Hello there friends, patrons, and fellow mythical astronomers! It’s been two episodes now since I pointed out that Edric Dayne is considered to have been named after Eddard Stark, and that this is a clue that Eddard should be considered to belong to the Eldric name tree – and thus, part of the larger Eldric Shadowchaser, stolen Other baby archetype. That means it’s time for an episode focused solely on “the Ned,” and that’s what we’ve got for you today. This is going to be another deal where I chopped a too-fat-to-sit-a-podcast script in half and have created two episodes instead one: this one will be about Ned, and the next one about Winterfell and the Wall and the possibility of a piece of moon falling out the sky at some point in the next two books.
We’re going to talk a lot about Ned as an archetype today. Mostly, we’ll be talking about that in terms of symbolism, in terms of ice and fire magic and connections to the Others and the Night’s Watch, but first I’d like take off my Mythical Astronomy hat – er, Mythical Astronomy horns I guess it would be – for a minute and talk about Ned Stark the man. I do occasionally have regular thoughts about the main plot of ASOIAF, and there’s another, less esoteric angle to consider here when we think of Ned and archetypes.
To whit: George R. R. Martin has decided to give each one of his great houses their own sort of archetype – when you read Dunk and Egg, for example, and come upon Lyonel Baratheon, “the Laughing Storm,” you quickly realize that you’re essentially meeting young Robert Baratheon. By doing this, George has created a Baratheon archetype, a set of character traits and values which are distinctive and consistent. Now if one were to go about doing an analysis of the “Stark archetype,” the obvious place to start would of course be Ned Stark, the fake main character of ASOIAF (ha ha). Even if he isn’t the main character, he’s certainly presented to us as the patriarch of House Stark, and even though he dies at the end of book one, the shadow he casts on the rest of the story is immeasurable.
What I mean by that is that the example he sets echoes strongly in the plot arcs of all of his children, including those he raised but who are not technically his, Jon and Theon. In this Ned is very like Tywin, who lasts a little longer than Ned but whose influence on the story is primarily felt through the mark he leaves on his children – but of course Ned and Tywin couldn’t be more opposite, and the same goes for the examples they set and lessons they teach. Whereas Tywin’s moral bankruptcy, borderline sociopathic lack of empathy, and extreme ego-centrism leaves gaping holes in his children psyches, Ned’s sometimes over-the-top devotion to honor and moral consistency left an indelible mark on his children, and this code of ethics in turn acts as a ‘northstar’ to guide their behavior and decision making. (see what I did there)
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night and Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper and the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
One of my favorite impressions of Ned left on his children comes from Bran’s first chapter of AGOT:
Bran’s father sat solemnly on his horse, long brown hair stirring in the wind. His closely trimmed beard was shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had a grim cast to his grey eyes this day, and he seemed not at all the man who would sit before the fire in the evening and talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest. He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.
We never actually see Ned sitting before the fire and talking of the age of heroes and the children of the forest, but this isimpression of him is the one the comes to Bran’s mind as an example of Ned when he’s wearing his “father’s face.” It’s an important counter-balance to harder lessons Ned is teaching his children in this chapter about ‘northern justice’ and ‘swinging the sword yourself,’ which have to strike the reader as a bit severe the first time through. I mean, the first thing we see our “main character” doing is beheading a man in front of his seven year old son to ‘toughen him up’ because ‘winter is coming.’ It’s pretty hardcore.
The line about Ned telling stories before the fire is actually the source of my Prose Eddard joke. Snorri Sturluson is the Icelandic bard credited with writing down most of the famous Norse myths, with one of his more famous works being “the Prose Edda,” which contains most of the basics of the Norse pantheon, Ragnarok, things like that. “Eddard” has always seemed like a pretty odd name, but one day I realized that if you cram “Edda” and “bard” together, you get “Eddard.” Then I noticed that in the very first paragraph describing Ned, he’s introduced to us a man who likes to tell stories about the old gods and ancient times, as Snorri Sturluson was. You’ll have to make up your own mind as to whether you think this is intentional on Martin’s part of just a happy accident, but it works well either way because House Stark and the North as a whole is where Norse mythology leaves is strongest mark… with apologies to King Robert “Thor” Baratheon. I think our buddy ‘Prose Eddard’ works well as a ‘spokesman’ for House Stark – that’s kind of what it means to call Ned the epitome of the House Stark archetype. He demonstrates what a Stark and a northman should be, what he should value… and what kind of symbolism defines House Stark and the North, naturally.
Even though you can argue that Ned made mistakes in judgement which led to his downfall, at the end of the day, his example and his parenting is the very thing that will enable Jon, Sansa, Arya, and Bran to make the heroic decisions that will prove the difference in the story. I expect this to be the ultimate vindication of Ned, and nowhere is this more in evidence that the arc of Jon Snow. If Jon Snow is the “Prince That Was Promised” and the ‘special snowflake,’ Ned is essentially playing the Joseph and Mary role, the one chosen to raise up the chosen one to be who he needs to be. Jon is the one with the strongest parallels to Ned, both in terms of looks and personality as well as symbolism. Taken together, and with an assist from Robb and Bran other historical Starks, Jon and Ned essentially show us what we need to know about the King of Winter / Stark in Winterfell archetype.
Okay! Someone hit their stopwatch – what was that, like 5 whole minutes without talking about magic or symbolism? Maybe 3? Unfortunately that sort of analysis isn’t going to do anything for those playing Mythical Astronomy drinking games against my wishes (unless you had “archetype,” in which case you should immediately give up your car keys). Nope, I’m afraid we’re going right back to our old habits of comparing people, places, and things to celestial objects, and we’re going to give Ned and everything related to House Stark the royal treatment.
So far, the Blood of the Other series has been about the theory that Night’s King and Queen had a child who did not became a full Other, but instead became a member of House Stark. Jon Snow is the most important modern-day parallel for this stolen-Other-turned-Stark figure, with his being taken from parents who symbolically parallel Night’s King and Queen to be raised as Ned Stark’s son and a son of Winterfell providing the historical precedent for the theory. We’ve taken a good look at a long line of stolen Other baby figures, and all of them compare well to Jon in various ways. In the Baelful Bard and a Promised Prince episode, for example, the main ones besides Jon himself were Gilly’s son Monster, the son of Bael the Bard who became the Lord of Winterfell, and Theon Greyjoy, with honorable mention going to Daemon Blackfyre.
In Blood of the Other 2 and 3, we examined stolen Other babies with Eldric name variants such as Ulrick Dayne and Edric Dayne, King Edrick Snowbeard Stark, Elric Stark, and the non-snowbearded Edric Stark, and even Edric Storm. We also examined the offshoot line of snowbeard symbolism, which seems to show our stolen Other baby in one of his later stages, probably post-resurrection, and these included Hodor, Denys Mallister, the three frozen decapitated Night’s Watch heads mounted on ash wood spears, the wighted Small Paul, Varamyr Sixskins, Erik Ironmaker of the Iron Islands, Hothor Umber and Mors Crowfood Umber (he of the dragonglass eye), Tormund Giantsbane, Hoster Tully, and Ser Barristan Selmy (who has that awesome ice dragon armor in ADWD). We took a long, hard look at Davos Shadowchaser, with his son Devan also sticking his nose in there to repeat his father’s symbolism and chase the shadows into their corners.
Through the course of all of that, we’ve begun to sketch out a decent idea of this archetype. We started off with a decent idea about it anyway, since it’s ultimately Jon Snow whom we’re talking about, and we’ve been looking at Jon’s symbolism since the very first episode of Mythical Astronomy. Nearly everyone in the fandom, save those bitter, crusty anti-RLJ holdouts (hang in there guys!) already sees Jon as the epitome of the “Song of Ice and Fire” by way of his parents, Rhaegar the dragon and Lyanna the blue winter rose maiden. Seeing him as a personification of the stolen-Other-baby-turned-Stark archetype simply explains the deeper meaning of this ice and fire symbolism, and once again leaves us with the impression of Jon as a frozen dragon or an ice dragon.
What I am going to show you today – one of the things I am going to show you – is that it’s not just Jon who exemplifies the dragon locked in ice / ice dragon symbolism, but all of House Stark, including Lord Eddard Stark and Winterfell itself.
Now unlike, say, Jon or Monster or Edric Storm, Ned’s primary archetypal role is not really that of the rescued Other baby – rather, I’d say that Eddard represents a model of the archetypal Stark, the King in the North and the King of Winter. However, a large part of that Stark identity comes from the icy blood of the Other which flows in their veins, and that blood comes from the rescued child of Night’s King and Queen who became a Stark – and therefore, Ned does indeed share a lot of symbolism with all the other Eldric figures, shadowchaser figures, and snowbeard figures that make up the stolen Other-turned-Stark archetype – even the frozen dragonlord stuff.
Night’s King giving his seed and soul to Night’s Queen, with her skin “as cold as ice” and “as white as the moon,” gives us the Mythical Astronomy parallel for the origins of House Stark. In mythical astronomy terms, the seed and soul of Night’s King is analogous to the a black meteor, a former piece of the “fire moon” that exploded at the beginning of the Long Night, and his giving his seed and soul to Night’s Queen equates to one of those black meteors striking and lodging in the ice moon. We see this pattern literally everywhere the ice moon is symbolized, be that person, place, or thing, and I have dubbed it “the dragon locked in ice,” as it seems the most accurate description. Jon exemplifies this symbolism, with both the Wall and his mother’s womb symbolizing the ice moon, and Jon being the frozen dragon locked inside. This dragon locked in ice figure seems to be both born and re-born from ice moon symbols, with Jon being born from Lyanna and in all likelihood reborn from an ice cell in the Wall… and also from inside the weirwoodnet, which as we’ve begun to see, is analogous to the inside of the ice moon, so to speak.
But hey! It’s not all about Jon, you know? We’re here to talk about Ned. Ned does have a ton of parallels to Jon though, both in terms of looks and personality, and more importantly, in terms of symbolism. We’ve mentioned some of these parallels before when we were looking at Jon as a King of Winter, since Ned is definitely a King of Winter figure, but today we’ll uncover a ton of cool new symbolism lurking in Ned’s chapters, limited to one book though they are.
So let me say thanks to George R. R. Martin for writing ASOIAF, and thanks a great deal to our Patreon sponsors, without whose support Mythical Astronomy would not exist. If you’d like to join our Patreon campaign, then just click here..
A couple of quick announcements: friend and contributor to the pod Blue Tiger, who lends us his Tolkien expertise from time to time, such as in the “Stark that Brings the Dawn” episode, has finally started writing whole essays on the intersection of Tolkien’s Legendarium and George’s ASOIAF. You can find those at the Amber Compendium WordPress page. He’s off to a great start, so check that out. I’ll be presenting on many panels at Con of Thrones later this month, so if you are going come and find me and say hello! And finally, the livestream for this episode will be Thursday, May 17th, at 6:00 EST. It’s going to be something of a last-minute fundraiser for Con of Thrones, because of course everything in my life went haywire a month before the con and I need a little extra juice to make it there, else I might have to try ‘pay the iron price’ for my hotel room and end up in the black cells of Dallas City Jail. So come on by the livestream on Sunday where I’ll be putting on any and all costume items for donations, or basically doing anything else that won’t get my video banned.
Alright, let’s get to the Ned!
An Eddard and a Brandon
This section is sponsored by Queen Cameron, Lady of the Twilight, Keeper of the Astral Cats and earthly avatar of Heavenly House Aries; by Ash Rose, Queen of Sevens, Mistress of Mythology and earthly avatar of Heavenly House Taurus; and by Ser Dionysus of House Galladon, wielder of the milkglass blade the Just Maid and earthly avatar of Heavenly House Virgo and Libra
You know, when I first noticed that Edric Dayne was named for Eddard and that that meant Ned was an Eldric figure, I was looking at him primary as playing the rescuer role, since he does that so clearly for Theon and Jon Snow both. At first, I couldn’t even think of a way that Ned matches the “stolen from his parents” symbolism, but then I remembered that
In his youth, Ned had fostered at the Eyrie, and the childless Lord Arryn had become a second father to him and his fellow ward, Robert Baratheon. When the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen had demanded their heads, the Lord of the Eyrie had raised his moon-and-falcon banners in revolt rather than give up those he had pledged to protect.
So here’s Ned, taken from his parents and fostered out to an ice moon location in the Eyrie. Ned even gains a “second father” (Jon Arryn) and a new brother (Robert), just as Jon Snow also gained a second father (Ned) a new brother (Robb Stark) when he was brought to Winterfell – and in both cases, the new brother’s name is Robert! Robb Stark is of course named after Robert Baratheon, so it’s a good comparison. Ned is fostered at the Eyrie, and because the Eyrie is a giant ice moon symbol, Ned going there reads very similar to Jon being brought to Winterfell or going to the Wall as he approaches manhood. Ned can be seen as being locked in the ice of the Eyrie, and when Aerys demands the heads of Ned and Robert – implying them as dead – Ned and Robert and Jon Arryn instead explode from the Eyrie in armed rebellion, akin to Jon Snow’s inevitable rebirth from the ice.
It’s also a match for Davos symbolically dying at White Harbor, only to emerge and go on a heroic rescue mission to save Rickon – which will have the effect of rallying the Manderlys and other northern houses to Stannis, just as Ned was coming home to rally the banners, and just as Jon will surely be looking to fuck things up when he’s resurrected. Ned even follows the exact same path home that Davos does in ADWD, hopping from the Three Sisters to White Harbor in order to reach his final destination.
As always, the symbolism is fractal, and Ned does indeed play both the rescuer and the rescued. We saw that with Davos, who rescues an Eldric Shadowchaser figure in Edric Storm, then establishes himself as an Eldric Shadowchaser only minutes later in the same scene – and of course he also goes on to become imprisoned himself in an ice moon symbol at White Harbor. We also saw that Theon plays the both the rescuer role with Jeyne Poole and the rescued Other baby role when Ned takes him back to Winterfell after the battle of Pyke. As we just discussed, Ned plays the trademark rescuer / collector figure both at Pyke with Theon and at the Tower of Joy with Jon, and yet he was himself ‘abducted’ to the Eyrie and essentially ‘rescued’ by Jon Arryn, who was ordered to turn over Ned and Robert but refused.
Here’s how I interpret this symbolic fractal flim-flam: the stolen Other baby’s icy genetics define all of the members of House Stark who come after, and so this pattern is simply ingrained into their archetype. Anyone playing in to the stolen Other / Eldric Shadowchaser archetype is bound to express both rescuer and rescued symbolism. Remember, anyone playing the stolen Other baby role is, on some level, symbolizing the Starks and playing the role of honorary Stark, since they are the ones who actually have the blood of the Other. And maybe the Boltons, they seem suspect to me.
As to that icy, blood of the Other Stark archetype, as I mentioned, Ned has the signature ice man symbolism in spades, right from the get-go. I already threw out Robert’s iconic “it’s good to see that frozen face of yours, Ned” in the Baelful Bard episode, and you will recall Ned’s lines from the crypts about frozen laughter:
“They say it grows so cold up here in winter that a man’s laughter freezes in his throat and chokes him to death,” Ned said evenly. “Perhaps that is why the Starks have so little humor.”
The freezing throat / choking laughter symbolism is interesting, since the prologue of AGOT describes the speech of the Others thusly:
The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.
We’ll see this motif again in a moment, and the basic point here is simple – frozen laughter suggests the speech of the Others. The line from Ned to Robert about frozen laughter comes only a couple of chapters after the prologue with the Others mocking, icy speech, so it’s definitely easy to see them as being intentionally connected. The implication is that the Starks went north, and now have frozen faces and choking, frozen laughter. The language specifically implies a transformational process, whereby the Starks are turning cold.
I’ve mentioned before that there’s another parallel between Ned and the Others presented to us right away: the second to last scene of the prologue is the “cold butchery” of Waymar Royce by the ice swords of the Others, and the next chapter opens with Ned executing Gared, Waymar’s companion, with a giant sword named Ice. Then Ned goes down to the crypts a couple of chapters later and has a frozen face and deadpans about his laughter having frozen in his throat, while later on in AGOT we learn that the stone kings are called “The Kings of Winter” and we see Ned dream of them having “eyes of ice.” In other words, there are lots of hints about the Starks and the Others having a connection in AGOT, and they start hot and heavy – or would it be cold and heavy – in the crypts chapter featuring Robert and Ned.
We get another dose of Starks-as-Others symbolism in a dueling exchange between Ned (the Eldric figure) and Petyr BAELish concerning Ned’s brother Brandon. It’s pretty great, check it out:
Littlefinger ignored the jibe. He eyed Ned with a smile on his lips that bordered on insolence. “I have hoped to meet you for some years, Lord Stark. No doubt Lady Catelyn has mentioned me to you.”
“She has,” Ned replied with a chill in his voice. The sly arrogance of the comment rankled him. “I understand you knew my brother Brandon as well.”
Renly Baratheon laughed. Varys shuffled over to listen.
“Rather too well,” Littlefinger said. “I still carry a token of his esteem. Did Brandon speak of me too?”
“Often, and with some heat,” Ned said, hoping that would end it. He had no patience with this game they played, this dueling with words.
“I should have thought that heat ill suits you Starks,” Littlefinger said. “Here in the south, they say you are all made of ice, and melt when you ride below the Neck.”
“I do not plan on melting soon, Lord Baelish. You may count on it.”
Starks melting below the Neck makes them sound like Others, for sure – either that, or floating heads whose bodies have melted away (melting below the neck, get it…) We even get Ned with an icy voice, which is a nice complement to the frozen laughter line from the crypt scene, but a ‘stark’ contrast to the “heat” in Brandon’s voice. There’s a similar hot and cold dichotomy drawn Brandon and Ned when Jaime talks to Catelyn while she holds him prisoner in Riverrun:
“Brandon was different from his brother, wasn’t he? He had blood in his veins instead of cold water. More like me.”
“Brandon was nothing like you.”
“If you say so.”
That’s pretty good – Brandon, the hot-blooded Stark, and Eddard, with his frozen face and veins full of cold water. Jaime says Brandon is more like himself, and that’s undoubtedly true – cocky, assertive, charismatic, wanton, and foolheardy. Catleyn denies the similarity, but then goes on to admit that Brandon’s rushing to King’s Landing to challenge Rhaegar when he heard of Lyanna’s “abduction” was “a rash thing to do,” and that her father called Brandon a “gallant fool.” A hot-head, in other words.
We can even see the same fire and ice pairing with Bran and Jon Snow. Bran has the kissed by fire hair, don’t forget, and as we discussed in Weirwood Compendium 2: A Burning Brandon, his symbolism is very fiery, chiefly centered around the idea of Bran being a burning brand that represents the fire of the gods. His wolf is named Summer, with eyes like molten gold and fur like silver smoke. Bran never has ice armor or anything like that such as Jon has, and in fact, the crux of his coma dream involves him trying desperately to avoid an icy fate:
There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears.
After this, Bran sprouts his wings unseen and flies, only to have the three-eyed crow peck his forehead – pecking open Bran’s third eye in other words. When Bran wakes up…
Bran touched his forehead, between his eyes. The place where the crow had pecked him was still burning, but there was nothing there, no blood, no wound.
As I was saying, the rest of my analysis of Bran’s symbolism can be found in A Burning Brandon. Also, a caveat: just as mostly icy Jon does have a wolf with fiery eyes and a burning red sword in his dream, fiery Bran does have blue eyes – although they are mentioned only once at the beginning of Game of Thrones and never again. Watch Martin call him Brandon Ice Eyes in TWOW, that would be hilarious. I will say that he occasionally inhabits the body of Hodor, who has some pretty good frost giant / snowbeard symbolism in ADWD, as we saw last time.
So, we’re seeing an ice / fire dichotomy with Eddard and Brandon, which seems to have been repeated with Bran and Jon. More than anything, I think it’s simply a way to show that the Starks have a heritage based in both icy blood and hot dragon blood, and that they represent a synthesis of ice and fire… which is kind of the theme of the dragon locked in ice after all. Two episodes ago, we looked at how Stark and Dayne each lean towards one side of the Morningstar / Evenstar dichotomy, but still have an element of the opposite, a match for the yin yang symbol shows a black dot on the white side and vise versa. I’d view this hot and cold Stark blood idea in the same way; they primarily represent the frozen dragon (the dragon after it’s locked in ice in other words), but the fiery members like Bran and Brandon show us the blood of the dragon ancestry hidden beneath the surface.
Said another way, Brandon Stark’s hot blood might be a clue about the ancient fiery dragon blood of Night’s King before his transformation – Night’s King name was (mayhaps) Brandon, after all. Consider also the manner of Brandon’s death: he was strangled to death with some sort of noose. This would seem to be a call-out to the metaphor of Odin’s hanging on Yggdrasil to transcend death, as with Beric’s being hung, and all the other hanging victims we examined in Weirwood Compendium 3: Garth of the Gallows.
It’s possible that I don’t need to pull Lady Barbrey’s quotes to Theon about how Brandon and his bloody sword, because we’ve discussed them before, and because they are hard to forget… but that was a long time ago, and the wording is important, so let’s play it again. The scene takes place in the crypts, and opens with Theon speaking:
“Someone has been down here stealing swords. Brandon’s is gone as well.”
“He would hate that.” She pulled off her glove and touched his knee, pale flesh against dark stone. “Brandon loved his sword. He loved to hone it. ‘I want it sharp enough to shave the hair from a woman’s cunt,’ he used to say. And how he loved to use it. ‘A bloody sword is a beautiful thing,’ he told me once.”
“You knew him,” Theon said.
The lantern light in her eyes made them seem as if they were afire. “Brandon was fostered at Barrowton with old Lord Dustin, the father of the one I’d later wed, but he spent most of his time riding the Rills. He loved to ride. His little sister took after him in that. A pair of centaurs, those two. And my lord father was always pleased to play host to the heir to Winterfell. My father had great ambitions for House Ryswell. He would have served up my maidenhead to any Stark who happened by, but there was no need. Brandon was never shy about taking what he wanted. I am old now, a dried-up thing, too long a widow, but I still remember the look of my maiden’s blood on his cock the night he claimed me. I think Brandon liked the sight as well. A bloody sword is a beautiful thing, yes. It hurt, but it was a sweet pain.”
This is undoubtedly where Martin makes his sex and sword play Lightbringer symbolism the most clear, and starring in it, we find a hot blooded guy named Brandon Stark who loves to use his ‘bloody sword,’ whether it be killing folks or impregnating maidens. Lady Barbrey’s eyes look afire as she speaks of fiery Brandon, emphasizing her as a Nissa Nissa when Brandon took her virginity.
There’s a fabulous match to this quote about Ned’s brother Brandon in the form of a legendary figure called, fittingly, Brandon of the Bloody Blade. He was supposedly a son of Garth the Green and possibly an ancestor to Bran the Builder, and in my opinion this idea is supported by other evidence of ancient Stark activity in the south. Brandon of the Bloody Blade’s only known deed was slaughtering so many giants and children of the forest at Blue Lake that it was renamed Red Lake. He’s a butcher right? Well, maybe, but given the bloody blade / bloody sword metaphor on display with Ned’s brother Brandon, it’s been suggested by veterans of the Westeros forums whose names escape me (was it you, Mithras Stoneborn?) that the clues here point to the idea that Brandon of the Bloody Blade from the Age of Heroes was actually impregnating children of the forest instead of. or even in addition to killing them. Another child of Garth the Green was Rose of Red Lake – Red Lake, the same lake as in the Brandon Bloody Blade story – and Rose goes on to become the ancestor of House Crane, whose members periodically manifests skinchanging abilities. This might be another clue about humans interbreeding with children of the forest in that area – the very place where Brandon was swinging his bloody blade around.
The important thing is the idea of the more recent Brandon Stark who loved his bloody sword and Brandon of the Bloody Blade both expressing a fiery Azor Ahai figure who has not turned into a Night’s King yet. We’ve seen a lot of evidence that Nissa Nissa was a child of the forest or child / human hybrid, and if Brandon of the Bloody Blade was actually having sexy time with children of the forest women instead of killing them… or if he was doing both, well, that’s probably Azor Ahai impregnating and maybe killing Nissa Nissa. We don’t exactly how all that went down, but I do tend to think that Nissa Nissa both had a child by Azor Ahai and died in some sort of magical ritual, or perhaps in childbirth. Remember also that it is the bright solar king, the summer king, who is the fertile, Garth-like figure, as these two Brandons are implied as having been. They’re similar to Robert in that, and Robert is of course a signature Garth-like summer king.
Alright, well there’s your little dose of Brandon Stark, the fiery side of the Ned and Brandon pairing. But let’s return our focus to his brother Ned, icy fellow that he is, to make one last point about icy transformation. I just mentioned that the Other’s voices are “like the cracking of ice on a winter lake,” and we’ve also previously discussed the idea that falling into a cold lake and / or catching frostbite can be a metaphor for being wighted or transformed into an Other. So check out this other exchange between Ned and Petyr:
“Do you always find murder so amusing, Lord Baelish?”
“It’s not murder I find amusing, Lord Stark, it’s you. You rule like a man dancing on rotten ice. I daresay you will make a noble splash. I believe I heard the first crack this morning.”
“The first and last,” said Ned. “I’ve had my fill.”
That ice does indeed crack, and it leads to Ned’s imprisonment in the black cells. Notice how the “amused” Petyr’s words are mocking here as he speaks of having heard ice cracking – the language is very close to that Others having voices like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and words that were mocking.
As for Ned’s imprisonment in the black cells, let’s check that out:
The dark was absolute. He had as well been blind. Or dead. Buried with his king. “Ah, Robert,” he murmured as his groping hand touched a cold stone wall, his leg throbbing with every motion. He remembered the jest the king had shared in the crypts of Winterfell, as the Kings of Winter looked on with cold stone eyes. The king eats, Robert had said, and the Hand takes the shit. How he had laughed. Yet he had gotten it wrong. The king dies, Ned Stark thought, and the Hand is buried.
The important thing to note here is all the language about Ned being dead, cold, and buried. I particularly like the way that Ned is compared to the Kings of Winter – he’s cold and dark and buried, just like them. This is the same part of the archetypal story arc as Jon being dead and his body frozen in the ice cell, and the same as Davos being symbolically dead and locked up in the Wolf’s Den.
A bit further on, we get these lines:
When he thought of his daughters, he would have wept gladly, but the tears would not come. Even now, he was a Stark of Winterfell, and his grief and his rage froze hard inside him.
When he kept very still, his leg did not hurt so much, so he did his best to lie unmoving. For how long he could not say. There was no sun and no moon. He could not see to mark the walls. Ned closed his eyes and opened them; it made no difference. He slept and woke and slept again. He did not know which was more painful, the waking or the sleeping. When he slept, he dreamed: dark disturbing dreams of blood and broken promises.
So here’s Ned freezing from the inside, as a proper dragon locked in ice should. There’s a line a bit further on about the infected flesh of his thigh wound being “hot to his fingers,” and then another line about him being feverish, so it seems like very similar symbolism to Edric Storm and Edric Dayne both catching fever chills, or to Hoster Tully on his deathbed being both hot and cold. Essentially, the death transformation part of this archetype’s plot arc represents the merging of ice and fire, I think that’s the message.
When Ned is finally let out from the black cells, it’s to be brought to the Sept of Baelor to be beheaded by his own Ice sword. The Sept of Baelor is of course a symbolic ice moon temple, so this is very similar to Jon being killed at the Wall and feeling “only the cold.” It’s basically a repeat cycle of young Ned fostering at the Eyrie; this time he experiences actual death at the ice moon instead of his implied death via Aerys demanding his head.
Essentially, this is Ned falling through the ice of the ice moon (the cracking ice Petyr Baelish referred to) and meeting some kind of cold death transformation, just as Jon will undergo. This seems like our Eldric figure, stolen Other baby, as the last hero, someone who must undergo death transformation and become a green zombie like Coldhands and like Jon may become after his resurrection. I’ve spoken of skinchanger and greenseer blood as being necessary to make a good green zombie, a conscious wight like Coldhands, but perhaps the icy Stark blood is a necessary ingredient as well. Conveniently, Jon has both, and the Starks have probably been wargs from the very beginning (I have to assume the last hero’s “dog” was a direwolf, as many do).
And yes, Coldhands could be Eldric Shadowchaser himself, but Coldhands could be a lot of people, so it’s hard to say.
Notice also the language about Ned making a “noble splash” – that gives me a good chance to share the blue blood symbolism. “The blue bloods” is an expression which refers to the nobility or the gentry. The Others having pale blue blood may therefore be suggesting the Others as royalty – and of course they would be, descending from Azor Ahai and Night’s Queen and King. Thus Ned’s not only falling through ice, he’s doing so with nobility, like a blue blood.
And here’s a little something I left out of the Eldric Shadowchaser episode – the name Ulrich is a German name made up of root words that mean “noble heritage” and “powerful,” and the variant name Alaric means “noble / regal ruler.” I’ve also seen the name simply translated as “king.” Ulric, meanwhile, is the Middle English form of the Old English name Wulfric, which means “wolf power,” and I’ve also seen that definition attributed to Ulrich as well. I’m sure all that figured in to Michael Moorcock’s decision-making when he chose the name Elric, as he is indeed an old king of noble heritage with a powerful wolf at his side. That’s my dark horse candidate for Jon Snow’s original name in book canon – not Aegon, not Aemon, not even Eldric, but Wulfric. That’d be pretty funny.
Now that we’ve done an overview of Ned’s symbolism, let’s check out Ned Stark in action!
Like a Red Rain
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One of the great Ned scenes is his fight with Jaime Lannister’s guardsman in the streets of King’s Landing – it’s t he only time we really see Ned in battle, since the Tower of Joy memory is so hazy that you really don’t get a sense of the fight. The Tower of Joy dream is actually linked t o this scene, because the fight with Jaime ends with Ned passing out unconscious, and his next chapter begins with the famous line that kicks of the Tower of Joy sequence: “He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood.” I believe the idea of the two chapters being linked goes further than that, though, and actually function as two pieces of the War for the Dawn / last hero story, told in metaphor and symbol. This is kind of my ‘big clever Ned theory’ for this episode, so I hope you like it. It really jumped out at me when I did a review of Ned’s chapters.
We already know what the Tower of Joy represents in terms of the war for the dawn: Ned is a last hero type leading grey wraiths with shadowswords that stand in for Night’s Watchmen – undead, resurrected Night’s Watchmen, I would say, since they appear as wraiths. They are taking on Kingsguard knights in snow white armor who guard a tower with an ice moon queen inside, and it ends with Ned collecting a Night’s Queen baby, Jon, and a white icy sword, Dawn. That’s basically one of the last parts of the chain of events – so what’s happening right before that, symbolically? If Ned’s wraiths represent zombie Night’s Watchmen, then the scene prior to this one should perhaps show them being killed – and indeed, all of Ned’s men in the fight with Jaime’s soldiers are killed. Ned should be playing the part of a resurrected person as well, and I’d say his breaking his leg in gruesome fashion and passing out is symbolizing the beginning of a death transformation sequence, one which is completed in a hazy dreamworld where his companions are the walking dead.
We even have a Cassel in both scenes to link them together – the ghost of Martin Cassel at the Tower of Joy scene, and the living Jory Cassel with hot blood in his veins in the fight with Jaime’s men. Jory pretty much steals the show, in fact, with one of the most valiant deaths in all of ASOIAF – so let’s get to it!
The chapter starts with Ned visiting the brothel to look at one of King Robert’s bastard children, the baby named Barra:
The girl had been so young Ned had not dared to ask her age. No doubt she’d been a virgin; the better brothels could always find a virgin, if the purse was fat enough. She had light red hair and a powdering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and when she slipped free a breast to give her nipple to the babe, he saw that her bosom was freckled as well.
Moving past the obvious fact that Robert really is a horrible person, let’s take a look at the symbolism here. “The girl” has distinctive ‘Nissa Nissa as an elf woman’ symbolism, which you will recall if you have done the Weirwood Goddess series. She has red hair, like all of the ash tree weirwood maidens, which is even called “light” red hair, perhaps suggested radiance and light. The freckles, which are on her chest as well as her face, are a version of the “dappled skin” symbolism which have seen used many times to imply our weirwood goddesses as part child of the forest – and indeed, Ned estimates her age at “not more than 15,” making her a child-woman. Best of all, she even bares her breast, like a true Nissa Nissa! With so many recognizable symbols in close proximity, this is an easy call.
Next, we will see the Nissa Nissa heart-cutting symbolism, only shifted over and applied to Ned, as you’ll see in this next quote. This isn’t as strange as it sounds, as Ned has certain parallels to Nissa Nissa and the fire moon she is analogous to. The dragon locked in ice begins its life as a black fire moon meteor – a piece of dying Nissa Nissa – and in this chapter, Ned is showing us that part of the life cycle. Ned is playing the role of Nissa Nissa turning in to a moon meteor that gets locked in ice. The Starks represent frozen dragonlords, and so they occasionally shows us symbolism about their dragon origins, such as with Ned’s hot blooded brother, Brandon. In any case, the last quote left off with Ned remembering his encounter with Barra’s mother, and this one picks up a few lines later:
“And tell him I’ve not been with no one else. I swear it, milord, by the old gods and new. Chataya said I could have half a year, for the baby, and for hoping he’d come back. So you’ll tell him I’m waiting, won’t you? I don’t want no jewels or nothing, just him. He was always good to me, truly.”
Good to you, Ned thought hollowly. “I will tell him, child, and I promise you, Barra shall not go wanting.” She had smiled then, a smile so tremulous and sweet that it cut the heart out of him. Riding through the rainy night, Ned saw Jon Snow’s face in front of him, so like a younger version of his own. If the gods frowned so on bastards, he thought dully, why did they fill men with such lusts?
As I said, the narrative presents us with Barra’s mother as a signature fiery Nissa Nissa, but then it’s Ned’s heart which is cut out – Ned also speaks “hollowly” to emphasize the idea or a hollowed out moon. Immediately after their conversation, he heads outside into the rain and runs headlong into the disastrous confrontation with Jaime’s guardsmen amidst a wash of Long Night symbolism. This signifies, in astronomy terms, that Ned is acting out the part of a fire moon transforming into a black moon meteor and falling at the time of the Long Night, amongst other things. Ned will repeat this symbolism several times in this chapter, as is Martin’s habit, and in fact, Ned repeats it in his real death scene when he is beheaded on the steps of the Sept of Baelor. Think of poor Ned’s head flying from his body as the moon meteor flying from the dying moon corpse. This means that, for a moment, Ned’s flying head is Lightbringer. Don’t question it.
However, do recall that Arya compares the red comet to Ice, made red with Ned’s blood after his execution. This again places Ned in the Nissa Nissa role – it was Nissa Nissa’s blood that stained Lightbringer red, and Arya’s implies Ned as having stained Ice red… which is like the red comet, symbol of Lightbringer. Bloody red blades are going to figure prominently in the action, as you’re about to see.
Barra’s mother is a Nissa Nissa too, as I mentioned – she’s showing us the motherhood / procreation side of the Lightbringer myth (multifaceted beast that it is), while Ned shows us the swordfighter / last hero end of things. Nissa Nissa figures are usually in for sacrifice, either real or symbolic, just as Ned is at the end of the fight and then later at the Sept of Baelor – and we know that Cersei later has the lowlife-turned-Captain of the City Watch Allar Deem murder baby Barra and her mother.
This actually brings up a related topic, which is the idea of a child of Nissa Nissa being sacrificed in a blood magic ritual. We first saw this with Dany’s baby Rhaego, who is implied as part of the sacrifice to save Drogo and more importantly, to wake the dragons. We also saw Catleyn Stark, a red-headed weirwood maiden Nissa Nissa type just like Barra’s mother, killed along with her son Robb at the Red Wedding. When we go back to the Weirwood Compendium, we will be exploring this dark idea in more detail, so file this one away for later.
There’s one other thing to note about Ned’s recollection of this conversation; it’s the way he compares Robert, a solar king and a summer king, to himself and Rhaegar, who are both winter kings and lord of the underworld figures. In response to Barra’s mother, Ned says
“I will,” Ned had promised her. That was his curse. Robert would swear undying love and forget them before evenfall, but Ned Stark kept his vows. He thought of the promises he’d made Lyanna as she lay dying, and the price he’d paid to keep them.
This is pretty interesting, as it casts Robert as the Summer King who loves women such as this Nissa Nissa-like child-woman during the daytime – contrast that to Rhaegar as the dark solar king who loves his Night’s Queen figure Lyanna during that weird cold period where King’s Landing and Blackwater Rush froze over.
Ned is also contrasted against Robert as one who remembers his promises past evenfall – during the night, in other words – and as I’ve mentioned, Ned is many times caught playing parallel symbolic roles to Rhaegar and other black dragon figures, usually revolving around the black sword and winter king symbolism. Indeed, this is also the chapter with Ned’s famous “somehow he did not think so” line in regards to the question of whether Rhaegar visited brothels, and that’s similar to Ned in this chapter, as it’s made abundantly obvious that Ned is uncomfortable at Petyr’s brothel and has probably never been in one before – certainly not as a customer. Ned and Rhaegar contrast strongly against the lusty King Robert, and that’s because Summer Kings are wanton Garth figures, spreading their seed like Robert.
The thing about the Oak and Holly Kings are that they are really just two aspects of the same horned nature god, split apart to represent Summer and Winter. There’s a similar thing going on with the Azor Ahai figure transforming from the bright solar king – a summer associated, Garth figure – to the dark solar king, the black dragon that brings the winter. When we see Robert the Summer King set opposite Rhaegar or Ned as Winter Kings or dark solar kings, that’s how we should think of them, as a pairing of opposites. This dynamic was especially apparent in that early AGOT chapter with Ned and Robert in the Winterfell crypts, as first discovered and explained by the one and only Sweetsunray of the Mythological Weave of Ice and Fire blog.
All of that is a long and interesting way to say that Ned is like Rhaegar, in certain symbolic senses, and particularly in this scene. Ned’s primary identity is that of the ice moon or the dragon locked in the ice moon, but he occasionally shows us the black dragon meteor flying from the fire moon on the way to the ice moon, as he does here. Rhaegar’s primary symbolic identity is that of the black dragon, and thus the black dragon meteor – and instead of becoming locked in ice himself, he gives his seed to Lyanna of the blue winter roses, a la Night’s King giving his seed to Night’s Queen. Thus, as you can see, Ned and Rhaegar will overlap in certain scenes, particularly ones in which Ned is acting out the beginning of his cycle.
Longtime Mythical Astronomy Patron and frequent collaborator Archmaester Emma has a cool hat tip here from ACOK. It’s a quote from Theon about Ned: “Lord Eddard had tried to play the father from time to time, but to Theon he had always remained the man who’d brought blood and fire to Pyke and taken him from his home. As a boy, he had lived in fear of Stark’s stern face and great dark sword.” It’s cool that Ned’s “dark sword,” forged in dragonfire in Valyria, is mentioned alongside Ned bringing blood and fire to Pyke – that’s a lot of dragon action, especially since he fought alongside Thoros and Beric with their flaming swords. Ned was stealing Theon from his Night’s King and Queen parents at Pyke, a parallel scene to Ned taking Jon from the Tower of Joy and, theoretically, the last hero stealing children from the Others. That’s kind of the point of the implied dragon symbolism for Ned, even more so than the astronomy angle – the Night’s Watch and the last hero are always dragon-aligned.
So as Ned leaves the brothel, we see the all-important theme of rain introduced. In the last quote, it mentioned a rainy night, and then a moment later it says “A warm rain was pelting down from a starless black sky as they walked to the stables.” Anytime there is a starless sky, it grabs our attention as potential Long Night symbolism. Indeed, a moment later we read:
The streets of King’s Landing were dark and deserted. The rain had driven everyone under their roofs. It beat down on Ned’s head, warm as blood and relentless as old guilts. Fat drops of water ran down his face.
The rain of blood (cue the Slayer) theme basically dominates this entire scene, and of course it’s always nice when George lays it out simply for us as he does here. It’s a warm blood rain – this surely reminds of the waves of burning moon blood motif, which is just another way to refer to a shower of bleeding stars, a.k.a. the storm of swords. This is basically confirmed a moment later when the rain is mentioned yet again as Jaime and his Lannister guardsmen appear:
The rain was falling harder now, stinging the eyes and drumming against the ground. Rivers of black water were running down the hill when Jory called out, “My lord,” his voice hoarse with alarm. And in an instant, the street was full of soldiers. Ned glimpsed ringmail over leather, gauntlets and greaves, steel helms with golden lions on the crests. Their cloaks clung to their backs, sodden with rain. He had no time to count, but there were ten at least, a line of them, on foot, blocking the street, with longswords and iron-tipped spears. “Behind!” he heard Wyl cry, and when he turned his horse, there were more in back of them, cutting off their retreat. Jory’s sword came singing from its scabbard. “Make way or die!”
“The wolves are howling,” their leader said. Ned could see rain running down his face. “Such a small pack, though.”
Okay, now the warm blood rain has created rivers of black water, giving us definitive ‘waves of night and blood’ symbolism – which, as I am sure you all remember, comes from the blades of Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, which are described as having folds of dark grey and dark red, with colors that “lapped over one another without ever touching, each ripple distinct, like waves of night and blood upon some steely shore.” In other words, this warm blood rain and black water implies both the meteor shower of the long night and the swords which were made from the Stark ancestral sword, Ice, swords which themselves symbolize the meteor shower as well.
There’s another possible reference to Widow’s Wail as Jory’s sword comes “singing from it’s scabbard,” because “wail” is also a word that can describe singing. A moment later, a more obvious reference to a Valyrian steel sword occurs as it says “Suddenly Jory was back among them, a red rain flying from his sword.” “Red Rain” is an actual Valyrian steel sword, and just like Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, Red Rain is a Valyrian steel sword that implies the blood rain / storm of swords motif – it’s a sword called Red Rain! Red Rain belongs to the Ironborn House Drumm, and thus I don’t think it’s coincidental that in the quote we just read with the rivers of black water, the blood rain was “drumming against the ground.”
To put it bluntly, Martin is very, very strongly implying the rain as swords, and Jory’s sword as rain. Jory is implied as wielding a dragon sword, and his attack is like the blood rain itself. This makes Jory a symbolic dragon person, just as Ned is like a Nissa Nissa turning into a fire moon meteor dragon. Unfortunately, Ned and Jory are dragons headed for slaughter, but of course this fits with the storyline we are building here: these dragons to the slaughter can also be viewed as the last hero’s group on their way to become green zombies. That’s what Ned’s grey wraiths in the Tower of Joy dream symbolize – undead Night’s Watchmen.
Think of Davos starting on his journey to White Harbor with a dozen golden dragons, and then finding twelve people in the Wolf’s Den with the most prominent of them being implied as cadaverous or undead – it’s a perfect parallel to what’s going on here, I think. It’s showing us twelve dragons sacrificed and trapped inside the ice moon along with the last hero / Eldric Shadowchaser figure, with all of them awaiting rebirth.
The one slaughtering Nissa Nissa should be a solar king who’s about to turn dark, and that role is played by Jaime Lannister of course, who is wearing his Lannister crimson and gold in this scene, as opposed to his Kingsguard whites:
“He was the Hand of the King.” The mud muffled the hooves of the blood bay stallion. The line parted before him. On a golden breastplate, the lion of Lannister roared its defiance. “Now, if truth be told, I’m not sure what he is.”
Jaime Lannister poked at Ned’s chest with the gilded sword that had sipped the blood of the last of the Dragonkings.
Take notice of Jaime’s horse – its a blood bay. Think “bay of blood” – it’s another waves of blood symbol, continuing the escalation from blood rain to rivers of black water to now, an entire bay of blood! Of course, the the “rivers of black water” line has to remind us of the Blackwater River, which flows into Blackwater Bay here at King’s Landing, so you can see that the idea of black blood rain creating a black blood river that leads to a black blood bay is spelled out twice here. That’s pretty fun symbolism.
Jaime’s blood-sipping sword is of course a representation of Lightbringer, the sword that sipped Nissa Nissa’s blood and soul. And yes I just made Lightbringer sound like a sippy-cup – or maybe it was George. Anyway, Jaime is even poking his blood-sipper at Ned’s chest, again signifying Ned as a dying Nissa Nissa / fire moon figure in this scene, a complement to Ned having his heart cut out earlier in the brothel. Even better, Ned, rightly judging that Jaime cannot afford to actually kill him, is leaving his exposed chest defenseless, just as Nissa Nissa bared her breast to Azor Ahai’s bloodthirsty sword. It’s a bookend to the earlier moment in this chapter where Barra’s mother bared her breast and Ned felt his heart cut out.
Jaime’s men are basically an extension of his bloodthirsty golden sword, decked out in red and gold and referred to as “red phantoms” as they are in this scene. They have golden lion helms and red cloaks sodden with the blood rain, which enhances the idea of them playing the role of bloody swords of the solar king. Imagine Jaime as the sun, giving the command, and his men as the comet doing his bidding.
The notable Lannister guardsman is the captain Tregar – or should I say, “Tree Garth.” Tregar.. Treegarth.. oh yeah – you better believe it’s intentional. Garth’s fertile, green form is the bright solar king – again, think of Robert – and when he kills Nissa Nissa, he to undergoes a death transformation and turns into the dark solar king. We saw that sort of darker Garth figure in the prison of the Wolf’s Den – that dude that just straight up smelled wrong to Davos. In astronomy terms, the way that killing Nissa Nissa – the fire moon – transforms the sun into the dark sun is of course by way of the smoke and ash clouds thrown up by the moon’s destruction and the moon meteor impacts on the Planetos. That’s why we sometimes refer to it as Nissa Nissa having ‘revenge’ on Azor Ahai. This exact thing is depicted as Ned gets a good whack in on Tregar’s solar lion helm and helps him undergo ‘transformation’:
“No!” Ned Stark screamed, clawing for his sword. Jaime was already cantering off down the street as he heard Wyl shout. Men closed from both sides. Ned rode one down, cutting at phantoms in red cloaks who gave way before him. Jory Cassel put his heels into his mount and charged. A steel-shod hoof caught a Lannister guardsman in the face with a sickening crunch. A second man reeled away and for an instant Jory was free. Wyl cursed as they pulled him off his dying horse, swords slashing in the rain. Ned galloped to him, bringing his longsword down on Tregar’s helm. The jolt of impact made him grit his teeth. Tregar stumbled to his knees, his lion crest sheared in half, blood running down his face. Heward was hacking at the hands that had seized his bridle when a spear caught him in the belly. Suddenly Jory was back among them, a red rain flying from his sword. “No!” Ned shouted. “Jory, away!” Ned’s horse slipped under him and came crashing down in the mud. There was a moment of blinding pain and the taste of blood in his mouth. He saw them cut the legs from Jory’s mount and drag him to the earth, swords rising and falling as they closed in around him. When Ned’s horse lurched back to its feet, he tried to rise, only to fall again, choking on his scream. He could see the splintered bone poking through his calf. It was the last thing he saw for a time.
Ok, a lot happened there. Ned’s blow actually split Tregar’s solar lion’s helm in half, causing blood to run down his face – this is your depiction of Nissa Nissa’s revenge, the darkening of the solar face. You’ll notice the verb Martin chose to describe Ned’s blow – “Ned galloped to him, bringing his longsword down on Tregar’s helm.” That’s our dark Lightbringer symbol, bringing darkness to to Tregar’s lion helm. Ned also “brought” blood and fire to Pyke in the quote we read a moment ago, for what it’s worth. As for Ned’s cleaving of Tregar’s helm, I said this moon-revenge blow against the sun is really the smoke of the impacts, right? Well, think of smoke dark Valyrian steel swords like Ned’s Ice, and then you can see that the smoke that kills the sun can indeed be thought of as a “darkbringer” sword that turns out the lights.
Thus, Captain Treegarth is playing the role of the summer king who must die when winter and the Long Night come, since Jaime can’t actually die here. He gallops off and leaves his men to do the dirty work, actually. Tregar however falls to his knees, as if praying or kneeling in ritual sacrifice, and blood on the face of a Tree-garth person evokes the bloody faces of the weirwoods, the garth-trees. Thus, Tregar is now going into the weirwoodnet and joining the trees. Tregar actually lingers unconscious for several days while Ned is unconscious and dreaming of the Tower of Joy, finally dying on the morning that Ned awakens, which implies Tregar as a Garth who went inside the tree and didn’t come out, whereas the character Ned represents does seem to come out.
Returning to the last quote, we saw Jory’s red rain line, which, again, is about as glorious and heroic a death scene as anyone gets in this series. Jory is “dragged to earth,” which is great moon meteor landing symbolism, the logical ending to the red rain of symbolic bleeding stars. Perhaps we’re supposed to see Jory as a falling castle – Cassel, castle – like a falling stone meteor. He’d be a bloody castle, if so, and we’ll see that very thing at the end of the chapter. The “dragged to earth” language also reminds me of the weirwood at the Nightfort, looking as though it was trying to drag the moon into the well. Here, it is Treegarth and his buddies dragging down moon dragons.
At the same moment that Jory is dragged to earth, Ned, a parallel falling moon symbol, crashes to the mud, tasting blood in his mouth and choking on his scream. That’s a bit of weirwood stigmata, and to go along with it, he has a gruesome fisher king leg wound! As we saw in the Baelful Bard episode, the Fisher King wound corresponds to a blighted land, so in ASOIAF, the logical time to see such wounds is when the fall of the Long Night is depicted. That’s exactly what is happening here, as you can see. Combining Ned’s crash landing from the heavens with the Fisher King wound is actually pretty creative symbolism on Martin’s part; it’s a nice way to show us that the the Fisher King wound of ASOIAF is the slaying of the moon and the Long Night.
Speaking of Ned’s splintered bone.. Ned’s bones are mentioned a bit earlier as Ned is riding through the streets when we get the line “Ned was soaked through to the bone, and his soul had grown cold.” This is of course freezing fire talk, as the fire moon meteors eventually cool to black meteorites – particularly the dragon locked in ice ones, and that is of course what Ned and the Starks represent. Think of all the symbolism at the scene where Jon sees the meltwater in the cracks of the Wall turning from meteor-like streaks of red fire to rivers of black ice: that’s a symbol of the freezing of fire in the womb of Night’s Queen, or the ice moon. Ned’s soul is growing cold here as he approaches his symbolic transformation and entrance into the dreamworld, which is like the inside of the ice moon or the inside of the wierwoodnet. It’s very similar to his grief and rage freezing inside when he’s inside the black cells.
I’ll pick up the narrative right where we left off:
When he opened his eyes again, Lord Eddard Stark was alone with his dead. His horse moved closer, caught the rank scent of blood, and galloped away. Ned began to drag himself through the mud, gritting his teeth at the agony in his leg. It seemed to take years.
Littlefinger and the City Watch found him there in the street, cradling Jory Cassel’s body in his arms. Somewhere the gold cloaks found a litter, but the trip back to the castle was a blur of agony, and Ned lost consciousness more than once. He remembered seeing the Red Keep looming ahead of him in the first grey light of dawn. The rain had darkened the pale pink stone of the massive walls to the color of blood. Then Grand Maester Pycelle was looming over him, holding a cup, whispering, “Drink, my lord. Here. The milk of the poppy, for your pain.” He remembered swallowing, and Pycelle was telling someone to heat the wine to boiling and fetch him clean silk, and that was the last he knew.
Just in case you missed the blood rain symbolism, there it is one more time, turning the stones of the Red Keep to blood – it’s a bloody castle, just like poor Jory Cassel lying dead and bloody in the street. It could also be seen as a castle made of bloodstone, which I have to think symbolizing the Bloodstone Emperor, Azor Ahai’s dark form, coming into power. The grey dawn indicates a reduced daylight, one shrouded by clouds, just as we would have during the long night.
So, according to my hypothesis that this chapter and Ned’s Tower of Joy dream are meant to be interpreted as one longer story, Ned is equivalent to a slain last hero at this point, awaiting resurrection. And look who should be waiting for him as he loses consciousness but a snowbearded figure who offers him milk that will make him dream! This is the transition point for Ned as he slips into his Tower of Joy dream, and symolically, into the ice, so let’s transition too and make it a section break.
There and Back Again: Ice Moon Edition
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You’ll recall that I said I didn’t have anything for Pycelle, when I had cool symbolic finds for all the other snowbeard characters. Well, I was lying to you, so I apologize. I was saving this scene, which we aren’t done with, and in addition to that, an astute listener named Thunderclap has identified Pycelle as a creepy Santa Claus figure! To whit: he has a long white beard, a fat round belly, long red robes with white trim (“He was clad in a magnificent robe of thick red velvet, with an ermine collar and shiny gold fastenings”), and he visits children in the middle of the night. The key is the red robe; I had never caught that detail. Pycelle does have creepy Santa Claus symbolism! Of course Santa is just a variation on the Holly King, a.k.a. the Winter King, so the snowbeard and milk symbolism makes a ton of sense.
Setting aside the funny Santa Claus thing (and what does it say about George’s conception of Christmas that the two characters who correlate to Santa that we’ve found are Patchface and Pycelle), we can say that Pycelle plays the role of some kind of ice moon priest or psychopomp, offering Ned the milk of the poppy as he slides into his Tower of Joy dream and symbolically becomes a resurrected hero who fights alongside wraiths with black swords. That’s also consistent with the broader horned god mythology, as the horned god often plays the role of a psychopomp who escorts the dying to the land of the dead, and sometimes back again.
In Mythical astronomy terms, this is Ned as the black meteor entering the ice moon and becomes frozen. Again think of the line about Ned’s soul growing cold… it’s transformation time, oh yeah.
Earlier in AGOT, there’s a parallel scene where Pycelle also serves Ned milk – that time, it was a sweetened iced milk, if you recall. It was actually iced milk sweetened with honey, and some of the Twitteros symbolism crew have identified milk and honey as as reference to the Biblical story of Moses, to whom God promised Caanaan, the “land of milk and honey.” In other words, when we see milk and honey symbolism, think of the food and drink of the gods and the fire of the gods. Dany tastes mother’s milk and honey, amongst other things, when she drinks the shade of the evening.
Most importantly, we should compare these two milky drinks to weirwood paste – whose taste sensations include “honey and newfallen snow,” and “the last kiss Bran’s mother ever gave him.” Milk of the poppy is more obvious, because of it’s association with dreaming, but consider the scene with Pycelle and the iced milk. Libraries and books can stand in for weirwood knowledge, we’ve seen that metaphor before, and you’ll notice that Pycelle gave Ned the iced milk at the same time that he gave him the book which lead Ned to discovering Joffrey’s parentage secret, which then led to Ned’s death – meaning, the book becomes a metaphor for the type of sacred knowledge that is gained through death transformation, a la Odin and the greenseers. Giving him the book along with iced milk makes it easier to see the milk as a stand-in for weirwood paste, and I think it’s the same for milk of the poppy – especially when coming from a snowbearded fellow.
Even better, compare Bran breaking his legs and then becoming a greenseer by eating the weirwood paste to Ned breaking his leg and then drinking the milk of the poppy as the chapter concludes. In fact, right after Bran eats the paste, he has a series of visions, which conclude by comparing Bran and Ned:
Lord Eddard Stark sat upon a rock beside the deep black pool in the godswood, the pale roots of the heart tree twisting around him like an old man’s gnarled arms. The greatsword Ice lay across Lord Eddard’s lap, and he was cleaning the blade with an oilcloth.
“Winterfell,” Bran whispered.
His father looked up. “Who’s there?” he asked, turning …
… and Bran, frightened, pulled away. His father and the black pool and the godswood faded and were gone and he was back in the cavern, the pale thick roots of his weirwood throne cradling his limbs as a mother does a child. A torch flared to life before him.
I pointed this quote out in the Green Zombies series – first we have Ned with the “pale roots of the heart tree twisting around him like an old man’s gnarled arms,” then Bran is described in much the same language, “the pale thick roots of his weirwood throne cradling his limbs as a mother does a child.” In other words, dead Ned is symbolically inside the weirwood, just as Bran’s spirit is now partially inside the weirwood. This fits with the idea of the Winterfell weirwood matching the long, melancholy face of the Starks and containing the ancestors of House Stark, something Joe Magician talks about in his How to Make a Weirwood video that everyone should check out if they haven’t already, especially since I did the vocal performances for that one, ha ha. Also, if the weirwood is like a mother and Bran her child, then the weirwood paste that tastes like kisses from Bran’s mother is very like mother’s milk indeed.
The point of this for our Ned sequence is that when he’s symbolically killed and turned into a flying fire moon meteor, his next stop is inside the ice moon, which parallels to being inside the weirwoodnet. That’s why he’s drinking the milk of the poppy after breaking his leg in a parallel to Bran eating the weirwood paste: this is Ned playing the role of the last hero going into the weirwoodnet and into the ice moon. Ned drinks his milk of the poppy, served up by a snowbeard, and next thing you know… “He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood.”
Its also synonymous with the last hero going north of the Wall, since going north of the Wall is of course analogous to going into the ice moon as well. We know the last hero goes north anyway, and this would be where he’s killed and resurrected according to my theory, so that all fits – and it also fits with Ned being accompanied by wraiths in his Tower of Joy scene. The rescue mission to save the Other baby obviously occurs north of the Wall, and there is most likely some part of the last hero’s mission that must be completed inside the weirwoodnet. I expect to see a close parallel of whatever this involves when Jon’s spirit wanders the bardo before his eventual resurrection.
Once again, I will point out that this same sequence is reflected when the rotten ice Ned is dancing on cracks and he makes his noble splash – meaning, when he’s locked away in the black cells under the Red Keep after challenging Joffrey and Cersei, then brought to the Sept of Baelor and beheaded. This again shows a death transformation as the last hero goes into the ice and into the weirwoodnet, as we’ve already discussed.
There’s actually a great correlation to my theory about the fight with Jaime and the Tower of Joy being two parts of a sequence when Ned is “buried” in the black cells. Ned in the black cells is analogous to Ned lying unconscious and dreaming of the Tower of Joy, and wouldn’t you know it, while he’s in the black cells, he has fever dreams of “blood and promises,” an obvious reference to the Tower of Joy, and he also dreams of the Tourney of Harrenhal and Lyanna’s blue rose crown, a scene directly linked to the Tower of Joy! It’s not just Ned’s tendency to reflect on all things Lyanna when he’s having fever dreams; it’s that these moments symbolize his archetypal character becoming the dragon locked in ice. He’s like a decapitated fire moon, hurtling toward the ice moon – and Lyanna is an ice moon maiden, so he dreams of her after death transformation sequences. The Sept of Baelor is an ice moon symbol too, and that’s where Ned is taken to die after the black cells.
All of this compares well to Davos and his being locked in White Harbor and passed of as a dead man, only to be “resurrected” by a knight of the greenhand, Wyman Manderly, and sent on a rescuer mission to save Rickon Stark. Fake Davos has his head cut off at White Harbor, just as Ned has his cut off at the Sept of Baelor, both being ice moon symbols. There are abundant “inside the weirwoodnet” symbols at the Wolf’s Den, of course, from its monstrous weirwood to Garth the jailor who “just smelled wrong.” The parallels are really tight here.
One last point about Pycelle Snowbeard. Obviously Jon being dead at the Wall, with his body probably to be stored in an ice cell, is parallel to Ned drinking Pycelle’s milk of the poppy and going into a mini-coma here, and my good friend and collaborator Ravenous Reader has pointed out that Pycelle sure sounds a lot like “ice cell.” It makes a ton of sense – Pycelle is symbolically putting Ned into an ice cell by serving him the milk and sending him into the dream world.
Pycelle, twisted Santa Claus that he is, also gives us a nod to the King of Winter in the scene where he serves Ned iced milk: that’s where he gives his famous line “Minds are like swords, I do fear. The old ones go to rust.” And then the iced milk arrives! Rusty swords are of course the province of the stone Kings of Winter, with the older swords indeed going to rust and leaving behind red stains.
When Ned is in the black cells, there’s a parallel psychopomp figure to Pycelle serving the milk of the poppy; it’s the jailer who brings Ned water. He’s “a scarecrow of a man with a rat’s face and frayed beard,” and of course you will recall that Beric is a “scarecrow knight,” while the scarecrow brothers which catch on fire in Jon’s Azor Ahai dream correlate to Beric and suggest fiery, undead Night’s Watchmen.
This scarecrow jailer in the black cells isn’t totally dissimilar to the snowbearded Pycelle, actually – we’ve seen people with undead Night’s Watchmen also have snowbeards. It’s important to remember that our snowbeard and Eldric figures tend to unite ice and fire symbolism. The burning, wighted Small Paul is a great example here – he was a symbolic burning straw man Night’s Watchmen, like Beric and the scarecrow brothers, yet he also had hoarfrost dripping from his beard, the signature snowbeard symbolism. So, we can say that Ned has Pycelle Ice-Cell serving milk of the poppy as a psychopomp in one sequence, and a scarecrow jailer serving him water in another.
Now the final stage of the dragon locked in ice is to awaken from the ice and from weirwoodnet slumber, and here we will preview the topic of the next episode: the inevitable ice moon disaster we are headed for. Ned has this covered: it’s Jon’s dream which merges the face of the burning wight from Mormont’s chambers and Ned’s face. If you recall, the wighted Othor was originally described as having a “pale moon face” and “eyes like blue stars burning.” It’s showing us the ice moon, but also a Night’s Watchmen “trapped in the ice” in that he’s dead and under the hold of the Other’s blue star magic. But the “demonic force” is driven out by fire, and here is Jon recalling the burning of the wight and the dream of the wight having Ned’s face:
Truly, the gods had heard Jon’s prayer that night; 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. Jon had only to close his eyes to see the thing staggering across the solar, crashing against the furniture and flailing at the flames. It was the face that haunted him most; surrounded by a nimbus of fire, hair blazing like straw, the dead flesh melting away and sloughing off its skull to reveal the gleam of bone beneath.
Whatever demonic force moved Othor had been driven out by the flames; the twisted thing they had found in the ashes had been no more than cooked meat and charred bone. Yet in his nightmare he faced it again … and this time the burning corpse wore Lord Eddard’s features. It was his father’s skin that burst and blackened, his father’s eyes that ran liquid down his cheeks like jellied tears. Jon did not understand why that should be or what it might mean, but it frightened him more than he could say.
The description of the wighted Othor / Ned figure having bones like old dry wood is important because it creates the classic king of winter symbolism, which is that of a burning wicker man (and here I am referring to the real world king of winter / wicker man traditions). This is merged with the obvious ice moon face symbolism of the wight to show us that he ASOIAF King of Winter is a dragon locked in ice figure, which can of course also be like a Night’s Watch crow locked in ice as it is here. His reawakening will happen via fire, and, accordingly, the wight’s face is “surrounded by a nimbus of fire, hair blazing like straw.” This is a terrific depiction of both a burning ice moon and a burning ice moon man! As I have said before, this dream frightens Jon because it is essentially a prophecy of his future told in symbolic terms, and it’s a little rough, admittedly.
Now you can start to get a glimpse of why we have to talk about a potential future ice moon disaster next: because in terms of symbolism, the promised ice moon apocalypse correlates with Jon’s inevitable resurrection and the larger idea of the King of Winter awakening in fire. In fact, the hints about the #icemoondisaster are not only found in the symbolism of King of Winter figures like Ned and Jon – they’re actually buried everywhere ice moon symbols are found, especially at the two places we will look at today, Winterfell and the Wall. We’ll be sort of switching back and forth between discussing the Starks and the places where Starks live, and the reason why we can do that is because whether it be person or place, everything Stark symbolizes the ice moon and the dragon locked in ice symbolism… which, again, can only end in the reawakening of said frozen dragon.
Now that we have given Ned the full Mythical Astronomy treatment and begun to define House Stark through its most prominent figure, Ned, we can explore House Stark through its ancient castle, Winterfell. We’ll also be taking a hard look at the Wall, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with Winterfell and the Starks. They’re the two key structures in the North, and together with places like White Harbor, the Sept of Baelor, and the Eyrie, they show us everything we need to know about the #icemoonapocalypse and the awakening of the dragon locked in ice, he who has the blood of the Other.
Once again, if you’re going to Con of Thrones, please introduce yourself, I should be easy to find as I’ll be wearing horns of speaking on panels, or maybe both. I hope to see you at the Prose Eddard Livestream this Sunday, May 13th, 2:00 Est. You can get it in right before Cavs – Celtics at 3:30, we’ll be g ood. I’ll be on Joe Magician’s YouTube livestream later today at 7 EST, so come on by and talk prologue with us, and don’t forget to check out Blue Tiger’s Amber Compendium for his outstanding Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Okay, cheers everyone, and thanks for joining us! Ta ta!