarthine lunar origin of dragons myth is clear: the moon wandered too close to the sun, kissed it, and was cracked; when Asha the Wayward moon bride is kissed, she breaks off suddenly and commands people to drown her.

The symbolic references to the idea of greenseers calling down the Hammer of the Waters by breaking the moon gets really thick a bit later in this chapter:

Tall soldier pines and gnarled old oaks closed in around them. Deepwood was aptly named. The trees were huge and dark, somehow threatening. Their limbs wove through one another and creaked with every breath of wind, and their higher branches scratched at the face of the moon. The sooner we are out of here, the better I will like it , Asha thought. The trees hate us all, deep in their wooden hearts.

Just as we saw the spiky iron battlements of the Hammerhorn keep clawing at the moon, here we have the finger-like tree branches scratching the face of the moon. Now that’s what I call threatening. This chapter is full of personification of trees as human, including the Northmen who actually dress as trees. The trees seem to whispering to each other in a secret language, Asha thinks to herself, and we know that whispering leaves is the communication of the weirwoods. Later, Asha thinks that “the trees will kill us if they can.” That’s pretty great – they’ll kill everyone by scratching the moon and bringing it down. Asha represents the moon, so it makes sense that the trees have antipathy for both Asha and the moon. To be clear, I am interpreting the personified trees here as greenseers, people who have symbiotic relationships with trees, and the clues about them scratching the moon as referring to the idea of greenseers bringing down the moon.  There’s another line about this:

The trees hid the moon and stars from them, and the forest floor beneath their feet was black and treacherous. 

The treacherous forest hides the moon and stars because treacherous greenseers brought down the hammer of the waters, and the hammer was a moon meteor which brought on the Long Night. That’s my theory, anyway. There’s a wonderful companion line back in Feast, from the Damphair as he calls for the Kingsmoot, an idea he got while listening to the language of leviathan in the surf:

“Seek the hill of Nagga and the bones of the Grey King’s Hall, for in that holy place when the moon has drowned and come again we shall make ourselves a worthy king, a godly king.” He raised his bony hands on high again. “Listen! Listen to the waves! Listen to the god! He is speaking to us, and he says, We shall have no king but from the kingsmoot! ” 

The moon drowns at the place where the sea dragon died, because the sea dragon was a piece of dead moon.  That’s when we will make a new godly king, or perhaps god-king is the right expression. That would be Azor Ahai reborn, who symbolizes the reborn sun and moon. Azor Ahai reborn is the drowned moon come again – it’s the same thing as saying Azor Ahai reborn can also be considered Nissa Nissa reborn. Damphair may be prophesying the rebirth of Azor Ahai and another moon disaster right here!

In support of the connection between Azor Ahai reborn and a drowned moon which rises again from the sea, I have found a little-noticed line in A Storm of Swords which suggests that Azor Ahai reborn may indeed have some kind of oceanic origin:

His hand swept across the Painted Table. “How many boys dwell in Westeros? How many girls? How many men, how many women? The darkness will devour them all, she says. The night that never ends. She talks of prophecies … a hero reborn in the sea, living dragons hatched from dead stone … she speaks of signs and swears they point to me.” 

Reborn in the sea, you don’t say. Apparently Stannis has heard a slightly different version of the Azor Ahai reborn prophecy than we have, presumably from Melisandre. This seems like a total throw-away line when you first read it, as there’s no immediately obvious way to connect Azor Ahai with being reborn in the sea… but now that we know that the sea dragon is one aspect of Azor Ahai being reborn, we can connect the idea of the Ironnborn bringing the sea dragon’s fire out of the ocean with Azor Ahai being reborn in the sea. We can also take that as further corroboration that the fire of the sea dragon which the Ironborn possessed is directly related to Lightbringer and the moon meteors, and to the idea that Azor Ahai was reborn as a merling. Ha, just checking to see if you were paying attention. I will also mention that Daenerys was reborn in the Dothraki Sea, and was of course born on Dragonstone, a rock in the middle of the sea associated with dragons.

So, after exploring the weirwood symbolism of the sea dragon, we have several parallels emerging between the Grey King, Azor Ahai, and greenseers, and they raise some interesting questions. First and foremost, who broke the moon?

If the sea dragon was a moon meteor, and the Grey King slew the sea dragon, then doesn’t that make the Grey King the moon breaker? He also called the fire down from heaven in the Storm God’s thunderbolt story, again putting him in the position of moon breaker.

But if the Hammer of the Waters was a moon meteor called down by some group of treacherous greenseers, that means that greenseers broke the moon too…

…and then there’s that fellow Azor Ahai who also has a thing or two to say about breaking the moon.  What’s the deal here?  Who actually performed this dastardly deed?

The point of stealing the moon seems to have been possession of the fire of the gods, and all three of these do indeed possess that very fire.  The Grey King stole the fire of the gods twice over, Azor Ahai stole the fire of the gods in the form of Lightbringer and the black meteor, and the burning tree represents a weirwood, whose power also represents the fire of the gods, and is possessed by the greenseers! How does this all fit together?


The Weirwood Crown

This section is brought to you by our newest member of the Long Night’s Watch: The Smiling Wolf, Lord Steven Stark of the Broken Tower, Jedi of Just-Ice, he who awaits the Corn King; our newest zodiac Patron, Durran Durrandon, the red fish blue fish, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Pisces whose eyes are ruby and sapphire and whose sword is pale fire, and our beloved Mallory Sand, Storm Witch, the Hand of the Dragon, Rider of Zulfric the Black Beast, and Guardian of the Celestial Galley (a.k.a. The Weirwood Submarine)


So how does all of this fit together?  Well for starters, I think there is a good case to be made for the Grey King being a greenseer at one point.  That’s one way the stories can begin to line up – if the Grey King was a greenseer, then both greenseers and the Grey King can be said to have called down the meteor fire from heaven.

As to Grey King’s greenseer status, consider the three things that he supposedly had that were made from Nagga’s bones: besides the longhall he made from her ribs, we have the throne made from her jaws and the pale crown made from her teeth.  All of these make a great deal more sense when thought of as being made of weirwood, and since Nagga’s “rib bones” turned out to be made of weirwood, let’s consider the throne and crown in that light. The Grey King’s pale crown, instead of being made of sea dragon teeth, becomes a weirwood crown – this would have perhaps been the model for the driftwood crowns later worn by the Driftwood Kings of the Ironborn. In fact, The World of Ice and Fire also talks of the Grey King being remembered in some tales as having worn the first driftwood crown, which would indicate some kind of pale wooden crown is likely to be the truth here, not a crown of teeth.

There’s a clue about this in the paragraph we already cited where Aeron describes Nagga’s Hill:

On the crown of the hill four- and- forty monstrous stone ribs rose from the earth like the trunks of great pale trees.

It’s a weirwood crown, get it?  The weirwood ‘ribs’ rise from the ‘crown’ of the sea dragon hill, giving the hill a weirwood crown.  I thought that was a pretty nice one.  The name of the island – Old Wyk – could be intended to suggest fire, as in a candle wick, so the idea of a burning weirwood crown may be here as well.

The Grey King upon his throne, as depicted by Arthur Bozonnet in The World of Ice and Fire

The Grey King upon his throne, as depicted by Arthur Bozonnet in The World of Ice and Fire

Grey King’s throne, instead of being fashioned from jaws of a sea monster, becomes a weirwood throne, and this too would make more sense than a throne made from a sea dragon skull, as metal as that would be. A weirwood throne would also make Grey King sound an awful lot like a greenseer – sitting in a weirwood throne in a weirwood hall with weirwood branches wrapped around his head. I mean, shit, he sounds just like Bloodraven:

Before them a pale lord in ebon finery sat dreaming in a tangled nest of roots, a woven weirwood throne that embraced his withered limbs as a mother does a child. His body was so skeletal and his clothes so rotted that at first Bran took him for another corpse, a dead man propped up so long that the roots had grown over him, under him, and through him. What skin the corpse lord showed was white, save for a bloody blotch that crept up his neck onto his cheek. His white hair was fine and thin as root hair and long enough to brush against the earthen floor. Roots coiled around his legs like wooden serpents.

The Three-Eyed Crow - by Marc Simonetti ©

The three-eyed crow – by Marc Simonetti ©

The corpse lord sits in a weirwood throne, wrapped in weirwood – famously, one goes through his blind eye. Coiled around his legs are white wooden serpents, a perfect companion to the idea or a weirwood boat remembered as a sea dragon. White weirwood sea dragon, white weirwood serpents – it’s a nice match. Bloodraven himself is a white weirwood dragon, for that matter, combining both dragon and weirwood symbolism, just as the sea dragon does. We also need to remember one other detail about the Grey King: he was something of a corpse lord too.  From The World of Ice and Fire:

From there he ruled the Iron Islands for a thousand years, until his skin had turned as grey as his hair and beard.

Aeron Damphair is more specific, saying that the Grey King reigned for “one thousand years and seven.”  The point is – he had an unnaturally long life span, like Bloodraven (and then some), and turned grey, which I would call corpse-like.  In fact, we’ve seen a thousand year old face before, and it resembles a corpse:

It was white weirwood, and there was a face on it. A glow came from the wood, like milk and moonlight, so faint it scarcely seemed to touch anything beyond the door itself, not even Sam standing right before it. The face was old and pale, wrinkled and shrunken. It looks dead. Its mouth was closed, and its eyes; its cheeks were sunken, its brow withered, its chin sagging. If a man could live for a thousand years and never die but just grow older, his face might come to look like that.

That was from A Storm of Swords, at the Black Gate below the Nightfort. “If a man could live a thousand years and never die but just grow older…” …well that’s what the Grey King was said to have done. We’ve found a match for Grey King’s description as a thousand year old man, and it’s a dead-looking weirwood face that talks. You can see how this begins to come together: when we read about Grey King living a thousand years and growing grey and corpse-like and when we realize that his throne and crown were probably weirwood, he really begins to sound a lot like some sort of greenseer.

Here’s where the fire of the gods stuff comes in again. Our pal the Grey King possessed the fire of the gods in two forms: he possessed the “living fire of the sea dragon” and he stole fire from the Storm God via the burning tree. Both of those myths have a laying of meaning which points to weirwood, as we have seen – the “sea dragon” bones are really weirwood, so possessing the sea dragon’s fire could imply possessing the power of the weirwoods… which you do by sitting in a weirwood throne, as the Grey King may have done. The burning tree, on the other hand, is a symbol for a weirwood, and possessing the the fire of the gods through the burning tree again sounds like the Grey King was sitting under a ‘burning tree’ and possessing its fire.

Therefore, I think we have every reason to believe he was a greenseer in one form or another.

Just as we’ve seen that the sea dragon seems to refer to both white weirwood and black meteors, we find the same dichotomy expressed in the crowns and thrones of the Ironborn. As an opposite to the Grey King’s white weirwood throne, supposedly made of sea dragon jaws, we have the Seastone Chair, a throne carved from an oily black stone. But if the oily black stones are meteorites as I suggest, then this too is sea dragon furniture. As an opposite to the Grey King’s weirwood crown, we have the black iron crown worn by the iron kings and more recently Balon Greyjoy. It isn’t said to be made of oily black stone, but it is simply the familiar black iron crown symbol which signifies an inverted solar king, and black iron was taken from the meteorites to make swords with.

Recall Theon carrying Robb’s letter which he thought of as being as good as a crown, because it fits the pattern too. The white parchment crown is a clever way of alluding to a pale wooden crown, since parchment is made from trees or plants, and of course it later turns black, curls up, and catches on fire, making it a perfect match to the round tower top of Castle Pyke which is blackened by soot from the nightfires.

Throughout all of its symbolism, the sea dragon continues to show us black meteors and white weirwood trees.  The big question is, how do those two things come together?  What is the link between weirwoods and the moon meteors?

The first part of the answer I’ve already suggested: the greenseers were said to have called down the hammer of the waters, and the hammer of the waters was a moon meteor. The Grey King called down moon meteors in two different stories, so this would all make a lot more sense if the Grey King is a greenseer – one of the ones who was somehow responsible for bringing down the moon. As to how you steer a comet into a moon… well more on that in a future episode.

As I’ve said before, I’ve never bought the idea that the children of the forest were the greenseers who broke the Arm of Dorne and called down the hammer; rather, I’ve always thought it more likely that human greenseers were the ones who abused their access to magical power and caused this great disaster. I’m thinking that eventually, all deeds ever committed by greenseers of any kind probably came to be attributed to the children of the forest, because the memory of human greenseers has almost completely faded. I believe human greenseer kings were a thing in the Dawn Age, to say the least.

I’ve also jokingly called these potential greenseers who broke the moon “naughty greenseers,” because I believe they were doing something quite naughty, for lack of a desire to use a more serious word. These would have been treacherous, rebel greenseers who were violating the natural order. Stealing from the gods, breaking the cycles of nature – that’s the idea. The children of the forest are content to pass quietly into the night, having elapsed their given time on the earth, but the anyone who tries to gain the cup of immortality is defying the life and death cycle. The Grey King seems like such a figure, potentially, a greenseer who called down the black moon meteors in order to possess the fire of the gods.

It’s probably also pretty obvious to you that Azor Ahai fits this description as well, someone who brought down the moon goddess to possess her fire. It could be that Azor Ahai and Grey King are completely separate dudes on separate continents whose mythology both sprang up around becoming a powerful king at the time when the black meteors fell. But as I’ve said before, I think the Azor Ahai story has to end in Westeros, or else it’s simply hard to see how it’s relevant to the main story, and we’ve spent way too much time on it in the books for it to be irrelevant.

I’ve found many clues indicating that Azor Ahai did indeed come to Westeros, by dragon and by boat, and therefore it is entirely possible, and I’d even say probable, that the Grey King mythology does in part refer to the deeds of Azor Ahai, perhaps transposed on top of a more local hero or heroes who established the Ironborn fishing and sea going culture – making the first boats, being the first great king who founded a dynasty there, etc. The sea dragons as boats idea also suggests a storm of invading sea dragon boats – fiery people from over the sea, immigrating to or invading Westeros, which could be Azor Ahai’s fleet of “pirates from Asshai,” as I like to call them. As we have seen in our study of the Great Empire of the Dawn and Asshai with History of Westeros, there is credible reason to think that some sort of Asshai-to-Westeros contact did occur around or before the time of the Long Night, and thus there may be a plausible mechanism to explain how the matching mythologies of Azor Ahai and the Grey King may be referring to the same events and people, at least in some cases.

Now, if the Grey King and Azor Ahai are in some sense the same person or at least, if their stories refers to the same deeds and events, and if the Grey King was one of these naughty greenseers, does it follow that Azor Ahai was a naughty greenseer?

Yes, absolutely, that’s exactly the point. Azor Ahai was a greenseer! – a naughty one who transformed himself with fire magic through the stealing of the moon. It’s the same logic here as with the Grey King – if the greenseers had something to do with calling down the hammer, and if the hammer was a moon meteor, and if Azor Ahai broke the moon as his legend says he did, then it is possible that the answer to these seemingly conflicting tales is that Azor Ahai was a greenseer who broke the moon. I think that’s the case, and there’s a quite a bit of really excellent symbolism to support this idea. It begins with the burning tree symbol.

The central aspect of the Lightbringer forging metaphor is transformation. Nissa NIssa and the moon she represents were transformed when they were stabbed by Lightbringer, and Azor Ahai and the sun he represents were transformed and turned dark through the dark deeds that went down during the Long Night. We’ve talked about the moon transformation quite extensively, and here I’d like to focus on Azor Ahai’s transformation, which mirrors that of the sun. The smoke and ash from the moon meteor impacts are what clouded the sky and darkened the sun, transforming it into the night sun, and in parallel fashion, I think the black meteors were used by the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai to work dark magic that had a transformative effect on himself. That’s how he became the Bloodstone Emperor, after all. This transformation act was a result of his taking possession of the fire of the gods.

This exact idea is also found in the Grey King myth, I believe. If the tree set ablaze by the thunderbolt represents a weirwood, the Grey King must have bonded with it, thereby transforming himself to obtain the fire of the gods, just as Azor Ahai did. He may have even had to die and be resurrected at some point, and the same is true of Azor Ahai.

Similarly, we might also interpret the lighting of the tree on fire as the activation of the weirwood bond – before the tree was ablaze, it wouldn’t look like a weirwood, after all. Without the weirwood bond, a human cannot access the god-like power of the weirwoodnet. The powers of astral projection, limited time travel, unlimited peeping tom-ability, and long life which the weirwoodnet connection offers IS the fire of the old gods, the knowledge and magic of the old gods. If the thunderbolt set the tree on fire, it might mean that the meteor strike triggered some sort of change to the weirwoods, perhaps activating them or corrupting them or allowing humans access to the weirwoodnet. These are all ideas we will follow up on in the future.

And now it’s time to get to the really really good part of this episode, something I’ve been working to get to for a long time now.  Thus it is my pleasure to present to you…


Greenseers of Fire

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Alright friends, we’ve got one section left and it’s a really important section.  I almost broke it off into its own little podcast, but it’s really the cherry on top of everything we’ve established so far in this episode.  Having just presented you with the theory that the Grey King and Azor Ahai stories are both referring to a greenseer (or group of greenseers) who pulled down the moon and transformed himself or themselves through the fire magic of the moon meteors, I feel the need to provide some supporting evidence, beyond what we have laid out already.  Obviously we are near the end of the episode here so we’re only just going to scratch the surface, which is why I’m calling this episode the start of a new compendium based around weirwood and greenseers – subsequent episodes will build on these ideas.

Right now we are going to tie a bow on this episode by examining the all-important burning tree symbol and how it relates to the idea of a fiery greenseer.

Azor Ahai is a fiery sorcerer.  He’s a magician and a warrior of fire, and he seems to have transformed himself through he use of fire magic and blood magic, and possibly a bit of “meteor magic.” The thing is, there is a persistent connection between burning trees – especially burning weirwoods – and fiery sorcerers. Many times, we find burning wood present at Lightbringer forging scenes, and from those symbolic bonfires, we see descriptions of fiery sorcerers waking and emerging.  We’ve actually been seeing them for five books now, and I think you’ll be surprised to see all these quotes that have them hidden in plain sight.  This will be kind of like a Where’s Waldo-style hunt for fiery sorcerers that runs through many of the best Lightbringer forging reenactment scenes in the series.  We are going to take a look at six such scenes where the fiery sorcerers appear:

  • Arya and the Night’s Watch recruits the abandoned holdfast near Harrenhall
  • the scene at the Red Temple where Benerro pantomimes the destruction of the moon
  • the burning of the Seven on Dragonstone
  • the Alchemical Wedding
  • the dragon-on-dragon battle between Moondancer and Sunfyre from the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons
  • Jon and Quorin in the Frostfangs right before Jon is forced to kill Quorin

The premise is this: the burning tree symbol represents the weirwoods, and more specifically, it represents the weirwoods as a source of divine power that man can tap into. The burning tree is set ablaze by the thunderbolt strike of the Storm God, which represents a meteor strike, and thus we can say that the burning tree seems to exist at the location of a moon meteor impact, or perhaps more generally that the burning tree and the moon meteors landing on the Planetos are somehow linked. What we will see in the following scenes are depictions of fiery sorcerers waking and emerging from burning wood at the same time and place that the forging of Lightbringer or the landing of one of the Lightbringer meteors is symbolized. What exactly this means, we will try to discover as we go, but right at the start I am asserting that these fiery sorcerers are representative of a greenseer transforming himself through fire, and that this seems to have been made possible by the moon meteors and / or the events of the Long Night. This, I believe, is the truth behind the myths of the Grey King and Azor Ahai.

The first scene we will take a look at is the scene from A Clash of Kings where Arya, Yoren and the Nights Watch recruits are trapped in the small abandoned holdfast near Harrenhall. The star of the scene is an actual burning tree, but the set up to that is important. Yoren’s company are besieged by Ser Amory Lorch, whose sigil contains a black manticore and three golden coins (gold coins being dragons in Westeros). As we are about to see, Ser Amory’s attack is very much a reenactment of the attack of the dragon meteors on Planetos:

For a moment she thought the town was full of lantern bugs.  Then she realized they were men with torches, galloping between the houses.  She saw a roof go up, flames licking at the belly of the night with hot orange tongues as the thatch caught.  Another followed, and then another, and soon there were fires blazing everywhere.  Gendry climbed up beside her, wearing his helm.  “How many?” 

Arya tried to count, but they were riding too fast, torches spinning through the air as they flung them.  “A hundred,” she said. “Two hundred, I don’t know.”  Over the roar of the flames, she could hear shouts.  “They’ll come for us soon.” 

“There,” Gendry said, pointing.  A column of riders moved between the burning buildings toward the holdfast.  Firelight glittered off metal helms and spattered their mail and plate with orange and yellow highlights.  One carried a banner on a tall lance.  She thought it was red, but it was hard to tell in the night, with the fires roaring all around. Everything seemed red or black or orange. The fire leapt from one house to another.

There are two ideas in those quotes which work as a set-up to the payoff line in this scene: the flames personified as a living thing, and the living soldiers personified as beings of fire. These are two sides of the same coin which work to show us beings made of fire – the fire is described like a person, and the people are described like flame. Starting with the anthropomorphized fire, we see flames lick at the belly of the night with orange tongues and leap from one house to another, like some kind of wild animal, and twice the fire is also roaring like an animal, as if the fire has become some kind of beast.

More importantly, we have the fiery soldiers.  Ser Amory’s men with torches are first equated with lantern bugs – flying things associated with fire. The fire reflects off their helms and armor, making them look as if their armor were made of fire. These fiery lantern bug knights send their torches spinning through the air like spinning meteors. There’s a line a bit further on that says “A torch sailed spinning above their heads, trailing fingers of fire as it thumped down in the dirt of the yard,” after which which Yoren immediately shouts  “Blades!”, which I take for a clue to associate the spinning torches with blades, as in the flaming swords of the moon meteor shower. Notice that the torch trails “fingers of fire,” almost as if the lantern bug men had thrown their fiery hands at Arya and company – this is a representation of the fiery hand of R’hllor symbol which we know and love. Like the fiery tongues, “fingers of fire” also works to create the image of a being made of fire.

We also get spears being hurled from out of “the fire-bright shadows,” reminding us of the meteors-as-sun-spears symbolism and the idea of fire shadows – Melisandre’s shadow babies born of Stannis’s life fires, or Drogon the Winged Shadow who spits black fire, both of which are prime black meteor symbols.  After the soldiers get inside the holdfast, there’s a line where they are described as “steel shadows” with “flames shining off their mail and blades,” meaning that our steel shadows have fiery swords now as well as fiery armor.  Recall that when the Ghost of High Heart sees the shadowbaby assassin in a vision as “a shadow with a burning heart.”

Finally, there are two references to storms: right before the spinning torches that make Yoren say “blades” comes flying over the wall, Ser Amory says “storm the gates,” so that’s a storm of meteor torches or fiery knights with fiery blades or however you want to say it.  Right before they storm the the castle, there’s a long discussion about whether or not Yoren’s group of Night’s Watch pledges might not be serving the rebel Lord Beric, the Lightning Lord with a flaming sword, and this serves to remind us of the connection between lightning and flaming swords.  There’s a terrific line where the sarcastic Yoren says “Are you blind man?  You see a bloody lightning bolt?”  That’s a tasty one because it links thunderbolt idea with blood, which is convenient if you have a theory about the Storm God’s thunderbolt being a bleeding star or a bloodstone moon meteor.

And then we get the payoff line:

 Arya saw a tree consumed, the flames creeping across its branches until it stood against the night in robes of living orange. 

In the center of it all, we have the burning tree, set ablaze by one of these twirling meteor-torches in a terrific echo of the Storm God’s thunderbolt meteor setting the Grey King’s tree ablaze. The burning tree here is rendered in grandiose fashion as it “stands against the night in robes of living orange,” almost like some kind of fire priest…  actually, just like a fire priest.  We are going to see that robes of flame are the hallmark of these fire sorcerers, beginning here with this burning tree.  This entire scene with Arya and the burning tree specifically evokes the symbols of the temple of R’hllor, so let’s take a look at our actual fire priests next.

This is the scene in Dance where Benerro pantomimes the moon destruction with his fist, a scene we’ve dissected several times.  I won’t quote it all – suffice to say it is a scene with heavy lightbringer forging and moon destruction symbolism going on.  There are many symbols in common with the Arya scene we just read, including fiery spears, the fiery hand, fiery knights, and those fiery robes.

The acolytes were clad in robes of pale yellow and bright orange, priests and priestesses in red.

Benerro’s high voice carried well.  Tall and thin, he had a drawn face and skin white as milk.  Flames had been tattooed across his cheeks and chin and shaven head to make a bright red mask that crackled about his eyes and coiled down and around his lipless mouth. “Is that a slave tattoo?” asked Tyrion.

The knight nodded. “The red temple buys them as children and makes them priests or temple prostitutes or warriors. Look there.” He pointed at the steps, where a line of men in ornate armor and orange cloaks stood before the temple’s doors, clasping spears with points like writhing flames. “The Fiery Hand. The Lord of Light’s sacred soldiers, defenders of the temple.” 

Fire knights. “And how many fingers does this hand have, pray?” 

“One thousand.” 

And then comes the moon destruction pantomime. This time we are focused instead on the fiery people and their fashionable attire. The burning tree in the last scene wore robes of living orange, and here we see robes of pale yellow and bright orange and red – it seems clear that the fire priests of R’hllor are trying to look as though they were robed in fire. Benerro and the other high priests of fire, such as Moqorro, take it one step further with their masks of writhing flame – they are tattooed to look like they literally made of living fire. I’ve speculated that this might be done in remembrance of some lost art of fire transformation, one which Melisandre may have rediscovered – and perhaps Moqorro too, since he survived ten days floating in the ocean without drowning or freezing. The idea of people made of fire is also represented in the fire knights, who are counted the fingers of R’hllor’s fiery hand, making them meteor symbols. The fire knights actually make a nice parallel to the knights with flames reflecting on their armor and swords in the last scene.

Melisandre, our first example of a fire priestess, has robes which are often described in similar terms: Davos recalls her in A Storm of Swords with the line “..her red gowns moving like flames as she walked, a swirl of silk and satin.” That compares very well with our tree wearing fiery robes of living orange. Melisandre, of course, burned the wooden statues of the Seven-Who-Used-To-Be-Sea-Dragon-Boats on Dragonstone. We’ll revisit that scene to observe the fire sorcerers woken there in a moment, but first there are some storm clues to clean up from the Benerro scene.

For a while Tyrion could still hear Benerro’s voice growing fainter at their back and the roars his words provoked, sudden as thunder.

Thunder, you don’t say?  That was the guy just hollering about the moon breaking into fiery fingers, right?  In the very next line after the thunder reference, we get a hammer reference:

They came upon a stable. The knight dismounted, then hammered on the door until a haggard slave with a horsehead on his cheek came running.

The hammering brings a horsehead, reminding us of the Dothraki custom of perceiving stars as horses, and what the horsehead person brings is yet another meteor symbol:

The manacles were black iron, thick and heavy, each weighing a good two pounds, if the dwarf was any judge. The chains added even more weight. “I must be more fearsome than I knew,” Tyrion confessed as the last links were hammered closed. Each blow sent a shock up his arm almost to the shoulder. “Or were you afraid that I would dash away on these stunted little legs of mine?”

Another hammering, and this time it sends a shock – think lightning and electricity – up his arm.  Think about an arm shocked by a hammer, and you’ll have it.  It’s that bloody lightning bolt Yoren was talking about, hammering the Arm of Dorne.  You’ll recall Tyrion’s arm-wounding scene from the Battle of the Green Fork which we examined previously, where he was hit by the Morningstar of a “white star wolf” (a Karstark), a scene which also symbolized the Hammer of the Waters breaking the arm of Dorne. The chain of black iron that sends hammer shocks up Tyrion’s arm is also a clue about the arm of Dorne, which, thanks to the hammering  of black iron thunderbolt meteorites, is now a chain of islands.  I don’t have time to break down this whole chapter, but right after this, Mormont and Tyrion cross the long bridge of Volantis – a bridge made of fused black stone with the aid of dragonfire and sorcery.  The black iron chain of the “bloody” manacles, as Tyrion calls them, is a perfect miniature symbolic companion to the black dragon stone bridge.  Jorah and Tyrion even cross  this bridge from East to West, just as the First Men would have crossed the Arm of Dorne from east to west in the Dawn Age before it became a chain of islands burnt by dragonfire.

Our next scene with fiery sorcerers and burning trees is the burning of the Seven on Dragonstone. Again we don’t need to quote very much of it, just the relevant lines. Remember that these burning gods represent both sea dragons, by way of their being Targaryen ships, as well as burning trees, because they are wooden masts, which are symbols of tree trunks, and also because what are thought of as the “bones” of the sea dragon are actually dead trees.

In any case, these burning gods apparently bought their outfits at the Red Temple outlet store in Asshai:

The morning air was dark with the smoke of burning gods.

They were all afire now, Maid and Mother, Warrior and Smith, the Crone with her pearl eyes and the Father with his gilded beard; even the Stranger, carved to look more animal than human. The old dry wood and countless layers of paint and varnish blazed with a fierce hungry light.
. . .
The burning gods cast a pretty light, wreathed in their robes of shifting flame, red and orange and yellow.
 

It’s those same fiery robes of red and orange and yellow. They are blazing and shining, but their smoke darkens the morning sky. Those are the burning sea dragon gods, and they are dressed like our fiery sorcerers. They were set on fire by Lightbringer, in a manner of speaking, or at least we can say that they burned while pierced with Lightbringer. Lightbringer is the fire of the gods come down to man, and it comes when the gods are set ablaze. This may support the idea that the thunderbolt-burning-a-tree-with-godly-fire idea translates to the weirwoodnet being made accessible or altered in some way by the impacts of the moon meteors.

There’s an additional tie to wierwood here as the wood of the statues of the gods of the Seven is called “old ,” like the Old Gods.  Melisandre proceeds to burn the Seven on Storms End shortly after this, and this time she also burns a giant weirwood from the Storm’s End godswood – what was in all likelihood at an 8,000 year-old tree at the least, from the days of Durran Godsgrief, the first Storm King.

All in all, this scene is tremendous and continues to yield up valuable clues: the fiery sorcerers emerge from the fire of the burning wooden sea dragon gods, a fire which also produces Lightbringer.

Let’s now take the search for fiery sorcerers to the Alchemical Wedding.  If the fiery sorcerers are an important part of the Lightbringer forging chain of events, then they will surely put in an appearance at the Alchemical wedding… and indeed they do.

The flames writhed before her like the women who had danced at her wedding, whirling and singing and spinning their yellow and orange and crimson veils, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat. Dany opened her arms to them, her skin flushed and glowing. This is a wedding, too, she thought. 

The flames were so beautiful, the loveliest things she had ever seen, each one a sorcerer robed in yellow and orange and scarlet, swirling long smoky cloaks. 

Once again, fiery sorcerers dressed in fiery robes of red, orange, and yellow are awakening from the bonfire of lightbringer’s cradle, just as they did at the burning of the Seven on Dragonstone. The language is quite explicit here – they are fiery sorcerers, and they come to life along with the moon dragons at lightbringer’s forging. You can see that George is really sticking to the same language – fiery robes and cloaks, red, orange and yellow… and perhaps a bit of smoke.

We also see the inclusion of fiery dancers waking from the flames, and actually I think these are the same people, because there’s a whole line of symbolism about dancing and the horned moon that we’ll get into eventually. Consider the dragon known as Moondancer, whom we hear about the The Princess and the Queen – moon dancer is a green dragon with pearl horns and claws.  She’s actually set on fire by a dragon named Sunfyre in a reenactment of — oh what’s that, you want to hear the quote?  That’s terrific, because there is more fire-masquerading-as-clothing going on, and because this is just as sweet paragraph of hot dragon-on-dragon action:

They met amidst the darkness that comes before the dawn, shadows in the sky lighting the night with their fires. Moondancer eluded Sunfyre’s flames, eluded his jaws, darted beneath his grasping claws, then came around and raked the larger dragon from above, opening a long smoking wound down his back and tearing at his injured wing. Watchers below said that Sunfyre lurched drunkenly in the air, fighting to stay aloft, whilst Moondancer turned and came back at him, spitting fire. Sunfyre answered with a furnace blast of golden flame so bright it lit the yard below like a second sun, a blast that took Moondancer full in the eyes. Like as not, the young dragon was blinded in that instant, yet still she flew on, slamming into Sunfyre in a tangle of wings and claws. As they fell, Moondancer struck at Sunfyre’s neck repeatedly, tearing out mouthfuls of flesh, whilst the elder dragon sank his claws into her underbelly. Robed in fire and smoke, blind and bleeding, Moondancer’s wings beat desperately as she tried to break away, but all her efforts did was slow their fall.

Pretty epic, right?  This is really fantastic mythical astronomy here – sun and moon colliding and destroying each other, exactly the picture of the eclipse followed by the explosion which the Qarthine myth describes as the moon “wandering too close to the sun and cracking from thereat.”  The thing that falls out of the sky represents the Lightbringer meteor, and it is made of the sun and the moon, just as I’ve been saying, and it is a bloody and flaming dragon ball that is like a second sun, reinforcing the idea of Lightbringer as a second sun.  Moondancer is blinded, representing the torn-out-moon-eyes symbolic motif we’ve talked quite a bit about…

…but more importantly, Moondancer is gloriously robed in fire – the line is, “robed in fire and smoke” –  just like the fiery dancers that woke from Dany’s Lightbringer forging ceremony and just like all the fiery sorcerers we have seen so far waking from Lightbringer wood-burning incidents. The fact that these signature fiery robes are worn by a moon-dancing green dragon is rich with symbolic import, and all of it corroborates our theory about these fire sorcerers: they were greenseers and dragon people (green dragons) awoken in the fires which forged Lightbringer. I’d also add that some part of their magic may involve dancing and singing, just as the children of the forest’s true name is “those who sing the song of earth.” When Dany’s dragons hatch, it says that the night came alive with the music of dragons. Those are actually the last words of A Game of Thrones.

As an aside, let me say that I love that he took the time to write such epic metaphor and symbolism in even his supplementary A Song of Ice and Fire material such as The Princess and the Queen and the The World of Ice and Fire.

Now that we have introduced fiery moon dancers to the family of fire people, there’s actually a pair of loose details to clean up from the Alchemical Weding scene which relate the Ironborn mythology:

And there came a second crack, loud and sharp as thunder, and the smoke stirred and whirled around her and the pyre shifted, the logs exploding as the fire touched their secret hearts.

This entire solar pyre is made of carefully arranged pieces of wood, and the reference to secret hearts certainly seems like a reference to the heart trees, trees which appear to be on fire and harbor basically every secret there is. Secret hearts, know what I mean? Their hearts are set on fire when the dragon’s lunar egg cracks open with a thunderous sound, just as the thunderbolt moon meteor / sea dragon set the tree ablaze. This is the second egg, which means Rhaegal, the green dragon, for what it’s worth, reminding us of moon dancer the green dragon, and of greenseers who were dragon people.  When I see the thunderous green dragon touching the secret wooden hearts with fire, I am again seeing a possible suggestion that the weirwoodnet was activated or altered (‘set on fire’) by the meteor strike.

To conclude the Alchemical Wedding scene, I’ll note that Drogo too wears the fiery garments:

And now the flames reached her Drogo, and now they were all around him. His clothing took fire, and for an instant, the khal was clad in wisps of floating orange silk and tendrils of curling smoke, grey and greasy.

The reason I point this out is because Drogo is the dying solar king here, and he wears the robes of the fire sorcerer. He represents the death of the sun and Azor Ahai, while his perceived resurrection as the red comet parallels the waking of the dragons and the rebirth of Azor Ahai as a dark solar king. That’s why the inclusion of “greasy” smoke and oil to light the wood a bit earlier. The point is – the fiery sorcerer woken from the Lightbringer pyre is none other than the reborn Azor Ahai. This is the burning tree we have been tracking down – it’s Azor Ahai, the greenseer who transformed himself through fire magic by cracking open the moon and waking the stone dragons. Drogo is consumed in the fire here, but in a moment he appears to rise from the flames, mounted on a smoky stallion, just as the tree was consumed in the fire of the Storm God’s thunderbolt and gave birth to a Grey King who was now armed with the fire of the gods.

Basically any time we find burning weirwoods, we have Azor Ahai making an appearance. Melisandre the fire sorceress has all the wildlings burn a piece of weirwood as they cross through the Wall and enter the Seven Kingdoms – and look who’s standing there, none other than Azor Ahai impressionists Stannis Baratheon and Jon Snow. That was the same fire in which they burned the horn that bears an uncanny resemblance to dragonbinder but was called the horn of Joramun. Hell, even almost-weirwood burnings are linked to Azor Ahai figures – when Jon Snow is offered Winterfell and the Stark name by Stannis, it comes with the condition of having to burn the heart tree in the Winterfell godswood, which Jon simply cannot do. While he’s considering this choice, however, he does  dream of swimming in the black pond before the weirwood tree with fiery moon maiden Ygritte , showing us the drowning of a fiery moon in yet another iteration. Remember also that that is the same pond Ned sticks his bloody dragon sword into, as we examined in “Waves of Night and Moon Blood.”

Sticking with Jon Snow, we find more fiery sorcerers woken by Azor Ahai burning some wood, and this is from A Clash of Kings:

“I’ll do as you say,” Jon said reluctantly, “but … you will tell them, won’t you? The Old Bear, at least? You’ll tell him that I never broke my oath.” 

Qhorin Halfhand gazed at him across the fire, his eyes lost in pools of shadow. “When I see him next. I swear it.” He gestured at the fire. “More wood. I want it bright and hot.” 

Jon went to cut more branches, snapping each one in two before tossing it into the flames. The tree had been dead a long time, but it seemed to live again in the fire, as fiery dancers woke within each stick of wood to whirl and spin in their glowing gowns of yellow, red, and orange. 

“Enough,” Qhorin said abruptly. “Now we ride.” 

“Ride?” It was dark beyond the fire, and the night was cold. 

Oh man, that’s a great one – I told you you would be surprised by how flagrant these quote pulls are, right? The tree had been dead a long time but seemed to live again as it gave birth to fiery dancers wearing the familiar uniform of red, orange, and yellow clothing… I mean that one was pretty on the nose. This comes as Jon is about to commit a blood betrayal of sorts, as he is forced by circumstance to turn his sword on his brother. That fight occurs by a dead tree – the one the eagle perches on when they emerge from the cave.

There’s an additional tie between the dead tree that was resurrected in the fire and the Night’s Watch, because at the end of this chapter, Quorin’s body is burned on a wooden pyre made of broken branches, mirroring the earlier fire of broken branches from which the fiery dancers emerged.  This is important because the Night’s King and the Last Hero were members of the Night’s Watch, and I suspect that one of those peoples either Azor Ahai or his offspring.  Linking Quorin’s burning corpse to the fire in which the dead tree lived again is suggestive of Night’s Watch brothers as fire sorcerers.  As you may recall, we’ve seen other evidence suggesting that the original Night’s Watch may have been fire-undead people, perhaps even greenseers and skinchangers who were resurrected in a similar manner to Azor Ahai or the Last Hero or the Grey king or however many people are behind the truth of these myths.

In conclusion… I give you Azor Ahai the greenseer in the form of Beric Dondarrion.  He wields a flaming sword: check. Reference to lightning: check. Resurrected through fire magic and bleeds black blood: check. Sits on a wierwood throne: actually, yes, check. Not a live greenseer throne such as Bloodraven sits in, but as we have seen before when we have quoted the scene this scene, Beric sits in a tangle of weirwood roots in a cave full of weirwood roots, just like Bloodraven. He’s called the “Lord of Corpses” by the Ghost of High Heart, while Bloodraven is called the “corspe lord”in the scene where Bran first meets him (we quoted that one earlier). Beric has a missing eye, just like Bloodraven. Both wear black cloaks, though Bloodraven’s does not have the stars and lightning.

Many have noticed the parallels between Beric and Bloodraven, but I am not sure that anyone has known what to make of it. I would submit that the likeness is there to tell us something important about Azor Ahai: he was a resurrected and transformed fiery sorcerer who sat in a weirwood throne and wielded a flaming sword, like Beric.  He was a greenseer, as Bloodraven is, and also someone with the blood of the dragon in his veins, as Bloodraven has, being that Azor Ahai comes from the original race of dragon riders from Asshai (according to my theories about the Great Empire of the Dawn which we discussed with History Westeros).  \He was a Night’s Watch brother in some fashion, like Bloodraven and Jon Snow.

In fact, Jon Snow is where a lot of these ideas lead. He matches the sketch of Azor Ahai we’ve just laid out very well. First of all, Jon has the blood of the dragon in his veins through his genetic father, Rhaegar (#Nedwillalwaysbehisrealdad). Jon is a skinchanger instead of a greenseer, but I think the two are basically the same thing, since all Bran is really doing is skinchanging a tree. Jon is killed and soon to be resurrected, he dreams of wielding a flaming sword, he has a wound in one eye (the eagle attack from Clash), and he has associations with weirwood through his Stark lineage and through his wolf, who has the coloring of a weirwood and is compared to one by Jon. The biggest thing I am curious about is what magic Jon will be resurrected with: fire magic, ice magic, or weirwood magic? What I am sure of is that his status as a skinchanger will enable a full resurrection, as opposed to Beric, who is more like a remnant of his former self. I think it’s very likely that Azor Ahai’s theoretical status as a greenseer enabled him to be resurrected in whatever terrible form he happened to take.

We find a very similar story when decode the Ironborn mythology: the Grey King sat on a weirwood throne, transformed himself through taking possession of the fire of the gods in the forms of the burning tree – weirwood magic – and the black sea dragon meteorites, such as the Sea Stone Chair. It’s taken me a long time to sort through all the layers of this Ironborn folklore, but I believe that is what is at the heart of it: fiery greenseers. Naughty ones who broke the moon in order to steal the fire of the gods for their own, and in doing so transformed themselves and the entire world.


Well folks, I hope you enjoyed this essay, and if you did, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor of Mythical Astronomy to help keep this kind of stuff coming hot and heavy.  You can find the link for our Patreon page here.  🙂

This was a really densely-packed episode with a lot of interwoven ideas, and it has certainly raised a whole host of new questions.  Questions about these naughty greenseers – who they were, where they come from, what exactly they became and what they did afterward.  Questions about the timeline and human access to the weirwoodnet, and what change the meteors might have wrought on the weirwoods. Questions about ancient migrations patterns from east to west and the questions about who came to Westeros and the Iron Islands and when and how these peoples might have integrated their cultures and left behind a tapestry of mythology woven together from different peoples and different places of origin.  Questions about how it is that a magician of any variety takes a hand in steering a comet into a moon.

Stay tuned to the mythical astronomy of ice and fire and we’ll explore these questions together, and many more besides.  We still have to talk about the Others, after all, and they have an icy body of symbolism every bit as rich as that of the dragons and dragon people..

72 thoughts on “The Grey King and the Sea Dragon

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  11. Great analysis as always. I am reading this a year after it was done now and seems new to me! Can I just point out that Az in Persian also means greed. I am a Persian myself and in our ancient myths Az or greed is a fire that burns some people turning them into monsters. One such monster is Zahhak or Agidehak who received two kisses on his shoulders from ahreman. Two snake heads grow from his shoulders and he feeds the brains of two young people to his snakes every night. 3 headed Dragon of sorts. Just seems close to the AA being greedy and wanting more than what he had a right to.
    Your take on the stories is brilliant!

    Like

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