Hey there friends, patrons, and fellow Mythical Astronomers! It’s your starry host, LmL, and we are ready to get this party started! I hope you enjoyed the prelude to a chill, and I hope I haven’t destroyed your image of me with that unexpected discussion of logistics and plausibility and the timeline. Similarly, I hope that last musical adventure into outer space at the end the last podcast didn’t give any of you bad dreams about visitors from other dimensions, because I would feel terrible if that was the case. That’s just what happens when the moment is right and I have a lot of effects pedals at my disposal, as I usually do.
In any case, we are pretty much ready to hit the ground running with this episode, so let me say thanks to George R. R. Martin for writing such wonderful books, and thanks to Patreon sponsors of Mythical Astronomy for keeping the starry lights on. Thanks very much Crowfood’s Daughter, who supplied many hat-tips for this episode. She’s been writing great ASOIAF analaysis for a while now, and she just started her YouTube channel, The Disputed Lands! Check it out there.
I’d like to give an extra special thanks to our Long Night’s Watch patrons, who are filling out the Watch very nicely. We need twelve volunteers to become green zombies before the cold winds of winter arrive, and we have five so far. Just listen to these titles – these are the folks you need at your side to journey into the cold dead. Charon Ice-Eyes, Dread Ferryman of the North, Wielder of the Staff of the Old Gods, a weirwood staff banded in Valyrian steel. Ser Cletus Yronwood Reborn of the Never-Lazy Eye, wrestler of bulls and slayer of the white mists. Stepping up from the priesthood of Starry Wisdom, it’s Cinxia, Frozen Fire Queen of the Summer Snows and Burner of Winter’s Wick. The same goes for Antonius the Conspirator, the Red Right Hand of R’hllor, Knower of the Unknowable, Dispenser of Final Justice, who’s boosted his support to join the Watch (thanks so much guys!) Finally, our newcomer – Garth Bluemoon, the Mazemaker, he who strides the river of time. If you’d like to join the Watch or any other Patron level, just go to lucifermeanslightbringer.com, which is also where you can find the matching text to this podcast.
Without further adieu…
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night and Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper and the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
The One That Got Away
This section is sponsored by The Cinder of the Citadel, Wielder of the Burning Weirwood Spear, Guardian of the Celestial Sow, and by 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…
At the end of the prelude to this series, I raised the question of historical parallels in regards to Gilly’s babe, the child known as Monster who was intended to be given to the Others but wasn’t. Gilly is a symbolic parallel of the Night’s Queen, giving her sons to the wood to be transformed into Others or used to create Others in some way, so doesn’t the example of her escaped child suggest that one of the children of Night’s King and Queen similarly might not have been turned into an Other, but instead rescued? That seems like it might be important, right? We’ve identified both Night’s King and Night’s Queen as magical beings, so any child of theirs might be a magical being as well, and directly tied to the Others… a kind of brother to the Others, which kind of matches Jon’s symbolism…
Before we get carried away, let’s start with the basic of the potential historical parallel. Consider what happens with Gilly and Monster. One of the big clues that Sam and Gilly are echoing the rescue of a Night’s King and Queen baby is that Sam and Gilly smuggle baby Monster south through the Black Gate at the Nightfort, the very seat of Night’s King. That’s a bit on-the-nose, isn’t it? Stealing a baby meant to be an Other using the Nightfort? When you think about it, there are really two main things that come from the Craster and Gilly storyline: the mutiny and murder of Lord Commander Mormont, and the rescue of Gilly and her babe by Sam, with an assist from Coldhands and the ravens. Baby Monster continues to play a role in the storyline, and quite honestly, his rescue – stealing a baby from the Others and a Night’s King figure – is just too major of an event not to be a historical parallel.
Here’s where all the research into R+L=J and the general moons of ice and fire pattern of a solar king or dark solar king with two moon wives comes in handy. These mythical astronomy templates serve as a great way to organize the various echoes of historical archetypes and events. Gilly is a Night’s Queen who has one son that is “rescued,” if you will, and of course if we want to know if this really happened with the original Night’s Queen and King, all we have to do is look to our other Night’s Queen and King figures. Rhaegar and Lyanna are the most important; do they have a son who is rescued by any chance?
Oh yes, It’s Jon Snow of course, whose symbolism already places him as a weird kind of brother to the Others. Here lies the answer to the riddle I left you with at the end of the RLJ episode: if Jon is a child of a symbolic dark solar king and an ice moon queen, just as the Others are, why isn’t his symbolism identical to that of the Others? Why is Jon more like a ‘good Other’ or ‘black Other’? Why does Jon have that black ice armor, like an inversion of the transparent ice armor of the Others, and why is he the one who is singularly dedicated to fighting the Others? It’s because he’s a parallel to this “one that got away,” I think, the child of Night’s King and Queen who wasn’t turned into an Other. This child would be a brother to the Others, as Gilly’s Monster is, but different as well. That fits Jon’s symbolism perfectly, and again – Jon was stolen at birth, or perhaps we might say ‘rescued.’ Ned had to disguise his parentage to save him from the wrath of Robert Baratheon, who was, at the time, making a strong effort to exterminate House Targaryen and secure his hold on the iron throne.
Now think about the scene at the Tower of Joy again in this context. Take a deep breath; this is going to be some shit. Since the Kingsguard can be used to symbolize the Others and since Lyanna is a Night’s Queen figure, we could absolutely see Ned at the Tower of Joy as a Stark commando stealing a Night’s Queen baby from the Others! I mean holy hell, Batman, think about it! Here’s a heroic Stark, fighting symbolic Others and taking home a child of a Night’s King and Queen! Taking him home, and…
…raising him as a Stark. I mean, his name is Snow and not Stark, but Ned claims him as his son, and of course many things suggest Jon as a true Stark, from Robb’s will naming him his heir to Stannis’s offer to name him Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, to his overwhelming King of Winter symbolism that we discussed in the Green Zombies series. So if Jon symbolizes a rescued Night’s Queen baby, and he’s raised in Winterfell as part of the Stark family and eventually becomes Lord of Winterfell… uh… doesn’t that suggest that this hypothetical escaped Night’s Queen baby may have been raised as a Stark?
This would mean that all of the Winterfell Starks since the Long Night might descend from Night’s King and Queen.
“It’s good to see that frozen face of yours, Ned!”
If this theory about the origins of House Stark tracing to a Night’s King baby is true, then this is one of the major things being hinted at at the Tower of Joy scene. This may well be the reason why the Tower of Joy has been presented to us as this defining, pivotal scene – it’s actually showing us the origins of House Stark!
Now I can’t actually claim to have thought of this one completely on my own – the idea of the Starks being the family associated with ice as an opposite to House Targaryen and the Valyrians before them is readily apparent to everyone, and the idea of the Starks having an actual link to ice magic through a child of Night’s King and Queen is an old idea which has been floating around on the margins of the fandom for a long time. Gilly’s baby plants the notion of baby saved from the Others in the mind of the reader, and it’s fairly logical to wonder if this could be part of the link between Stark and Other.
Here’s the thing: whomever made this connection initially would have done it primarily on intuition. It’s not too hard to draw a comparison between Craster and Night’s King both “sacrificing to the Others,” and thus begin to see Gilly’s babe as an escaped Other child, but they wouldn’t have known to compare Lyanna and Rhaegar to Night’s King and Queen and thus would not have realized that Jon represents an escaped Other baby as well – and that’s the big clue that the stolen Other baby became a Stark of Winterfell.
But we have the advantage of mythical astronomy to guide us and help us identify multiple examples of the ice queen archetype, so we can see that in fact, both Gilly and Lyanna parallel Night’s Queen, and that both have their sons “rescued.” It was when I noticed this that I remembered the theory about House Stark being tied to a child Night’s King and Queen, and I realized it must be true. Symbolically, Jon “Snow” represents a rescued child of Night’s King and Queen, a prince that was promised to the Others but was never delivered.
The parallels go much further, as always. As-always. Consider the various plans for Gilly’s baby Monster. Sam’s first plan is to pass off Gilly’s baby as his own bastard and send Gilly and Monster along to his family at Horn Hill. This creates the possibility that this would-be Other baby could eventually become the Lord of Horn Hill, should something unfortunate happen to Dickon Tarkly, Sam’s brother (after all, Dickon is fond of hunting, and as Cersei says, the woods are the abattoir of the gods).
So what we have here is a Night’s Watch brother, stealing a Night Queen would-be Other baby at the Nightfort and instead setting him up to take over his house, one of the oldest First Men houses in Westeros. House Tarly would seem to be standing in for House Stark, and thereby pointing us back to the idea of a truly cold origin for the Winterfell Starks. The fact that Sam swears his oaths to the heart tree with Jon, in the traditional way of the ancient First Men, enhances this image of Sam as an original Night’s Watchmen and a placeholder for a Stark, as does his ability to pass through the black gate by reciting the older, stripped down version of the Night’s Watch oath. It’s worth noting that Sam and Ned would be playing the same rescuer role – Sam at the Nightfort with Gilly’s babe and Ned with Jon at the Tower of Joy. Coldhands can probably be put in this category too, and as a green zombie Night’s Watchmen himself, he definitely seems like a throwback to the original Night’s Watch. Heck, there’s a chance Coldhands IS one of the original Night’s Watch, as I mentioned in the Sacred Order of Green Zombies series.
Another plan to safeguard baby Monster makes the parallel to an Other baby raised as a Stark even more apparent. It comes from Jon’s imagination when he considers Stannis’s offer to make him Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell. To take the offer, Jon would have to marry Val, which Jon thinks, you know, wouldn’t be so bad (chuckle), even though he’d rather marry Ygitte, who is dead at this point in the story. Thinking of Val, he says to himself:
I would need to steal her if I wanted her love, but she might give me children. I might someday hold a son of my own blood in my arms. A son was something Jon Snow had never dared dream of, since he decided to live his life on the Wall. I could name him Robb. Val would want to keep her sister’s son, but we could foster him at Winterfell, and Gilly’s boy as well. Sam would never need to tell his lie. We’d find a place for Gilly too, and Sam could come visit her once a year or so. Mance’s son and Craster’s would grow up brothers, as I once did with Robb.
This quote is great because it has Jon doing a Night’s King routine by marrying a Night’s Queen figure, Val, and having Stark children with her; and simultaneously, he’s imagining taking in another Night’s Queen figure and her baby, Gilly and Monster, and taking them back to Winterfell as well! Jon them compares himself growing up as a brother to the Starks to Monster and Mance’s son growing up as brothers at Winterfell. You don’t even need any metaphors or symbolism here: this plan literally involves a baby stolen from the Others being raised at Winterfell, and then directly compares that plan to Jon being taken from his mother and raised at Winterfell. It’s pretty strong evidence in support of the “icy origins of House Stark” hypothesis.
If Jon had taken Stannis up on his offer to become the Lord of Winterfell, it would have been Jon’s genes (Jon and Val’s genes, that is, a.k.a. JonValJon) that established the future line of House Stark, and this is what I think happened to House Stark in the beginning. The idea of Night’s King and Queen genetics being slipped into House Stark is doubly implied here, actually, with two generations of Night’s King and Queen pairings going into this proposed takeover of House Stark; first Rhaegar and Lyanna, then Jon and Val. The fact that Stannis, a Night’s King figure at the Wall, wants to make Jon Snow the stolen Other baby the Lord of Winterfell is yet another echo of the pattern! Credit for that find goes to one of our Mythical Astronomy patrons – appropriately, it’s our Guardian of the Celestial Ice Dragon, Nienna the Wise, the Persephoenix, whose words are “from sorrow, wisdom.”
I think the icy origins of House Stark hypothesis explains a lot of things, especially in terms of the themes of the story. It’s not just Jon who is like a good Other or inverted Other – the same could be said for House Stark as a whole. As I alluded to in the intro, the Starks parallel the Others as ice-eyed, snow-bearded Kings of Winter who wield “Ice swords,” and yet they oppose the Others, just as Jon does. The reason might be the same – it’s their possible descent from this Other baby that got away. As you might have guessed, it seems very possible that this escaped Other baby may have been the last hero, although it’s also possible the rescuer figure (represented by Sam and Ned, and even Coldhands) is the last hero. Perhaps we are seeing him taking a Night’s Queen baby home as a souvenir after Night’s King is defeated. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
Let’s think about this theory in terms of magical bloodlines, and within the context of all the evidence that points to Night’s King having been a blood of the dragon person – either Azor Ahai or his descendant. If Night’s King was a dragon person like Rhaegar, and the Starks descend from a son of Night’s King, would that make the Starks blood of the dragon people? More secret Valyrians? That would be blasphemy, right? Well, for all intents and purposes, the answer is no. So don’t throw down your headphones or flip any tables on me here!
Think about it like this: the fiery dragon genes of evil Azor Ahai as the Night’s King are frozen in the icy womb of the Night’s Queen – that’s something we saw depicted over and over with all the shivering flame and fires turning cold at Night’s Queen weddings like that of Alys Karstark or Jeyne Poole. When these formerly blood-of-the-dragon babies come out of the cold womb of Night’s Queen, I believe the affinity for fire that can be expressed by blood of the dragon people would have been flipped, and these Night’s Queen babies would have had an affinity for ice, in a way beyond what Gilly’s babe might possess, since Gilly is a normal human being and not an ice priestess or whatever Night’s Queen was.
However, I don’t think Night’s Queen was giving birth to full-grown Others; I suspect that just as Gilly’s babes are somehow transformed or used to make Others, there must have had a second step to the process of making Others from the cold babies of the Night’s Queen and King. Otherwise, this theory wouldn’t make sense at all – if Nigh’ts Queen as popping out full grown Others from her womb, there would be no way to steal one and make it a flesh-and-blood Stark. Rather, I imagine these cold Night’s Queen babies as having a natural affinity for ice magic in their blood that can be activated and awakened, just as Bran’s blood makes him a greenseer, but the weirwood paste and tree-bonding are necessary to awaken his gifts.
So, for all intents and purposes, a Night’s Queen baby wouldn’t really be ‘blood of the dragon’ anymore. If one of those cold children avoided his fate of becoming an Other and instead became the Lord of Winterfell, he might, if anything, be able to pass down this affinity for ice magic to his Stark descendants. Call it “the blood of the ice dragon,” or better yet, “the blood of the Other.” It makes sense, right? The Targaryens are the blood of the dragon, and the Starks are the blood of the Other! This natural symmetry is one of the things which has always made some version of this “icy origins of House Stark” theory attractive, and again I will say that it resonates with the theme of the Starks, who from the beginning seem tied to the Others. Just to name one example: the prologue of AGOT ends with Waymar being stabbed by a sword of ice… and the next chapter begins with Ned beheading Waymar’s black brother from the same mission, Gared, with Ice.
Polishing off my ancient aliens voice, I’ll pose the question ‘is it possible that…’ this icy Stark Lord, the child of Night’s King and Queen, was the man remembered as Bran the Builder? If an escaped Other baby did have some sort of ability to wield ice magic, this could explain the building of the Wall, right? The Wall is probably not a simple matter of stacking blocks of ice into a really tall wall – there is assuredly magic involved. Ygritte says the Wall was built with blood, so it may have even been blood magic of some kind that was used (which would surprise exactly no one, I think). Bloody or not, is it possible that the magic used to build this giant wall of ice was wielded by this rescued Night’s Queen child?
This begins to address one of the big logical issues with the theories about who built the Wall. The Others are the ones who can do incomprehensible, magical things with ice, so they are the first candidate to consider for ‘builders of the great ice wall,’ but trying to grasp their motive is as slippery as an icy pond. Were they trying to keep men out of their lands? It’s not really necessary, given their ability to raise the dead and given their immunity to everything but dragonglass and probably Valyrian steel. And would the Others really build such a “big, beautiful Wall” and then let the stinking Night’s Watch crawl all over it? Another point to consider is that until recent years, the Night’s Watch ranged freely into the Haunted Forest with no trouble from anyone but wildlings, and of course the wildlings have lived north of the Wall for centuries, implying that the Others haven’t been super worried about keeping humans out of their territory until just recently. In other words, if the Others built the Wall, there’s a motive we simply can’t fathom at this point.
If the Wall wasn’t built by the Others, and was indeed meant to keep the Others out as advertised, the big mystery is who it would have been, among those fighting for the side of the living, that could manipulate ice with magic? Who could it have been that possessed abilities with ice magic that rival those of the Others, and who would also be motivated to keep the Others out of Westeros proper? Perhaps it was this son of the Night’s Queen – mayhaps his name was Brandon – and mayhaps he used magical abilities inherited from Night’s King and Queen to build the Wall out of ice, either during the Long Night or right after, thereby earning him his nickname of “the builder.” I think most would agree that right after the end of the Long Night is a logical point in the timeline to place the building of the Wall.
For what it’s worth, Mance’s wife Dalla, who seems like a wise character, has this to say about the Wall when Mance mention that many of his people wanted him to blow the Horn of Winter and make the Wall fall:
“But once the Wall is fallen,” Dalla said, “what will stop the Others?”
Mance also explains that his ultimate purpose is to flee the Others and get the wildlings on the south side of the Wall. I think that’s worth considering – the wildlings are the most connected to ancient northern lore such as the children of the forest and the giants, so their opinion counts for something. Mance and Dalla clearly think it’s meant to stop the Others.
Setting aside the question of who built the Wall and why (which we will come back to, have no fear), you can see how this theory about a Night’s Queen baby becoming the ancestor of the Winterfell Starks helps to stitch together the Azor Ahai / dragonlord part of the narrative and the Night’s King / last hero / House Stark side of things. We’ve been following the trail of Azor Ahai from Asshai to Westeros, from Oldtown all the way up to the Wall, wondering how this freight train of dragon symbols would collide with the classic Northern legends of Bran the Builder, last hero, and Night’s King. This rescued Night’s Queen baby theory has the satisfying effect of making Night’s King himself both a dragonlord, as the symbolism suggests (former dragonlord, I guess we might say), but also a Stark, as the narrative demands. Night’s King started off as a dragonlord, but his seed would have founded the modern House Stark – with the important caveat that this seed was transformed when it was given to the Night’s Queen. From the blood of the dragon to blood of the Other.
Alright. Before we move to the next section, I want to mention that there may be one more layer in between true dragonlord blood and House Stark if Night’s King is instead a son of Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa instead of the original moon-breaking Azor Ahai himself. That scenario might go like this: Azor Ahai Sr., let’s call him, he comes to Westeros and has a child with Nissa Nissa sometime before she dies, and that child grows up to become Night’s King, whose son then escapes and becomes the ancestor of the Starks. It seems overwhelmingly likely that Azor Ahai had at least one child with Nissa Nissa, since procreation is probably the most important aspect of the Lightbringer monomyth… so that kid kinda has to turn up somewhere.
Those who have read or listened to my Weirwood Goddess series know that there are many clues about Nissa Nissa being an elf woman of some sort: either a child of the forest or a human-child hybrid. In this case, the child of Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa may be only half dragon-person, and might have access to greenseer or skinchanger abilities. This person might have become Night’s King, as I mentioned, and it’s also possible this child of Nissa Nissa could be either the last hero or the rescuer figure, or both if the rescuer and the last hero are the same person.
There are some really juicy potential echoes in the Targaryen family tree about this child of Nissa Nissa, actually, and clues that he or his descendant may become Night’s King. Consider the genes that led up to Night’s King figure Rhaegar, the man who gave his seed to Night’s Queen figure Lyanna. Leading up to Rhaegar, Viserys, and Dany, there were two generations of incest: Aerys and Rhaella were brother and sister, and their parents Jaehaerys II and Shaera Targaryen were too. But their parents were an interesting match indeed – Aegon V, also known as egg and “Aegon the Unlikely,” and Black Betha Blackwood.
House Blackwood is a house which recently produced a greenseer (Bloodraven a.k.a. Brynden Rivers), and given Nissa Nissa’s association with darkness (her death was used to usher in the Long Night, and her death correlates to the death of the fire moon which gave us the darkness of the Long Night), I tend to see Black Betha as a great child of the forest-Nissa Nissa analog (call her Betha Betha). Aegon would be Azor Ahai, and indeed, later in life he became obsessed with hatching a dragon’s egg. This obsession lead to the catastrophe of Summerhall, is a vivid fire moon explosion metaphor where Aegon Ahai and Betha Betha both died, appropriately. I mean, it was sad, but appropriate for symbolism.
In other words, Aegon and Black Betha may be serving as a symbolic historical parallel to Azor Ahai the dragonlord coming to Westeros and marrying a child of the forest Nissa Nissa. Their great grandson Rhaegar is a Night’s King figure who does all the Night’s King things, so perhaps the original Night’s King descends from a child of Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa. Even though Rhaegar isn’t Black Betha’s son, he might as well be, because as a result of the incest, he has roughly the same half-Targaryen / half-Blackwood genetic makeup of Egg and Black Betha’s children. The same is true for Dany of course; she’s basically half Blackwood. That’s a bit of an oversimplification in terms of genetics, but I think you take my point.
For that matter, Bloodraven himself is a walking clue about the blood of the dragon being injected into an ancient First Men house with greenseer abilities.
One generation before Egg and Black Betha, we have Egg’s parents: Maekar Targaryen and… Dyanna Dayne! I know many of you know that, so sorry for being melodramatic, but that’s another home-run as an echo of the past, since the Daynes seem to descend from the Great Empire of the Dawn from whence Azor Ahai came, yet are thought of as First Men. In other words, the Daynes themselves probably represent a merging of First Men blood and blood of the dragon from waaaay back. This may be another clue that the Azor Ahai bloodline blended with the blood of the First Men before producing the dragon person who became Night’s King. The fused stone fortress at Battle Isle is indicative of a colony or at least a long-term trading outpost, which would have given the dragonlords ample time to mingle their blood with the First Men before the Long Night falls, and in the south, in relative proximity to Starfall.
As usual, I am going to avoid trying to choose which exact scenario is the “Truth,” but there are a couple of things I do feel solid about. The evidence suggesting Nissa Nissa as at least part-children of the forest is solid, and it seems obvious that Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa had at least one child together, whom we have to assume is an important figure. I am also confident that Night’s King had some amount of blood of the dragon in his veins and a direct connection to Azor Ahai, and I’m fairly confident one of the children of Night’s King and Queen was smuggled away to safety. If that’s the case, I am pretty sure this rescued ice baby would have become a Stark, both for the sake of thematic sensibility – I mean if anyone is related to the Others, it has to be the Starks, right? – and because of the parallels with Jon and baby Monster. Lyanna and Gilly are both Night’s Queen figures who have their babies smuggled away and raised under false identities, with Jon being raised at Winterfell and Monster almost being raised there.
Fortunately, and predictably, it’s not just Lyanna and Gilly and their children, Jon and Monster, who tell the tale. As usual, we are given many characters who play this archetype, and this is usually the point where I would list them out to you… but since I gave you the big reveal at the beginning, I will maintain the element of surprise by revealing them one or two at a time.
A Bael Issue
This section is sponsored by a priestess of the Sacred Order of the Black Hand, The Lady of Stellar Reason and Maleficence, and by two new Priestesses of Starry Wisdom, Crowfood’s Daughter of the Disputer Lands, and R’hllor Girl, Mistress of the Pointy End, whose house words are, “show us your moons”
With the exception of Jon and Monster, the most important potential echo of stealing a Night’s Queen baby to become a Stark is probably found in the Bael the Bard story. It’s not a perfect echo, but it has important lessons to teach us. Bael the Bard is a roguish wildling minstrel and King-Beyond-the-Wall, and his story is intricately linked with that of Rhaegar and Lyanna. This is apparent from the moment Ygritte brings up the subject of Bael, shortly after Jon has taken her prisoner in the Frostfangs in ACOK:
“You said you were the Bastard o’ Winterfell.”
“Who was your mother?”
“Some woman. Most of them are.” Someone had said that to him once. He did not remember who.
She smiled again, a flash of white teeth. “And she never sung you the song o’ the winter rose?”
“I never knew my mother. Or any such song.”
“Bael the Bard made it,” said Ygritte. “He was King-beyond-the-Wall a long time back.
Ygritte asking Jon if his mother ever sang the song o’ the winter rose is one of those deliciously ironic things you can only catch on a re-read. He never knew his mother Lyanna, nor the song of the Winter Rose – but Lyanna’s song was the Song of the Winter Rose, in a sense. This may be a good time to remind you about another part of the Tourney of Harrenhal sequence of events, something that happened at the feast the night before the tourney:
The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head.
In other words, Rhaegar sang her “the song o’the winter rose” for all intents and purposes, as this song seems to have sewn the seeds for their love and was followed up by the crown of blue winter roses.
Returning to the Bael story, Ygitte begins by telling us that Bael was a great raider and a long-time nemesis of the Stark in Winterfell at that time:
“The Stark in Winterfell wanted Bael’s head, but never could take him, and the taste o’ failure galled him. One day in his bitterness he called Bael a craven who preyed only on the weak. When word o’ that got back, Bael vowed to teach the lord a lesson. So he scaled the Wall, skipped down the kingsroad, and walked into Winterfell one winter’s night with harp in hand, naming himself Sygerrik of Skagos. Sygerrik means ‘deceiver’ in the Old Tongue, that the First Men spoke, and the giants still speak.”
This has obvious parallels to Mance sneaking in to Winterfell which we will discuss momentarily, but sticking with the story, we learn that Bael disguised as Sygerrik plays so well and pleases the Lord of Winterfell so much that he told Bael to name his reward. Ygritte tells us of Bael’s famous response:
‘All I ask is a flower,’ Bael answered, ‘the fairest flower that blooms in the gardens o’ Winterfell.’
“Now as it happened the winter roses had only then come into bloom, and no flower is so rare nor precious. So the Stark sent to his glass gardens and commanded that the most beautiful o’ the winter roses be plucked for the singer’s payment. And so it was done. But when morning come, the singer had vanished … and so had Lord Brandon’s maiden daughter. Her bed they found empty, but for the pale blue rose that Bael had left on the pillow where her head had lain.”
The distraught Lord Brandon searches high and low for a year, to no avail, and because his daughter was his only child, he feared the line of Stark would end. But then one day he finds his daughter in her chambers with a young male baby:
They had been in Winterfell all the time, hiding with the dead beneath the castle. The maid loved Bael so dearly she bore him a son, the song says … though if truth be told, all the maids love Bael in them songs he wrote. Be that as it may, what’s certain is that Bael left the child in payment for the rose he’d plucked unasked, and that the boy grew to be the next Lord Stark.
It’s easy to see that Bael, as a singer and harpist who “abducts” a blue rose maiden of Winterfell, serves as a parallel to Rhaegar, who is thought of as having abducted Lyanna – which is kind of the point. Think about it like this: both Rhaegar and Bael effectively slipped their seed into the Winterfell family tree via a blue rose maid that loved them.
Did Night’s King do the same? Well, if one of his children became a Stark, then the answer is yes! The logistics are a little different, but the main points are the same. Consider this: Night’s King brought his winter queen back to the Nightfort, while Bael brought his blue rose maiden down into the crypts – I am sure you can the similar underworld symbolism of both places. And as we saw at the very beginning of the story, the crypts are where people go to find a surprisingly life-like Lyanna as well, whether it’s Robert stroking the cheek of her statue as if he could will her back to life, or Ned dreaming of Lyanna’s statue weeping blood. Robert complains that Ned brought her back to the crypts, saying she should be buried on a sunny hillside, but Ned insists that this is her place and that she wished to be buried here. It’s a great parallel to the blue rose maiden of the Bael story.
There’s a shout-out to Bael taking his Stark maiden down to the crypts in Rhaegar and Lyanna’s story when Robert says that although he killed Rhaegar on the Trident and won the throne, “..somehow he still won. He has Lyanna now, and I have her.” The Bard and the Blue Rose Maiden, together forever – but in the underworld, like Bael and his maiden in the crypts or Night’s King and Queen at the Nightfort.
We can also observe that not only did both Bael and Rhaegar “abduct” a blue rose Stark maiden who seems to have actually loved them, both played overpowering music to win the hand or heart of their winter lady. This begs the question: was Night’s King a singer? It seems possible, and we’ll come back to this idea momentarily.
The name that Bael takes, Syggerrik, means “the deceiver” in the Old Tongue, and “the deceiver” is one the most common nicknames for the devil in the Bible. This implies Bael as “devilsh” and thereby helps us to see Bael as a dark solar king figure, like Rhaegar and Night’s King. Bael is the right kind of guy to be giving his seed to the winter queen. And I know “he knew no fear, and that was the fault in him” is one of the more vague parts of the Night’s King description, but there’s no doubt both Bael and Mance had to be utterly fearless to sneak into the fortress of their enemy.
It may go without saying, but Bael is also an obvious parallel for Mance Raydar, who, like Bael, is a bard and a King Beyond the Wall who also sneaks into Winterfell using a false name – Mance used ‘Abel,’ an anagram of ‘Bael.’ Indeed, Mance is basically presented to us as a modern day Bael right from the beginning, when we meet him sitting cross legged in his command tent, playing the lute and singing of the Dornishman’s wife, and only shortly after Ygritte has given us the Bael legend.
Now when Mance-disguised-as-Abel sneaks into Winterfell, he doesn’t slip his seed into any bloodlines, but he does seek to steal a Stark maiden, after a fashion – Jeyne Poole, who is being passed off as Arya Stark. As we discussed last time, Jeyne has abundant Night’s Queen / Corpse Queen / Ice Queen symbolism, so although she’s not specifically tied to blue roses, this actually lines up pretty well. We can also see an echo of the rescue of a Night’s Queen baby, if Jeyne is pregnant with Ramsay’s baby as I suspect she may be. Ramsay himself is a Night’s King figure, so it really would fit the pattern. Theon, who thinks of himself as “a Stark at last” in these Winterfell chapters, would play the same rescuer role that Ned plays at the Tower of Joy and Sam plays at Craster’s Keep and the Nightfort.
So, Mance parallels Bael the Bard, and Bael parallels Rhaegar… and I probably don’t have to tell you that Rhaegar and Mance complete the circle by sharing a certain amount of symbolism (though they definitely are not the same person). They are both bard-kings (Rhaegar is a prince, but close enough) who play a father figure role to Jon – Rhaegar as the paternal father, and Mance as someone Jon learns from, sees himself in, and looks up to. Mance’s black cloak slashed with red gives him Rhaegar’s colors, and both Rhaegar and Mance lost their final battle to a Baratheon (Robert and Stannis, respectively). Both Rhaegar and Mance had a son who was born around the time they lost their final battles – sons who they never met – and both of the mothers of those sons, Dalla and Lyanna, died in childbirth.
Bael had a son he didn’t know for more than a few months, which is very similar, and like the tales of Rhaegar, Mance, and Night’s King, Bael’s tale has a tragic ending tied to a final battle. However, that’s going to lead to bit of a sub-topic, so let’s make this a section break.
The One That Came Back
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For the doom-ridden end of Bael’s story, let’s return to Ygritte:
“The song ends when they find the babe, but there is a darker end to the story. Thirty years later, when Bael was King-beyond-the-Wall and led the free folk south, it was young Lord Stark who met him at the Frozen Ford … and killed him, for Bael would not harm his own son when they met sword to sword.”
“So the son slew the father instead,” said Jon.
“Aye,” she said, “but the gods hate kinslayers, even when they kill unknowing. When Lord Stark returned from the battle and his mother saw Bael’s head upon his spear, she threw herself from a tower in her grief. Her son did not long outlive her. One o’ his lords peeled the skin off him and wore him for a cloak.”
The winter rose maiden throwing herself from a tower is like a merging of Ashara Dayne throwing herself from a tower and Lyanna dying in the top of a tower. However the main thing that grabs our attention as an important Night’s king parallel is the father and son fighting one another – that really seems like what the Night King / last hero relationship might be all about. Our devilish Night’s King figure Bael donates a son to the bloodline of Winterfell, and that son grows up to become the Stark in Winterfell and eventually journeys north to confront and kill his father. When the last hero went north to end the Long Night, was that the son of the Night’s King, going to slay his dad? They fought at the “Frozen Ford,” which kind of sounds like a placeholder for the Wall, which is like a frozen river, viewed from above, and the Nightfort is a crossing point of that frozen rive. So this almost sounds like Night King’s son coming back to the Nightfort to kill him.
After all, Jon does dream of slaying a wighted version of his true father, Ned, at Castle Black:
Whatever demonic force moved Othor had been driven out by the flames; the twisted thing they had found in the ashes had been no more than cooked meat and charred bone. Yet in his nightmare he faced it again … and this time the burning corpse wore Lord Eddard’s features. It was his father’s skin that burst and blackened, his father’s eyes that ran liquid down his cheeks like jellied tears. Jon did not understand why that should be or what it might mean, but it frightened him more than he could say.
I’m sure that if Jon had had the chance to re-listen to his life on audiobook ten times like we have had, he would’ve eventually puzzled out the meaning, ha ha. In any case, we know to look at scenes like this as potential echoes of the past, and the idea of Jon having to kill a cold-wighted version of his father might have been included to serve as a parallel to Bael being killed by his son, and more importantly, to Night’s King being killed by his son, the last hero. Ned is not generally a Night’s King figure, but the dream vision wighted version of Ned with blue star eyes and a black cloak of the Night’s Watch certainly does the trick. The wight in that scene was the former Brother named Othor, so he’s kind of standing in for the Others in general, and if you recall, wighted Othor has a moon face in that scene, very like the moon that leers with Euron’s face in the Forsaken chapter of TWOW (and of course Euron is a Night’s King figure).
We find fainter echoes of the “son kills father” motif when Jon faces Mance’s army in battle at the Wall, and then later is sent north of the Wall to kill Mance through treachery, since Mance is something of a father figure to Jon and shares symbolism with Rhaegar, Jon’s biological father. If and when Jon finds out that Rhaegar was his biological father, I’m sure he’ll dream of killing him too. There’s another TWOW prediction, ha!
Now as we know, legend says that one of the men who brought down Night’s King was Brandon the Breaker, who is said to have been Night King’s brother in some tales, as opposed to his son as some of these echoes suggest. Regardless, Brandon the Breaker was the Stark in Winterfell who went north to face Night’s King, who was of his blood, just as Bael’s son went north to face his father Bael, a Night’s King figure. Bael and Night’s King were both defeated by the Stark in Winterfell who was of their blood, in other words, and that’s a great parallel between them, even if one is a brother and one a son. Everyone knows the Bael story parallels Rhaegar and Lyanna’s story, and I have shown you how Rhaegar and Lyanna parallel Night’s King and Queen, so finding parallels between Bael’s story and Night’s King and Queen means that each of these three stories has echoes of the other two. And that’s what we around here like to call a symbolism three-way, rahr.
Although they have subtle variations, these three stories all have a Night’s King figure slipping his seed into the bloodline of House Stark via blue winter rose maiden – with Night’s Queen as the original blue winter rose maiden, so to speak. The “son-kills-the-father” symbolism of Jon Snow and Bael’s son might suggest a last hero who was both a Stark of Winterfell and the son of Night’s King, while the Brandon the Breaker legend suggests that the last hero might have been the brother of Night’s King.
Lest I gloss over a meaningful point, yeah, think about it – if Night’s King ruled during the Long Night, whoever defeated him was probably the last hero. If Brandon the Breaker defeated Night’s King, then he may have been the last hero! If this is the case, then the thing Brandon broke would have been the Long Night.
The cool thing about Jon is that whether the Night’s King and the last hero are a brother / brother thing or a father/son thing, . We just saw he dreams of killing wighted Ned, and as you may recall from Bloodstone Compendium 2, he also dreams of killing his brother Robb – with a flaming sword no less. This as he stands atop the Wall, defending from icy foes who scuttle up the ice like spiders.
There’s a kind of symbolic echo of this “son kills father” pattern with Craster as well, who makes white shadows with Gilly and the rest of his “wives” and thus plays the Night’s King role. Obviously Monster would need to grow up and travel back in time to kill Craster, since he’s already dead, but consider the symbolism of the person who kills Craster – it’s a black brother named Dirk. His symbolism is that of a black dirk – a black knife, in other words – and this may be a callout to Jon’s symbolism of being like dragonglass and black ice (remember Stannis talking about finding and using Jon like Jon found the dragonglass). This is not only Jon’s symbol, but the symbol of the dragon locked in ice, and all of these Night’s Queen baby / last hero figures are playing that role. Thus, Night’s King Craster figure was slain by a black knife person who called himself “a sword in the darkness,” and that’s a message that fits in with all the other symbolism we are discussing here. At the very least, it makes sense to see members of the Night’s Watch kill a Night’s King figure, with the name Dirk kind of emphasizing the symbolism of the Night’s Watch as human swords.
There’s actually a lot more to this pattern of the last hero coming to kill his father or brother who is the Night’s King, but we’ve got to introduce more Night’s King figures to get there, and we’ve got to dip into some world mythology that George is referencing. But real quickly, before we move on, I just want to say a quick word about Craster himself, since we are talking about him anyway and he doesn’t really fit anywhere else. It’s worth noting that Craster is the bastard son of a Night’s Watch brother, and Ygitte says that “Craster’s blood is black, and he bears a heavy curse.” That all could potentially fit with the dark solar king archetype, who represents an undead and or transformed sun figure (which the black blood can signify) and the cursed part surely applies to someone who may have broken the moon or created the Others. Craster “has a cold smell to him,” so obviously he’s not a warm kind of solar figure – he’s showing us Night’s King after he’s already given his seed and soul to Night’s Queen, just like the ghostly Rhaegar that burns with a cold light.
Weirdly, Craster has 19 wives, and there are 19 fortresses on the Wall. Let me know what you think that could mean. The other 19 that seems relevant pops up when the survivors of the Fist of the First Men return to Craster’s Keep, as Sam reports to Mormont that they have 19 dragonglass arrowheads. It’s easy to see the similarity between the 19 fortresses and the 19 arrowheads, since the brothers that man those fortresses are meant to wield dragonglass, but I am not sure why Craster would have 19 wives. Perhaps Craster is like the Wall and his wives are like the fortresses, but again I am not sure what that is supposed to mean. Ygritte was 19 as well, for what it’s worth.
Finally, there are even some credible theories out there that the black brother who fathered Craster was either Maester Aemon, formerly Aemon Targaryen, or Bloodraven when he was Ser Brynden Rivers, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Either scenario would make Craster the blood of the dragon, and either scenario would be a nice match for my hypothesis about the Night’s King being Azor Ahai or his son. I mean… he is a white-haired sheep-herder practicing a ton of incest, which is basically a 100% accurate description of the Valyrians. Give that man a lute!
I’ll just let that sink in for moment. A white haired sheep-herder practicing a ton of incest and maybe a bit of human sacrifice to create monsters? That’s right, it applies to both Craster and the Valyrians. So I’m not sure if he really does have dragon blood or not, but at the least, the incesty shepherd thing does make for a good comparison to the Valyrians. It serves to make him a stand-in for a blood of the dragon person, even if he isn’t actually one.
Alright, so we are done with the three devilish bards, Bael and Mance and Rhaegar, plus our non-bard, Craster, all of whom have a stolen or rescued son that seems to fit the pattern of the stolen child of Night’s King and Queen. We’ll continue to follow the trail of the stolen Other baby, but as I mentioned earlier, all this bard stuff begs the question: was Night’s King a freaking bard? Well, we’ll have to ask the singers.
A Bale to Dread
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Now I suppose it’s possible that Nights King was literally a singer of some kind, but I have suspect the singing were are talking about is the the magical kind, something closer to the singing that the greenseers do. Singing to the stars, perhaps, but again in the magical sense. The devotees of the Church of Starry Wisdom, founded by the Bloodstone Emperor himself, are known to ‘sing to the stars’:
As she made her way past the temples, she could hear the acolytes of the Cult of Starry Wisdom atop their scrying tower, singing to the evening stars.
Of course they don’t just sing for the sake of singing – they practice dark magic in their scrying tower and attempt to gain the wisdom of the stars, or something esoteric like that. Melisandre does a bit of singing during the Lightbringer forging ritual, where it says that “Melisandre sang in the tongue of Asshai, her voice rising and falling like the tides of the sea.” In fact, there are six references to Melisandre singing, always when she prays to R’hllor.
I’m also thinking of the sort of singing that comes in the closing line of AGOT:
As Daenerys Targaryen rose to her feet, her black hissed, pale smoke venting from its mouth and nostrils. The other two pulled away from her breasts and added their voices to the call, translucent wings unfolding and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.
When they talk about the music of dragons, they aren’t talking about Rhaegar’s playing and singing, although that’s obviously a parallel symbol. No, we’re talking about real dragons, and you can see that Martin is using the word “sing” in a slightly poetic fashion. The most famous dragon to ever “sing” the music of dragons was, without a doubt, Balerion the Black Dread. I’ll say it again more slowly – Bael-erion. That’s right. Balerion the actual black dragon obviously qualifies as a incarnation of the black dragon archetype, just like his rider Aegon the Conqueror, and just like Rhaegar. We’ve already identified Aegon and Rhaegar as Night’s King figures who make symbolic Others with their respective ice queens, but little did we know that Balerion himself was a Night’s King symbol! It makes perfect sense of course, but it’s still amusing. Balerion the Black Bard, ha. Is it possible that in the books, Balerion will be the dragon who is wighted or turned cold, instead of Viserion the white dragon? I’d still bet on Viserion, but if Balerion turns icy somehow, that will be an extension of him as a Night’s King symbol.
So yeah, the Bael characters, including Balerion, seem to be telling us about Night’s King, and yes, there is a constant theme of singing and bard-dom around Night’s King.
Now you might be saying to yourself, “is it really all the Bael characters? What about Baelor the Blessed? How is he a Night’s King figure?” Well, first of all, as we discussed in Moons of Ice and Fire 3, his Sept on Visenya’s Hill is a giant symbol of the ice moon which houses the Warrior’s Sons, who symbolize the Others! Baelor’s statue in front of the sept is indeed an ice dragon symbol: a statue of a dragon made of white marble, which symbolizes ice.
Usually the ice moon represents Night’s Queen, but think about this. When Night’s King gives his seed and his soul to Night’s Queen, we can think about that as his seed and soul becoming the dragon locked in ice, the dark meteor trapped in the ice moon. When we speak of it as his seed, that correlates to Jon as the dragon sperm, injected into the womb of the ice queen Lyanna. When we think of the dragon locked in ice as the soul of Night’s King, then it becomes Night’s King himself who is locked in ice, and in the ice moon. Baelor’s Sept is on top of Visenya’s Hill, with the Hill being much bigger, so it’s very like the Sept of Baelor Targaryen is the dragon locked in the ice moon of Visenya’s Hill. After all, it was the building of Baelor’s Sept which started the business of Other-like Warrior’s Sons crawling all over Visenya’s Hill like Others pouring out of the ice moon.
Baelor also does another Night’s King type of thing, which is locking maidens in towers (he famously locks his three sisters in the Maidenvault). We saw Night’s King Stannis lock Val in a tower, and we of course know that Lyanna gave birth in the Tower of Joy, with other-like Kingsguard standing guard outside. We don’t know exactly where Night’s King took his Corpse Queen in the Nightfort, but logic dictates it was the Lord Commander’s chambers, which were probably in a tower! I’d say it’s a safe bet. Jeyne Poole is another Night’s Queen figure locked in a tower, for what it’s worth. And in case you’re wondering about Ashara Dayne, who leapt to her death from a tower (supposedly)… I tend to think she’s a fire moon queen as opposed to an ice moon queen, but I am not sure by any means. We have so little info about her, it’s hard to tell.
As for Baelor’s three sister-wives who were locked in the Maidenvault, they all have one solid Night’s Queen clue. The middle sister, Rhaena, was almost as pious as Baelor and eventually became a Septa, giving her good ice moon symbolism (although no dragons were never ‘locked in her ice,’ obviously). The first-born sister, Daena “the Defiant,” mother of Daemon Blackfyre, used to wear black as a child, but switched to always wearing white after Baelor was unable to consummate their marriage. That’s not bad, but not overwhelming either – until one of your mythology friends pipes up and informs you that the Greek Danae (Danae, Daena) was a daughter of the King of Argos who was locked in a tower to prevent her from becoming pregnant! That’s just what happened to me – no, I wasn’t locked in a tower to prevent me from becoming pregnant, I mean that my mythology friend, Crowfood’s Daughter ( @Crowfood_sD on Twitter) piped up and filled me in on the Greek Danae, and now I can include her in the essay just where she belongs – locked in a tower, unfortunately, like Daena the Defiant. More on the Greek Danae in a moment.
Elaena, the youngest sister, is where the really, really good symbolism is. She had hair that was platinum white, with a bright gold streak – and a dragon’s egg whose shell matched her hair. White dragons can be potent white meteor or ice dragons symbols, or even symbols of the Others themselves, as we know. It actually gets worse, because Elaena married Ossifer Plumm and had a son named Viserys – a name shared with another white dragon, Viserion. It’s well possible that Elaena named her son Viserys Plumm after her uncle, Viserys I Targaryen, who became king after Baelor died. Viserys Plumm’s descendant is Brown Ben Plumm, who famously got along well with Dany’s dragons – in particular, he got along with Viserion, the white one, of course. Surrounding Elaena Targaryen with all these white dragon stuff and the names Viserion and Viserys serves to equate her with Visenya Targaryen, a terrific Night’s Queen figure.
In fact, think about this: if Elaena is the Night’s Queen figure, then she’s analogous to the ice moon. Ossifer Plumm – let’s call him Lucifer – would be the Night’s King figure. Their child should represent either Jon or the Others – and they named him Viserys, which is now a white dragon name. And in keeping with a lot of the symbolism of the dark solar king figures being dead or undead, there’s a funny little story about Ossifer conceiving Viserys Plumm with Elaena Targaryen which is hinted at by Tyrion when he talks to Brown Ben Plumm in ADWD:
“I know you as well, my lord,” said Tyrion. “You’re less purple and more brown than the Plumms at home, but unless your name’s a lie, you’re a westerman, by blood if not by birth. House Plumm is sworn to Casterly Rock, and as it happens I know a bit of its history. Your branch sprouted from a stone spit across the narrow sea, no doubt. A younger son of Viserys Plumm, I’d wager. The queen’s dragons were fond of you, were they not?”
That seemed to amuse the sellsword. “Who told you that?”
“No one. Most of the stories you hear about dragons are fodder for fools. Talking dragons, dragons hoarding gold and gems, dragons with four legs and bellies big as elephants, dragons riddling with sphinxes … nonsense, all of it. But there are truths in the old books as well. Not only do I know that the queen’s dragons took to you, but I know why.”
“My mother said my father had a drop of dragon blood.”
“Two drops. That, or a cock six feet long. You know that tale? I do.
The joke here comes from the fact that Ossifer Plumm was very old when he married Elaena, and reportedly died at the bedding ceremony following their wedding. Yet Elaena still gave birth nine months later, and the rumor is that Aegon IV (Aegon the Unworthy) was the actual father. That’s what Tyrion means when he says that his father might have two drops of dragon blood – one from Elaena and one from Aegon the Unworthy. The only way that isn’t the case would be if old man Ossifer had a cock “six feet long” – meaning that he was able to reach out from the grave and impregnate Elaena. Think of Davos’s observation that Stannis looks to have one foot in the grave and remember that he looks that way because he’s been giving his seed and soul to Melisandre to make shadow children, and Night’s King gave his seed and soul to Night’s Queen. That means that, symbolically, Night’s King is sort of also implied as a dead person who still impregnates someone.
The line about Brown Ben being sprouted from a stone seems like a humorous way of talking about meteors and moons as parents and children, if you ask me, and of course the joke Tyrion is making refers to the younger of Viserys Plumm that must have crossed the Narrow Sea as the stone of a plum fruit. It’s actually a very good way of showing meteor childbirth – the meteor child is the heart of a fallen plum instead the heart of a fallen star.
So, that’s a long way to follow the thread of white dragons symbolism leading from Baelor the Blessed, Priest-King of the Ice Dragon temple, but it’s cool to see how consistent George is with his symbolism. If he needs to invent more House Plumm backstory for Brown Ben in TWOW, expect more white dragon symbolism!
So that’s King Baelor Targaryen, lock-er-away-er of ice queens. He’s not a perfect Night’s King match, but sometimes Martin has fun playing with your expectations. He does that through symbolism, as we’ve just seen, but he does that in the main story anyway – Baelor is beloved as a blessed holy man, but Tyrion calls him “Baelor the Befuddled,” and in the Sword Sword, Ser Eustace Osgrey calls him “the feeblest king who ever sat on the Iron Throne.” He may well have starved himself to death after Daena the Defiant gave birth to Daemon Blackfyre (then called Daemon Waters) by living on bread and water for 41 days until he finally expired. The MaidenVault was some wack-ass shit too, you have to admit.
I suppose a little Bael mythology might be appropriate here. It seems like there are a couple of mythological figures who inspired George to associate characters that have Bael-related names with Night’s King. First off, Ba’al of Canaanite myth is the original horned god, and he does the standard horned god / fertility god routine of being killed in the fall and resurrected in the spring. I talked about all the horned god mythology in the Sacred Order of Green Zombies Series, so that’s the place to look for all for all of that, but you will probably recall that we found strong horned god symbolism around Azor Ahai and the last hero, and around figures like Jon and Mance and Stannis. The horned god can certainly be a musician; Pan is one version of this figure, and of course Pan sometimes uses his music to bewitch and entrance.
An even more potent myth George seems to be be referencing with the Bael names comes from Irish folklore, which is a well we already know George likes to draw from. I’m speaking of Balor, King of the Fomorians, who was a giant with a large eye in his forehead that wreaks serious destruction when opened. He’s also called “King of Demons,” and according to wikipedia, it is suggested that Balor comes from Common Celtic Baleros, meaning “the deadly one”, cognate with Old Irish at-baill (dies) and Welsh ball (death, plague). Three of his nicknames are translated as ‘Balor the Smiter,’ ‘Balor the Strong Smiter,’ and ‘Balor of the Piercing Eye’ which later became ‘Balor of the Evil Eye.’
So you kinda get the idea: he’s a death god who brings dread and woe. The word Baleros sounds very close to Balerion, and given his “Black Dread” nickname, we can see that George is using the meaning of the Welsh Balor’s name as well. Balerion and all black dragon figures are representative of the ASOIAF death god (also called Him of Many Faces, the Lion of Night, the Stranger, etc.) That’s cool and everything, but let me show you the even more obvious tip-off that this Balor myth is a myth Martin is thinking of, which is this: Balor locks his only daughter, Ethniu, in a tower to prevent her from becoming pregnant. He does this because it is prophesied that Balor would be killed by his grandson, and of course this happens anyway, as his daughter becomes pregnant and her son Lugh leads the Tuatha Dé Danann in rebellion against the Formorians and Balor. I would see the parallel to this as Baelor Targaryen locking up his sister wives, one of which gave birth to Daemon Blackfyre, who lead the largest rebellion against the Targaryen dynasty in their history as kings of Westeros.
And didn’t we just say that the Greek Danae was locked up to prevent her pregnancy, just like the daughter of Balor of the Evil Eye? It’s actually an even closer parallel when we look at the Danae story again: she too eventually became pregnant (horny old Zeus saw her imprisoned and became a “golden rain” which left her pregnant, and yeah the dirty joke is implied in the myth), and just like Balor’s daughter giving birth to a hero who grew up and killed Balor, Danae gives birth to the famous hero Perseus, who eventually killed his grandfather! This time it was an accident – Perseus was throwing the discus at the athletic games, which his grandfather attended, and an errant throw struck him in the head. There’s also a prophecy involved, just as with the Balor story – in both cases, it is prophesied that the daughter will give birth to a son that will kill the grandfather who likes to lock women in towers, which is what leads Balor and his Greek counterpart, Acrisius, King of Argos, to lock their virgin daughters in towers to begin with.
Needless to say, these two myths, when compared with Baelor Targaryen’s wife having a son who rebelled against the royal dynasty, pour a lot more fuel on the fire of our theory about the last hero being a son or close relative of Night’s King. I also think it’s just plain cool how George wove the Irish Balor of the Evil Eye and Greek Danae myths together in the story of Baelor and Daena Targaryen.
As for the mythical astronomy of the Balor of the Evil Eye myth, wowsers! Balor, King of Demons and Fomorians (the latter of whom may well be part of the inspiration for the Others), has some sort of destructive eye! And by destructive, I mean forest-burning, earth-moving destruction. It reminds me of my notion of the celestial Gods Eye, from which the deadly moon meteors came… and you’re not going to believe this, but listen to what happens when Balor is killed by his grandson Lugh, and here I will quote wikipedia: “One legend tells that, when Balor was slain by Lugh, Balor’s eye was still open when he fell face first into the ground. Thus his deadly eye beam burned a hole into the earth. Long after, the hole filled with water and became a lake which is now known as Loch na Súil, or “Lake of the Eye”, in County Sligo.”
Lake of the Eye, and formed by a slain god! Kinda sounds like the Gods Eye lake, does it not? In other words, the Irish Balor legend would seem to contain the inspiration for the destructive celestial gods eye as well as the gods eye lake. It was probably in George’s mind when he wrote the battle over the Gods Eye scene with Daemon Targaryen and Aemond One-Eye, which gave us Night’s King figures and and a white dragon plunging into the lake like Balor’s severed head. You guys don’t even know how long I have been saving that one – it’s been at least a year and a half or something, ha ha. What’s really great about it is that aligning Balor’s baleful eye with the Gods Eye eclipse makes Balor’s falling head, with its deadly eye beam blazing, equivalent to the falling moon meteors, and that makes perfect sense. That’s what Balerion the Black Dread represents as well – the black meteors that fell from the Gods Eye in the sky and brought darkness and dread, just like Balor, the Smiter.
If you think about it, this also kind of suggests the Gods Eye lake was created via meteor impact, although it would have had to be a much older impact, as crater lakes take a very long time to form. Here I’d like to give a shoutout to An American Thinks on YouTube, who arrived at the meteor-origin for the Gods Eye lake idea through an entirely different line of research. Check those out on his YouTube channel, they’re great!
Better yet for Mythical Astronomy, Lugh kills Balor by throwing a magical spear through his baleful eye, very like all the dragon-eye spearing ideas in ASOIAF which I would say refer to the piercing of the celestial Gods Eye by the comet, such as the legend of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slaying the dragon Urrax. It’s not that different from Perseus hitting his grandfather in the head with a discus, for that matter.
So, to sum up, I think we can say that given the locking maidens in towers connection to Baelor Targaryen, the overlaps with the Greek Danae myth that also play into the Baelor the Blessed story, plus these awesome mythical astronomy connections, this is assuredly a myth George drew inspiration from. We can also deduce that it shaped his decision to use variants of the Bael name for certain Night’s King figures. The theme of being slain by your descendant present in the Irish Balor legend and the Greek Danae has us once again suspecting that the last hero may have been the son or nephew or recent descendant of Night’s King.
And that’s before we consider our final Baelor influence from world mythology, Balan and Balin, two brother knights from Arthurian myth who tragically killed each other. Here I owe another large hat-tip to Crowfood’s Daughter, without whom I would have been ignorant of this mythology. We don’t need to go too deep into Arthurian myth here, but the broad strokes are highly relevant, particularly because this tale intersects with the Holy Grail mythology, including the Fisher King and the Dolorous Stroke. You could do an entire essay about these ideas and their influence on ASOIAF, so understand that I am summarizing significantly here. There’s also the issue of there being several variants of the story, as with a lot of Arthurian myth and world myth in general.
Sir Balin the Savage is kind of the main character, with his brother Balan serving as more of an adjunct. Balin is a somewhat tragic figure, who struggles with fits of melancholy or rage. His brother Balan acts as a good influence, helping to limit the damage of these spells and helping Balin to learn to control them. Balin is in possession of a magic sword, which is also cursed, but the most famous weapon he uses is the Spear of Longinous – supposedly the spear used by a Roman soldier to pierce the side of Jesus Christ on the cross. The circumstances of the tale place Sir Balin in the castle of King Pellam, who is the grail king, and after a fight breaks out, Balin ends up using this holy spear to inflict what is known as “the dolorous stroke” on the grail king Pellam.
This wounded king figure is also known as the Fisher King (although they can be separate, father-and-son characters in some versions), and the idea is that this dolorous stroke is an allusion to castration – it’s usually described as an inner thigh wound as a way of cleaning up the story, but symbolically, it’s a blow which ruins the King’s fertility. In this mythology, the vitality of the king is seen as tied to the health of the land (think of fat and jolly King Robert ruling over a long, bountiful summer, for example), and when the Grail King receives the dolorous stroke, the land turns to ruin and famine. This is what actually sets the stage for the grail quest, which is completed by Sir Galahad, who in some versions is the grandson of Pellam or Pellam’s brother.
Here’s how this translates to ASOIAF: our Bael character, Sir Balin, strikes a magical wound which turns the land to blight, just as Night’s King may be the same person as Azor Ahai, the man who broke the moon and caused the Long Night. The solar king kills his lunar wife, but he himself is wounded and weakened – this is the dark sun of the Long Night seen as a weakened and blighted solar king, ruling over a blighted and drought-filled land. Interestingly, in some Fisher King stories, the wounded grail king is wounded as punishment for his taking a wife, which guardians of the grail are not supposed to do. That sure reminds us of the idea of Night’s King breaking his Night’s Watch vows and taking Night’s Queen to wife.
The other relevant part of Sir Balin’s story is that he mistakenly kills his brother, Balan, who was in a kind of disguise, wearing someone else’s armor. Most tales have them dying in each other’s arms, realizing their tragic mistake only after mortally wounding one another. George gives us a version of this story with a pair of twin brothers who both joined the Kingsguard: Erryk and Arryk Cargill. The most complete recounting of this tragic event that occurred during the Dance of the Dragons comes from TWOIAF, though its referenced several times in the story proper:
Even the Kingsguard were enlisted into the strife. Ser Criston Cole dispatched Ser Arryk Cargyll to Dragonstone with the intention of having him infiltrate the citadel in the guise of his twin, Ser Erryk. There, he was to kill Rhaenyra (or her children; accounts differ). Yet as chance would have it, Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk met by happenstance in one of the halls of the citadel. The singers tell us that they professed their love for one another before the steel clashed, and fought with love and duty in their hearts for an hour before they died weeping in one another’s arms. The account of Mushroom, who claims to have witnessed the duel, says the reality was far more brutal: they condemned one another for traitors, and within moments had mortally wounded each other.
So there you go – it’s pretty much the same story, save that Erryk and Arryk did recognize each other, unlike Balin and Balan. More importantly, we are thinking of how Night’s King was thrown down by his brother, Brandon the Breaker, which gives us a Bael figure – Night’s King – killed by his brother, something like Balin and Balan. As you can see, George has created his Night’s King mythology by drawing from tales which involve both brother-brother killings and / or kings who are killed by their children and grandchildren. Heck, one of the oldest brother vs. brother tales deserves a mention here as well, and that’s the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Since George specifically pointed out that “Abel” is an anagram of “Bael” when Mance posed as Abel to sneak into Winterfell, we are probably supposed to lump Abel the slain brother into the wider context of Night’s King background mythology. I’m not sure how much our Baelful Night’s King character correlates to the sweet and innocent Abel of the Bible, but it nevertheless yet another brothers fighting myth that is being referenced, and so deserves mention.
I’d also like to direct you to Crowfood’s Daughter’s essay on these topics, which are fantastic, and you can find right here.
We have more Bael and bard figures left to look at, so we’ll bear these themes of kinslaying in mind as we go and see what we find.
A Bale Full of Bards
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Now you guys know how George does his symbolism: he lays it on thick, with many, many examples of any given idea for us to find and connect. Bael the Bard and Baelor Targaryen and Balerion the Black Dread aren’t the end of it, oh no. Baelor Breakspear is the other famous Baelor, and although he’s quite a nice guy, and doesn’t lock any maidens in any towers, he is a black dragon figure the one time we see in armor at the Tourney of Ashford Meadow:
Then came a voice. “I will take Ser Duncan’s side.”
A black stallion emerged from out of the river mists, a black knight on his back. Dunk saw the dragon shield, and the red enamel crest upon his helm with its three roaring heads. The Young Prince. Gods be good, it is truly him?
Lord Ashford made the same mistake. “Prince Valarr?”
“No.” The black knight lifted the visor of his helm. “I did not think to enter the lists at Ashford, my lord, so I brought no armor. My son was good enough to lend me his.” Prince Baelor smiled almost sadly.
I love how Baelor is called the Black Knight twice here, and how he rides out of the river mists in such dramatic fashion, after beginning as a disembodied voice. His sad smile foreshadows his imminent death, which comes as a result of a blow he takes during the trial of seven. That blow came from his brother Maekar, and though it wasn’t intended to kill, it unfortunately fractured his skull, and getting killed by your brother is a match for the legend of Night’s King… and Balin and Balan, of course. In fact, this tale hits on an element of the Sir Balin story that Erryk and Arryk do not, which is the tragic misunderstanding aspect. Maekar and Baelor don’t mistake one another, but they are friends and Maekar certainly did not mean to kill his brother.
As a historical echo of Night’s King and Brandon the Breaker, things are kind of all scrambled around. Maekar parallels Brandon the Breaker, since he’s killing a black dragon Bael figure, but Baelor is the one named as a breaker via his “Breakspear” nickname. In fact Baelor Breakspear compares well to the last hero, since he switches sides for the trial of seven and fights against the Other-like Kingsguard – shades of our rescued Other baby as the last hero fighting his would be brothers, right? Baelor’s “break-spear” name kinda of evokes the broken sword motif that all last hero characters seem to manifest. I also wonder if the spear of Longinus that Balin used to wound the Grail King Pellem is being referenced here. Another similarity to the Balin tale is that Baelor is wearing someone else’s armor, as Balin’s brother Balan did.
Maekar, meanwhile, has a wife, Dyanna Dayne, whose name rhymes with Lyanna. He lives at Summerhall, which is of course notably tied to Night’s King figure Rhaegar. He’s also the one who has a child taken from him, which would of course be Egg, who is taken by Dunk right after this tourney. Dunk would seem to fit well with our other collector / rescuer figures like Ned, Sam, and Coldhands. I can’t help noticing that all of those people have a similar personality – honorable, steadfast, resolute, and humble.
We can’t talk about Baelor Breakspear without speaking of Baelor Breakwind! That’s right, there’s a very minor character in the current timeline named Baelor, who’s actually on the other side of the battle lines from Euron and his Ironborn fleet – that’s Baelor Hightower, son and heir of Lord Leyton Hightower, who’s seeing to the defenses of Oldtown by building new ships for the fleet. He’s also the one whom a young Oberyn Martell nicknames “Baelor Breakwind” after he farted in his and Elia’s presence while courting Elia.
There’s not much to say about Baelor Hightower, save that the Hightowers are said to descend from the traders and seafarers who came to Oldtown before the First Men – who would have been the folks from the Great Empire of the Dawn, some of whom would have been the dragonlords responsible for building the fused stone fortress at Battle Isle, future site of the Hightower of Oldtown. The Hightowers may of the same blood as Azor Ahai, in other words, just as the Daynes probably are, and indeed, Baelor Hightower seems like an early phase Azor Ahai figure. After the Baelor Breakwind nickname wears off, he’s called Baelor Brightsmile, and he’ss married to a weirwood goddess figure, Rhonda of House Rowan (recall that a Rowan tree is also called “Mountain Ash,” Yggdrasil of Norse myth is an ash tree, and the weirwoods are heavily based on Yggdrasil). Additionally, the lords of House Hightower wear cloaks of flame and smoke, which increases his likeness to the heralded Warrior of Fire and champion of R’hllor.
You’ll recall that earlier I said it’s very possible Nissa Nissa was from Westeros, and that Azor Ahai had a child or children with her before her death, and that the Daynes seem to represent this kind of union – the blood of the dragon from the Great Empire of the Dawn merged with the blood of the First Men and the children of the forest. The same symbolism seems to apply to the Hightowers, and thus Baelor himself or his child by a Rowan maiden could symbolize this child of Azor and Nissa. I further speculated that it may have been this child of Azor and Nissa who became Night’s King, as opposed to Azor Ahai himself, which would be equivalent to Baelor’s bright smile turning dark, as his name suggests it should, or to Baelor’s and Rhonda Rowan’s child becoming a Night’s King figure.
Last but not least, Baelor Hightower has a brother named Garth. Garth of the Hightower! That’s quite a concept… of course the Hightowers claim descent from Garth by way of the legendary marriage between Garth’s daughter, Maris the Most Fair, and the founder of House Hightower with a very dragony name, Uthor of the Hightower. That marriage depicts the same symbolism as Baelor marrying a woman of House Rowan – a dragon person marrying some sort of tree maiden or elf woman (a daughter of Garth the Green certainly counts in that regard).
Additionally, since we’ve seen the brothers fighting so often with Night’s King figures, one could imagine a fight between Baelor and Garth as representing the bright solar king (Garth) against the Night’s King figure (Baelor). Right now Baelor Hightower is implied as a bright solar figure via his nickname, so perhaps there’s an element of the original story where one brother turns evil and the other does not, a la Brandon the Breaker Stark throwing down evil Night’s King.
At this point I’d like to pause and point out how many of our Bael / Night King figures are dragon-related: Rhaegar, Aegon the Conqueror, Balerion, Baelor the Blessed Targaryen, Baelor Breakspear Targaryen, and even Baelor Hightower is symbolically linked to dragons via his House. Stannis has a bit of Targaryen blood, Jon obviously does, and Euron wants to ride dragons, wears Valyrian steal armor and sports the dragonbinder horn. If Night’s King was a blood of the dragon person, then that all makes sense.
Moving right along, we have Baelor Blacktyde, an Ironborn captain in the current storyline who commands a ship called Nightflyer. The ship’s name tips us off that this is a night-associated fellow, and indeed, his black sable cloak is eventually taken by Night’s King figure Euron. Obviously the idea of a “black tide” is a version of the waves of night symbolism that represents the darkness of the Long Night. Black tide, Nightflyer, black cloak – it’s all pretty consistent. Baelor also worships the Seven, which you could see as an association with the Warrior’s Sons and the Sept of Baelor and therefore the Others and the ice moon. It’s also considered somewhat heretical, which kinda fist the general vibe of evil Azor Ahai and Night’s King.
Here I’ll pass along a wordplay find by Ravenous Reader, concerning the sable cloak. The “say-bael” cloak. Say Bael. You don’t say! Baelor has the say-bael cloak, Euron wears it later, and don’t forget Ser Waymar form the prologue, whose sable cloak was his “crowning glory,” wording which also implies the black crown symbol of the dark solar king. It was actually mentioned six times in the prologue! Ser Jaremy Rykker of the Night’s Watch has a black cloak trimmed in sable – at least he did, until he was killed by the cold-wighted Jafer Flowers, just as Waymar was killed by the Others. Interestingly, Jaremy’s sable cloak was taken from him and worn by another (Thoren Smallwood), just as Euron took Baelor Blacktyde’s sable cloak. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Sir Balan wearing the armor of another when he was killed by his brother Balin.
There’s not much to say about Thoren Smallwood, the man who took Ser Jaremy’s sable-lined cloak. His name is taken from Thoren Oakenshield, a dwarf from Lord of the Rings, and he’s killed by a wighted snow bear at the Fist of the First Men. Perhaps more importantly, Thoren speaks up for Craster as a friend to the watch on a couple of occasions. It’s kind of funny, actually – Dywen and Thoren Smallwood have this running thing going where Dywen, who has wooden teeth, is pro-weirwood and anti- Craster, while Thoren Smallwood, whose name imlies making trees shorter (i.e. chopping them down), hates the weirwood trees and wants to cut them down, and loves Craster. Listen to this s**t:
Thoren Smallwood dismounted beside the trunk, dark in his plate and mail. “Look at that face. Small wonder men feared them, when they first came to Westeros. I’d like to take an axe to the bloody thing myself.”
Small-wood, small wonder, wants to make the trees smaller. Like I said, it’s kinda funny. Frankly, that wighted snow bear gave him what he had coming to him. Dywen, on the other hand, is a forester and can smell when the wights are getting closer at the Fist.
Anwyways… Say-Bael cloak! It’s pretty clever.
Just Another Bale On the Wall
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Speaking of Ironborn, how about Balon Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke? Well, he’s called the Lord Reaper – like the Grim Reaper, obviously. That’s how you make a bale of hay – first you have to reap! Lord Reaper Balon wears a black iron crown, and he’s a usurper, like Night’s King. He’s killed by his brother Euron, like the Night’s King legend and the tale of Sir Balin and Balan. He declares war on Winterfell, which is kind of like Night’s King battling against the Stark of Wintefell. His throne is carved from an oily black stone, the kind of thing that would have the Bloodstone Emperor saying, “hey man, that’s a nice chair!” In fact, TWOIAF tells us that “At fifteen he spent a summer in the Stepstones, reaving,” which means he was yet another dark solar king to hang out on Bloodstone Island. All in all, that’s a pretty good start for Balon as a night’s King figure.
Balon Greyjoy’s current wife is Alannys Harlaw – Allanys, Lyanna – who has some corpse queen symbolism in these two quotes from Asha Greyjoy, her daughter. First, she says to Theon in ACOK that “The cold winds have worn her away,” and obviously cold winds is one of those trigger phrases that makes us think of the north and the Others. Better yet is this passage in AFFC, from the chapter titled “the Kraken’s Daughter:”
Even now, it was hard to credit that frail, sickly Lady Alannys had outlived her husband Lord Balon, who had seemed so hard and strong. When Asha had sailed away to war, she had done so with a heavy heart, fearing that her mother might well die before she could return. Not once had she thought that her father might perish instead. The Drowned God plays savage japes upon us all, but men are crueler still. A sudden storm and a broken rope had sent Balon Greyjoy to his death. Or so they claim.
Asha had last seen her mother when she stopped at Ten Towers to take on fresh water, on her way north to strike at Deepwood Motte. Alannys Harlaw never had the sort of beauty the singers cherished, but her daughter had loved her fierce strong face and the laughter in her eyes. On that last visit, though, she had found Lady Alannys in a window seat huddled beneath a pile of furs, staring out across the sea. Is this my mother, or her ghost? she remembered thinking as she’d kissed her cheek.
Her mother’s skin had been parchment thin, her long hair white. Some pride remained in the way she held her head, but her eyes were dim and cloudy, and her mouth had trembled when she asked after Theon. “Did you bring my baby boy?” she had asked. Theon had been ten years old when he was carried off to Winterfell a hostage, and so far as Lady Alannys was concerned he would always be ten years old, it seemed.
So, Lady Alannys begins with the the grim reaper symbolism of the Harlaw scythe as a backdrop, and then we see that she has white hair, skin like parchment, and that she’s like a ghost – she’s very like a living corpse, in other words, very like Jeyne Poole. That fits the “corpse queen” description, and she’s in a tower like so many of our ice queen figures, with the image of her weak and frail and huddling under furs again reminding us a bit of Jeyne Poole. But what should have really grabbed your attention was the fact that she is fixated on her lost son! That’s right, Theon, who plays the rescuer figure role with a possibly pregnant Jeyne Poole in ADWD, is himself a rescued Night’s King / Night’s Queen baby. Alannys refers to Theon as “my baby boy” repeatedly to emphasize the idea.
And where was young Theon, son of Night’s King Balon, “carried off” to by Ned the rescuer / baby stealer? Winterfell, of course, where else? Eventually, Theon becomes the very temporary Lord of Winterfell, and then later after his Reekification and the beginning of his journey back to becoming Theon, he embraces his status as an honorary Stark, thinking that his grey skin makes him “a Stark at last” – disgraced though he may be. Theon’s father Balon specifically accuses him of being more loyal to the Starks than his native Ironborn, and this is what would have happened to the rescued / stolen Night’s King baby, who would have been loyal to the Starks, and indeed, would have become a Stark. It’s also what happened to Bael the Bard’s son, who became a Stark and slew his father when he invaded Westeros with a wildling army.
It’s almost as if mankind is stealing an Other and turning him against his former brothers, training him to guard against the Others. Let’s pause the Theon for a bit of insight on this principle from King Garth Gardener IX, as recorded in TWOIAF:
The Three Sage Kings also found lands and lordships for the more powerful of the Andal kings descending on the Reach, in return for pledges of fealty. The Gardeners sought after Andal craftsmen as well and encouraged their lords bannermen to do the same. Blacksmiths and stonemasons in particular were handsomely rewarded. The former taught the First Men to arm and armor themselves in iron in place of bronze; the latter helped them strengthen the defenses of their castles and holdfasts.
And though some of these new-made lords foreswore their vows in later years, most did not. Rather, they joined with their liege lords to put down such rebels and defended the Reach against those Andal kings and warbands who came later. “When a wolf descends upon your flocks, all you gain by killing him is a short respite, for other wolves will come,” King Garth IX said famously. “If instead you feed the wolf and tame him and turn his pups into your guard dogs, they will protect the flocks when the pack comes ravening.”
This is the exact principle I am talking about, and they’re even using wolves as an analogy. The stolen Other baby turned Stark is very much like a tamed wolf, trained to kill the Others. Of course, no one is better at taming wolves that wargs, and it seems like that’s kind of a Stark thing. Perhaps it’s better to think of the Starks as “trained wolves” instead of “tamed wolves,” as I think that’s more apt.
Returning to our analysis of Theon as a baby stolen from Night’s King and turne dinto a Stark, there’s a couple of things to note about his abduction from Pyke. As you can see, Ned is in the child rescuer / collector role once again, as he was at the Tower of Joy. Also sighted at the Storming of Pyke were a couple of guys with flaming swords, Thoros and Beric! Like the Tower of Joy, this battle seems like it could easily read as a metaphor or echo of the War for the Dawn, or at least some part of it, with our signature Night’s King and Queen baby being rescued / stolen by Starks and people with flaming swords.
Fast forwarding to Theon’s short time as the Lord of Winterfell, there’s a cool reference to Bael the Bard:
The killings stopped after Farlen’s death, but even so his men continued sullen and anxious. “They fear no foe in open battle,” Black Lorren told him, “but it is another thing to dwell among enemies, never knowing if the washerwoman means to kiss you or kill you, or whether the serving boy is filling your cup with ale or bale. We would do well to leave this place.”
“I am the Prince of Winterfell!” Theon had shouted. “This is my seat, no man will drive me from it. No, nor woman either!”
That’s a fun quote, as it contains nods to both the Bael the Bard myth – the serving boy filling Theon’s cup with “ale or bale” – and to Mance’s future escapades sneaking into Winterfell disguised as Abel and accompanied by six washerwoman. The reason why I say that is because one of the fact that “Abel’s” washerwomen, Rowan, does later threaten to both kiss and kill Theon in a sort of delayed fulfillment of Black Lorren’s warning to Theon about washerwomen who could either kiss or kill you. Another parallel to the Bael legend is taking place at the same time as this conversation occurs, as Bran, Rickon, Osha, Jojen, Meera and Hodor are hiding in the Winterfell crypts, just as Bael and his Stark maiden did.
Now as it happens, Balon Greyjoy isn’t the only Balon in Ironborn history. He’s not even the only Balon Greyjoy! You all know how much I love TWOIAF, precisely because George seems to have used it as an opportunity to reinforce a lot of the symbolic ideas that he created in the main series. For example – there are two Balons spoken of in the Iron Islands section of the Worldbook, and here is the first one who is also a Greyjoy:
In the century that followed, a succession of weaker kings lost the Arbor, Bear Island, Flint’s Finger, and most of the ironborn enclaves along the Sunset Sea, until only a handful remained.
It must not be thought that the ironborn won no victories during these years. Balon V Greyjoy, called Coldwind, destroyed the feeble fleets of the King in the North.
Ah ha! A Balon Coldwind, battling against the King in the North as Night’s King battled the King of Winter, Brandon the Breaker. That certainly sounds like Night’s King with the cold winds of winter at his back, does it not? Of course this works as a compliment to the Balon Greyjoy of the main story (Balon IX, in case you were curious) who attacks and temporarily conquers the North. Once again I will remind you of all the symbolism equating the drowned men of the Ironborn with the Others that we looked at in Moons of Ice and Fire 4: The Long Night Was His to Rule – Balon Coldwind leading drowned men is absolutely symbolic of Night’s King invading with the Others. He’s invading the North and fighting the King of Winter, just as he should be.
In fact, Reddit user Diatonix recently pointed out to me that there is an Others double entendre in the famous quote about Euron as a squid shadow with a black eye. This quote begins with Tyrion speaking to Moqorro:
“Have you seen these others in your fires?” he asked, warily.
“Only their shadows,” Moqorro said. “One most of all. A tall and twisted thing with one black eye and ten long arms, sailing on a sea of blood.”
Throw it on the pile of wordplay and symbolism implying that Euron has a connection to the Others – or at least that his Bloodstone Emperor / Night’s King archetype does.
Our second Ironborn Balon is one of the more magical-sounding fellows in Iron Islands folklore:
Many legends have come down to us through the millennia of the salt kings and reavers who made the Sunset Sea their own, men as wild and cruel and fearless as any who have ever lived. Thus we hear of the likes of Torgon the Terrible, Jorl the Whale, Dagon Drumm the necromancer, Hrothgar of Pyke and his krakensummoning horn, and Ragged Ralf of Old Wyk.
Most infamous of all was Balon Blackskin, who fought with an axe in his left hand and a hammer in his right. No weapon made of man could harm him, it was said; swords glanced off and left no mark, and axes shattered against his skin.
I don’t know what the truth of this legend is – most likely it’s a legend that sprung up from the first Ironborn to wear iron plate while reaving, which would have seemed magical to the ones who saw it for the first time. But as for the symbolic message, it’s more that just Balon Blackskin being associated with black like Night’s King, who wore a black cloak of the Night’s Watch; think of some of the magical black armor we’ve seen on a couple Night’s King characters. Jon has his dream of being armored in black ice, and Euron Greyjoy has that suit of Valyrian steel in the Forsaken, both scenes we’ve quoted recently in the Moons of Ice and Fire series. It’s kind of like the say-bael cloak, but upgraded.
That last quoted passage goes on to ask the question whether such fearsome men as Balon Blackskin, Dagon Drumm, and all the rest are at all historical or just the stuff of legend, and goes on to talk about how terrifying the Ironborn reavers would have been to the First Men of the mainland, who had vastly inferior weapons, armor, and seafaring skill. Then we get one of my favorite passages about the Ironborn which seems very similar to the Balon Blackskin legend. That’s the one that tells us 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.”
Protected by fell sorceries sounds an awful lot like magical armor, as Balon Blackskin may have had, and as Euron does have. The other runic armor we hear off is that of House Royce – as in Waymar Royce, who’s crowning glory was the soft-as-sin sable cloak. The foul black weapons I’ve cited before as being connected to the hypothetically black Lightbringer sword that I believe Azor Ahai came to Westeros with, but if we want to think about this practically, it’s likely just another dramatic retelling of what it was like to be the first people to fight against weapons made of black iron.
Overall, I think we can say that the three Balons in Ironborn history, as well as Baelor Blacktyde, fit in very well with everything we think we know about Night’s King.
The last Balon (and you all got my Bale-On the Wall joke, right?) in ASOIAF is from the current story, and he’s a white shadow knight of the kingsguard. I’m giving you hints in case you’d like to guess… I’m speaking of Balon Swann of course, the Kingsguard who was sent to Dorne to bring Myrcella back after his white sword brother Arys Oakheart was killed during Arianne Martell’s failed plot to crown Myrcella. Besides being a white shadow, House Swann has that oh-so-very Daoist sigil of the black and white swans combatant countercharged on black and white fields. Given that the white shadow brothers of the Kingsguard are modeled after the black shadow brothers of the Night’s Watch, that black-and-white swan sigil sure reads like the Others battling the Night’s Watch.
The brothers fighting motif is very, very present in a scene with Balon Swann from ASOS. Right after Jaime gets back to Kings Landing, he’s sort of interviewing his Kingsguard and getting to know them, and here’s how it goes:
“There is only one question I would put to you. You served us loyally, it’s true … but Varys tells me that your brother rode with Renly and then Stannis, whilst your lord father chose not to call his banners at all and remained behind the walls of Stonehelm all through the fighting.”
“My father is an old man, my lord. Well past forty. His fighting days are done.” “And your brother?”
“Donnel was wounded in the battle and yielded to Ser Elwood Harte. He was ransomed afterward and pledged his fealty to King Joffrey, as did many other captives.”
“So he did,” said Jaime. “Even so … Renly, Stannis, Joffrey, Tommen … how did he come to omit Balon Greyjoy and Robb Stark? He might have been the first knight in the realm to swear fealty to all six kings.”
Ser Balon’s unease was plain. “Donnel erred, but he is Tommen’s man now. You have my word.”
“It’s not Ser Donnel the Constant who concerns me. It’s you.” Jaime leaned forward. “What will you do if brave Ser Donnel gives his sword to yet another usurper, and one day comes storming into the throne room? And there you stand all in white, between your king and your blood. What will you do?”
“I … my lord, that will never happen.”
“It happened to me,” Jaime said. Swann wiped his brow with the sleeve of his white tunic. “You have no answer?”
“My lord.” Ser Balon drew himself up. “On my sword, on my honor, on my father’s name, I swear … I shall not do as you did.”
Not only is Jaime suggesting the idea of Balon Swann having to fight his brother Donnel “the Constant,” from our green zombies research we know that Donnel is is a version of Donner, one of Santa’s Reindeer – and more importantly, Donner is the German word for thunder, which is why Beric the Lightning Lord is of House Dondarrion (with dondar being the Dutch equivalent of donner). Thus, like Baelor Hightower with a brother named Garth, Balon Swann has a brother who is implied as a horned lord. This time the notion of the Bael figure fighting his Garth-like brother is directly suggested. The likeness to the Arthurian legend of Balin and Balan is unmistakable now, I would think. There’s also a clever nod to Balor of the Evil Eye – House Swann comes form a castle called “Stonehelm,” and a stone helm is very like a stone giant’s head, suc as we see on the sigil of And once again, the hat-tip goes to Crowfood’s Daughter for spotting this scene with Balon and Jaime! As you can tell, she’s done a bit of research on Bael figures in ASOIAF.
This final section is brought to you by our final three new acolytes of starry wisdom: Rupee the Funkateer, ArchMaester of Synesthesia ; Icarus Drowning, the Public Eye; and Edward Greenhand, the transplanting transplant with a history of history
For our final Bael-ish character it’s… yeah, Petyr Baelish! He’s Bael-ish, get it? I didn’t think of that one, and again I don’t know who was the first to notice it, but it’s clever wordplay on Martin’s behalf, that’s for certain. I am saving an in-depth look at Petyr for the Sansa episode, when we will discuss all things related to Lysa and Petyr and Sansa and the Vale, but let me briefly summarize a couple of things which are relevant to our discussion here.
Petyr’s initial setup is one of a dark solar king with two lady loves – Cat and Lysa. Cat is the one he wants, and Lysa the one he gets, with Cat being a strong fire moon figure as we discussed in Venus of the Woods, and Lysa is of course a great ice queen, as we’ve discussed a couple of times in the Moons of Ice and Fire series. He goes to live in the icy Vale as “Lord Protector,” depicting the dragon locked in ice pattern. Petyr may not be a dragonlord, but he does have “a gift for rubbing two golden dragons together to breed a third,” as Tyrion thinks to himself., and he’s fond of giving moon maidens like Sansa the forbidden pomegranates of Hades… which is of course symbolic of Petyr stealing Sansa away from King’s Landing to the Eyrie.
You may also recall his initial sigil, the one which belonged to grandpa Baelish: the stone head of the Titan of Braavos, complete with fiery eyes! This certainly reminds us of Balor the giant with the burning eye, does it not? The Titan of Braavos holds a broken sword, giving us the familiar symbol of the last hero, and inside Petyr’s little tower on the Fingers, we find another broken sword hanging over the mantle of the fireplace. Even the boat he sails on, the Merling King, makes us think of the statue of the Merling King at White Harbor (a.k.a. Old Fishfoot) who has a trident with a broken prong.
I think George was using a stone head to referencw Balor of the Evil Eye with Balon Swann as well – House Swann comes from a castle called Stonehelm, which is very like the huge stone helm of the Titan of Braavos.
Most importantly, Petyr is the one who lures Sansa to the Vale. As I explained last time, the female version of the dragon locked in ice symbolism emphasizes the black fire moon meteor that lodges in the ice moon as the fire moon queen transforming and becoming Night’s Queen. Sansa does fire moon and Nissa Nissa things at King’s Landing, then flees to the icy Vale, calling herself “Alayne Stone” and darkening her hair and cloak. When she gets there, she supplants the old ice queen, Lysa, and proceeds to do Night’s Queen things herself. Like I said, we’ll talk about all of that in detail in the future, but as you can see, Petyr Bael-ish hits many of the marks…
..and some of the other Night’s King hallmarks in that storyline are met by the bard who serves as an adjunct to Petyr, Marillion,. He was the singer who traveled to the Eyrie with Lady Cat and Tyrion and Bronn and the rest in AGOT, and the same singer who is later made the scapegoat for Lysa Tully’s murder. This leads to Marillion’s imprisonment in the Eyrie, giving us the depiction of a Night’s King bard locked in ice. In parallel to Petyr’s abducting Sansa and coming on to her, we have slimy Marillion trying to rape Sansa on the night of Petyr’s wedding to Lysa Tully, another ice moon queen. After Tyrion’s trial and release, he stays in the Vale and ingratiates himself to Lysa – he’s called “Lysa’s singer” and is lavished with gifts and even Jon Arryn’s falcon – and it’s strongly suggested that coerced or forced himself on several serving girls. In other words, we can see he’s not just stuck in the ice moon symbol of the Eyrie, he’s trying to give his seed to ice moon queens. Later, people say that Lysa was “killed by her singer.”
And then finally, he’s imprisoned in the sky cells and referred to as “a dead man,” which fits the idea of Night’s King giving his soul to Night’s Queen and undergoing some sort of transformation or death transformation. To further the idea of Marillion’s ghost lingering there even after his death, we read that little Sweetrobin can still hear him singing on the wind and in his dreams, every night.
One other thing that works as Night’s King symbolism for Marillion is the fact that he wore the shadowskin cloak of a dead mountain clansman for a while, and the “shadowcat” is just another way of saying Lion of Night (cat of shadow / cat of night / lion of night). Where did he get that shadowskin cloak? From a mountain clansman of the mountains of the Moon, of course. This is a depiction of the sun being cloaked in the darkness of the exploding moon’s smoke, dust and debris and transforming into the Dark Solar King, who can in some instances be Night’s King. It’s also just another version of the shadowskin cloak, and once again it’s being taken from someone after they were killed.
We’ll go through all that in more detail when we do the Sansa at the Eyrie episode – I think that one is going to be next actually – but I had to mention Marillion and Petry Baelish here as they have strong echoes of the other bards and Bael figures. Although we’re finally out of the Baels, we do have a couple of other bards we need to mention. For example, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Blue Bard, that poor unfortunate soul. He’s the singer whom Cersei and Qyburn tortured in the black cells in order to force a false confession that implicated Margarey. He’s a notable fellow because he seems to combine the symbolism of Rhaegar and Lyanna: he’s a singer and a lutist, much like Rhaegar is a singer and harpist, but he’s cloaked in Lyanna’s symbolism. Check out this passage:
The singer’s boots were supple blue calfskin, his breeches fine blue wool. The tunic he wore was pale blue silk slashed with shiny blue satin. He had even gone so far as to dye his hair blue, in the Tyroshi fashion. Long and curly, it fell to his shoulders and smelled as if it had been washed in rosewater. From blue roses, no doubt. At least his teeth are white.
The mention of blue roses sticks out like a sore thumb; this is a clue for us to think about Lyanna. It’s hard to make sense of that unless you consider the mythical astronomy of what happens to our most unfortunate of unfortunates, the Blue Bard:
Lord Qyburn ran a hand up the Blue Bard’s chest. “Does she take your nipples in her mouth during your love play?” He took one between his thumb and forefinger, and twisted. “Some men enjoy that. Their nipples are as sensitive as a woman’s.” The razor flashed, the singer shrieked. On his chest a wet red eye wept blood. Cersei felt ill. Part of her wanted to close her eyes, to turn away, to make it stop. But she was the queen and this was treason. Lord Tywin would not have turned away.
Oh my, it’s a god’s eye nipple! Disgusting, I know – I apologized to Martin Lewis for making him read it – but we do know what bloody eye symbolism means. And hey, if there are two moons, then they could be boobs of ice and fire, right? I wished I was joking, kind of, but I am not. It also happens in ASOS when that disgusting slaver Kraznys cuts off the nipple of an Unsullied to demonstrate their immunity to pain to Dany, and the phrase is “round red eye copiously weeping blood.” Recall the line about Lord Tywin’s ravaging of the Riverlands from Blackfish Tully: “The riverlands are awash in blood and flame all around the Gods Eye.” It’s not easy having a Gods Eye nipple!
Getting back to the Blue Bard, the one eye symbolism is repeated a couple of pages and many hours of torture later, so that we are sure to notice it:
Without the Arbor and its fleet, the realm could never hope to rid itself of this Euron Crow’s Eye and his accursed ironmen. “All you are doing is spitting up the names of men you saw about her chambers. We want the truth!”
“The truth.” Wat looked at her with the one blue eye that Qyburn had left him. Blood bubbled through the holes where his front teeth had been. “I might have … misremembered.”
So there you go. He’s officially received the Odin makeover, and oh yeah, of course his eyes are blue, I forgot to mention that earlier. He looks a lot like Waymar now, with one blind eye and one blue eye, or like Euron, with his blue smiling eye and his blood eye which symbolizes the fire moon destruction. And as you can see, Euron Crow’s Eye is specifically mentioned here by Cersei right before the line about the Bard’s “one blue eye.” It’s an invitation to compare the one-eye symbolism of the Blue Bard to that of Euron, with the Blue Bard’s bloody, weeping red eye nipple matching Euron’s blood eye very well. Essentially, Blue Bard’s two nipples and two eyes function as parallel two moons symbols – that’s why Martin called the sliced nipple a weeping red eye.
To follow that up, there are two possible “others” double entendres, both applied to the other people accused besides the bard, the people he will name as guilty. First, we have this, as Cersei directs his testimony away from certain people and towards others…
“I prefer this song to the other.” Leave the great lords out of it, that was for the best. The others, though …
Those others are again referred to as others a moment later:
“Ser Osney shall confess as well. The others must be made to understand that only through confession can they earn the king’s forgiveness, and the Wall.”
In other words, Cersei doesn’t want Blue Bard to sing “the other song” – the song of the Others, if you will – but rather a song which implicates “the others” as guilty. The song Blue Bard wants to sing is the song of the Others, but Cersei is turning him against “the Others,” just as in the literal plot Cersei is turning him against his friends.
And when the Blue Bard is taken prisoner…
Orton Merryweather’s face was damp with fear. “This . . . oh, infamy . . . he dared seduce the queen?”
“I fear it was the other way around, but he is a traitor all the same. Let him sing for Lord Qyburn.
The Blue Bard went white. “No.” Blood dripped from his lip where the lute had torn it. “I never . . .” When Merryweather seized him by the arm, he screamed, “Mother have mercy, no.”
The “other way around” means Maragarey seduced the Blue Bard, just as Night’s King was entranced by the beautiful ice queen with moon pale skin who took his seed and his soul. This may be one of the purposes of Martin comparing Margarey to Lyanna in AGOT – you may recall Renly showing Ned a picture of his sister and asking him if she looked like Lyanna, and later admitting that he was “scheming to make the girl Robert’s queen.” That’s why he was hoping Margaery had some sort of resemblance to Lyanna – he was hoping she would remind Robert of Lyanna.
I included the Blue Bard partly because it was amusing – well okay, it’s pretty twisted, I suppose, and yeah that was a nipple joke- but the main takeaway here is that Martin is simply using the Blue Bard to reinforce the idea of the Others coming from the ice moon and ice moon figures, and that Lyanna is wrapped up in all this. Appropriately, he’s tied this gruesome, yet symbolically rich eye and nipple gouging scene to Euron Crows Eye and all the one-eyed symbolism that tells the story of the two moons.
To finish up, the Blue Bard is imprisoned by the Faith in the Sept of Baelor, which is of course an ice moon symbol, making him the dragon locked in ice, very like Marillion imprisoned at the Eyrie or Mance locked in a “cold cage” at Winterfell.
Oh what’s this – I am being handed something here, ah, I see. There’s also a Gayleon of Cuy who sings at Joffrey and Margarey’s grand wedding (Gayleon, Bael). I will just have to quote this one:
Galyeon was a big barrel-chested man with a black beard, a bald head, and a thunderous voice that filled every corner of the throne room. He brought no fewer than six musicians to play for him. “Noble lords and ladies fair, I sing but one song for you this night,” he announced. “It is the song of the Blackwater, and how a realm was saved.” The drummer began a slow ominous beat.
“The dark lord brooded high in his tower,” Galyeon began, “in a castle as black as the night.”
“Black was his hair and black was his soul,” the musicians chanted in unison. A flute came in.
“He feasted on bloodlust and envy, and filled his cup full up with spite,” sang Galyeon. “My brother once ruled seven kingdoms, he said to his harridan wife. I’ll take what was his and make it all mine. Let his son feel the point of my knife.”
The dark lord in the tower Gayleon is singing about is of course our good buddy Stannis the Mannis. His Night’s King status is well known to us, but note that it’s reinforced here by more than the dark lord stuff: the song makes Stannis out to be a kind of usurper of his brother. Of course Stannis did kill Renly with the shadowbaby assassin, and the pretend “resurrected Renly” held throw down Stannis at the Blackwater, so we can see that the themes of brother fighting and usurpation run strongly in Stannis’s plotlines.
But here’s the thing: I can’t help but notice that Mr. Gayleon of Cuy himself has black hair, like the dark lord in his tower he’s singing about. House Cuy is from the Reach and hails from a castle called “Sunhouse,” and places six yellow sunflowers on blue for a sigil, so it’s easy to associate Gayleon with the sun – plus the “leon” in his name sounds like lion (and no I won’t make a gay lion joke) – but obviously he’s become a dark sun as he has that black as the night hair that compares to the dark lord in his song.
There’s another, far more important clue about Gayleon being the dark lord sort of singer who brings on the Long Night with the lines “Soon it was full night outside the tall windows, and still Galyeon sang on. His song had seventy-seven verses, though it seemed more like a thousand.” A bard with a thunderous voice, singing to bring on the night, very interesting. It’s Gayleon the Black Dread! I kid, but it’s a very important point actually, one which connects Night’s King to Azor Ahai and the cause of the Long Night: the bard aspect of the Night’s King character has to do with singing to bring on the Long Night.
Alright, well, we’ve reached the point in the original script where I was forced to split it in half, and we’ve reached a fork in the road. We have a lot more to say about the stolen Night’s King baby, the origins of House Stark, and the question of who built the Wall, but now we’ve opened up the topic of bards, singing, and music as it realtes to Night’s King and the Long Night. This situation was inevitable; we had to dig into the connections between Rhaegar, Bael, Mance, and Night’s King, and their stolen children of course, in order to discover this stolen Night’s Queen baby archetype – but that also raised the big question of “why does Night’s King seem to be a bard figure?” It’s wrought absolute hell on my attempts to write cohesive essays that follow one topic at a time; do I continue to follow the trail of the Night’s Queen baby, or address the issue of NK being a bard type?
Basically, these are two different paths to follow, and they will each require their own podcast. The stolen child of Night’s King and Queen, whom I believe to be the ancestor of all Winterfell Starks who came after, is more central to the title of the series, “Blood of the Other,” so Part 2, titled “Eldric Shadowchaser,” will focus squarely on that archetype. We’ve already identified Jon, baby Monster, Bael the Bard’s son, and Theon as stolen Night’s King and Queen babies, and in the next episode we will identify a fresh crop of new ones – ones who aren’t tied to bards or people named Bael. As you might guess from the title, we may or may not be talking about people like Edric Dayne or Edric Storm, and there’s definitely a remote chance of discussing such distinguished figures as the venerable King Edrick Snowbeard Stark, or the legendary Ulrick Dayne, who was the Sword of the Morning in his day. Somehow that’s all going to tie into the the legend of Eldric Shadowchaser and our rescued Other baby… take my word for it.
Then, in a different episode, we’ll come back to the question of how and ‘in what sense’ is the Night’s King a bard or singer or musician, as well as the related question of what part sound, music, and singing plays in the events of the Long Night. That might sound a bit vague and open-ended, so let me just narrow it down a bit for you: that’s going to be the episode about all the magic horns. The Horn of Winter (sometimes called the Horn of Joramun), Euron’s Dragonbinder horn, the broken and chipped old horn Jon and Ghost find on the Fist of the First Men, and even Mance’s fake horn of Joramun that Melisandre burns at the Wall. I think I’m going to call that Part 3 of Blood of the Other, but I am not totally sure of that. What I do know is that I have a pretty wild new theory about those horns for you, and that the title will assuredly be based on some sort of clever horn-blowing wordplay.
The other episode that’s on deck for the near future is the Sansa at the Eyrie Moons of Ice and Fire episode, which will be jam-packed with next-level ice moon symbolism. After that, I believe it might be time (well past time, actually) that we go under the see with Ravenous Reader, Poetess of the Nennymoans, which is something I have been working towards for a while now.
Most importantly, I am looking forward to seeing all of you at our next livestream QnA, which will be one week from today, on Saturday March 3rd at 3:30 EST. Crowfood’s Daughter will be my special guest, so tune in to the lucifermeanslightbringer YouTube channel and come hang with us! You can submit questions or comments for the livestream on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, or Patreon. Thanks everyone, and I’ll see you then!