Hey there friends, patrons, YouTube viewers, podcast listeners – fellow mythical astronomers all. It’s your host, LmL, and it’s time to talk about the end. At least, the beginning of the end anyway… that’s right. It’s finally, finally time to discuss the possibility of a new moon meteor incident and a new Long Night.It’s been suggested right from the very start. My first episode, which began as an essay before there was such a thing as the Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire podcast, began with the famous quote from Doreah about the Quarthine legend of the second moon, which ends with a prophecy: “One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.” While we have seen the fire-breathing dragons return, I think it’s obvious the Qarthine prophecy is about the meteor dragons returning.
Think about it – dragons only disappeared from the world about one hundred and fifty years before present day. Four hundred years ago the Doom of Valyria killed off most of the Valyrian dragons, but before that, the Valyrians had had control dragons going back at least 5,000 years ago, when they wiped out old Ghis with their dragons. Even before Valyria, people in Asshai probably had control of dragons. This Qarthine prophecy, however, is probably centuries old, if not more, and certainly older than the Doom of Valyria, which means that dragons would almost certainly have existed when it was written. Therefore it doesn’t really make sense for the prophecy to speak of dragons returning – unless they are talking about the kind of dragons that come from the moon, the kind that only came once many thousands of years ago when the second moon kissed the sun. So when the prophecy says that one day the other moon will kiss the sun, and then the dragons will return…
…it’s nothing less than a prophecy of a future moon disaster and another moon meteor attack. And it’s right there in Dany’s third chapter!
It actually is meaningful that this apparent prophecy of lunar doom comes halfway through the first book: it means it’s something Martin has been planning the whole time. Which makes sense – something that big as part of the ending would have to be planned out from the beginning. As we’ll see today, the foreshadowing for the ice moon apocalypse has indeed been laid out all throughout the series, just like all the other main events seem to be.
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
One of the most common questions that I get is some version of “but how will we know (if moon meteors caused the Long Night, etc.)?” Well, there are a few ways – Bran visions, knowledge in Asshai, knowledge in old books Sam might discover, that sort of thing – but one of the best confirmations that moons meteors caused the original Long Night would be if moon meteors caused the new Long Night! Makes sense, right? We all know a new Long Night is coming, so it’s just a matter of how it is triggered. If meteors triggered the first one, it figures they would probably cause the new one, right? You might think a meteor attack is too spectacular for ASOIAF, too distracting – but again, we all know a new Long Night is coming, so think of the meteor impact as simply a very spectacular (and symbolically meaningful) mechanism to achieve that.
In a series full of Chekov’s guns, the biggest gun of all is the impending invasion of the Others. It’s been set up since the prologue of AGOT Others will once again invade Westeros and cause everyone a lot of problems. In the books, the Others are like vampires – they really can’t come out during the day. It’s glossed over on the TV show, but to truly invade Westeros, the Others need a true Long Night, with the sun hidden during the day and winter taking firm hold. In other words, something has to hide the sun – what could it be? If my main theory is right, Martin has already solved this problem once; he used moon meteors. Is he really going to come up with a whole new way to hide the sun?
It makes more sense to have “the other moon kiss the sun” in order to “have the dragons return,” just like the prophecy says. If he’s really left the reader with this long trail of clues about a moon meteor impact causing the original Long Night, well, it sure would make a lot of sense to put a big payoff at the end. People who didn’t see it coming will look back in search of foreshadowing, and there will be plenty to find – so much so that everyone will be saying “why didn’t I see that coming,” just as everyone did with the Red Wedding, which was in hindsight amply foreshadowed. After today, however, you all will be in on what I consider to be this ‘ample foreshadowing’ of the ice moon apocalypse which is headed our way.
We’ve actually been seeing it coming for a while now. After all, we’ve been talking about this “dragon locked in ice” symbolism for several episodes, and we’ve found it everywhere ice moons are symbolized… and what’s the fun of locking away a dragon in a cold prison if you’re not going to have that bad boy wake up? What does it mean for a dragon sleeping inside the ice moon to “wake up?” Sounds like an explosion, right? The last time a moon was “like an egg,” it had to crack open to birth dragons, and I think that one day the other moon will indeed crack open so the ice dragon can wake.
More than anything, the dragon locked in ice is a symbol of dead Jon, his body “growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him” at the Wall, as Bran sees in his coma dream vision – and Jon is not going to stay dead. He’s going to wake up, quite possibly with the aid of magic, fire, and blood. As we’ve covered many times, Jon’s symbolism is that of an ice dragon and of dragonglass. Think about dragonglass for a minute – it not only represents the concept of frozen fire, but also the potential for fire to be reborn, because Quaithe speaks of “waking fire from dragonglass.” Dead and frozen Jon, with his corpse likely to be stored in an ice cell of the Wall, is the dragon locked in ice, and he is most strongly symbolized by dragonglass – and accordingly, his resurrection can be thought of as the dragon locked in ice ‘waking in fire.’
So we have these parallel symbols – a moon with a frozen dragon inside that needs to wake, and Jon as a frozen dragon inside the Wall. The Wall parallels the ice moon if anything does – something we will explore in detail today – and thus we can see that Jon waking from his deathly slumber is symbolically parallel to the idea of the ice moon cracking open. If Dany played the role of the fire moon that cracks open to birth dragons at the Alchemical Wedding, then Jon is like the frozen dragon inside the moon, waiting to hatch. We’ll see that depicted in a myriad of clever ways today.
We left off the last episode with a great ice moon apocalypse foreshadowing: the burning of the wighted Night’s Watch ranger named Othor in Mormont’s chambers. The mechanics are simple: Othor is described as having the standard blue star eyes of all wights and white walkers, and most notably, a moon face in this line:
The hooded man lifted his pale moon face, and Jon slashed at it without hesitation. The sword laid the intruder open to the bone, taking off half his nose and opening a gash cheek to cheek under those eyes, eyes, eyes like blue stars burning.
Here we see clear “crack across the face of the moon” symbolism, with sword being like a comet. This could be either the original black fire moon meteor becoming embedded in the ice, or a depiction of the comet that is hypothetically coming to hit the ice moon in the future, as they are largely parallel events – both involve flying space rocks slamming into the ice moon, after all. I believe this would be the initial strike, as there’s a more explosive event coming in moment. Either way, we can easily see the basic idea of what is happening: Martin is showing us a moon-faced man full of ice magic energy getting slashed across the face with a sword, and the man wielding the sword is one of our flaming sword heroes.
The more important part comes with the burning of the ice moon man, where “the fire had caught in the dead man’s clothing and consumed him as if his flesh were candle wax and his bones old dry wood,” and its face was “surrounded by a nimbus of fire, hair blazing like straw.” These quotes merge the wicker man king of winter symbolism with the ice moon, and in the form of an undead Night’s Watchmen. This has Jon written all over it, as he’s a King of Winter figure and a Night’s Watchmen who is dead and symbolically trapped in the ice moon after he dies at the end of ADWD. Of course, Jon later sees wighted Othor wearing Ned’s face, which further cements Othor as playing a symbolic King of Winter / Stark role. If Jon wakes through some sort of fire magic ritual, he will be mirroring his brother Othor, and I expect that very thing to happen.
The thing is, this scene isn’t just showing us foreshadowing of frozen Jon waking in fire; it’s showing us a disaster involving the actual moon in the sky, I’m pretty sure. I mean you don’t leave a crack across a star-eyed moon face and expect us not to think about astronomy. Indeed, in this same AGOT chapter, Othor’s frozen moon face gives us some great ice moon apocalypse foreshadowing as it tries to kill Jon: “Its face was against his own, filling the world. Frost covered its eyes, sparkling blue.” When the ice moon is “filling the world,” that’s a bad sign, I’m pretty sure. Sounds like a moon – or a moon meteor, falling like a blue star – rapidly getting closer to the world and filling up the sky. And this after getting slashed across the face with a sword.
You may recall that there’s a parallel scene to this one; it’s the scene with Sam fighting an ice wight, and the language is much the same: “The world shrank to two blue stars, a terrible crushing pain, and a cold so fierce that his tears froze over his eyes.” Small Paul’s face isn’t called a moon face here, but this quote reads like Jon’s does – as a description of blue stars getting closer and filling the sky. And like Jon, and most importantly, Sam sets the wight on fire. Notice rescuer Sam’s ice-eyes in this scene; it’s one I missed last time! Samwell Ice Eyes, the Slayer! He also has “puffs of frost exploding from his mouth,” which makes him sound like an Ice Dragon, breathing cold! Hat-tip to Archmaester Emma for that catch 🙂
Anyway, I’ve quoted a little snippet of this scene in the last episode because Small Paul has a snowbeard, but I’ve been saving this entire quote for just the right time. This will have the most impact if you’ve listened to Weirwood Compendium 4, “In a Grove of Ash.” If you haven’t, the basic idea here is that Melisandre speaks of Azor Ahai’s rebirth by saying “even an ember in the ashes can still ignite a great blaze,” and there are a whole series of scenes where an ember in the ashes of a fire is functioning as a symbol of Azor Ahai inside the weirwoodnet awaiting rebirth. Weirwoods are modeled after Yggdrasil of Norse myth, which was believed to be an Ash tree, so the idea of a fiery thing being “in the ashes” is also a clever bit of wordplay about a fiery person being inside an ash tree, which in ASOIAF means inside the weirwood.
With that said, here is Sam burning the wight:
His fumbling fingers finally found the dagger, but when he slammed it up into the wight’s belly the point skidded off the iron links, and the blade went spinning from Sam’s hand. Small Paul’s fingers tightened inexorably, and began to twist. He’s going to rip my head off, Sam thought in despair. His throat felt frozen, his lungs on fire. He punched and pulled at the wight’s wrists, to no avail. He kicked Paul between the legs, uselessly. The world shrank to two blue stars, a terrible crushing pain, and a cold so fierce that his tears froze over his eyes. Sam squirmed and pulled, desperate . . . and then he lurched forward.
Small Paul was big and powerful, but Sam still outweighed him, and the wights were clumsy, he had seen that on the Fist. The sudden shift sent Paul staggering back a step, and the living man and the dead one went crashing down together. The impact knocked one hand from Sam’s throat, and he was able to suck in a quick breath of air before the icy black fingers returned. The taste of blood filled his mouth. He twisted his neck around, looking for his knife, and saw a dull orange glow. The fire! Only ember and ashes remained, but still . . . he could not breathe, or think . . . Sam wrenched himself sideways, pulling Paul with him . . . his arms flailed against the dirt floor, groping, reaching, scattering the ashes, until at last they found something hot . . . a chunk of charred wood, smouldering red and orange within the black . . . his fingers closed around it, and he smashed it into Paul’s mouth, so hard he felt teeth shatter.
Yet even so the wight’s grip did not loosen. Sam’s last thoughts were for the mother who had loved him and the father he had failed. The longhall was spinning around him when he saw the wisp of smoke rising from between Paul’s broken teeth. Then the dead man’s face burst into flame, and the hands were gone.
Sam sucked in air, and rolled feebly away. The wight was burning, hoarfrost dripping from his beard as the flesh beneath blackened. Sam heard the raven shriek, but Paul himself made no sound. When his mouth opened, only flames came out. And his eyes . . . It’s gone, the blue glow is gone.
Both Sam and Jon’s wight-fighting scenes also involve the same 1-2 sequence: Jon and Sam first stab the wight, ineffectively – Jon with his sword and Sam with his dragonglass knife – and then turn to fire as second, more effective weapon, with Sam even thinking and reaching for his knife as he grabs the ember to shove in Paul’s mouth. In my estimation, this is depicting the two strikes on the ice moon: the first bit of moon meteor shrapnel that would have hit the ice moon in the ancient past, and the more spectacular ice moon apocalypse to come. The charcoal Sam picks up, red and orange smouldering within the black, seems like a pretty terrific red comet symbol, and as I mentioned, the ember in the ashes motif is trademark re-birth of Azor Ahai language.
So in both scenes, we have a dead Night’s Watchmen, held prisoner by the blue ice magic of the Others – first Othor, and now Small Paul – and in both cases, they are set free by a heroic Night’s Watchmen wielding fire. Just as I said that Othor actually symbolizes Jon, the same is true for Small Paul here – again I’ll point out the “hoarfrost dripping from his beard” which makes him a snowbeard figure! As you recall from the Eldric Shadowchaser episode, all of the snowbeard figures have heavy parallels to Jon. Most importantly, the ember in the ashes does indeed spark a great blaze in Small Paul, and it represents the rebirth of Azor Ahai, as Melisandre says. Again we should think of Jon coming back to life as Azor Ahai reborn, emerging from his icy prison in a display of fire… but only when “the world shrinks to two blue stars,” or when a star-eyed moon face “fills the world.”
Thus we can see another layer of the Qarthine prophecy about the other moon one day kissing the sun too and the dragons returning: the moon meteor dragons will return, yes, but so will Jon, the ice dragon. After all, in terms of symbolism, these are parallel events.
This leaves is in the ultimate sweet spot for analyzing ASOIAF: the intersection of awesome world-building and the heart-in-conflict. The Blood of the Other series has been very personal so far, very much focused on the many characters who fit this “stolen Other” archetype, but now it’s led us to an episode about potential for an #IceMoonApocalypse. That’s about as far away from the heart in conflict as possible – we’re literally out in space, and talking about magical flying hunks of rock. But of course that’s the beauty of mythical astronomy – the flying hunks of magic space rock always parallel the humans and their hearts in conflict.
So here’s what we’ll do today: we’re going to look at the two most important symbols of the ice moon: Winterfell and the Wall. As we visit these places, we’ll be simultaneously comparing them to Jon and the ice moon. It’s the same thing we did when we went to the Wolf’s Den at White Harbor with Davos, and indeed, Winterfell and the Wolf’s Den have many parallels, as we’re about to see!
The Hell Locked in Winter
Jon is the epitome of the dragon locked in ice symbolized as a person, and Winterfell is the epitome of the dragon locked in ice as a place. It’s like the Wolf’s Den, only better – Winterfell being the wolf’s den of all wolf’s dens, naturally. Just look at the place: Winterfell castle is a hunk of dark stone surrounded by white snow, and this image is mirrored in their sigil, a grey direwolf on an ice-white field. A direwolf locked in ice! You better believe it, and we’ll talk about the symbolism of the direwolves in a moment – but there’s actually extensive symbolism of a dragon locked in ice at Winterfell as well. Let’s talk about the “locked in” part first – that is, the prison symbolism.
Just as the Wolf’s Den is a prison, Winterfell is described as a “grey stone labyrinth,” language which implies the labyrinth of Greek mythology which was a prison for the Minotaur. Winterfell is also described as a “monstrous stone tree,” which implies the weirwoods, which are prisons and traps (weirs) for greenseers and whose bark turns to stone. Similarly, the Wolf’s Den is a prison too, and one with weirwood symbolism, such as the fact that it contains the castle godswood with its “fat and angry” heart tree, and the jailer in the prison itself is of course a twisted dude named Garth. Back in Winterfell, in ACOK, a now-crippled Bran sits at the window seat of his chambers and thinks
Bran preferred the hard stone of the window seat to the comforts of his featherbed and blankets. Abed, the walls pressed close and the ceiling hung heavy above him; abed, the room was his cell, and Winterfell his prison.
It’s not just Bran’s prison of course. Recall this famous line from Ned and Robert’s scene in the Winterfell crypts in AGOT:
By ancient custom an iron longsword had been laid across the lap of each who had been Lord of Winterfell, to keep the vengeful spirits in their crypts. The oldest had long ago rusted away to nothing, leaving only a few red stains where the metal had rested on stone. Ned wondered if that meant those ghosts were free to roam the castle now. He hoped not. The first Lords of Winterfell had been men hard as the land they ruled. In the centuries before the Dragonlords came over the sea, they had sworn allegiance to no man, styling themselves the Kings in the North.
You can take your pick as to who the Minotaur is – the vengeful spirits of the dead Kings of Winter, or the little crippled boy who just so happens to be the most powerful greenseer in god knows how long. That question aside, you can see that Winterfell is definitely implied as a prison, just like the Wolf’s Den. Ultimately the both fortresses represent the hunk of dark fire moon rock imprisoned in the ice moon, and so are imprisoned themselves – the Wolf’s Den is surrounded by the newer city of White Harbor, and Winterfell is surrounded by miles and miles of frequently frozen north.
So that’s the “locked” part of the dragon locked in ice – the prison symbolism – how about the dragon symbolism? So glad you asked my friend, so glad you asked. It begins with thinking about the overall temperature of the Starks: are they ice people, or fire people? This question is addressed directly in Catelyn’s first chapter of AGOT when she and Ned discuss the hot springs, one of the very best bits of Winterfell symbolism:
Of all the rooms in Winterfell’s Great Keep, Catelyn’s bedchambers were the hottest. She seldom had to light a fire. The castle had been built over natural hot springs, and the scalding waters rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing. Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards. That was a little thing, in summer; in winter, it was the difference between life and death.
Catelyn’s bath was always hot and steaming, and her walls warm to the touch. The warmth reminded her of Riverrun, of days in the sun with Lysa and Edmure, but Ned could never abide the heat. The Starks were made for the cold, he would tell her, and she would laugh and tell him in that case they had certainly built their castle in the wrong place.
Suddenly the familiar hot springs have a whole new layer of meaning to them, huh? Winterfell is not just a hunk of dark stone surrounded by miles and miles of snow, it’s a heated hunk of dark stone surrounded by miles and miles of snow, which is starting to sounds pretty “dragon-locked-in-ice.” Winterfell is presented to us as having a circulatory system, and we can’t fail to notice that it’s “driving the chill from the stone halls, like Davos and Devan Shadowchaser driving or chasing the shadows and the chill from their respective stone halls. Now according to the Blood of the Other theory, the Starks of Winterfell descend from this Eldric Shadowchaser figure who represents the stolen Other baby-turned-Stark, so this bit about the ‘bloodstream’ of Winterfell “driving the chill” away reads a lot like a metaphor for the ‘blood of Winterfell’ being that of Eldric Shadowchaser. Which it is!
Whether that’s an intentional metaphor or not, it’s really the theme and the function that’s important; for thousands of years, Winterfell has acted as a bulwark against the winter precisely because it has a source of heat. The Starks may be ‘made for the cold,’ as Ned says, but their real significance is that they occupy a castle that will stay warm and habitable even in the coldest of winters. That’s what’s so funny about Catelyn joking the Starks built their castle in the wrong place… it’s just the opposite.
I don’t think most people appreciate the fact that during a Westerosi winter, Winterfell is basically Siberia. It’s close to the equivalent of the arctic circle, much farther north than any part of Essos. Most of you have never seen forty foot snowdrifts, or even ten foot snowdrifts (although I do have a couple of patrons from Finland and Canada, so shout-out you guys, leave me a good forty-foot snowdrift story if you have one). Point being, those hot springs are the obvious reason why you’d want to build a castle there, and certainly are a main factor in the endurance of Winterfell and House Starks over the millennia. They’re “made for the cold” in that they were smart enough to build their castle over a network of hot springs!
In fact, it’s not just the hot springs; we know that the Starks are actually made to resist the cold on a deeper, more symbolic and magical level. The crown of the King of Winter speaks of the Stark mission, as you’ll recall from past episodes. We see this crown on Robb’s head in ACOK, and it’s specifically said to be made from bronze and iron because those metals are “dark and strong to fight the cold” (and shoutout to Tony Teflon who made me aware that copper and bronze actually get stronger the colder they get, so this business about being strong to fight the cold isn’t just poetry). The crown is surmounted by nine miniature black iron swords, which remind of the other black swords in the story – Valyrian steel swords such as Ned wields and dragonglass knives such as the Night’s Watch is supposed to wield. Thus we can see that the Starks are meant to fight the cold, just like the Night’s Watch, and they’re apparently supposed to do it with black swords and knives, just like the watch, whose ideal weapons are dragonglass and Valyrian steel. Think of Ned with Black Ice, Jon with Longclaw, our buddy Barth Blacksword, who also wielded Black Ice, the black iron swords in the laps of the stone Kings of Winter, and Ned’s six grey wraiths with shadowswords at the Tower of Joy, facing off against the snow white Kingsguard knights.
So here is the “icy” House Stark, living on a geothermal hotspot, an oasis of warmth amidst the cold, and they’re carrying on a tradition of black swords and fighting the cold and maintaining a millennia-old alliance with the Night’s Watch, who fight the cold with dragonglass or, according to legend, dragonsteel. Winterfell itself is a hunk of dark grey stone surrounded by snow. and it’s warm to the touch. It has hot water like blood… which might make it a bloodstone, in the symbolic sense. I mean, that’s what it symbolizes anyway – an piece of ex-fire moon turned moon meteor, crash-landed in the snow. Imagine Winterfell as a meteor that got locked in ice, but which retains a heart of fire, like a sleeping dragon.
There’s a great quote from TWOIAF about the hot springs which brings up the topic of dragons, as it happens…
Hot springs such as the one beneath Winterfell have been shown to be heated by the furnaces of the world—the same fires that made the Fourteen Flames or the smoking mountain of Dragonstone. Yet the smallfolk of Winterfell and the winter town have been known to claim that the springs are heated by the breath of a dragon that sleeps beneath the castle. This is even more foolish than Mushroom’s claims and need not be given any consideration.
Man it’s almost like I saw that coming. Winterfell is compared to Valyria as a place with access to the furnaces of the world, and indeed, that’s quite true. Score one for Maesterly science! They figured out that hot springs and volcanoes are like geothermal cousins, good job maesters.
There’s almost certainly not an actual sleeping dragon beneath Winterfell, but it is true that if some ancient dragonlord had to pick a place to serve as an outpost or even a home in the north, they would pick Winterfell, absolutely. Maybe that’s what happened! Winterfell is a geothermal hot spot, and it even has caverns. This is what lends a scrap of credibility to the rumors of Vermax laying eggs at Winterfell while prince Jacaerys Targaryen parlayed with Cregan Stark during the Dance of the Dragons – it’s just the kind of place a pregnant dragon would find cozy, if it could find a way down there. The oldest part of Winterfell, the First Keep, even has gargoyles, like Dragonstone! It’s a total giveaway as a dragonlord type of place, ha ha. Seriously though – I do wonder about that. Gargoyles are extremely rare in Westeros, and they’re found here on the First Keep, the oldest part of the castle?
In any case, the smallfolk have served up quite the dragon locked in ice metaphor in the form of the rumors about a sleeping dragon warming the castle. That funny little folktale is a really terrific metaphor – the dragon is sleeping and radiating warmth amidst the frozen north. Winterfell has a circulatory system, and it’s blood is warmed by a dragon! It practically screams “blood of the dragon lives here.” More specifically, it’s said to be a “sleeping dragon” beneath Winterfell, and if he should ever wake…
He padded over dry needles and brown leaves, to the edge of the wood where the pines grew thin. Beyond the open fields he could see the great piles of man-rock stark against the swirling flames. The wind blew hot and rich with the smell of blood and burnt meat, so strong he began to slaver.
Yet as one smell drew them onward, others warned them back. He sniffed at the drifting smoke. Men, many men, many horses, and fire, fire, fire. No smell was more dangerous, not even the hard cold smell of iron, the stuff of man-claws and hardskin. The smoke and ash clouded his eyes, and in the sky he saw a great winged snake whose roar was a river of flame. He bared his teeth, but then the snake was gone. Behind the cliffs tall fires were eating up the stars.
All through the night the fires crackled, and once there was a great roar and a crash that made the earth jump under his feet.
Ha ha, hopefully you saw that one coming, and hopefully you also remember Osha saying “we made noise enough to wake a dragon” when they emerge from the crypts. In the lead-up to that quote, Winterfell is described as a shell, and quite frankly, it really does kinda sound like a dragon hatched from inside the First Keep (the one with the gargoyles):
The sky was a pale grey, and smoke eddied all around them. They stood in the shadow of the First Keep, or what remained of it. One whole side of the building had torn loose and fallen away. Stone and shattered gargoyles lay strewn across the yard. They fell just where I did, Bran thought when he saw them. Some of the gargoyles had broken into so many pieces it made him wonder how he was alive at all. Nearby some crows were pecking at a body crushed beneath the tumbled stone, but he lay facedown and Bran could not say who he was. The First Keep had not been used for many hundreds of years, but now it was more of a shell than ever. The floors had burned inside it, and all the beams.
It’s a burned out shell – and this is complemented by Jon calling in ADWD, who says “The castle is a shell,” and then “not Winterfell, but the ghost of Winterfell.” Theon calls the castle a shell too, and he does it while standing in the very spot Bran did in the last quote. Like Bran, Theon also remarks that “this is where Bran fell” and notices the shattered gargoyles, who are by then locked in ice and snow. Point being – calling Winterfell a shell over and over again sure seems to enhance all the talk about dragons and dragons eggs beneath Winterfell and the fiery winged serpent appearing to fly overhead when Winterfell is burned.
Now, Summer and Bran probably didn’t see a real dragon hatching from the First Keep (even though the line about making enough noise to wake a dragon sure is tantalizing). Nevertheless, I’m sure you can see what I’m driving at here in terms of symbolism: the dragon locked in ice must eventually break free, just as Jon must eventually be resurrected, and I think that is one of the things being depicted by all this Winterfell dragon and shell symbolism.
There’s also a clue about the Winterfell dragon becoming locked in the ice in the quotes we just referred to. As we’ve said in previous episodes like Tyrion Targaryen and A Burning Brandon, both fallen Bran and the fallen gargoyles (which have red, fiery eyes in Bran’s nightmare of climbing the First Keep) represent fallen fire moon meteors. Both are depicted as landing in ice – Theon sees the gargoyles covered in snow in the quote we just mentioned, and while Bran is in his coma nightmare, he’s falling towards icy spires which have other impaled dreamers on them. As I’ve said a few times now, I think that being inside the weirwoodnet or inside the dream realm is often made synonymous with being locked in ice (think of Jon’s spirit wandering the bardo while his cold body is temporarily dead, for example), so in that sense Bran was locked in ice after he fell and slipped into the coma.
In other words, both broken Bran and the broken gargoyles, lying at the foot of the First Keep, represent fire moon meteors locked in ice, and are in effect synonymous with the castle of Winterfell itself, a heated hunk of dark grey stone surrounded by the frozen north. That is one layer of the meaning of the famous last line of ACOK which compares broken Bran to broken Winterfell:
It was not dead, just broken. Like me, he thought. I’m not dead either.
So Bran’s fall shows us, symbolically, the Winterfell dragon becoming locked in ice, and the awakening of this dragon from the ice is symbolized by Bran awakening from his coma with his forehead burning from where the three-eyed crow had pecked it. In order to escape the coma, Bran even has to do a bit of dream-flying, just like a dragon breaking out of the ice (and again remember that he was flying to avoid impalement on the ice spires).
That was the beginning of the opening of Bran’s third eye, and I say it symbolically corresponds to the awakening of the Winterfell dragon. And guess what – the next step in Bran’s third eye opening is the scene where Bran skinchanges Summer and sees the “great winged snake whose roar was a river of flame” flying over Winterfell! Right after seeing it, he comes back to his broken Bran body in the crypts and it says “Here in the chill damp darkness of the tomb his third eye had finally opened.” In other words, we’re being shown that Bran’s third eye opening corresponds with the symbolic idea of the Winterfell dragon awakening in fire, and I think this is because the Winterfell dragon represents both Jon and Bran – Jon in a more literal sense, since he’s actually part Targaryen and needs actual resurrection, and Bran in a symbolic sense as the bearer of the fire of the gods opening his third eye.
In terms of R+L=J, most would agree that every clue about dragons sleeping beneath Winterfell or dragons laying eggs beneath Winterfell ultimately symbolizes Jon’s hidden dragon heritage, a secret whose reveal will surely involve some sort of freaky scene with Jon’s spirit finally completing his recurring crypts dream and reaching the lower levels of the crypts, where he will see the ghost of Edrick Snowbeard riding a dream dragon and playing Rhaegar’s harp while drinking spirit-mead from an eight foot horn graven with runes, or something equally stupendous. We’re all looking forward to that payoff, I know.
Speaking of Jon’s resurrection and rebirth and the Winterfell crypts, take note of the “Starks being born” symbolism in the following quote as Bran and Rickon emerge from the crypts with Hodor and Osha and Meera and Jojen after the burning of Wintefell. After Hodor opens the door, it says:
Osha poked her spear through and slid out after it, and Rickon squirmed through Meera’s legs to follow. Hodor shoved the door open all the way and stepped to the surface. The Reeds had to carry Bran up the last few steps.
Rickon squirms through Meera’s legs as though she had just given birth to him, and Bran has to be carried like a baby as they emerge from the crypts and back into the land of the living. Who would like to bet against Jon’s spirit making a visit to the crypts before he is reborn into the land of the living? The opening of this door to the crypts is what Osha refers to as having “made enough noise to wake a dragon,” and it happens while the birth of Starks is being depicted. This is a terrific way to foreshadow a dragon-Stark being born from the crypts, which can only refer to Jon’s resurrection. I mean, yikes – the opening of the door to the Stark crypts makes a noice to wake a dragon.
In terms of Blood of the Other theory, that Night’s King was a dragon-blooded person and that the Starks descend from one of his sons who wasn’t turned into a full Other, I’m sure you can see what’s happening here. All of the clues that imply a dragon under Winterfell which work as evidence for Jon’s dragonlord heritage can also seen to be working to tell the (hypothetical) truth about the Starks being “frozen dragonlords” by virtue of their descent from Night’s King and Queen. Perhaps that’s why Jon’s dragon blood secret is hidden in the crypts – it doesn’t just apply to Jon, but to all of House Stark. Winterfell and House Stark represent the dragon locked in ice, the fire inside the heart of the ice moon, just as they are an oasis of heat in the icy north. This truth is part of their fundamental nature, built into their castle and their symbolism from the first time we saw Ned cleaning a Valyrian steel sword amidst the hot pools of the godswood.
In terms of astronomy symbolism, the message of the Winterfell dragon symbolism is crystal clear: if Winterfell represents the ice moon, or more specifically the hunk of fiery stone trapped inside the ice moon, it’s very like a sleeping dragon waiting to explode in fire. It’s dark stone is like a shell containing a sleeping dragon… until it doesn’t. Ramsay Bolton is the one who set Winterfell on fire and “woke” the sleeping dragon, and of course Ramsay’s primary symbolism is that of Night’s King and Bloodstone Emperor… just the sort of guy to provoke a moon disaster.
The Firewolves of Winterhell
Another way that the fiery dragon heritage of House Stark is depicted as something that belongs to all of house Stark and not just Jon is through the direwolves, the sigil of their house. Why do I say that? Well, basically everything about the direwolves implies them as fiery hellhounds. My favorite example of this is the scene where Shaggy and Rickon hide in the crypts after Ned’s death, only to have Shaggy jump out, bite maester Luwin, and then fight with Summer. The line there was “Bran saw eyes like green fire, a flash of teeth, fur as black as the pit around them.” Cerberus, the original hellhound of Greek mythology, acts as a guardian of the underworld, as do all the stone direwolves that sit besides the stone kings of winter, and Shaggydog is basically bringing that symbolism to life in that scene.
In other words, I’m calling the direwolves hellhounds not only because not only because they tend to have eyes of fire, as we’re about to see, but because of the Cerberus role they play guarding the underworld alongside the Hades-like Kings of Winter in the crypts. The fact that George seems to have borrowed the three-headed aspect of Cerberus for the Targaryen three-headed dragon makes this connection even more intriguing. Said another way, both the direwolf of Stark and the three-headed dragon of Targaryen are symbolic offspring of Cerberus.
There are actually many comparison to be made between the crypts of Winterfell with their stone kings and the hidden chambers beneath the Red Keep with their dragon skulls – and Arya makes that comparison explicit when she’s lost beneath the Red Keep in the dragon skull room, as a matter of fact, but that’s a bit of a detour. Or, it can be fun homework: read a couple of the scenes down in the Winterfell crypts, then read Arya’s two chapters beneath the Red Keep in AGOT. Spiral staircases leading downward, dead things with eyes that follow you, and a lot of the same imagery and symbolism. Bottom line, they are both Hades-style underworld settings, once more highlighting the fact that the three headed dragon of Targaryen and the direwolf of Stark are both children of Cerberus.
As for that fiery wolf symbolism, well, take a look at the eyes of the direwolves, which are consistently described in fiery language. Ghost has eyes which are described variously as “hot red eyes,” “two great red suns,” and eyes that “glowed red and baleful.” Lady has “bright golden eyes,” and Shaggy has “eyes burning like green fire” and eyes that “were green fire.” Summer has “eyes smoldering like liquid gold,” and after making a kill, it says “his muzzle was wet and red, but his eyes burned.” Grey Wind has “eyes like molten gold,” and Theon’s nightmare of dead Robb and Grey Wind says “Grey Wind stalked beside, eyes burning, and man and wolf alike bled from half a hundred savage wounds.” Arya’s wolf Nymeria “had yellow eyes. When they caught the sunlight, they gleamed like two golden coins.” Golden coins are dragons in Westeros, so there’s a subtle suggestion of dragon eyes here.
So, the direwolves have eyes of fire, that’s well established. What goes well with fire? Smoke, of course, and in the case of the Long Night, darkness, and that’s what we see in the fur of the direwolves. Jon says in AGOT that, excepting Ghost, the other wolves “are all dark, grey or black” in terms of fur. Summer has fur like “silver smoke,” while Grey Wind is described as “smoke dark,” the same phrase used to describe Ned’s Ice. A “grey wind” is a smokey wind anyway, so both Valyrian steel and dark smoke is implied here. Getting darker still, we saw that Shaggy’s fur is “as black as the pit” when down in the crypts, which reminds us of Drogon being as black as night, and of the underworld realm in general (where you would expect to find “the pit,” right?) Another similarity to Drogon is found when Arya skinchanges Nymeria and leads the great wolfpack and calls herself “the Nightwolf.” Nymeria herself is described by a commoner in the Riverlands as “a she-wolf, a bitch from the seventh hell.”
So… eyes like fire, fur like smoke and darkness, guardians of hell symbolism – these aren’t dire-wolves, they’re fire-wolves! There’s nothing remotely icy or cold about them or their symbolism. Not even once! The cherry on top is Theon’s nightmare vision of Rickon and Bran merged with their direwolves like wolfish versions of Valyrian sphinxes:
Mercy, he sobbed. From behind came a shuddering howl that curdled his blood. Mercy, mercy. When he glanced back over his shoulder he saw them coming, great wolves the size of horses with the heads of small children. Oh, mercy, mercy. Blood dripped from their mouths black as pitch, burning holes in the snow where it fell. Every stride brought them closer. Theon tried to run faster, but his legs would not obey. The trees all had faces, and they were laughing at him, laughing, and the howl came again. He could smell the hot breath of the beasts behind him, a stink of brimstone and corruption.
Burning black blood is something we see with Drogon and Melisandre and Beric, all creatures who are fire made flesh in a very real sense. The dream firewolves with heads of children also stink of brimstone, which is signature dragon language that compares very well to scenes with the dragons under the Great Pyramid of Meereen. I compared them to Valyrian sphinxes because Valyrian sphinxes have the bodies of dragons and the heads of people, in case you were wondering.
So, there you have it – it’s not just a matter of dragon symbolism hidden at Winterfell. We’ve got a whole pack of fiery hellhounds lurking about. They may be surrounded by snow and ice, but they are guarding the entrance to hell that is Winterfell. There’s a great line in AGOT which kind of sums this up:
Eddard Stark dreamed of a frozen hell reserved for the Starks of Winterfell.
The north is a frozen hell – Cersei famously tells Ned she’ll allow him to “live out your days in the grey waste you call home” if he will bend the knee to Joffrey, for example – but the wolves sent there are fiery ones. This is just another version of dragon locked in ice symbolism! Therefore, I would say that the fire-wolf symbolism simply augments the “Starks as frozen dragonlords” symbolism and shows that it’s not just Jon bringing the brimstone stink to Winterfell, but all of House Stark.
George would seem to be referencing Dante’s Inferno with this line, and also when he has Barristan say that “half the hells are made of flame” in ADWD, which implies that half of the hells are made of ice. An icy hell is exactly what Dante finds at the center of the ninth circle of hell – Cocytus, the frozen lake. And you are not going to believe who we find trapped in the ice at the center of this frozen lake, locked in the ice. That’s right, it’s none other that our buddy Lucifer, whom Dante has conflated with the devil. He’s depicted as a giant winged beast, and he is literally trapped waist-deep in the frozen lake. So perhaps we should say, “a frozen hell reserved for Starks, and Lucifer!” What does this say about the Starks, I wonder? Well, probably that they are descended of Azor Ahai and the Night’s King, the Lucifer figures of ASOIAF. This observation was made by our good friend and frequent contributor Ravenous Reader, and this is almost certainly the place where George first got the seeds for the concept of the dragon locked in ice, or at least we can say this detail from Dante’s Inferno was surely playing in George’s mind when he conceived the idea. Lucifer must of course be freed from the frozen lake for Armageddon, and similarly, Jon will be breaking out of the ice in time for the new Long Night.
So, from sleeping dragons to dragon eggs to hot springs like blood to fiery hellhound wolves and right down to the concept of a frozen hell to trap Lucifer, Winterfell is basically constructed as a demonstration of all the dragon-locked-in-ice symbolism. And it’s not just ‘dragon locked in ice’ and ‘firewolf locked in ice’ symbolism being depicted, but the reawakening of that sleeping monster, the minotaur that’s implied as being inside Winterfell’s “labyrinthine” walls. That story is told by Winterfell’s burning, when winged snakes and Burning Brandons emerge from the shell of Winterfell, and will be told again when Jon’s resurrection path loops through the Winterfell crypts as it surely must. As I mentioned at the top, it’s the same story told by Jon’s dream of a moon-faced, ice-wighted Ned Stark, exploding in a nimbus of flame like a burning wicker man.
You know what other story all of this symbolism tells? Why, that would be the impending moon disaster involving the ice moon, of course! The moon was an egg Khaleesi, but Winterfell is a broken shell from which dragons hatch… and oh, gosh, that matches the moon dragon myth pretty well. How’s the rest of that one go… “one day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and the dragons will return,” I believe it is.
As it happens, Winterfell is not the only ice moon place that seems destined to have some kind of dragon-awakening event.
The End of the World and We Know It
I’ve said many times that all ice moon symbols, be they persons, places, or things, contain dragon-locked-in-ice symbolism, and at the end of the Ned episode I mentioned that most ice moon people and places have symbolic hints about the impending ice moon disaster. This is because the impending ice moon disaster is akin to the dragon locked in ice awakening, and every place that shows the dragon locked in ice hints at an awakening… usually a violent or dramatic one.
We just saw it at Winterfell – George literally blew up the First Keep, had Bran see a fiery winged snake, and dropped in a line about making enough noise to wake a dragon when the Starks reemerge from the crypts. Who knows what else will happen at Winterfell before the story is complete? Stannis was going there with his Lightbringer, last time I checked. (Is he still stuck out there in the snow? I’ll have to ask BFish.)
Beyond the walls of Winterfell, one of the best and most direct symbols of the ice moon is the Heart of Winter. It’s the place that represents the promise of a new Long Night in Bran’s coma dream as he looks past the curtain of light and into the Heart of Winter, terrified, while Bloodraven whispers “now you know why you must live” in his ear. Symbolically, if not literally, this is where the Others come from, and we all know that a.) we haven’t seen anything close to a full-on invasion of the Others yet, and that b.) we can surely look forward to seeing it soon. An invasion of blue-star eyed Others is akin to an invasion of cold stars, which is basically what I am predicting will happen in the sky to kick off the new Long Night, so we’ll have actual cold falling stars that lead to an invasion of symbolic cold stars. Therefore we can say that the Heart of Winter, as a proper ice moon symbol, is clearly promising a symbolic meteor shower that will come with a long winter.
Then we have the Eyrie, a prominent ice moon symbol. The Eyrie an impregnable castle of white marble high up on a mountain which is holding a ton of frozen ice and snow…. but there’s some foreshadowing regarding that mountain, called the Giant’s Lance, which suggests an avalanche may be in the cards. We’ll talk about that more when we get to the Eyrie episode in the Moons of Ice and Fire episode, but here’s a sneak preview from a Catelyn chapter of AGOT:
The eastern sky was rose and gold as the sun broke over the Vale of Arryn. Catelyn Stark watched the light spread, her hands resting on the delicate carved stone of the balustrade outside her window. Below her the world turned from black to indigo to green as dawn crept across fields and forests. Pale white mists rose off Alyssa’s Tears, where the ghost waters plunged over the shoulder of the mountain to begin their long tumble down the face of the Giant’s Lance. Catelyn could feel the faint touch of spray on her face.
Alyssa Arryn had seen her husband, her brothers, and all her children slain, and yet in life she had never shed a tear. So in death, the gods had decreed that she would know no rest until her weeping watered the black earth of the Vale, where the men she had loved were buried. Alyssa had been dead six thousand years now, and still no drop of the torrent had ever reached the valley floor far below.
We’ve seen tears of blood represent the fire moon meteors, so it should not surprise you to hear me say that icy tears can symbolize ice moon meteors – think of the Wall being said to “weep” when it melts on a sunny day (the waterfall known as Alyssa’s tears actually does freeze in winter, as a matter of fact). On a basic level, if the moon can be seen as a face, then it makes sense to see things falling from the moon as tears. Accordingly, the cold tears that “tumble down the face” of the Giant’s Lance remind us of ice moon meteors symbols in this paragraph; namely, they remind us of the symbolic language used for the Others and the sword Dawn.
First of all, they’re ghostly ice moon meteors symbols, which make us think of the Others, and when it says “pale white mists rose” from the ghost waters of the Alyssa’s tears, we really thinking about the Others, especially Tormund Giantsbane’s line to Jon in ADWD:
“A man can fight the dead, but when their masters come, when the white mists rise up … how do you fight a mist, crow?”
The Others are rising white mists and ghosts, we got that. In fact, behold this awesome clue about the Others I found AGOT that uses this same language:
The rising sun sent fingers of light through the pale white mists of dawn. A wide plain spread out beneath them, bare and brown, its flatness here and there relieved by long, low hummocks. Ned pointed them out to his king. “The barrows of the First Men.”
Robert frowned. “Have we ridden onto a graveyard?”
This passage seems to imply a connection between the Others and the most ancient First Men – and Barrow King in particular, who is like the deathly form of Garth the Green, whom Robert embodies. So it’s kind of like Robert walking on his own grave, in terms of archetypes, which Martin is obviously playing with here with Robert’s clueless “have we ridden onto a graveyard?” The other notable thing is the “pale white mists of dawn” language, which is yet another example of Others symbolism appearing alongside that of dawn. Of course, this whole scene with Cat observing the chilly ghost torrent of Alyssa’s tears occurs at dawn too, and of course I believe the explanation is that Dawn is the original Ice of House Stark, and was at some point “the Dawn of the Others,” meaning that it was possessed by Night’s King. If Night’s King ruled during the Long Night as I suggest, then he would have “stolen dawn” in the figurative sense of preventing the sun to rise, so it follows that he might have stolen Dawn the sword as well – at least, that’s the short version of that theory!
The best clue about Dawn in the scene with Cat observing Alyssa’s tears comes from the Alyssa’s tears being referred to as a “torrent” and then “ghost waters,” and another time in this same book they are called a “ghost torrent” – the Torrentine River is the one flows out to sea at Starfall, when Dawn resides, and since these icy tears of Alyssa’s are ice moon meteor symbols, as Dawn is, I tend to think the torrent language us no coincidence. You’ll recall the scene where Daenerys dreams of re-fighting the battle of the trident on dragonback, using dragonfire to melt ice-armored enemies who “turned the Trident into a torrent.” These ice-armored enemies melted by Dany’s dragonfire have always been taken to represent Others, so once again we have the association between ‘torrential’ waters and ice moon symbols, as we do with Alyssa’s tears. Why? Because Dawn is the original Ice! And because Dawn, the Others, and rivers that flow from melting ice are all ice moon meteor symbols.
The thing that tales all these ice moon meteor symbols and makes them foreboding is the prophecy aspect of the Alyssa legend: Alyssa’s ghost will know no rest until her waterfall hits the ground. What’s implied here is that one day, that might happen, that her tears might reach the ground. Meaning, one day ice moon meteors will reach the ground too, and then perhaps Night’s Queen can finally be content? Maybe all the ice moon wants is to get that damn black meteor out of it, right? Symbolism aside, the way in which Alyssa’s tears might actually reach the ground is if there is some kind of large avalanche, or if a streaking fireball melts all the snow on the mountain, just saying.
So, the Giant’s Lance might shed its snow and Alyssa’s ghost torrent may one day reach the ground; Winterfell is a shell for waking dragons, waking Jon Snows, and waking Burning Brandons; and the Heart of Winter is slowly, ever so slowly, preparing to unleash the Others on Westeros. And hey – nice Sept of Baelor you got there, all shining white marble and all… be a shame if something happened to it. Are you sure they removed all the old jars of wildfire from King Aerys’s day? I kid, but even if someone doesn’t blow it up as happens in the TV show, the idea of Warrior’s Sons pouring out of Baelor’s Sept works well to symbolize an invasion of Others. As we discussed in Moons 3: Visenya Draconis, the Warrior’s Sons, like the Kingsguard, serve as stand-ins for the Others, with their mirror-like armor, their “crystal sword in the darkness” sigil that replicates the look of an Other’s crystal sword in the darkness, and the crystal stars in the pommels of their actual swords which give them star-sword meteor symbolism to match the star-eyes of the Others. So here’s yet another ice moon place, promising a disastrous outpouring of crystalline star swords, and maybe even an actual big explosion.
With all that said, what do you think we’ll find at the Wall??? Dragon locked in ice symbolism perhaps, and maybe some hints about the moon blowing up? Well, let’s go on and have a look, shall we? The Wall is basically our master template for the ice moon, for obvious reasons: it’s huge, it just loves to glitter in the moonlight, it’s made of ice, and it has a knack for imprisoning dragons. The descriptions of it lay out the complete package of icy symbolism, and there are three symbols in particular we will focus on: ice dragons, ice swords, and icy or frozen rivers. All three of these symbols work to imply the ice moon as something that gives off icy moon meteors, and each add more specific associations as well: the ice dragon symbol evokes Jon and the dragon locked in ice, the white swords / ice sword symbol evokes both Dawn and the swords of the Others, and the frozen river symbol kind of suggests a possibility for flooding, in addition to referring back to the white knife / ice sword symbolism via the frozen White Knife River at White Harbor. When applied to the Wall, all of three of these symbols are ominous, as you would expect.
We’ll get to all that gloom and doom in due time, but let’s set that aside for a second and just enjoy the Wall while it still stands, you know? Live in the moment. We’ll start with basic descriptions of the Wall as they come to us in the books. Jon Snow’s first chapter at the Wall in AGOT give us several fantastic descriptions of the Wall, such as this one:
As he stood outside the armory looking up, Jon felt almost as overwhelmed as he had that day on the kingsroad, when he’d seen it for the first time. The Wall was like that. Sometimes he could almost forget that it was there, the way you forgot about the sky or the earth underfoot, but there were other times when it seemed as if there was nothing else in the world. It was older than the Seven Kingdoms, and when he stood beneath it and looked up, it made Jon dizzy. He could feel the great weight of all that ice pressing down on him, as if it were about to topple, and somehow Jon knew that if it fell, the world fell with it.
Ooof. Like I said, Chekov’s Wall has got to fall, and I think the same might go for that ice moon. It may well be the reason the Wall falls, I suspect, and when that icy moon meteor falls through the sky, the world will “fall with it” in that it will signal the “last battle,” if you will, the Ragnarok or Armageddon of ASOIAF – the new Long Night. It won’t be the end of the world, but rather of a world age, where the world will be remade as Euron says in the Forsaken chapter. I especially how the ice disaster symbolism is made personal for Jon when it says “he could feel the great weight of all that ice pressing down on him,” as if he’d been buried beneath it. Bingo! Yet more dead-Jon-in-the-ice-cells foreshadowing, and great nod to the idea of the Wall being a tomb or prison for a dragon meteor man like Jon.
Besides Jon outright speculating about the Wall falling, notice that the Wall is compared to the sky, and then Jon thinks about it falling – I mean I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little or anything but.. I am warning of an impending meteor catastrophe, so yeah, guys! The sky is falling.
But who knows, maybe I am just a doom and gloom type and I am misinterpreting things. Here’s another passage from that same Jon chapter:
The largest structure ever built by the hands of man, Benjen Stark had told Jon on the kingsroad when they had first caught sight of the Wall in the distance. “And beyond a doubt the most useless,” Tyrion Lannister had added with a grin, but even the Imp grew silent as they rode closer. You could see it from miles off, a pale blue line across the northern horizon, stretching away to the east and west and vanishing in the far distance, immense and unbroken. This is the end of the world, it seemed to say.
DAM-mit! The end of the world, it seemed to say? Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned – this is all in the first book so far. I like how it says “immense and unbroken,” and then “this is the end of the world,” as if to comment on how spectacularly unbroken the Wall is before suggesting it as the end of the world. Again, this is the same chapter in which he says that if the Wall ever fell, the world would fall with it.
Different chapter now, but still in AGOT, we have this gem, which comes as Jon pouts about being chosen for the stewards instead of the rangers:
Outside, Jon looked up at the Wall shining in the sun, the melting ice creeping down its side in a hundred thin fingers. Jon’s rage was such that he would have smashed it all in an instant, and the world be damned.
“Jon,” Samwell Tarly said excitedly. “Wait. Don’t you see what they’re doing?”
Yikes! Easy there Jonny boy! But I’ll ask you the same question Sam asked Jon: ‘don’t you see what George is doing?’ I mean if this is not foreshadowing, I don’t know what it looks like. It’s noteworthy that it’s Jon smashing the Wall here – think of resurrected Jon “hatching” for the Wall like a frozen dragon breaking out of its moon shell. The world will be damned when the other moon kisses the sun, as the Wall is doing here by shining and melting in the sun, but at least we’ll have Jon, hopefully with all his rage channeled in the right direction.
I also have to give two of my good friends and fellow YouTubers Azor Ahype and Secrets of the Citadel here a quick shoutout here, as their exploration of Ragnarok and ASOIAF clued me in to three things: the Wall seems a very close analog to the Bifrost Bridge; the black-clad Jon Snow with a burning red sword is very similar to the fire giant Sutr, who also wields a burning red sword; and finally that it is Sutr who breaks the Bifrost bridge with his fire sword when Ragnarok falls. I don’t think Jon will literally chop down the Wall with Longclaw of course, but I’ve been saying from the start that his resurrection will be linked to the Wall falling and this #IceMoonApocalypse I am talking about, which seems like Martin’s echo of Sutr destroying the Bifrost. In this last scene at least, Jon’s ready to smash it – if only he were a huge fire giant, we’d be in trouble.
But let’s forget about this whole prophecy of doom thing for just a moment and talk about the Wall itself and its descriptive language. Two quotes ago the Wall was described as a pale blue line across the northern horizon, and this next quote from ACOK gives us a healthy dose of Wall symbols:
Sam squinted up at the Wall. It loomed above them, an icy cliff seven hundred feet high. Sometimes it seemed to Jon almost a living thing, with moods of its own. The color of the ice was wont to change with every shift of the light. Now it was the deep blue of frozen rivers, now the dirty white of old snow, and when a cloud passed before the sun it darkened to the pale grey of pitted stone.
The Wall stretched east and west as far as the eye could see, so huge that it shrunk the timbered keeps and stone towers of the castle to insignificance. It was the end of the world.
You know, I was trying to be positive, I really was. But you have to admit, it does seem like the Wall spends a lot of time thinking about the end of the world. I mean, it’s right there in the text, don’t blame me. I look at scenes like this and I can’t help but think that one day the ‘other’ will moon will kiss the sun too and crack and the ice dragons will return, what can I say. Even worse, the very next paragraph mentions the red comet! It’s almost as if the sub-narrative is saying ‘look, the Wall is like the end of the world’ and ‘oh by the way did you notice the enormous comet the color of blood and fire, I wonder what could help the Wall end the world, I really have no idea.’
Now, I’m obviously having a lot of fun here with the end of the world stuff, but we actually do need to talk about the Wall itself, which in this scene is described as looking like pale stone, like snow, or like frozen rivers. Going in order, pale grey, pitted stone is a very lunar-sounding description, and it looks this way “when a cloud passed before the sun,” implying either a solar eclipse, or perhaps just clouds darkening the sun such as after a moon meteor impact. As for snow, well, snow is… snow. That’s kind of the crux of what all this is about – Jon Snow, and lots of snow falling from the sky, day after day, for years. Describing the Wall as looking like frozen rivers is as good as calling it a white knife, especially since we already know the Wall has sword and snake symbolism. We’ll see this symbolism again in a minute.
The last part of the quote I want to draw your attention is Jon thinking that the Wall is like a living thing, with changing moods. In ADWD, Jon reflects on this idea again, thinking:
“The Wall has more moods than Mad King Aerys, they’d say, or sometimes, the Wall has more moods than a woman.”
The latter comparison names the Wall a moody, icy woman, and that’s got our attention, as it certainly makes the Wall more moon-like. I don’t know about the moody part – I don’t really make a habit of calling women “moody,” myself – but of course thinking of the Wall as an icy woman simply reminds us of the Night’s Queen, with her cold, moon-pale flesh. She’s the only icy woman we know of, after all, and she just so happens to be compared to the moon! The very concept of an ice moon pretty much starts with Night’s Queen, so it makes sense to compare the Wall to her.
The first comparison, to Mad King Aerys, effectively names the Wall an icy version of a dragon, which… means ‘ice dragon.’ Comparing the Wall to Mad Aerys also kind of implies the Wall as an unstable and explosive ice dragon; the Mad King tried to blow up King’s Landing after all! Heck, it could be some of Aery’s overripe fruits which doom the Sept of Baelor, another ice moon location.
As you might recall, the Wall has been more directly associated with an ice dragon in several occasions, of course, and it’s certainly a major part of the overall Wall symbolism. We’ve already covered some of this in the Moons of Ice and Fire series, but think about the Wall’s ice dragon symbolism in the context of ice moon disaster potential. The Wall is a big, stationary thing, and not an obvious comp for an ice dragon, which flies and presumably destroys things on occasion. The idea that the Wall can be like an ice dragon makes a lot more sense when you think of the Wall as being analogous to the ice moon, which is the mother of ice dragon meteors. Indeed, the four quotes which compare the Wall to an ice dragon seem to tell the familiar story.
It’s also an ice dragon in the sense that it eats Jon, as the ice moon eats the black fire moon meteor.
Ice Dragon Food
There are a couple of time that Bran and Jon use the prominent blue star in the Ice Dragon constellation to find the way to the Wall, but it’s really the four quotes that make direct comparisons that are instructive – so let’s have Quinn read them to us! The first comes in a Jon chapter of ASOS as Jon and a few members of the Watch survey the damage inside the ice tunnel after the battle at Castle Black:
Jon nodded weakly. The door swung open. Pyp led them in, followed by Clydas and the lantern. It was all Jon could do to keep up with Maester Aemon. The ice pressed close around them, and he could feel the cold seeping into his bones, the weight of the Wall above his head. It felt like walking down the gullet of an ice dragon. The tunnel took a twist, and then another. Pyp unlocked a second iron gate. They walked farther, turned again, and saw light ahead, faint and pale through the ice. That’s bad, Jon knew at once. That’s very bad.
Then Pyp said, “There’s blood on the floor.”
So here is Jon’s death being clearly foreshadowed as he walks into the Wall and into the gullet of an ice dragon. The Wall seems to want to eat Jon! Symbolically, we can see this as the ice moon swallowing the black meteor man, Jon, with a huge cold mouth. The line about the cold seeping into his bones seems like an obvious reference to Bran’s visions of Jon, when he looked north and “saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him.” It also reminds us of Ned in the rain right before his fight with Jaime, where it says that “Ned was soaked through to the bone, and his soul had grown cold.” Then, just to reinforce the death imagery, they see blood on the floor, and Jon has a strong sense of foreboding.
Around the bend is Mag the mighty and Donal Noye and a few other dead Night’s Watchmen, which would seem to symbolize that struggle or battle inside the weirwoodnet that I have been picking up clues about. Setting that aside for another day, we can at least observe that Donal Noye is a valiant Night’s Watchmen who died and whose body is now inside the Wall – that’s probably the way Jon is headed too if his body is stored in the ice cell for a time. Donal’s name also contains the word “dawn,” so there is that. Don’t forget there is a Jonnel One-Eye Stark, which sort of combines Jon’s and Donal’s name with the Odin one-eye symbolism, which of course Jon already has. Donal Noye has one-arm, which is like his own version of the Odin symbolism mixed with symbolism of the moon explosion being like a hand burning or hand chopping… which Jon in turn echoes with his burned hand. Jon also lives in Donal Noye’s chambers after becoming Lord Commander, so, there’s a lot in common there, and all of that makes it easier to see Donal Noye’s body here as being another layer of death foreshadowing for Jon.
Check out the lines that come a couple of paragraphs later, which seem to depict Jon’s rebirth:
He needed sun then. It was too cold and dark inside the tunnel, and the stench of blood and death was suffocating. Jon gave the lantern back to Clydas, squeezed around the bodies and through the twisted bars, and walked toward the daylight to see what lay beyond the splintered door.
The huge carcass of a dead mammoth partially blocked the way. One of the beast’s tusks snagged his cloak and tore it as he edged past. Three more giants lay outside, half buried beneath stone and slush and hardened pitch. He could see where the fire had melted the Wall, where great sheets of ice had come sloughing off in the heat to shatter on the blackened ground. He looked up at where they’d come from. When you stand here it seems immense, as if it were about to crush you.
Oh boy, it’s yet more ice moon disaster symbolism – it’s about to crush us! Think about Jon emerging from the tunnel here as Jon being reborn from the ice, like the “dragon” hatching at Winterfell when it was burned; Jon walks out of the tunnel and sees where fire has melted the Wall and great sheets of ice have cracked off, almost as if his hatching had done that damage. It’s very similar to Bran and company coming out of the crypts and noticing that one side of the First Keep had collapsed in the fire. The resurrection language here is exceptional, with Jon “squeezing around the bodies and through the twisted bars,” depicting Jon as both escaping the grave and escaping a prison.. and escaping the belly of the ice dragon, of course. The splintered wooden door Jon walks through seems evocative of all the weirwood door symbolism, probably intended as a complement to the idea of Jon and his archetype being reborn from the weirwoodnet in some sense. In particular, the splintered wooden door would seem to imply Jon breaking out of the weirwoodnet, which is what Azor Ahai probably did, or still wants to do if he’s stuck in there.
Just to make the point clear, all this obvious death and resurrection-from-the-ice symbolism for Jon here comes alongside the language about the ice dragon-like Wall seeming as if it were about to crush you. Again I say this is a clue that Jon’s resurrection will coincide with the impending moon disaster, one which will probably topple the Wall as well. We’ll come back to this idea in the final section when we discuss Jon’s snow moon dream, so remember this last scene which seems so suggestive of Jon hatching from the Wall.
In ADWD, Jon busts out the ice dragon talk when he’s in that tunnel again:
The road beneath the Wall was as dark and cold as the belly of an ice dragon and as twisty as a serpent. Dolorous Edd led them through with a torch in hand. Mully had the keys for the three gates, where bars of black iron as thick as a man’s arm closed off the passage.
As with the previous ice dragon quote, we once again see the comparison between being inside the Wall and being inside an ice dragon. It doesn’t get any more dragon-locked-in-ice than this; I mean we’ve got dragons and locks and ice, and Jon, all right here! I really hope people don’t play drinking games with the key phrases in my podcasts by the way, I definitely don’t encourage that. Moon meteor moon meteor moon meteor.
Kidding aside, you’ll also notice the black iron bars that are compared to a man’s arm are also locked in the ice… again implying the idea of people (or at least body parts) locked in the ice. More specifically, black iron arms remind of the black hands of wights like Coldhands, whose hands were “black and hard as iron, and cold as iron too” (shoutout to the Sacred Order of the Black Hand!) Finally, the ice tunnel being “twisty as a serpent” gives me an excuse to remind you that the underground tunnels beneath Castle Black which also run under the Wall are called “worm ways,” as if they have been made by fire wyrms. I really think it’s clear that Martin is showing us the idea of dragons and snakes and firewyrms under the ice of the Wall pretty strongly, just as we saw at Winterfell.
In fact, there’s even a similar “dragon’s egg beneath the Wall” rumor to the one at Winterfell, which comes to us in an idle musing from Sam:
There were dragons here two hundred years ago, Sam found himself thinking, as he watched the cage making a slow descent. They would just have flown to the top of the Wall. Queen Alysanne had visited Castle Black on her dragon, and Jaehaerys, her king, had come after her on his own. Could Silverwing have left an egg behind? Or had Stannis found one egg on Dragonstone? Even if he has an egg, how can he hope to quicken it? Baelor the Blessed had prayed over his eggs, and other Targaryens had sought to hatch theirs with sorcery. All they got for it was farce and tragedy.
So, there’s both the implication of a dragon’s egg somewhere here at the Wall and of someone hatching a dragon here at the Wall – Stannis, a dark Azor Ahai figure. Then there’s mention of Baelor the Blessed, whom you’ll recall has covert Night’s King symbolism by way of his Bael-related name, the symbolism of his wives and family, and his habit of locking ice moon maidens in towers.
Good Queen Alysanne has really good ice queen symbolism, by the way. Her name contains the names of other ice moon maidens such as Alyssa of Vale legend, Lysa Tully, Lyanna Stark, Alayne Stone, Alannys Harlaw (Theon’s mother), and probably one or two others that I forgot. Alysanne famously had a hand in closing the Nightfort, and even funded the building of a smaller, more manageable castle called “Deep Lake.” The Castle known as Snowgate was renamed Queensgate in her honor, implying her as a snow queen I’d say. According to an SSM (“So Spake Martin”) Alysanne’s appearance fits the bill, as he said that she had clear blue eyes and high cheekbones, and that in old age her hair turned white as snow. Her dragon, Silverwing, makes a pretty good ice dragon symbol, especially since she took it to the Wall. During the Dance of the Dragons, which happened after the death of Alysanne, Silverwing was claimed by Ulf the White, adding to the white dragon / ice dragon symbolism of Silverwing… who might have laid an egg here.
You’ll probably recall the next ice dragon quote, which is from Alys Karstark’s wedding, because we just quoted it a few episodes ago. That’s the scene at the Wall where Alys was called “Winter’s Lady” and played the role of a Night’s Queen figure, with the young magnar of Thenn as the Night’s King figure. The relevant ice dragon quote was: “the wind was blowing from the east along the Wall, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan used to tell,” and it made Melisandre’s fire shiver and huddle in its ditch. A Night’s Queen wedding represents her taking the seed and soul of Night’s King and turning his hot dragon fire cold, which is exactly what’s going on in this scene symbolically, and so it makes perfect sense to see the Wall breathing like an ice dragon here and making the fire shiver… it’s just like the Wall eating Jon and swallowing him down into its ice dragon gullet a moment ago.
Our last ice dragon / Wall quote shows us more about the dragon reawakening from the ice, and about things descending from the ice moon:
A sudden gust of wind set Edd’s cloak to flapping noisily. “Best go down, m’lord. This wind’s like to push us off the Wall, and I never did learn the knack of flying.”
They rode the winch lift back to the ground. The wind was gusting, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan had told when Jon was a boy. The heavy cage was swaying. From time to time it scraped against the Wall, starting small crystalline showers of ice that sparkled in the sunlight as they fell, like shards of broken glass.
Glass, Jon mused, might be of use here. Castle Black needs its own glass gardens, like the ones at Winterfell. We could grow vegetables even in the deep of winter.
After discussing the efficacy of flying down from the moon-wall like dragons, they instead ride down in the winch cage. It’s blowing about in the cold breath of the ice dragon wind, and when it collides with the Wall, it’s triggering “crystalline showers of ice” which are like “shards of broken glass” as they drink in the light of the sun. Showers of sparkling ice glass, being chipped off of an ice moon symbol like the Wall, in close proximity to Jon and ice dragon talk, well… you can’t expect me not to say “ice moon meteor shower” or to not think of Dawn, the pale as milkglass sword which I think was the original Ice. A storm of ice swords, as pale as milkglass.
Then, immediately after, Jon has ‘a dream of spring,’ if you will, as he imagines building a glass gardens enclosure similar to that of Winterfell so they can grow green things in the deep of winter, like a true Jack in the Green nourishing a bit of green life to flower again in the spring. I didn’t mention the glass gardens when we spoke of Winterfell, but the same Jack in the Green symbolism applies there as well. In the winter, the gardens are an oasis of green amidst the snowy north, a compliment to Winterfell’s hot springs which make it an oasis of warmth. I should also mention the real world king of winter tradition here – the little wicker man king of winter is supposed to be burned to help usher in the spring, and the same may be true of resurrected Jon, who is probably not long for this world. He may not live to see the spring, but he does dream of it and set it in motion.
So there you have it – as we’ve seen in these four quotes, the Wall’s ice dragon symbolism serves to equate it both with the idea of an ice moon that contains a dragon and the idea of meteor dragons coming from the ice moon. The icy sword symbolism that popped up a couple of times reinforces the suggestion of icy meteor dragons, and anything about icy swords or dragons coming from the moon ultimately implies some kind of ice moon meteor event.
In fact, our next batch of quotes about the Wall will lead us in the direction of icy swords, so let’s go there. We might get wet, though.
Here’s another great description of the Wall from that same Jon chapter of AGOT that we started with, one which dishes out some great ice sword and ice moon apocalypse symbolism. It’s also just a really nice example of the musicality of the cadence of Martin’s writing, which is one of the things I just love about ASOIAF:
By the time Jon left the armory, it was almost midday. The sun had broken through the clouds. He turned his back on it and lifted his eyes to the Wall, blazing blue and crystalline in the sunlight. Even after all these weeks, the sight of it still gave him the shivers. Centuries of windblown dirt had pocked and scoured it, covering it like a film, and it often seemed a pale grey, the color of an overcast sky … but when the sun caught it fair on a bright day, it shone, alive with light, a colossal blue- white cliff that filled up half the sky.
Filling up the sky is actually a bad thing for an ice moon symbol – that’s very like when Jon was battling the moon-faced Othor and it said “Its face was against his own, filling the world.” Here it’s “a colossal blue- white cliff that filled up half the sky,” and it’s shining “alive with light,” like Dawn. This makes my point about the ice sword symbolism of the Wall being used to imply the ice moon disaster – the Wall is compared to Dawn in the line in which it fills up half the sky, so imagine a white, icy sword filling up the sky… well you get the idea. Time to head down to the underground meteor shower shelt– oh wait, you don’t have a meteor shower shelter? Sounds like a real problem…
Returning to the quote, the icy brightness and burning ice motifs which we cataloged extensively in the Moons of Ice and Fire series are on central display here, with the Wall “blazing” blue in the sunlight. ‘Blazing’ is a word used for fire, yet it gives Jon the shivers, because a cold blue blaze is strongly evocative of the Others and their cold-burning blue star eyes. This is a cold blaze we are talking about here, and coming next to the ice Wall being “alive with light” like Dawn, it’s really suggestive. Not only does it suggest that Dawn, the alive with light sword, is the original Ice, it also seems to suggest that Dawn can indeed catch on fire and truly “blaze blue,” like the Wall does here, or like the swords in Jaime’s weirwood stump dream which burn with “silvery-blue flame.”
There’s another healthy dose of icy brightness in a quote from ACOK where Jon sees the Wall and it says “the sun was high in the sky, and the upper third of the Wall was a crystalline blue from below, reflecting so brilliantly that it hurt the eyes to look on it.” It’s blindingly bright, like the sun or like a flaming sword, and any time the Wall is described as crystalline, we should also think of the ice crystal swords of the Others.
There’s another possible likeness between the Wall and and ice swords: you’ll recall in one of the first quotes I gave you about the Wall, Jon and Tyrion were observing it from afar, and the Wall was described as “a pale blue line across the northern horizon.” Well, a moment ago, we read a quote about the Wall where it is compared to a frozen river and pitted grey stone and then called the end of the world, and I mentioned that the red comet comes up in the next paragraph as a suggestion of just how the Wall might help to end the world. Bearing in mind the ‘pale blue line’ description of the Wall, here is that reference to the red comet:
The morning sky was streaked by thin grey clouds, but the pale red line was there behind them. The black brothers had dubbed the wanderer Mormont’s Torch, saying (only half in jest) that the gods must have sent it to light the old man’s way through the haunted forest. “The comet’s so bright you can see it by day now,” Sam said, shading his eyes with a fistful of books.
Pale red line, meet pale blue line. Remember that the comet is really an ice and fire duality symbol, because it’s a flying piece of icy stone that looks to be on fire. You could look at it as burning ice, in other words, and thus it makes sense to compare it to the Wall, which is like an icy snake sword that blazes bright, alive with light. Meteors that burn up in the atmosphere usually appear bluish in color, so perhaps we’ll have lots of ‘pale blue lines’ in the sky.
Now let’s get to the good stuff. In this section and the next, we’re going to parsing just about every part of a certain Jon chapter in ADWD – Jon I, actually, which is the one that begins with Jon’s most elaborate wolf dream and includes him arguing with Stannis about manning the forts of the Wall and Melisandre’s infamous warning to Jon, which echoes in his head throughout the book leading up to his assassination:
You would do well to keep your wolf close beside you. Ice, I see, and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel. It was very cold.”
We’re going to start with Jon arguing with Stannis over the map, which begins a great series of parallel quotes which both compare the Wall to Lightbringer and imply a Lightbringer meteor striking the Wall. So Jon and Stannis are arguing over how to man the forts on the Wall as they stand over a map of Westeros, and Stannis draws his fake, cold Lightbringer to threaten and intimidate Jon, basically, and it says
The king laid his bright blade down on the map, along the Wall, its steel shimmering like sunlight on water.
There are two ways to interpret this, and they are not mutually exclusive. Laying the Lightbringer sword down on top of the Wall might simply show us that the Wall and the Lightbringer comet are parallel symbols, and in this sense we might see the entire Wall as the “sword in the darkness” which the Night’s Watch wield. The idea of Stannis’s “bright blade.. shimmering like sunlight,” but nevertheless giving off no heat, is a similar description to the Wall, bright and shimmering in the sunlight but obviously giving off no heat. Icy brightness, in other words. This would also be a match for Dan-as-the-original-Ice, which would in that case be a cold and bright sword… and of course I see Stannis wielding a cold bright sword as potential evidence for Night’s King wielding Dawn-the-original-Ice.
Now the other way we could interpret Stannis laying his Lightbringer down along the Wall is more apocalyptic: we could also see it as a depiction of a Lightbringer meteor smashing into the Wall. Stannis is a Night’s King / dark solar king figure, so he’s the right sort of guy to slam a Lightbringer into an ice moon symbol. This seems a great callout to Sutr, with Stannis as Sutr. The map-sized Westeros below them creates the image of Stannis as a giant too, like Sutr, with a sword that can span the continent. In ASOIAF, of course, the only swords that big are the meteor kind.
Stannis also “drummed his fingers on the map” in this conversation, those words exactly, and he does it again later in ADWD when he and Jon are again talking over the map. When a dark Azor Ahai uses his hand to drum the land… well you get the idea. Boom DOOM. Boom DOOM. Together with the sword placed over the Wall on the map, it’s pretty ominous.
It reminds me a lot of the scene where Stannis does actually draw Lightbringer at the Wall in front of the defeated wildlings:
Stannis Baratheon drew Lightbringer.
The sword glowed red and yellow and orange, alive with light. Jon had seen the show before … but not like this, never before like this. Lightbringer was the sun made steel. When Stannis raised the blade above his head, men had to turn their heads or cover their eyes. Horses shied, and one threw his rider. The blaze in the fire pit seemed to shrink before this storm of light, like a small dog cowering before a larger one. The Wall itself turned red and pink and orange, as waves of color danced across the ice. Is this the power of king’s blood?
The Wall is lighting up just like Stannis’s sword – which, again is a Lightbringer that produces no heat, as its storm of light is entirely Melisandre’s glamour and not the result of wildfire or any other sort of fire in this scene. The ‘alive with light’ descriptor again reminds us of Dawn, another luminescent sword that gives off no heat and which is obviously the original Ice of House Stark.
As with the map scene, it’s hard to say whether this scene is simply Stannis showing us that the Wall is like a cold, alive with light sword, or that a real meteor sword is destined to light the Wall up with actual fire. Either way, it’s very similar to Stannis laying his Lightbringer on the map across the Wall, its steel shimmering like sunlight on water.
Sunlight on water... kind of sounds like a flood is coming from the Wall when the sword strikes it, perhaps. When Stannis drew his sword at the Wall, it says “waves of color danced across the ice,” so again we have the suggestion of melting water coming from the Wall when the shining sword is nearby. In that same scene where Stannis lays Lightbringer across the Wall on the map, it also says
The map lay between them like a battleground, drenched by the colors of the glowing sword.
Drenched, you say? Very interesting, very interesting. Sounds like we’ll need some boats or something. There’s also that second scene with Jon and Stannis talking over this map, and in that scene we get these lines:
Jon moved the map. Candles had been placed at its corners to keep it from rolling up. A finger of warm wax was puddling out across the Bay of Seals, slow as a glacier.
The Wall certainly looks like the edge of a glacier – one with a very sharp edge, granted – and here we see a glacier oozing out of the north like an icy tide. Again… it’s ominous, and speaks of a cold flood coming from the Wall. What is really cool is that when Jon sees an actual glacier, he mistakes it for the Wall for a moment. This is Jon’s vision through the eyes of Ghost during his journey into the Frostfangs with Qhorin Halfhand:
A vast blue-white wall plugged one end of the vale, squeezing between the mountains as if it had shouldered them aside, and for a moment he thought he had dreamed himself back to Castle Black. Then he realized he was looking at a river of ice several thousand feet high. Under that glittering cold cliff was a great lake, its deep cobalt waters reflecting the snowcapped peaks that ringed it.
Not only is this glacier compared to the Wall, it’s also called a frozen river of ice, just as the Wall is. And although the lake beneath the glacier is really at the foot of the glacier, the wording makes it sound like the lake is under the glacier, giving us the familiar “frozen pond” motif. It was first defined by the Others first appearance in the AGOT prologue, where we saw that the ice armor of the Others is reflective like a mirror, and the reflected images of their surroundings “ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.” But of course that armor is made out of ice, so really we are talking abut a frozen pond. Also in the prologue, their speech is described as being “like the cracking of ice on a winter lake.”
Now although the Wall doesn’t have water inside like a trapped lake, it is of course a big piece of frozen water, and if it is hit by a meteor or comet, most it would actually vaporize or melt and we would indeed get a flood. The cracking of the Ice of the Wall will also lead to an invasion of Others, so we can actually see that in a way, the cracking ice of a winter lake voices of the Others, combined with their frozen pond symbolism, foreshadows the cracking of the Wall, which is like a frozen river.
The Milkwater River – something of a symbolic twin to the sometimes-frozen White Knife River – also shows us the frozen pond symbolism at times, or at least a tributary stream of it does:
At the bottom of the slope they came upon a little stream flowing down from the foothills to join the Milkwater. It looked all stones and glass, though they could hear the sound of water running beneath the frozen surface. Rattleshirt led them across, shattering the thin crust of ice.
Stones and glass and ice are an interesting combination; Dawn is pale as milkglass, and made from a pale stone… and was once the original Ice, as we all known for an absolute fact. chuckles Compare that to the phraseology here – a milk-water river of stone and glass and ice versus an icy white sword made from a pale stone that looks like milkglass. Again, it’s very similar to the White Knife freezing hard when Brandon Ice-Eyes Stark comes to town – frozen rivers keep reminding us of Dawn. The Wall, of course, is called a frozen river and is described with the same language as Dawn.
And now I will unveil a quote about the Milkwater River that I have been saving for something like two years (yeah, I have been storing up notes in preparation to write about the Others for that long):
The world was grey darkness, smelling of pine and moss and cold. Pale mists rose from the black earth as the riders threaded their way through the scatter of stones and scraggly trees, down toward the welcoming fires strewn like jewels across the floor of the river valley below. There were more fires than Jon Snow could count, hundreds of fires, thousands, a second river of flickery lights along the banks of the icy white Milkwater. The fingers of his sword hand opened and closed.
The recurring line about Jon’s sword hand is the clue that tips us off as to what these two parallel rivers symbolize: swords. The icy-white milkwater is a great analog for Dawn and the Wall, as we just saw, and alongside it is a second river – thousands of flickery lights that look like fiery jewels against the surrounding darkness. That’s our dark lightbringer – darkness punctuated by flame. It’s laid out next to its opposite, the icy white Milkwater. They are ready to fight!
Just as we’ve seen the White Knife and Milkwater symbolize Dawn a few times now, we’ve seen on man occasions that the Blackwater Rush symbolize the burning black sword I theorize Azor Ahai to have forged from a black moon meteor, the one from the Bloodstone Emperor myth. As I’ve already pointed out, the name “Blackwater” seems to allude to the “waves of blood and night” which are seen in the folds of Oathkeeper and Widows Wail. The Blackwater Rush flows from the Gods Eye, which I believe symbolizes the moon / sun eclipse conjunction that seems to have happened when the Long Night explosion occurred, and thus it makes sense to see the Blackwater Rush as representing those waves of darkness and night that emanate from the moon explosion. Then when Rhaegar and Lyanna absconded to conceive Jon, the Blackwater Rush froze over, giving us the black ice symbol that comes from Ned’s black sword named Ice, which is now Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail with the waves of night. Finally, we know that Tyrion sets the Blackwater Rush on fire at the Battle of the Blackwater, whereupon it becomes the mouth of hell. Ergo, the Blackwater seems an embodiment of the dark Lightbringer burning black sword symbolism, a perfect opposite to the Milkwater and White Knife rivers.
To briefly sum up this Icebringer section, I’ll simply that I believe the obvious reason to bring rivers of various kinds into the swords and meteors line of symbolism is to describe the water-based effects of the meteor attacks, old and new. The first one brought figurative waves of darkness and then literal tidal waves in that darkness, so “waves of night” is a sensible thing to include in Lightbringer’s symbolism – plus all the delightful moon blood wordplay. The meteor attack to come, involving the ice moon, seems destined to break the Wall and melt a whole lot of ice, causing rivers of ice to flow. The Wall is like an ice sword, so when a moon meteor comes streaking down to collide with it, it will be like the clashing of two swords, and with the breaking of those swords will come a bit of a splash.
The other way frozen rivers and lakes play into this is more metaphorical, and has to do with the idea of plunging through an icy lake to represent a certain kind of death transformation, as well as the icy-lake-cracking voices of the Others.
A Shock of Cold
Next up, we have an absolute gem of a scene which showcases a ton of frozen stream symbolism, icy moon symbolism, dawn symbolism, ice sword symbolism, and Jon death and rebirth symbolism. Oh and there’s something about the Wall falling, naturally. That would be the scene where Jon and Qhorin ride through a waterfall and into a mountain cave to try to evade the Wildlings and Orell’s eagle. Before they get to the cave, they light one of those ground zero bonfires we looking at in “In a Grove of Ash:”
Jon went to cut more branches, snapping each one in two before tossing it into the flames. The tree had been dead a long time, but it seemed to live again in the fire, as fiery dancers woke within each stick of wood to whirl and spin in their glowing gowns of yellow, red, and orange.
These are the same fiery dancers cloaked in red, orange, and yellow that we see at Dany’s alchemical wedding when she wakes the dragons – because this fire represent the sun / comet / fire moon collision, as Dany’s dragon hatching scene does. The tree living again in the flames is a reference to Azor Ahai being reborn inside the weirwoodnet, which seems to happen when Nissa Nissa is killed and the moon cracked. Think of the Storm God’s meteor thunderbolt setting the tree ablaze with the fire of the gods, which the deathly Grey King then possesses – it’s the same sequence.
So Jon and Qhorin, after lighting this symbolic fire moon bonfire, immediately ride away into the cold night, like black meteor swords flying through the darkness towards the ice moon.:
Jon pulled on his gloves again and raised his hood. Even the horses seemed reluctant to leave the fire. The sun was long gone, and only the cold silver shine of the half-moon remained to light their way over the treacherous ground that lay behind them. He did not know what Qhorin had in mind, but perhaps it was a chance. He hoped so. I do not want to play the oathbreaker, even for good reason.
Jon doesn’t want to be an oathbreaker – he wants to be an Oathkeeper! Oathkeeper is his father’s sword, after all, and black ice is Jon’s symbol. Jon and Qhorin, as Night’s Watch brothers, already have black sword symbolism, so calling Jon “not-an-oathbreaker” is a sly way to reinforce the black sword motif and make us think of Ned’s sword, now Oathkeeper. I’m sure you noticed the “cold silver shine of the half moon” lighting their way, because Jon and Qhorin are about to symbolically enter the ice moon.
On their way, they have lovely scenery as they pass through a “narrow defile where an icy little stream emerged from between two mountains.” Qhorin notes that “The water’s icing up” as “They followed the moonlit ribbon of stream back toward its source.” We see that “Icicles bearded its stony banks, but Jon could still hear the sound of rushing water beneath the thin hard crust.” That’s nice because it’s combining the snowbeard symbolism with that of the frozen stream and the cold moonlight. Then we get to the waterfall, where we see the entry wound of the meteor, the scratch across the face of the ice moon:
A great jumble of fallen rock blocked their way partway up, where a section of the cliff face had fallen, but the surefooted little garrons were able to pick their way through. Beyond, the walls pinched in sharply, and the stream led them to the foot of a tall twisting waterfall. The air was full of mist, like the breath of some vast cold beast. The tumbling waters shone silver in the moonlight. Jon looked about in dismay. There is no way out. He and Qhorin might be able to climb the cliffs, but not with the horses. He did not think they would last long afoot.
“Quickly now,” the Halfhand commanded. The big man on the small horse rode over the ice-slick stones, right into the curtain of water, and vanished. When he did not reappear, Jon put his heels into his horse and went after. His garron did his best to shy away. The falling water slapped at them with frozen fists, and the shock of the cold seemed to stop Jon’s breath.
Then he was through; drenched and shivering, but through.
Once again, Jon is ice dragon food, as he ignores the breath of the vast cold beats and enters the curtain of moonlit icy water anyway… which seems to stop Jon’s breath. This is all going according to plan: when Jon actually dies in ADWD, he never felt the fourth knife, only the cold, and when Varamyr dies, it’s like plunging through the surface of an icy lake. Both are depictions of an Azor Ahai black meteor person symbolically entering the ice moon and becoming locked in the ice, which is a death transformation. In fact, look at the quote from Varamyr’s death and compare it this waterfall scene:
True death came suddenly; he felt a shock of cold, as if he had been plunged into the icy waters of a frozen lake. Then he found himself rushing over moonlit snows with his packmates close behind him.
It’s so similar – “the shock of the cold seemed to stop Jon’s breath” as he walks through a moonlit waterfall, compared to “he felt a shock of cold, as if he had been plunged into the icy waters of a frozen lake” followed by moonlit snows. Varamyr then lands in his wolf, one-eye, just as Jon’s spirit is presumably flying to his wolf after his stabbing. In other words, this scene at the waterfall foreshadows Jon’s death in the frozen lake language of Varmyrs’s death. Better yet, the “breath of a cold vast beast” language parallels the scenes we looked at earlier where Jon is being swallowed by the ice dragon-like Wall, which is also like a frozen river or stream. I hope your beginning to see how this works – the ice moon is like a frozen body of water, and anything going into a frozen lake or river is probably going into the ice moon, symbolically.
Again I will point to the Others having voices like the cracking of ice on a winter lake and suggest that it is alluding to the ice moon as a frozen lake, and the Others as the cold meteor stars that pour forth from the crack across the face of the ice moon.
So, I think we’ve established that Jon is symbolically dying and entering the ice moon here by walking through the moonlit waterfall, so let’s see what Jon finds inside the ice moon cave!
First, Qhorin talks about how he “heard a brother tell how he followed a shadowcat through these falls,” which compares the Night’s Watch brothers to shadowcats, as Jon did when he and Qhorin crept along the ledge before attacking Ygritte’s company at the campfire in the Frostfangs. Shadowcats fit into the Lion of Night / black dragon archetype, as exemplified by princess Rhaenys’ black cat named Balerion, which is why the black shadows of the Night’s Watch are compared to them. In astronomy terms, the point is that black meteor symbols are what enter the ice moon. Picking up the quote, we have Qhorin speaking:
“There is a way through the heart of the mountain. Come dawn, if they have not found us, we will press on. The first watch is mine, brother.” Qhorin seated himself on the sand, his back to a wall, no more than a vague black shadow in the gloom of the cave. Over the rush of falling waters, Jon heard a soft sound of steel on leather that could only mean that the Halfhand had drawn his sword.
He took off his wet cloak, but it was too cold and damp here to strip down any further. Ghost stretched out beside him and licked his glove before curling up to sleep. Jon was grateful for his warmth. He wondered if the fire was still burning outside, or if it had gone out by now. If the Wall should ever fall, all the fires will go out. The moon shone through the curtain of falling water to lay a shimmering pale stripe across the sand, but after a time that too faded and went dark.
Sleep came at last, and with it nightmares. He dreamed of burning castles and dead men rising unquiet from their graves. It was still dark when Qhorin woke him. While the Halfhand slept, Jon sat with his back to the cave wall, listening to the water and waiting for the dawn.
Hopefully you caught some of what was going on there – Qhorin the black shadow draws his sword, symbolizing the black meteor sword’s penetration of the ice moon. This is Rhaegar’s black lance penetrating the blue rose crown, same idea. Then we get the requisite obvious foreshadowing of the Wall falling – and this is really the last quote I have stored away about that, I promise, I’m all out now – which is followed immediately by a strong ice moon meteor symbol as “the moon shone through the curtain of falling water to lay a shimmering pale stripe across the sand.” Look, it’s even landing in the sand, like Stannis’s Lightbringer stuck in the sand at Dragonstone. The word dawn is conspicuously mentioned in the next paragraph, we do not fail to note.
We also can’t fail to notice that Jon dreams of burning castles and dead men rising from their graves – this couldn’t be any stronger of a call-out to Winterfell’s burning, a scene which heavily foreshadows Jon’s resurrection as a dragon waking from the crypts. The burning castle is the ice moon, but only when Jon the sleeping dragon wakes from it. This will happen when the Wall falls, it seems safe to say.
The idea of Jon and Qhorin as black shadows inside the ice moon which is depicted here has parallels to a couple of scenes at the Wall with Melisandre, where certain prominent figures conspired to cast shadows on the Wall. We shan’t quote them all again, but here is the most relevant example, from ADWD with Melisandre speaking to Jon Snow:
“Every man who walks the earth casts a shadow on the world. Some are thin and weak, others long and dark. You should look behind you, Lord Snow. The moon has kissed you and etched your shadow upon the ice twenty feet tall.”
Jon glanced over his shoulder. The shadow was there, just as she had said, etched in moonlight against the Wall.
Placing Jon’s shadow inside the ice of the Wall is clear ‘dead Jon inside the ice cells’ foreshadowing, but of course there’s great mythical astronomy here too. Think of Jon once again as the black fire moon meteor, hurling towards the ice moon, just like when Qhorin and Jon rode away from the ground zero bonfire to enter the waterfall ice moon symbol. As he kisses the moon (the fire moon, it would be), his shadow is etched into the ice of the Wall, which itself represents the ice moon. It’s just like Jon being swallowed into the ice dragon’s gullet when he walks through the Wall, but with the “moon kissing” language of the Quarantine prophecy added in. We might also think of Night’s King here, kissing Night’s Queen and giving his seed and soul to be locked in her ice.
The first place ‘dead Jon in the ice cells’ foreshadowing may have been spotted is in the scene where Jon goes to visit Cregan Karstark, who Jon has imprisoned in the ice cells. Indeed, this is the scene where Wick Whittlestick, Jon’s eventual killer, opens the door to the ice cell so Jon can “slip inside,” which is followed by the infamous line “Jon Snow could see his own reflection dimly inside the icy walls.” It’s more than just Jon’s body being stored in an ice cell, it’s a depiction of Jon as the dragon locked in ice, a sleeping dragon inside a cold moon.
Cregan himself foreshadows Jon’s death and rebirth from the ice. The Karstarks are an offshoot branch of House Stark, which Cregan brings up in this conversation, and Cregan is the name of one the mightiest and most famous Starks in recent history – Cregan Stark, who signed the Pact of Ice and Fire with Prince Jacaerys Velaryon during the Dance of the Dragons and whom Aemon the Dragonknight called the finest swordsmen he had ever faced. Cregan Karstark, on the other hand, is not so grand, but he does have noteworthy symbolism: he’s freezing, and he’s “howling like a wolf.” Given that Jon is seeing himself in the ice cells in this scene, I think we can look at Cregan and simply see a Stark blooded person turning into a wolf and undergoing ice transformation, which of course would simply be more foreshadowing for Jon’s body being in the cells while his spirit is in his wolf for a time before he is reborn.
After Jon “slips inside” Cregan’s ice cell, there’s more symbolism along these lines:
In one corner of the cell a heap of furs was piled up almost to the height of a man. “Karstark,” said Jon Snow. “Wake up.”
The furs stirred. Some had frozen together, and the frost that covered them glittered when they moved. An arm emerged, then a face—brown hair, tangled and matted and streaked with grey, two fierce eyes, a nose, a mouth, a beard. Ice caked the prisoner’s mustache, clumps of frozen snot. “Snow.” His breath steamed in the air, fogging the ice behind his head.
It’s like a frozen wolf turning into an angry snowbearded Stark wolfman! The first word he says is snow, which seems a clever clue about Cregan foreshadowing Jon’s own fate. As if to underscore this further, Cregan, who was just howling like a wolf, goes on a tirade and calls Jon “half-a-wolf” and reminds him that “Stark and Karstark are one blood.”
Jon, of course, seems destined to have his second life inside Ghost interrupted so he can “wake up” into his resurrected body, and this brings us to that dream Jon had one time of a moon that screams “snow” at him, then turns into a raven and lands on his chest as he wakes up. In terms of ice-bringers, that’s kind of a hum-dinger.
A Flurry of Corn and One Roast Raven
If I had my druthers, we will see Jon’s resurrection occur with the reappearance of the comet, and / or that comet striking the ice moon. As above, so below, right? After all all, Jon’s spirit will be awaiting resurrection inside his wolf, and the most clear ice moon disaster foreshadowing does come as Jon wakes up from a wolf dream in ADWD. Better yet, this wolf dream is kicking off the chapter we looked at earlier where Stannis lays his Lightbringer down on the map across the Wall, which already seems like killer #IceMoonApocalypse foreshadowing. But y’ain’t seen nothin’ yet! This is the opening of the chapter, although I’m skipping lines to highlight the language that has to do with the Wall and the moon. If you listen, you’ll spot the inspiration for the title of this episode:
The white wolf raced through a black wood, beneath a pale cliff as tall as the sky. The moon ran with him, slipping through a tangle of bare branches overhead, across the starry sky.
“Snow,” the moon murmured. The wolf made no answer. Snow crunched beneath his paws. The wind sighed through the trees.
( . . . )
“Snow,” the moon called down again, cackling. The white wolf padded along the man trail beneath the icy cliff. The taste of blood was on his tongue, and his ears rang to the song of the hundred cousins.
( . . . )
“Snow,” the moon insisted. The white wolf ran from it, racing toward the cave of night where the sun had hidden, his breath frosting in the air. On starless nights the great cliff was as black as stone, a darkness towering high above the wide world, but when the moon came out it shimmered pale and icy as a frozen stream.
( . . . )
“Snow.” An icicle tumbled from a branch. The white wolf turned and bared his teeth. “Snow!” His fur rose bristling, as the woods dissolved around him. “Snow, snow, snow!” He heard the beat of wings. Through the gloom a raven flew.
It landed on Jon Snow’s chest with a thump and a scrabbling of claws. “SNOW!” it screamed into his face.
SNOW, the moon insisted! No, really, SNOW, it’s coming, I’m telling you! From the moon! Snow, from the moon! Ha. That was just the abbreviated quote, but just consider the main lines I pulled here. The moon says “snow” to Jon five times in the wolf dream, then three times more as the dream fades out, and once again as the moon becomes the raven when Jon wakes up. In other words, Jon is hearing the raven say “snow” while he is in the wolf dream, and in the dream it seems like the moon is saying snow. Then when Jon wakes… the screaming raven lands on Jon’s chest with a thump! It’s like the moon just fell out of the sky… and woke Jon up! All while screaming “snow!”
Like I said, if indeed there is to be a future moon disaster event, I am almost certain that it has to coincide with Jon’s resurrection or be in some way tied to Jon’s resurrection, because symbolically, they are the same thing! To me, the line about the white wolf “racing toward the cave of night where the sun had hidden” reads like temporarily dead solar king Jon’s spirit being in the underworld (the cave of night) for a time, and about Ghost playing a key part in his resurrection – these are things we already know will happen, but their inclusion in the dream serves to tip us off that this is about Jon being dead and inside Ghost, and then resurrected. Notice the sequence on the fourth cry of snow: the moon says ‘snow,’ then an icicle falls from a branch that makes Ghost bare his teeth, then Jon’s consciousness pulls away from Ghost and he wakes to the raven landing on him. Essentially, imagine the icicle as the ‘snow’ falling from the moon – an ice moon meteor – and the raven that lands on Jon’s chest as a continuation of the falling meteor which depicts the landing. And then Jon wakes up! It’s a moon meteor alarm clock, he better not sleep through it.
Think back to that scene where Jon walks into the tunnel through the Wall and it’s like walking into the gullet of the ice dragon. Inside, Jon saw Donal Noye and Mag the mighty locked in a mutual death grip, then walked out the other side to notice the large sheets of ice the cracked off in the fire and think about how just kind of looks like it wants to crush you in general. This scene with Jon waking from the wolfdream sends the same message: Jon being reborn from the ice will probably be linked to whatever moon disaster and Wall-disaster events Martin may have planned.
Speaking of Wall disaster foreshadowing… I’m sure you noticed that the Wall features prominently all through Jon’s wolf dream here. I especially love the line “when the moon came out it shimmered pale and icy as a frozen stream.” The ambiguous wording makes it sound as though the moon is coming out of the sky like a frozen stream… and of course frozen streams make us think of the frozen river sword symbolism we’ve just been talking about, thereby implying the moon coming out of the sky like a frozen sword. On the whole, there are lots of ice moon meteor references here in Jon’s dream: the raven landing on Jon’s chest, the falling icicle, and the idea of a moon falling like a frozen stream.
I’m beating around the bush though, really, in terms of foreshadowing of the destruction of the Wall. Let’s pick up the end of the dream as Jon wakes up:
“Snow, snow, snow!” He heard the beat of wings. Through the gloom a raven flew.
It landed on Jon Snow’s chest with a thump and a scrabbling of claws. “SNOW!” it screamed into his face. “I hear you.” The room was dim, his pallet hard. Grey light leaked through the shutters, promising another bleak cold day. “Is this how you woke Mormont? Get your feathers out of my face.” Jon wriggled an arm out from under his blankets to shoo the raven off. It was a big bird, old and bold and scruffy, utterly without fear. “Snow,” it cried, flapping to his bedpost. “Snow, snow.” Jon filled his fist with a pillow and let fly, but the bird took to the air. The pillow struck the wall and burst, scattering stuffing everywhere just as Dolorous Edd Tollett poked his head through the door. “Beg pardon,” he said, ignoring the flurry of feathers, “shall I fetch m’lord some breakfast?”
“Corn,” cried the raven. “Corn, corn.”
“Roast raven,” Jon suggested. “And half a pint of ale.”
The first thing that should have jumped out at you is the raven saying “Snow, snow” as Jon throws a feather pillow to against a wall which bursts and creates a “flurry” of presumably white feathers. The moon raven promised snow, and here it is! “Jon’s rage was such that he would have smashed it all in an instant, and the world be damned” – and here it is! The symbolism implies a flying object striking the Wall, followed by snow flurries – and indeed, if a flying object hits the real Wall, we will get a snow storm the likes of which we haven’t seen in eight thousand years!
Because the pillow is made of feathers, it really does work well as an extension of the raven which seems to fall from the moon as Jon wakes up from the wolf dream. Thus the pillow hitting the wall of the room really does create the image of a moon meteor striking the Wall. In actuality, a meteor needn’t strike a direct hit on the Wall to cause it to fall; if the impact were simply close enough to cause any kind of earthqu– I mean, close enough to “wake giants in the earth”, it might bring the Wall down. Put it this way – if there is going to be a moon meteor impact in the remaining books, it’s surely going to be the mechanism for the Wall to fall. It’s unlikely we’d have two separate, unrelated catastrophic events of that magnitude coming.
Once again, I will remind you that this is the very same chapter in which Jon and Stannis argue over the map of Westeros and Stannis lays his Lightbringer down across the Wall! To me, there is little question that this chapter, Jon’s first n ADWD, is all about the impending disaster involving the Wall and the ice moon, as well as Jon’s resurrection – and of course, these events all seem tied to one another.
So, wow, right? A moon “calling down” snow, loads of projectile symbolism, something striking a wall, then “the flurry that promised?” All while Jon wakes from a wolf dream? Are you not entertained, I say? Well, as always, it gets worse.
The final piece of this is that the raven which seems at first to be locked inside the moon and then flies down to land on Jon also, in my estimation, represents Jon’s spirit returning to his body. That’s right – think about it. While Jon is dead and his spirit resides in Ghost, Jon is symbolically locked in ice, which equates to being locked in the ice moon – just as the raven appears to be in the dream. It calls down “snow” to warn us about snow coming from the moon – but it’s not only ‘snow’ as in ice moon meteors coming from the actual moon, but Jon Snow‘s spirit returning to his body from the cold afterlife… just as the raven flies to Jon’s body and cries out his name, waking him from the wolf dream.
There’s even a line a page or two later where Jon looks at the raven, who is watching him shrewdly, and says “Do you take me for your thrall?” Now, the wighted corpses of the army of the dead are described as “thralls” of the Others, so Jon being a thrall to the raven might really be talking about Jon’s resurrected body as a thrall to his spirit. And given that this is Mormont’s raven, and is likely inhabited by Bloodraven from time to time, there’s also the implication of resurrected Jon as a thrall to the weirwoodnet, or perhaps we might say “servant” or “champion.” This is in line with our green zombies theory all the way, since it suggests that the last hero and his twelve dead companions were skinchangers or greenseers whose resurrections involved the weirwoods and their magic.
I think the symbolism so far seems to point to Jon waking from death in fire, at least in some sense, and that may be what’s being depicted by Jon asking for “roast raven” for breakfast. If the raven is his spirit, then his spirit is fiery, and when it returns to his body, it’s like someone breathing the fiery kiss of life such as Thoros breathes into Beric. In a sense, Jon will be the roasted raven when he wakes up – well okay, the roast crow. He’ll be a match for his dream of the moon-faced wight wearing Ned’s face while burning like straw in a nimbus of flame, and certainly a match for the burning scarecrow brothers from his Azor Ahai dream. Those burning scarecrow brothers are key because they compare so well to Beric, who is a “scarecrow knight” who was resurrected through fire magic and wields a fiery sword, and whom George R. R. Martin called a “fire wight” and a foreshadowing for Jon. A roast raven could be taken as a phoenix symbol too, I think, and it makes sense to think about resurrected Jon as a phoenix, since he’s already implied as a burning scarecrow or dragon. Come to think of it, those burning scarecrow brothers in Jon’s dream “tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze” as Jon’s sword burned red, which actually shows us burning crows flying down from the Wall, a giant symbol of the ice moon… and just when the red sword comes out to play at the Wall. That’s another great “Sutr destroying the Bifrost bridge” scene there as well.
The idea of Jon eating the roast raven, according to my analysis, also implies Jon absorbing his fiery spirit back into his cold body. This eating / skinchanging symbolism is built upon in the chapter as Jon thinks about the fact that Mormont’s raven ate Mormont when he died:
That bird is too clever by half. It had been the Old Bear’s companion for long years, but that had not stopped it from eating Mormont’s face once he died.
Mormont isn’t a skinchanger, but is symbolically implied as one by virtue of always having a talking raven on his shoulder (as we’ve discussed before), so the idea of Mormont’s raven eating Mormont implies Mormont’s spirit going inside his raven, as it would have had he been a real skinchanger. It’s basically the reverse of Jon eating the raven, because Jon’s spirit is coming back to his body from his animal when he wakes up, as opposed to leaving his body for his animal’s body when he dies. Whoever is doing the eating is absorbing the spirit of the thing being eaten, in symbolic terms, and Jon will wake when his sleeping corpse can re-absorb his fiery spirit, as suggested by the raven landing on Jon’s chest and Jon wanting to roast it and eat it.
The idea of skinchangers having a second life inside their animals is also brought up right after Jon wakes up from the dream. Jon thinks Bran and Rickon are dead, but he knows their wolves are alive because he sensed them in his wolf dream. It says “He wondered if some part of his dead brothers lived on inside their wolves,” which is a great way to pull all the second life stuff we learned earlier in ADWD in the Varamyr prologue into Jon’s story arc and foreshadow his second life inside Ghost – especially coming right after this most vivid of wolf dreams.
As Jon dresses and leaves his chambers, there’s talk of waking dragons:
“If His Grace is doomed, your realm is doomed as well,” said Lady Melisandre. “Remember that, Lord Snow. It is the one true king of Westeros who stands before you.”
Jon kept his face a mask. “As you say, my lady.”
Stannis snorted. “You spend your words as if every one were a golden dragon. I wonder, how much gold do you have laid by?”
“Gold?” Are those the dragons the red woman means to wake? Dragons made of gold?
This one is funny because in a certain sense, Jon may be the one true king of Westeros, so here we have Mel being like “hey look, it’s Stannis, the ONE TRUE KING of Westeros,” and Jon is like… “ah, sure, whatever you say lady.” As we know, Mel’s confidence in Stannis is based on her belief that he is Azor Ahai reborn, but Jon is actually the real deal of course, so really its Jon who is implied as the one true king here. Jon’s face is even described as “a mask,” further emphasizing Jon as being in disguise. Thus, when Stannis asks Jon how many golden dragons he has hidden away, the joke is that Jon himself is the dragon hidden away. And he will need to be woken, as we know. Even the idea of Jon’s words being like golden dragons implies Jon being able to speak with dragons, something he might get the chance to do before the story is over!
Building upon the theme of waking dragons, we see that Stannis’s delightful humor about misering dragons leads Jon to ponder the idea of Mel seeking to wake dragons, presumably through human sacrifice. Leading up to this conversation, Jon is actually thinking about the baby swap he did with Mance’s child and Gilly’s Monster and how monstrous it would be to give a living child to the fire, and he thinks about it again while giving his cover story to Mel and Stannis. I don’t think Monster will be burned to resurrect Jon, and hopefully not Shireen either, but I have long predicted that Ghost’s wolf body will have to be burned to send the merged Ghost-Jon spirit back into Jon’s resurrected body. Mel would probably be involved in any such scenario, and we can’t rule out the possibility of there being other “deaths” that pay for Jon’s life, either by intention or by accident.
Jon’s death (and resurrection) is foreshadowed strongly at the end of this chapter:
“R’hllor sends us what visions he will, but I shall seek for this man Tormund in the flames.” Melisandre’s red lips curled into a smile. “I have seen you in my fires, Jon Snow.”
“Is that a threat, my lady? Do you mean to burn me too?”
Are you threatening me? I am the great Cornholio! I really do love that line – it’s example of Martin pointing at his own wordplay and yet still hiding something – Jon will indeed find himself in Melisandre’s fires, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a resurrection fire of some sort. Picking up where we left off:
“You mistake my meaning.” She gave him a searching look. “I fear that I make you uneasy, Lord Snow.”
Jon did not deny it. “The Wall is no place for a woman.”
“You are wrong. I have dreamed of your Wall, Jon Snow. Great was the lore that raised it, and great the spells locked beneath its ice. We walk beneath one of the hinges of the world.” Melisandre gazed up at it, her breath a warm moist cloud in the air. “This is my place as it is yours, and soon enough you may have grave need of me. Do not refuse my friendship, Jon. I have seen you in the storm, hard-pressed, with enemies on every side. You have so many enemies. Shall I tell you their names?”
“I know their names.”
“Do not be so certain.” The ruby at Melisandre’s throat gleamed red. “It is not the foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back. You would do well to keep your wolf close beside you. Ice, I see, and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel. It was very cold.”
“It is always cold on the Wall.”
“You think so?”
“I know so, my lady.”
“Then you know nothing, Jon Snow,” she whispered.
And as you recall, Jon never felt the fourth knife, but only the cold. It’s not accident that Jon’s death is emphasized as colder than cold – I mean we’re talking “you know nothing, Jon Snow” level cold here. It’s the cold of the ice moon, or you might say, the cold of the grave. Martin kind of gave us things in reverse here: first he foreshadowed Jon’s waking in fire and needing Melisandre as a friend, then gave us the whole daggers in the dark routine which foreshadows Jon’s death.
As for that death scene, it does something similar, giving us resurrection foreshadowing even as Jon is dying. The key is the giant Wun Wun, whom I believe is playing the part of resurrected Jon. We already saw this once in the “In a Grove of Ash” episode, again following the “ember in the ashes” line symbolism which represents Azor Ahai’s ability to spark a great blaze when he’s reborn, as Melisandre says – we talked about this at the beginning of the chapter with Sam’s ember that he used to burn the wight. So before we have a look at Wun Wun’s part in Jon’s death scene, let’s back up and pull the quote from earlier in ADWD where Jon finds Wun Wun with a starving group of wildlings at the Weirwood Grove of Nine:
The fire in the center of the grove was a small sad thing, ashes and embers and a few broken branches burning slow and smoky. Even then, it had more life than the wildlings huddled near it. Only one of them reacted when Jon stepped from the brush. That was the child, who began to wail, clutching at his mother’s ragged cloak. The woman raised her eyes and gasped. By then the grove was ringed by rangers, sliding past the bone-white trees, steel glinting in black-gloved hands, poised for slaughter.
The giant was the last to notice them. He had been asleep, curled up by the fire, but something woke him—the child’s cry, the sound of snow crunching beneath black boots, a sudden indrawn breath. When he stirred it was as if a boulder had come to life. He heaved himself into a sitting position with a snort, pawing at his eyes with hands as big as hams to rub the sleep away … until he saw Iron Emmett, his sword shining in his hand. Roaring, he came leaping to his feet, and one of those huge hands closed around a maul and jerked it up.
First the embers and ashes are compared to the wildlings, then one of the wildlings – the giant – wakes like a boulder and roars like an animal or a dragon. He does this when menaced with a shining sword, and we can also see the rangers penetrating the circle of white trees with their swords as moon penetration symbolism. After the giant leaps to his feat, Jon tries to reason with him, but is cut off when..
The giant bellowed again, a sound that shook the leaves in the trees, and slammed his maul against the ground. The shaft of it was six feet of gnarled oak, the head a stone as big as a loaf of bread. The impact made the ground shake. Some of the other wildlings went scrambling for their own weapons.
The bellowing is important – it’s a “horn that wakes the sleepers” symbol, as it is when the Titan of Bravos bellows at sunrise an sunset. This awakening makes the ground shake, I’m sure you noticed that, and I’m sure you know what that means – giants awakening in the earth has always been an obvious euphemism (or kenning, we might say) for an earthquake, and here we have an actual giant waking up and making the earth shake. I like how this is paired with the “boulder coming to life” symbolism – the boulder coming to life is the moon bursting into meteor birth, and the earthshaking is when they land.
On the ground and in people terms, the one who awakens when all this exploding happens is Jon, the dragon locked in ice. His shadow, at least, is twenty feet tall when etched in moonlight against the Wall, as we’ve seen. So, now that we’ve seen that Wun Wun can play the ember in the ashes and the giant dragon-boulder awakening from the ice moon, let’s flash forward a couple of chapters to Jon’s death scene, beginning with Jon having just finished the Pink Letter speech in the Shieldhall…
Then he heard the shouting … and a roar so loud it seemed to shake the Wall. “That come from Hardin’s Tower, m’lord,” Horse reported. He might have said more, but the scream cut him off. Val, was Jon’s first thought. But that was no woman’s scream. That is a man in mortal agony.
Cutting in briefly, Hardin’s Tower is the tower Val has been kept in at Castle Black, and she’s obviously an ice moon maiden. Wun Wun sleeps there as well, showing his as being the ice moon or inside the ice moon. The scream is at first thought to be Val’s, which neatly implies it as the icy version of Nissa Nissa’s cry of agony. Outside, we will indeed find ice moon destruction. Picking up where we left off:
He broke into a run. Horse and Rory raced after him. “Is it wights?” asked Rory. Jon wondered. Could his corpses have escaped their chains?
Breaking in again, these are the wights Jon captured and locked up in the ice cells for research purposes. But if Jon’s corpse is locked in the ice cell as seems to be thoroughly foreshadowed, then the talk here of wights escaping from the ice cells is fairly straightforward foreshadowing of Jon’s resurrection from the ice. The ruckus is being caused by Wun Wun of course, not escaped corpses, but I think that inserting this line here means that Wun Wun’s ruckus is meant to parallel Jon’s awakening, as I have been suggesting. Picking back up…
The screaming had stopped by the time they came to Hardin’s Tower, but Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun was still roaring. The giant was dangling a bloody corpse by one leg, the same way Arya used to dangle her doll when she was small, swinging it like a morningstar when menaced by vegetables. Arya never tore her dolls to pieces, though. The dead man’s sword arm was yards away, the snow beneath it turning red. “Let him go,” Jon shouted. “Wun Wun, let him go.” Wun Wun did not hear or did not understand. The giant was bleeding himself, with sword cuts on his belly and his arm. He swung the dead knight against the grey stone of the tower, again and again and again, until the man’s head was red and pulpy as a summer melon. The knight’s cloak flapped in the cold air. Of white wool it had been, bordered in cloth-of-silver and patterned with blue stars. Blood and bone were flying everywhere.
Remember when Jon smashes the pillow into the wall of his chambers, “scattering stuffing everywhere” to create a “flurry of feathers?” Well, here is Wun Wun, who I say stands in for Jon, swinging Ser Patrek’s star-and-blood-speckled corpse against the wall like a Morningstar, with blood and bone and blue-star patterned capes flying everywhere. Blood and bone are weirwood colors, and blue stars are, well, blue stars – symbols of the Others and ice moon meteors, so once again it looks like parallel breaking-out-of-the-weirwoodnet and breaking-out-of-the-ice-moon symbolism. The highlight is of course Wun Wun’s swinging the corpse against the wall of the tower being compared to Arya swinging her her doll like a morningstar – so just as in Jon’s snow moon dream, the thing hitting the Wall really seems like a falling star or comet! I mean, it really does.
We’re also reminded of Sansa’s famous snowcastle scene in the Eyrie, where Sweetrobin swings his doll around, pretending it’s a giant, and knocks down part of Sansa’s snow-castle version of Winterfell. That was both a giant and a doll, and knocking down a snowy wall – it’s very similar to the Wun Wun scene, and again it’s fairly ominous.
Now, hearken back to the other Wun Wun scene inside the weirwood grove, where he awakens like a boulder and then makes the ground shake, and you really get a sense of what the awakening of the dragon locked in ice is all about: boulders, falling stars, giants awakening in the earth, the Wall being struck, and Jon’s resurrection. An unbelievable cold, but then an ember in the ashes igniting a great blaze. Snow that the moon called down, and a moon that Snow called down. An ice moon apocalypse, the invasion of the Others, and a new last hero rising to meet them. He’s the blood of the dragon and the blood of the Other, and when he wakes up he’ll be our first official, in-the-flesh green zombie.
He’ll want to look to the sky when he does wake up, he may need to duck.