Queen in the North! Queen in the North! Queen in the— oh hey there friends, patrons, YouTuber viewers and podcast listeners, myth heads of all sorts. Welcome to the Sansa at the Eyrie episode, where we’ll spend most of our time talking about Sansa on her way to the Eyrie!
That’s right, we all want to build snowcastles of symbolism together in the godswood at dawn, but before we do that, we need to trace out Sansa’s symbolic path that took her there, because boy let me tell you. There is some high-powered mythical astronomy and incorporation of world mythology going on with Sansa as she flees from King’s Landing and arrives in the Vale. We will take her there, but it’s going to require yet another episode to really get into all her scenes at the Eyrie, and of course we need to compare those to Tyrion and Catelyn’s scenes at the Eyrie as well.
Before we begin, let me just say: Sansa really is one of my favorite characters, even setting aside Sophie Turner’s good looks and charm. We recently got a twitter thread going where we all threw out various Sansa moment’s of awesome, and it was truly amazing how many there were. Plus… she has amazing symbolism.
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about Sansa of course. She played a starring role in Moons of Ice and Fire 3, Waves of Night and Moon Blood, where she did amazing Nissa Nissa / fire moon things at Kings Landing. We won’t recap all of that here (just a little bit of it, heh heh), but I will say that my personal favorite scene was Sansa balling up her moon-blood-soaked sheets and shoving them into the fire and fillin gher room with smoke at the same time that two Azor Ahai reborn figures, Stannis and Tyrion, were burning things outside the castle and filling the sky with smoke. This entire scene and the ones connected to it all depict Sansa as a fire moon maiden with burning moon blood, culminating with the purple wedding. Then she turns up in the mother of all ice moon symbols, the Eyrie, and (spoiler alert) we catch her doing some Night’s Queen type of stuff.
You can see why it’s important to trace out that path – from Nissa Nissa and fire moon symbolism to ice moon and Night’s Queen symbolism? This series is about portals, after all.
So without further adieu, let me say thanks to the man himself, George R. R. Martin, who has enriched all of our lives with his books, and thanks to all of you myth heads who have joined our Patreon. I’d like to take this moment to welcome the return of Ser Brian the Prodigal Stark, the Good Other, Knight of the Last House, Wielder of the Valyrian Steel blade Red Song, who has risen harder and stronger as one of the Long Night’s Watch. He joins his fellow Green Zombie Watchers Charon Ice-Eyes, Dread Ferryman of the North, Wielder of the Staff of the Old Gods, a weirwood staff banded in Valyrian steel; Cinxia, Frozen Fire Queen of the Summer Snows and Burner of Winter’s Wick; Antonius the Conspirator, the Red Right Hand of R’hllor, Knower of the Unknowable, Dispenser of Final Justice; and BlueRaven of the Lightning Peck, the frozen thunderbolt, whose words are “the way must be tried.” That makes five on the zombie watch, and I am also proud to announce our sixth member, who is Visenya Ice Eyes, Starry Jewel-Queen of the Frozen Veil of Tears. You’ll notice all of these half-dead half-dozen have frozen fire type names; that’s not by accident of course, as we are looking for a dozen valiant souls to give up their (pretend internet) lives for the greater good, rising harder and stronger as zombie brothers and sisters of the Long Night’s Watch. Jon Snow is going to need some backup, am I right?
If you’d like snag yourself a nickname, early access to the essay versions of the episodes, and more, and most importantly, play a part in driving Mythical Astronomy onward and upward, check out our Patreon campaign, which is linked at the top of LucifermeansLightbringer.com. That’s also where you can find the matching text to this podcast, as always.
✧ Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
✧ The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
✧ Waves of Night & Moon Blood
✧ The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
✧ Tyrion Targaryen
✧ Lucifer means Lightbringer
We Should Start Back
✧ AGOT Prologue
The Sansa Locked in Ice
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I mentioned that Sansa’s moon blood scene in King’s Landing is one of my favorites for symbolism and comedic effect. I don’t mean to make light of it, as it is a very serious matter and an emotional scene for Sansa, as is everything that happens to her in King’s Landing while she’s been abused by the Lannisters on a daily basis. But there is something almost three stooges-like about how rapidly the scene goes from bad to worse to much worse, as Sansa starts out waking from a nightmare to realize she’s experiencing her first menstruation to cutting out the bloodstain in her sheets to simply shoving the entire mattress in the fire in desperation. It’s funny in one sense, but at the same time, the desperation and obvious foolishness of trying to burn an entire mattress in a hearthfire underscores the extreme sense of terror and panic Sansa feels at the thought of bearing Joffrey’s children against her will.
And of course, the symbolism is absolutely bonkers. That’s really the point I want to make here: she’s clearly a Nissa Nissa fire moon figure, filling the air with smoke and burning her moon blood and thinking about unpleasant couplings with the solar king Joffrey. That’s really why it’s my favorite of course – the symbolism. If you want the full breakdown on that one, that can be found in the appropriately named Waves of Night and Moon Blood episode.
At the same time, this more underrated bit of Sansa symbolism gives it a run for it’s money. It’s especially clever because it’s not even in a Sansa chapter; it’s a great example of a sly writing technique Martin uses to add more symbolism to a given scene: have other people talk about it elsewhere. The following is the scene with Arya and Sandor at the Inn at the Crossroads, right before they get into a fight with Poliver and Raff the Sweetling and the Tickler. The mummers have just given Sandor the news that Joffrey was murdered at the Purple Wedding:
“So much for my brave brothers of the Kingsguard.” The Hound gave a snort of contempt. “Who killed him?”
“The Imp, it’s thought. Him and his little wife.”
“I forgot, you’ve been hiding under a rock. The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. But she left the dwarf behind and Cersei means to have his head.”
That’s stupid, Arya thought. Sansa only knows songs, not spells, and she’d never marry the Imp. The Hound sat on the bench closest to the door. His mouth twitched, but only the burned side. “She ought to dip him in wildfire and cook him. Or tickle him till the moon turns black.” He raised his wine cup and drained it straightaway.
I included the last bit for the bit about the moon turning black because it helps reinforce what’s being symbolized here: Sansa the fire moon maiden has symbolically changed into a winged bat-wolf and flown out of a tower after the sun-darkening ceremony of the Purple Wedding. This is the picture of a fire moon turning into a moon meteor, with the winged bat-wolf subbing in for a fire-breathing dragon, because that’s more suited to Sansa’s symbolism. My friends Isobel Harper and Sandra from the Twitteros would like me to point out that Sansa’s bat wings may reflect her Whent heritage via her Tully mother, for what it’s worth, and of course we know that Harrenhal, the seat of House Whent, is entirely, 100% symbolic of the destruction of the fire moon. One of the most obvious, to be honest, as it’s a huge hunk of scorched and cracked black stone burnt by dragonfire. We discussed some of Harrenhal’s symbolism in Weirwood Goddess 2: It’s an Arya Thing, as well as Moons of Ice and Fire 3: Visenya Draconis.
I’ll also point out that the suggestion of Sansa leaping from the tower builds on both the general trope of maidens in the tower, which we see everywhere in ASOIAF, such as Lyanna Stark who died in a tower and Ashara Dayne who (supposedly) threw herself from a tower, as well Sansa’s own thoughts of suicide when she contemplated leaping from a King’s Landing tower amidst the worst of Joffrey’s abuse. But this time, in the colorful and rapidly spreading folktale of Sansa’s escape from the Purple Wedding, it’s different. Instead of a suicidal leap from the tower, it’s a flight and a transformation, as she turns into a flying bat wolf. I probably don’t have to tell you that Ashara might not be dead either… she’s living in the Neck with her true love Howland Reed and going by the name Jyanna, of course, shout-out to Chloe a.k.a. the Queen of Love and Booty.
So, the burning the moon blood soaked mattress and the legend of Batgirl Werewolf Sansa… like I said, two of my favorite Sansa scenes at King’s Landing. And don’t worry, we’re going to cover Dontos and his Morningstar melon in a bit. In a bit, get it? It’s a smashing melon joke. Unfortunately for Dontos, the world is a vampire. There, that was a Smashing Pumpkins joke.
Anyway, these two scenes are amusing, probably better than my jokes, but by far the most important fire moon action Sansa does at King’s Landing is definitely her part in the purple wedding. As we have discussed before, the Purple Wedding is a detailed description of the hiding of the face of the sun during the Long Night. According to theory, the sun was hidden by clouds of ash, smoke, and debris from the moon meteor impacts, something which we can see as Nissa Nissa moon having her revenge on her murderous husband, Azor Ahai the solar king. Sansa is playing Nissa Nissa here, with Joffrey playing the role of her solar king husband, even though technically he broke off the betrothal to Sansa to marry Margarey. Joffrey’s murder has his bright solar face turning dark purple as he suffocates due to the effects of the poison known as the strangler, which was of course hidden in Sansa’s symbolically-ridonculous silver hairnet.
Ergo, we can see this as just the sort of lunar revenge I was speaking of, where an abused Nissa Nissa figure has her revenge on her abuser. The drama isn’t always framed that way, but I’ve been suggesting Nissa Nissa as an unwilling victim from the start, so it’s interesting to see this very abusive and cruel version of the solar king getting killed specifically for his cruelty, as the Tyrell’s motivation to kill Joffrey was specifically was to protect Margarey and maneuver her to marry Tommen instead, who was not an abuser and could be molded to their liking.
As for that hairnet, it’s what makes the mythical astronomy of the Purple Wedding uber-clear. The poison known as the Strangler comes in the form of dark purple crystals, as we see in Maester Cressen’s ACOK prologue chapter, and I assume that’s why they used a black amethyst hairnet to disguise it, since black amethysts are also very dark purple. Oddly, both the leaf that the Strangler is made from and the black amethysts are from Asshai, which can only make us think of dragons, fire magic, greasy black stone, Azor Ahai and of course, the Amethyst Empress, who may have been Nissa Nissa herself. In fact, I’d say Sansa wearing the amethysts from Asshai while acting out Nissa Nissa’s revenge at Joffrey’s wedding is a strong piece of evidence that Nissa Nissa was the Amethyst Empress, and that she comes from Asshai, which in turn implies that Asshai was indeed the capital of the Great Empire of the Dawn as I suggested oh so long ago (April of 2015 to be exact).
It’s also worth noting that those amethysts were “so dark they drank the moonlight,” a keyword phrase we know well that calls out to the greasy black stone of Asshai which “seems to drink the light” as well as Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper, whose dark steel also drinks the sun. More ties to Asshai, dragons, and magic swords… and of course moon meteor symbols. Of course, moon meteors. They “drank the fire of the sun” when the moon cracked open, which is what all of this is about. Remember that just like Harrenhal or the Dragonpit at King’s Landing, Asshai and The Shadow that hangs over it are a model for the destroyed and blackened fire moon. That’s where the poison that darkened the sun came from, the fallout of the breaking of the fire moon.
The hair net itself has sparkling mythical astronomy symbolism:
It was a hair net of fine-spun silver, the strands so thin and delicate the net seemed to weigh no more than a breath of air when Sansa took it in her fingers. Small gems were set wherever two strands crossed, so dark they drank the moonlight.
The silver strands are like the lattice of stars and galaxies, with the gems at the crossing points playing the role of stars. I’ve caught Martin using the “lattice” word to refer to the cosmic net of stars, and of course these ideas originate in Vediic mythology with “Indras’s Net.” This is a really cool thing, so let me quote Francis Cook’s description of it from his 1977 book titled “Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra.”
Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering “like” stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.
I always tell you George’s symbolism is fractal! How do you like that? You can really see the specific call-outs to Indra’s Net in Sansa’s hairnet, with the eye-jewel-stars at the crossing points of the lattice. Of course stars are usually symbolized by diamonds, because they’re bright, so using a light-drinking gem in the lattice instead simply implies dark stars, black hole moons, and that sort of thing. That’s not news to us; we’ve saying that the exploding moon / sun conjunction effectively becomes a dark star since <Ser Barristan voice> oh ah let’s see, since Bloodstone Compendium 2, I believe it was! In fact the earlier version of that essay, back on Westeros.org, was called “Black Hole Moon,” for what it’s worth. </Ser Barristan Voice> Still, when a red headed moon-maiden wears an Indra’s Net full of dark stars – which poison and darken the solar king – well that’s the basic Mythical Astronomy theory in action, and it’s an awfully detailed version of it. The cosmic web of the universe is unraveling to kill the sun for his sin… that’s heavy stuff.
The final layer of hair-net symbolism comes from the Ghost of the High Heart when she sees a dream vision of Sansa at the Purple Wedding:
“I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs. And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.”
The moon maiden has a nest of poisonous snakes in her kissed by fire hair, and we know what means. Fiery moon dragons! Dark stars coming out of the cosmic web to rain on your parade. We’ve seen a lot of poison snake bite and toxic symbolism applied to black meteor symbols – think of the oily black stone of Yeen and Asshai which seems to be cursed, or Oberyn’s sun-spear tipped with oily black poison. All in all, Sansa’s starry Medusa hairnet act is some of the most detailed mythical astronomy found anywhere, and it squarely pegs Sansa as a fire moon, Nissa Nissa person at King’s Landing. As she helps kill the sun. I mean… is it what it is.
And look, the Ghost of High Heart is speaking of Sansa in a castle made of snow! That’s an allusion to the Eyrie of course, and to her snowcastle scene there, with Petyr as the giant, and it’s generally taken as foreshadowing of Sansa serving Petyr up some well-deserved Stark justice at some point. It’s basically the Mythical Astronomy story of Sansa’s transition from King’s Landing to the Eyrie: first she’s maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs, and later she’s slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.
I’ve mentioned this before, and it’s really fairly simple to understand with everything we’ve learned already. To put it simply, Sansa is the female version of the dragon locked in ice. She starts out as a fire moon Nissa Nissa person, then does a ton of moon combustion and moon blood flood stuff at King’s Landing, kills the sun king, and then flies away… and turns into a stone, Alayne Stone. This name change works on a lot of levels, and conveys the idea that Sansa is transforming as she leaves King’s Landing and goes to the Vale, only she’s a turned into a stone instead of a werewolf batgirl. She’s transforming into a Stone! A moon stone, it would be, as Sansa represents the transition from a whole, intact fire moon to a flying fire moon meteor. She darkens her hair to chestnut brown, but once she refers to it as “Alayne’s burnt brown,” which works together with her Stone moniker to imply her as a former piece of burnt fire moon. That fiery moon meteor lands inside an ice moon symbol, the Vale, just as the dragon locked in ice meteor always does.
Aaaaannnnd presto, it’s a Sansa locked in ice.
Old snow cloaked the courtyard, and icicles hung down like crystal spears from the terraces and towers. The Eyrie was built of fine white stone, and winter’s mantle made it whiter still. So beautiful, Alayne thought, so impregnable. She could not love this place, no matter how she tried. Even before the guards and serving men had made their descent, the castle had seemed as empty as a tomb, and more so when Petyr Baelish was away. No one sang up there, not since Marillion. No one ever laughed too loud. Even the gods were silent. The Eyrie boasted a sept, but no septon; a godswood, but no heart tree. No prayers are answered here, she often thought, though some days she felt so lonely she had to try. Only the wind answered her, sighing endlessly around the seven slim white towers and rattling the Moon Door every time it gusted. It will be even worse in winter, she knew. In winter this will be a cold white prison.
That was from AFFC, and as you can see the Eyrie has the standard prison symbolism of all ice moon locales such as White Harbor and Winterfell and the Wall. The Eyrie also has those ice cells, and those are put to good use as well. To the same effect, you probably also noticed the Eyrie seeming as empty as a tomb. It’s a tomb for the fire moon meteor, whether than be incarnated as a dark Azor Ahai reborn person like Jon or a transformed Nissa Nissa figure like Sansa here. Marillion and Tyrion, both of whom come to the Eyrie, show us male Azor Ahai figures getting locked in the icy prison tomb of the Eyrie, and the general astronomy is the same: it’s the fire moon dragon being locked in the ice.
In terms of the Eyrie having no gods and being empty, well, when it gets filled up, it gets filled with a dead goddess – the dead fire moon goddess, so to speak. Sansa isn’t actually dead of course, but in a way she is, because she temporarily kills her Sansa Stark identity and becomes Alayne Stone “inside and out,” as she repeats to herself. Then there is this line which comes as Sansa is sailing to the Fingers, on the way to the Vale:
The wind ran salty fingers through her hair, and Sansa shivered. Even this close to shore, the rolling of the ship made her tummy queasy. She desperately needed a bath and a change of clothes. I must look as haggard as a corpse, and smell of vomit.
Lord Petyr came up beside her, cheerful as ever. “Good morrow. The salt air is bracing, don’t you think? It always sharpens my appetite.” He put a sympathetic arm about her shoulders. “Are you quite well? You look so pale.”
First of all, f— Petyr, the smarly little peckerwood. Secondly, Sansa is a pale corpse. She’s a fire moon turned to a stone, a symbolically slain moon goddess, and she’s headed for an icy prison tomb. If you’re thinking of the proper name for Night’s Queen – the Corpse Queen – then you’re right on the money. Sansa will indeed be performing Night’s Queen symbolism at the Eyrie. Alayne is an ice queen name too – it’s similar to Alannys Harlaw, Theon’s mother, who has corpse symbolism and Night’s Queen symbolism, as well as Alysanne Targaryen, whom we established as an ice queen figure in the last episode, Ice Moon Apocalypse. Alayne is also just kind of a flip flop of the syllables in Lyanna: Al-ayne, Ly-anna. And as someone on Westeros.org pointed out a long time ago, Arya takes up the name Cat in Braavos, while Sansa becomes Alayne, so if you combine Arya and Sansa’s fake names, you get “Cat-Alayne.” Cat-elyn. Catelyn.
So, Alayne is an ice moon queen name, and combined with “Stone,” Sansa’s new name Alayne Stone effectively translates to “ice moon meteor queen,” and as I said, she does indeed do Night’s Queen stuff in a few scenes while at the Eyrie. This is highly suggestive – it implies that Nissa Nissa, after being killed by Azor Ahai, somehow became the Night’s King’s Corpse Queen, whom we call Night’s Queen. That’s a huge and exciting topic, and we will delve into it more as we go along, but I wanted to introduce it here because it basically one of the central messages that emerges when you study the symbolism of Sansa at the Eyrie. She is unquestionably a fire moon queen in King’s Landing, doing Nissa Nissa things, and the she.. well, turns into a Night’s Queen figure when she goes to an ice moon place, the Eyrie. If Night’s King was Azor Ahai himself, as I have suggested is possible, then this becomes a story of Azor Ahai perhaps trying to raise Nissa Nissa from the dead, or her finding a way to escape death and returning to him, or something equally dark and strange.
Since making this discovery, I have noticed that there are some other Nissa Nissa / fire moon maidens turn into icy Night’s Queen figures; or said the other way, that some fire moon people become locked in the ice and turn icy. They don’t all do that, and I assume that’s because not all the fire moon meteors landed in the ice moon. But some do, like Cersei being imprisoned in the ice moon sept of Baelor, and Sansa is where I first noticed the pattern. We’ll talk about that in due time, but for now we are just laying out the broad strokes of Sansa’s arc so we can dive into her chapters at the Eyrie and know what to look for.
As I mentioned, there are two chapters leading up to her arrival at the Eyrie. At first I thought I could cover both chapters in one section on the way to the snowcastle chapter, but oh no, these two chapters are loaded. By the time I was finished analyzing them and writing about them and trimming away whatever I could, the episode was done. Part of that is just because a lot happens on those chapters, and part of is that Sansa has some very cool references to external world mythology, and several of them are touched on in these chapters.
Escape From King’s Landing
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To prepare for this episode, I’ve been rereading (or re-listening, as it happens, R.I.P. Roy Dotrice) to all the chapters that take place at the Vale, and those that lead into them. I think it’s actually going to work well to tackle Sansa’s Vale chapters chronologically, just as I read them, as they do seem to form a cohesive overarching narrative.
We’ll start with Sansa’s first ASOS King’s Landing chapter after the Purple Wedding, which begins with her on the way to meet Dontos in the Godswood and escape. This entire chapter is all about transformation – Sansa’s transformation, and more importantly, Nissa Nissa’s. Sansa is fleeing the Red Keep, she arrives in the godswood, and then pulls out a hidden change of clothes from the bole of an oak. She thinks back to the Purple Wedding itself and the flight from the scene of Joffrey’s death and we get some Nissa Nissa agony and ecstasy language:
The sight of it had been too terrible to watch, and she had turned and fled, sobbing. Lady Tanda had been fleeing as well. “You have a good heart, my lady,” she said to Sansa. “Not every maid would weep so for a man who set her aside and wed her to a dwarf.” A good heart. I have a good heart. Hysterical laughter rose up her gullet, but Sansa choked it back down. The bells were ringing, slow and mournful. Ringing, ringing, ringing. They had rung for King Robert the same way. Joffrey was dead, he was dead, he was dead, dead, dead. Why was she crying, when she wanted to dance? Were they tears of joy?
Laughing and weeping, crying and dancing. And who has a better heart than Nissa Nissa, she who tempered the red sword of heroes in her own heart? The idea of crying Nissa Nissa is followed up on a couple of pages later as it says:
I could never abide the weeping of women, Joff once said, but his mother was the only woman weeping now.
Cersei is another fire moon figure, and her tears are fire moon meteor symbols. Cersei’s widow’s wail here is a mirror of Joffrey’s sword Widows Wail, an obvious fire moon meteor symbol and Lightbringer symbol… like Cersei’s tears. Once we get to the Eyrie, we will see moon maiden tears serving as ice moon symbols of course, but here in Kings Landing, it’s a fiery affair.
Then we get a set of terrific moon-darkening metaphors:
Dress warmly, Ser Dontos had told her, and dress dark. She had no blacks, so she chose a dress of thick brown wool. The bodice was decorated with freshwater pearls, though. The cloak will cover them. The cloak was a deep green, with a large hood. She slipped the dress over her head, and donned the cloak, though she left the hood down for the moment. There were shoes as well, simple and sturdy, with flat heels and square toes. The gods heard my prayer, she thought. She felt so numb and dreamy. My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel. Her hands moved stiffly, awkwardly, as if they had never let down her hair before.
Okay, lots going on here. Pearls are basically always moon symbols, and these pearls are getting covered by a dark cloak. That dark green cloak is actually the formerly white one Sandor gave her – his kingsguard white cloak, actually. It was stained with blood, so Sansa, never one to waste good wool (yeah, that’s it) kept it and dyed it dark green, which means it already has moon darkening symbolism, and then here it is covering up Sansa’s moon pearls. Sansa herself is “dressing dark,” implying Sansa herself as a darkened moon maiden. She’s also turning to porcelain and ivory, and then to steel, which complements the idea of her turning into a “Stone.” It also mirrors all the sword-tempering language at Dany’s alchemical wedding and in her matching dragon dreams, and implies the same thing: Sansa and Dany as fire moon maidens depicting the moon turning into sword like meteors from which magic swords can be made.
Accompanied by Dontos, Sansa leaves the godswood, descends the serpentine steps and passes through quite a bit of hellish netherworld imagery. This builds on the feeling Sansa has of being a dream-like state that we saw in the last passage, and although I didn’t pull the quote, this idea was actually introduced in the very beginning of the chapter; the second sentence was “Sansa felt as though she were in a dream.”
What kind of dream is it? Well, this is dead Nissa Nissa we are talking about, so it would have to be a dragon dream:
They continued down the serpentine and across a small sunken courtyard. Ser Dontos shoved open a heavy door and lit a taper. They were inside a long gallery. Along the walls stood empty suits of armor, dark and dusty, their helms crested with rows of scales that continued down their backs. As they hurried past, the taper’s light made the shadows of each scale stretch and twist. The hollow knights are turning into dragons, she thought.
Descending the “serpentine” steps is certainly suggestive of a descent into hell (shoutout to Pain Killer Jane of the Twitteros) and indeed, below Sansa finds empty suits of armor, the “hollow knights,” turning into dragons. This is fairly obvious moon meteor talk, but I think it’s primarily an important green zombies clue. Think about it: in the Weirwood Goddess series, I think I pretty well established that Nissa Nissa had some sort of connection to the weirwood trees, and that she seems to go into the weirwoodnet when she dies – or perhaps she even helps create it, or make it so that mankind can access it, whatever. Something along those lines seems to be true. And here we have Sansa flying from the scene of the death of the sun and using the Godswood as an escape route while in a dream-like state.
She’s dreaming in the godswood people… and using the godswood and then the serpentine steps as a kind of portal or door to the underworld. Think of all the weirwood doors and gates we’ve seen, some of which are at the Eyrie. There’s a famous one under the Wall too. More to come on this, have no fear.
Recall also that Sansa pulls a dark green cloak out of the bole of an oak, almost like she’s pulling the dark green right out of the wood itself and wearing it. It’s another way of depicting her as entering the trees, and don’t forget that she’s combining the green cloak with a dark brown dress. Then after meeting her psychopomp / fool character, whom we’ll speak of in a moment, Sansa immediately descends the serpentine steps to the dragon underworld. Repeat: Nissa Nissa dies, and uses the weirwoods as a door to enter some sort of dragon-like afterlife or underworld.
And gosh, we’ve seen this show before, haven’t we? Here again I am drawing upon the Weirwood Goddess series, where we saw that Cat, playing the Nissa Nissa role, symbolically “goes into the weirwoodnet” by attaining the weirwood stigmata at the Red Wedding – and she was also guided along by a fool, just as Sansa was. Her next stop is a sort of dragon / weirwood underworld, the hollow hill formerly inhabited by Beric, the flaming sword hero who passed on his flame of life to wake Cat as Lady Stoneheart. The weirwood cave symbolism is explicit, and the dragon symbolism comes by way of Beric’s many parallels to Bloodraven, Jon Snow, Azor Ahai, and the Night’s Watch. I’ve said before that Cat in her Stoneheart form represents the ghost of Nissa Nissa, existing inside the weirwoodnet, just as the similarly white-haired and red-eyed Ghost of the High Heart does by haunting the circle of weirwood stumps atop the hill whose name she bears. Playing the part of Lady Stoneheart’s green zombie Night’s Watchmen are of course the Brotherhood without banners, the knights of the hollow hill.
Hollow hill, hollow hill… wasn’t there just a line about hollow knights turning into dragons in Sansa’s underworld scene? Indeed, these are entirely matching scenes, with Sansa’s hollow dragon knights doing the same thing that Stoneheart’s Knights of the Hollow Hill do – playing the role of her green zombies. Those zombies are hollow shells until they are raised, and that is exactly what’s happening with Sansa beneath the Red Keep. Sansa is symbolically raising the hollow knights from the dead by walking past with the light that makes their shadows move. This is also comparable to another fire queen Nissa Nissa, Melisandre, when she goes beneath Storm’s End to birth the shadowbaby in a cave. The cave “mouth” in the white rock “face” and a couple of other things gave that cave weirwood symbolism, with Melisandre playing the weirwood goddess and animating a black shadow inside just as Sansa does beneath the Red Keep. As we’ve seen many times, the shadowbabies and the Black Brothers of the Night’s Watch have heavily overlapping symbolism.
In totality, what I see happening here is Sansa playing the role of the fire moon maiden, whom we also know as the weirwood goddess, dying and descending into the underworld, where she is able to raise dragons from the dead. These are the first Night’s Watch zombies, whom we already know to have dragon and shadow symbolism. The parallels to her mother in her Lady Stoneheart form, as well as Melisandre, really make the symbolism pop… and say… if Sansa must became “Alayne Stone” in her heart, as Petyr tells her she must… wouldn’t Sansa be a stone-heart too?
The next paragraph in Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing chapter gives us more great netherworld imagery:
One more stair took them to an oaken door banded with iron. “Be strong now, my Jonquil, you are almost there.” When Dontos lifted the bar and pulled open the door, Sansa felt a cold breeze on her face. She passed through twelve feet of wall, and then she was outside the castle, standing at the top of the cliff. Below was the river, above the sky, and one was as black as the other.
Oh boy. Comparing the sky to a see or river kinda jumps off the page for us mythical astronomers. We modern humans use the term “space ship” because space has always been conceived of as a kind of black, cosmic ocean. This cosmic ocean idea often serves as a metaphor for the netherworld, something we’ve touched on before in other essays. Compare this scene to one of Dany’s visions from the House of the Undying from ACOK:
Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars.
A dark stream winding through the Dothraki “sea” and a sea of stars above. There’s a match to this in Dany’s wake the dragon dream from AGOT as well which again plays up the “Dothraki Sea” idea with rippling water language:
She saw sunlight on the Dothraki sea, the living plain, rich with the smells of earth and death. Wind stirred the grasses, and they rippled like water. Drogo held her in strong arms, and his hand stroked her sex and opened her and woke that sweet wetness that was his alone, and the stars smiled down on them, stars in a daylight sky. “Home,” she whispered as he entered her and filled her with his seed, but suddenly the stars were gone, and across the blue sky swept the great wings, and the world took flame.
Sun and moon copulate, then the dragons take wing, the world takes flame, and the stars are hidden. Standard stuff – the waves of night and moon blood have been let loose. That’s what’s going on in Sansa’s scene too – she’s just let loose all kinds of darkness and moon blood at the Red Wedding, and now she’s entering that dark, starless stream. Once out on the water, Sansa remarks to herself that “they had the dark river all to themselves,” like Dany in the Dothraki Sea after the lights go out.
Fortunately, they have a handy guide through this dark sea – the Merling King! Who else, right? Well, before we get to that, Sansa has to climb down the cliff face, and we see her beginning to turn cold:
Sansa dared not look down. She kept her eyes on the face of the cliff, making certain of each step before reaching for the next. The stone was rough and cold. Sometimes she could feel her fingers slipping, and the handholds were not as evenly spaced as she would have liked. The bells would not stop ringing. Before she was halfway down her arms were trembling and she knew that she was going to fall. One more step, she told herself, one more step. She had to keep moving. If she stopped, she would never start again, and dawn would find her still clinging to the cliff, frozen in fear. One more step, and one more step.
The ground took her by surprise. She stumbled and fell, her heart pounding. When she rolled onto her back and stared up at from where she had come, her head swam dizzily and her fingers clawed at the dirt.
So first it’s just the stone that’s cold, but Sansa Stark is turning into Alayne Stone, so soon she imagines herself frozen to the cliff when the dawn comes. Hello, Dawn = original Ice of House Stark theory. Heck, the idea of Dawn finding Nissa Nissa frozen kinda sounds like Dawn as Lightbringer stabbing Nissa Nissa and taking all her fire and warmth, or perhaps some sort of icy analog to that story involving Night’s Queen. Then we have falling moon maiden language, as the ground takes her by surprise and she stumbles and falls, her ‘heart of a fallen star’ “pounding” as she hits. Her head “swims dizzily,” implying the severed head moon meteor symbol and the idea of the moon or moon meteors drowning, a la the sea dragon and the drowned goddess ideas. Remember, she’s about to have the dark river to herself.
Think also of Dany immersing herself in the black waters of the Womb of the World as the reflection of the moon seems to swim on the lake with her – that’s the same symbolism as Sansa descending into the black river of darkness here. Right before Dany did that, she manifested incredible weirwood stigmata symbolism when she eats the horse heart, and this strongly implies Dany as a Nissa Nissa entering the weirwoodnet, just as Sansa goes through the godswood during her escape. And yes I am holding out on you bigtime by summarizing that in one sentence. Don’t worry, a full episode on Dany’s strange and abundant greenseer symbolism is coming soon. For now I just want to point out the pattern of “entering the weirwoodnet” symbolism being followed by “entering the dark river / sea / pond / lake etc.” symbolism. Heck, Cat’s body is thrown in the Green Fork of the Trident after she is killed at the Trident, before winding up inside her weirwood cave with a bunch of fire worshipers.
Next up, after Oswell rows them past all the drowned and broken ships that were destroyed during the Battle of the Blackwater, we catch sight of the Merling King:
The eastern sky was vague with the first hint of dawn when Sansa finally saw a ghostly shape in the darkness ahead; a trading galley, her sails furled, moving slowly on a single bank of oars. As they drew closer, she saw the ship’s figurehead, a merman with a golden crown blowing on a great seashell horn.
Ah, so it’s a ghost ship, a perfect psychopomp symbol to ferry our moon maiden across the river Styx to her new home on ice moon world. Pay no attention to the “great seashell horn” he’s blowing, I’m sure that has nothing to do with magical horns or waking the sleepers. Actually, it’s a perfect callout to another Nissa Nissa moon maiden being given a death transformation scene… while backed up against a tree. It’s one of my very favorites, so let’s quote it:
And then her back came up hard against a tree, and she could dance no more. The wolf raised the axe above his head to split her head in two. Asha tried to slip to her right, but her feet were tangled in some roots, trapping her. She twisted, lost her footing, and the axehead crunched against her temple with a scream of steel on steel. The world went red and black and red again. Pain crackled up her leg like lightning, and far away she heard her northman say, “You bloody cunt,” as he lifted up his axe for the blow that would finish her.
A trumpet blew.
That’s wrong, she thought. There are no trumpets in the Drowned God’s watery halls. Below the waves the merlings hail their lord by blowing into seashells.
She dreamt of red hearts burning, and a black stag in a golden wood with flame streaming from his antlers.
Wowee the Nissa Nissa / weirwood goddess symbolism is strong here – Asha is backed up against a tree like a weirwood sacrifice (she’s “tangled in the roots” even!), and she’s struck a lightning-like blow that makes the world go red and black and red again (think of the Storm God’s thunderbolt setting the tree ablaze). Then, just like Sansa dreaming in the godswood during her transformation, Asha dreams after her weirwood sacrifice routine and sees Azor Ahai himself, the fiery black stag in the golden wood. Then, just as Sansa follows up her transformation in the godswood by entering the dark river and catching sight of the Merling King and his seashell horn, Asha thinks of merlings and seashell horns and the Drowned God’s watery halls.
The message here is clear, at least the basics of it: Nissa Nissa dies, then she enters the weirwoodnet, which seems to act as a portal to various types of underworld places – a dark dungeon with hollow dragon knights or a hollow hill with fire-worshiping knights, or a dark river or stream or lake or sea. Usually, we get a combination.
There’s a strong implication that this isn’t the endpoint of the journey, however, and this is definitely true for Sansa. She’s headed to the ice moon place known as the Eyrie, which is where she seems to diverge from her mother’s Nissa Nissa arc, as Stoneheart is still down in her warm and toasty R’hllor cave running on fire magic. That could always change in the future of course.. ..more on this to come. Sansa however only briefly passes through the godswood and dragon underworld before she’s on to the dark river and the Merling King on the way to the Eyrie.
After Sansa is safely aboard the Merling King, shivering though she is, it’s time to reward to fool version of Azor Ahai for offering up his wife in sacrifice. That’s right, I’m talking about Dontos – Dontos the Red, that is. The red sot of heroes! This is a bit a side branch, but a necessary one. Of course you will remember that Petyr Baelish doubles crosses Dontos in front of Sansa and promptly murders him as soon as Sansa is aboard. This scene is actually a parallel to the Red Wedding, where another Azor Ahai fool figure, Aegon Frey a.k.a. Jinglebell, was executed at the same time that another fire moon / weirwood goddess figure, Cat, symbolically enters the weirwoodnet. That’s right, it’s another Sansa – Cat parallel, and there are plenty more.
As for Dontos the fool as Azor Ahai, not too confusing as long as you remember that more than one person can play the same archetypal role. In other words, just because Joffrey is Sansa’s dying solar king at the re d wedding doesn’t mean Dontos can’t also play an Azor Ahai role for Sansa here. Hearken back to the scene in King’s Landing where Dontos tries to shield Sansa from the Kingsguard abuse. The symbolism is pretty easy to recognize:
“Let me beat her!” Ser Dontos shoved forward, tin armor clattering. He was armed with a “morningstar” whose head was a melon. My Florian. She could have kissed him, blotchy skin and broken veins and all. He trotted his broomstick around her, shouting “Traitor, traitor” and whacking her over the head with the melon. Sansa covered herself with her hands, staggering every time the fruit pounded her, her hair sticky by the second blow. People were laughing. The melon flew to pieces. Laugh, Joffrey, she prayed as the juice ran down her face and the front of her blue silk gown. Laugh and be satisfied.
So here’s Dontos the red hitting Sansa with a morningstar at Joffrey’s request – it’s actually as if Dontos is the comet, wielded against the fire moon by the solar king, Joffrey. That’s something we’ve seen before – sometimes a solar figure holding a sword represents both sun and comet, other times the sun and its comet are the king and someone acting as the king’s sword. The latter scenario is what’s happening here – you’ve got admit the melon morningstar is a real prize winner (that’s another melon joke). It’s actual a lot like when the Catspaw assassin attacked Catelyn, but was really acting as a “cat’s paw” of Joffrey, and there too we saw the Catspaw as the comet wielded by the solar king. Later on, after Dontos’s death, Petyr calls Dontos his catspaw, which creates another parallel between Sansa and Cat. Cat was given weirwood stigmata by the Catspaw assassin at Winterfell, and Sansa was given weirwood stigmata by catspaw Dontos’s morningstar melon.
In any case, we have seen before that there is indeed one version of Azor Ahai who seems to be a sacrificed fool, and I believe this implies Azor Ahai foolishly seeking after the fire of the gods. He sacrificed his moon maiden wife, as well as the actual fire moon, to do so… then reaped the consequences, which included his death. Another way I’ve said this is that Azor Ahai kills Nissa Nissa to create an entrance into the weirwoodnet, then enters himself… which he does by being sacrificed to the tree. Just as with the mythical astronomy story, both the sun and moon “die” in a sort of chain reaction event.
You’ll notice that Sansa thinks of Dontos as her Florian, which implies them as man and wife and makes the metaphor even better. Sansa is literally thinking “My Florian” as he hits her with a morningstar, which gives us a willing Nissa Nissa sacrifice scenario that stands in stark contrast to the abusive Azor – Nissa relationship depicted by Joffrey and Sansa or Petyr and Sansa.
Dontos is a fool, just like Jinglebell, and Martin even has the city bells ring as Dontos first appears to Sansa in the godswood as they escape King’s Landing to enhance the vibe:
She heard a faint rustle of leaves, and stuffed the silver hair net down deep in the pocket of her cloak. “Who’s there?” she cried. “Who is it?” The godswood was dim and dark, and the bells were ringing Joff into his grave. “Me.” He staggered out from under the trees, reeling drunk. He caught her arm to steady himself. “Sweet Jonquil, I’ve come. Your Florian has come, don’t be afraid.”
We can imagine Dontos with ringing bells, like Aegon Jinglebell or even Patchface. Dontos emerges amidst the rustling of the leaves in the godswood, implying greenseer talk, and then “staggers” out from “under the trees.” These are both greenseer clues, indicating the fool figure as a stag man – like Patchface, who wears an antlered helm – and a greenseer who lives “under the trees.” Again the Florian – Jonquil dynamic is mentioned, reemphasizing Dontos as playing a husband role to Sansa’s Nissa Nissa.
So, Dontos is a foolish stag-man Azor Ahai, and as it turns out, he is indeed selling his Nissa Nissa’s life in return for dragons… which sound like meteors:
“Lord Petyr,” Dontos called from the boat. “I must needs row back, before they think to look for me.”
Petyr Baelish put a hand on the rail. “But first you’ll want your payment. Ten thousand dragons, was it?”
“Ten thousand.” Dontos rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. “As you promised, my lord.”
“Ser Lothor, the reward.” Lothor Brune dipped his torch. Three men stepped to the gunwale, raised crossbows, fired. One bolt took Dontos in the chest as he looked up, punching through the left crown on his surcoat. The others ripped into throat and belly. It happened so quickly neither Dontos nor Sansa had time to cry out. When it was done, Lothor Brune tossed the torch down on top of the corpse. The little boat was blazing fiercely as the galley moved away.
“You killed him.” Clutching the rail, Sansa turned away and retched. Had she escaped the Lannisters to tumble into worse?
“My lady,” Littlefinger murmured, “your grief is wasted on such a man as that. He was a sot, and no man’s friend.”
“But he saved me.”
“He sold you for a promise of ten thousand dragons. Your disappearance will make them suspect you in Joffrey’s death. The gold cloaks will hunt, and the eunuch will jingle his purse. Dontos … well, you heard him. He sold you for gold, and when he’d drunk it up he would have sold you again. A bag of dragons buys a man’s silence for a while, but a well-placed quarrel buys it forever.”
He got the answer wrong – he should have asked for a thousand thousand dragons. As you can see, foolish Azor Ahai has sold his moon maiden for a bag of dragons – that’s pretty great meteor shower stuff, I mean he’s literally converting a Nissa Nissa figure into a spherical object containing dragons. Petyr, however, foresees him as “drinking up” these hard-won moon dragons which represent the fire of the gods. In other words, Dontos is seeking the fire of the gods, and he wants to consume it. But that kills him of course, as it always does, and we can see that his ten thousand dragons turns out to be three projectiles, much in the way that the thousand thousand dragons of Quarthine myth are symbolized by Dany’s three dragons. The archers shooting down from above in a surprise betrayal attack is yet another parallel to the Red Wedding which really seems obvious once you notice it.
As for Sansa hurling over the rail… well, whenever a moon maiden wretches, that’s just what you think it is, the moon face cracking open to pour forth rivers of unpleasant things. It works in parallel to the dragon arrows descending from above.
Just as Cat was thrown into the river after the Red Wedding, we have yet another stranger mockery or facsimile of the Tully funeral rights as the boat containing Dontos, now corpse-Dontos, is set on fire. More importantly, this is a screamingly obvious sea dragon clue, a parallel to the burning wooden gods of the Seven which had been made from the masts of Targaryen ships. This is Azor Ahai entering the weirwoodnet, obtaining the fire of the gods, and undergoing fire transformation, as we have seen countless times before. The Grey King possessing the fire of the sea dragon, which is both a weirwood boat and burning tree.
Alright, well that does it for that chapter. It’s time to set sail for Petyr’s ancestral home on the fingers!
Petey Got Fingered
This next section is sponsored by four more priests and priestesses of Starry Wisdom: Patchface of Motley Wisdom; Obscured by Klowds, the Mayor of Walrusville, guest of the Yupik, and servant of Bodhi; Nyessa the Water Nymph, Goddess of Pain and Mercy; and Jancylee, Lady of the Waves, Bear-Mama of the Sacred Den
The next chapter is really all about Petyr Baelish, and to a lesser extent, Lysa. The chapter begins with the Merling King drawing close to the shore near Petyr’s meager holdings on the Fingers, which is the name for the series of stony peninsulas on the northwest coast of the Vale. For the most part, this place seems to serve as an analog to the Eyrie, with the same symbolism in miniature. The main features are sheep, sheep shit, and stones – Petyr calls himself “Lord of Sheepshit and Master of the Drearfort,” for example. A moment later he comments that “The Fingers are a lovely place, if you happen to be a stone,” which is actually ironic, since Sansa is changing her name to Alayne Stone. A stone in the fingers… are we talking about throwing rocks? #IceMoonApocalypse! Oh, sorry, too soon, too soon. Petyr also quips that “No one has made off with any of my rocks or sheep pellets, I see that plainly.”
So, I do, do apologize, butt I must break the seal on the #2 symbolism. By which I mean… well, the sheep pellets. First the sheep, how about that. Sheep are interesting for two reasons: Craster sacrifices sheep to the Others when he doesn’t have any male sons handy, which sort of implies the Others (Crasters sons) as analogous to sheep in some sense, and indeed, a couple of people (like SweetSunray) have done research along those lines. Craster, the father of at least a handful of white walkers, himself wears sheepskin and has curly white body hair as well. The other thing that’s interesting about sheep is that they have black skin and white wool, so they are a nice visual depiction of a black fire moon meteor dragon locked in ice. A black sheep locked in wool, I suppose it would be. Think of Jon when he goes over to the Others as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing:
Jon wheeled and followed Tormund back toward the head of the column, his new cloak hanging heavy from his shoulders. It was made of unwashed sheepskins, worn fleece side in, as the wildlings suggested. It kept the snow off well enough, and at night it was good and warm, but he kept his black cloak as well, folded up beneath his saddle.
Jon going north of the Wall is definitely one symbolic depiction of him going into the ice, under the ice, beyond the icy veil or curtain, and so and so forth. Slapping a sheepskin on him works on a few levels, as you can see: it depicts Jon’s locked in ice status, it makes the excellent ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ joke, and it shows Jon as a kind of ‘good Other,’ armored in ice, if you will. But hidden away under his saddle is his black cloak, just as Jon retains his true identity as brother of the Watch.
One other thing about sheep: the Valyrians were shepherds before they were dragonlords! Does this imply Azor Ahai as the shepherd of the Others? Perhaps, perhaps, or you might say that Azor Ahai-turned-Night’s King is like the sheep all-father, like Craster.
So, that’s my take on sheep, they represent the ice moon and the Others, and those black sheep pellets would represent the expulsion of the ‘dragons’ locked in the ice, I believe. That’s why Petyr mentions the pellets in the same breath with the stones a few times, because they’re basically the same thing, moon meteor pellets and stones. Petyr remarks upon the familiar scent of the “dung fire” in the hearth, which implies them as burning moon meteors in the hearth… sounds like some Bloodstone Emperor magic to me.
The more interesting Petyr Baelish symbolism awaits inside, above that very hearth:
Above the hearth hung a broken longsword and a battered oaken shield, its paint cracked and flaking.
The device painted on the shield was one Sansa did not know; a grey stone head with fiery eyes, upon a light green field. “My grandfather’s shield,” Petyr explained when he saw her gazing at it. “His own father was born in Braavos and came to the Vale as a sellsword in the hire of Lord Corbray, so my grandfather took the head of the Titan as his sigil when he was knighted.”
“It’s very fierce,” said Sansa.
“Rather too fierce, for an amiable fellow like me,” said Petyr. “I much prefer my mockingbird.”
Remember the Ghost of High Heart speaking of Sansa slaying a savage castle in a castle built of snow? Well, it’s commonly held in the fandom that Petyr is that giant, via his Titan of Braavos head sigil. He rules atop the Giant’s Lance once he becomes Lord Protector of the Eyrie, which you can think of as the head of the giant mountain, perhaps. Gregor Clegane, the Mountain of a man who parallels the Giant’s Lance, has his head removed, supposedly, and here’s Petyr with the Titan of Braavos’s severed head on his old sigil.
Of course we know what beheadings are all about in mythical astronomy: it signifies solar and lunar death. The sun and moon are quite often seen as floating faces with invisible bodies of course, so beheading a moon person amounts to plucking the moon from the sky. Gregor Clegane is a fire moon warrior before his beheading, and only afterward does he get locked in snow white armor, so his beheading is the same symbolism as him breaking off his giant’s lance in Ser Hugh’s throat. Put it this way: imagine the dark stone of the Giant’s Lance as the decapitated head of the fire moon giant, crash-landed in the snow. That’s what Petyr represents: his family comes to the Vale with the fiery-eyed Titan head, but it gets caught in the grasp of the Fingers of the Vale, and finally, the icy Eyrie itself. The Titan Head is also implied as sinking into the sea, as it appears on a light green field. Petyr then swaps it for the mockingbird, and mockingbird folklore in the real world turns out to be closely related to mermaids and sirens. All of them share one key personality trait: they lure and entrap the unwary, often luring them to their doom. You can quickly see who this kind of folklore is a natural fit for Petyr.
Let me explain as briefly as I can.
We’ve talked about mermaids before – when the moon goddess is depicted as falling into the sea, as in the sea dragon myth and the related scene with Dany dipping into the Womb of the World, she can be scene as becoming a mermaid or sea goddess. That’s our best reading of the Elenei / Durran Godsgrief legend, where Durran steals the daughter of the wind and sea gods, who must logically be an aquatic figure, which provokes the divine wrath of the gods in the form of tremendous storms. I believe this is simply another version of the idea of a power greenseer magician stealing the moon goddess, who becomes a mermaid. The Grey King, notorious godly fire-stealer, also marries a mermaid, and to me this reads as yet another way of implying that the Grey King possess moon meteor mojo – probably the Seastone Chair, that oily black thing that dropped out Cthulhu land and landed on the shores of Old Wyk.
Here’s the thing about mermaid legends, which are plentiful and rich in nature: they almost always revolve around the idea of forbidden love based on the idea that mermaids cannot really be happy out of the sea and humans cannot be happy in it. Often the mermaid or siren is luring and entrapping humans to chase them under the sea, and sometimes it’s the other way around, with the human trapping the mermaid or selkie on land, which, spoiler alert, doesn’t usually work out. Martin references some of this in an old Andal legend of their founding hero, Hugor of the Hill, here named as Hukko:
An old legend told in Pentos claims that the Andals slew the swan maidens who lured travelers to their deaths in the Velvet Hills that lie to the east of the Free City. A hero whom the Pentoshi singers call Hukko led the Andals at that time, and it is said that he slew the seven maids not for their crimes but instead as sacrifice to his gods. There are some maesters who have noted that Hukko may well be a rendering of the name of Hugor.
Here Hugor / Hukko is slaying the swan maidens, and as you can see, they are doing the siren thing of luring travelers to their doom. Interestingly, elsewhere, Hugo Hill marries an aquatic woman instead of slaying one, and this is Tyrion reciting form the Seven-Pointed Star in ADWD:
“The Maid brought him forth a girl as supple as a willow with eyes like deep blue pools, and Hugor declared that he would have her for his bride.”
Willow trees grow near water, and their mythology reflects this by associating willow trees with water and the moon. Hecate, the Greek Goddess of the moon and sorcery, is associated with the willow. Together with the eyes like blue pools, Hugor’s maiden is definitely an aquatic figure. Point being, as is so often the case, the line between fucking and fighting is quite blurry with Hugor, as he’s both killing and marrying aquatic maidens. It’s the same with Durran ane Elenei; his claiming of Elenei form the gods dooms her to a mortal’s life span, and thus Durran is killing her as well as marrying her. That kind of fits the whole Azor Ahai Nissa Nissa vibe, and of course the celestial analog of the sun killing his wife, the moon.
One other point on willows: they’re often called “weeping willows,” which is just kind of convenient for the symbolism George already has going.
Oh, and I suppose I should mention this line about Sansa’s eyes from AFFC:
Petyr studied her eyes, as if seeing them for the first time. “You have your mother’s eyes. Honest eyes, and innocent. Blue as a sunlit sea. When you are a little older, many a man will drown in those eyes.”
Sansa did not know what to say to that.
Ok, well, a sunlit sea isn’t quite a blue pool, but of you realize that it’s much the same symbol. And look, Sansa’s trying to drown men in her sunlit sit, just like a swan maiden of Andal legend. Best of all, Sansa, like the willowy maiden of Andal legend, is also married to Hugor Hill:
Yollo? Yollo sounds like something you might name a monkey. Worse, it was a Pentoshi name, and any fool could see that Tyrion was no Pentoshi. “In Pentos I am Yollo,” he said quickly, to make what amends he could, “but my mother named me Hugor Hill.”
“Are you a little king or a little bastard?” asked Haldon.
Ha ha, that was from ADWD, and Haldon’s question refers to the the fact that Hugor Hill is the name of the greatest and first Andal King, but also that “Hill” is the bastard name in the Westerlands as “Snow” is in the north and “Stone” is in the Vale. And of course my little joke was that Sansa is technically married to Tyrion, or was, or however that works, which kind of ties a neat little bow on the aquatic lady symbolism.
So here’s where Petyr and Mockingbirds come in: the mockingbird does the same things sirens and swan maidens. Real mockingbirds are of course known for their amazing and uncanny ability to perfectly mimic a wide variety of sounds, even complex sounds like the shutter flash of an expensive camera (a sound some birds hear a lot!). This naturally gives rise to mockingbird legends where the mockingbird uses its false impressions to lure people to their doom, something like like a siren or mermaid.
If you stop and think about it, you will realize that that is exactly what Petyr does! I mean, he doesn’t wander the Red Keep trying to fool Varys by projecting his voice around corners or pretending to be Cersei or something. But he does use false words to lure the Starks, time and time again. First, he and Lysa lure Ned and crew to King’s Landing after murdering Jon Arryn and then blaming the Lannisters in the letter Cat and Ned receive at the beginning of AGOT. This is the major mechanism of plot movement in the opening act of the story, and it’s straight up Mockingbird / siren / mermaid behavior in that he uses Lysa’s voice, one the Starks trust, to lie and lure the Starks to King’s Landing, whereupon he lies some more to Ned and then betrays him. All of this comes acrooss very strongly in a nightmare Ned has while he’s imprisoned in the black cells beneath the Red Keep, which is of course largely Littlefinger’s doing:
The king heard him. “You stiff-necked fool,” he muttered, “too proud to listen. Can you eat pride, Stark? Will honor shield your children?” Cracks ran down his face, fissures opening in the flesh, and he reached up and ripped the mask away. It was not Robert at all; it was Littlefinger, grinning, mocking him. When he opened his mouth to speak, his lies turned to pale grey moths and took wing.
Moths are almost always death symbols, so here we see the mockingbird behavior summed up: Petyr mocks, and lies are like death and entrapment, as it has for Ned. Note also that Robert is a solar stag-man king all the way, and here we see him dying and giving way to the face of the dark solar king. That’s a great bit of mythical astronomy visualization, there.
After luring Ned and Cat, he lures / abducts Sansa to the Eyrie, and his doing so aboard the Merling King brings the mermaid symbolism back into the pict– excuse me, mer-MAN, sorry. Blue steel jokes aside, Petyr is both a mockingbird and a Merling King, luring Sansa with lies. Recall his light grey-green eyes, the colors of the sea.
Going back to the Titan head, we can see the full picture. The severed Titan’s head on green shows us a fiery moon meteor landing in the sea, and its transformation into the mockingbird / Merling King depicts the moon meteor as having turned into a denizen of that ‘sea’ who is now luring others in. Or, translating to ice moon and Vale language, we can say Petyr is at first like a fiery titan head meteor landing in the ice of the Vale, like the Giant’s Lance, whereupon he takes up residence there and lures and entraps Others.
In terms of Long Night archetypes, I bet you can guess who Petyr Baelish is playing the role of: Night’s King, of course! We mentioned this super briefly in A Baelish Bard and A Promised Prince, but the name bael is the calling card of figures who steal Night’s Queen figures, who are often bards. There’s, well, Bael the Bard, who ‘steals’ a blue-rose associated daughter of Winterfell, only it turns out they were in love and had a son who became the Lord of Winterfell and later killed Bael. Then in ADWD, Mance Raydar, a bard king beyond the Wall in the image of Bael, sneaks into Winterfell as Bael did, wearing the name Abel, an anagram Bael. His mission was to rescue who he thought was Arya Stark, only it turns out to be the pale and corpse-like Jeyne Poole, a most unfortunate Night’s Queen figure.
Rhaegar is perhaps the most important Bael figure, even though he doesn’t have the name. He is a bard-king, and of course he has a ton of Night’s King symbolism as we learned in the Moons of Ice and Fire series, and most famously, he ‘abducts’ Lyanna Stark of the blue winter rose, though of course they may well have been in love and absconded together.
So here we have Sansa, abducted from King’s Landing by a Bael figure, Petyr Baelish. Petyr isn’t a singer, but the other person who tries to come on to Sansa in a creepy way besides Petyr is a bard, and that of course would be Marillion the singer. Marillion and Petyr’s stories come together in the high hall of the Eyrie when Marillion takes the fall for Lysa’s murder, which was actually committed by Petyr. When Petyr comes on to Sansa in the snow castle scene and kisses her, she thinks that he acting like Marillion. In other words, the symbolism is shuffled around a bit, but we still have the Bael element and the bard element, and the abduction of a Stark maiden. There’s a callout to Lyanna as Marillion escorts Sansa to the throne room for her confrontation with Lysa:
“Do you require guarding?” Marillion said lightly. “I am composing a new song, you should know. A song so sweet and sad it will melt even your frozen heart. “The Roadside Rose,’ I mean to call it. About a baseborn girl so beautiful she bewitched every man who laid eyes upon her.”
I am a Stark of Winterfell, she longed to tell him.
She’s a Stark of Winterfell with a frozen heart who’s also a rose – a winter rose, in other words. Oh and Sansa is a witch. Well, maybe not Sansa, and maybe not Lyanna, but Night’s Queen or Nissa Nissa, yes, they’ve definitely got a witchy vibe going on.
The passage that really makes Petyr’s solar king-turned-Night’s King status is this one from AGOT, one which really sets the tone for Petyr as a character overall, and is thus worth quoting in full.
If ever truly a man had armored himself in gold, it was Petyr Baelish, not Jaime Lannister. Jaime’s famous armor was but gilded steel, but Littlefinger, ah . . . Tyrion had learned a few things about sweet Petyr, to his growing disquiet.
Ten years ago, Jon Arryn had given him a minor sinecure in customs, where Lord Petyr had soon distinguished himself by bringing in three times as much as any of the king’s other collectors. King Robert had been a prodigious spender. A man like Petyr Baelish, who had a gift for rubbing two golden dragonstogether to breed a third, was invaluable to his Hand. Littlefinger’s rise had been arrow-swift. Within three years of his coming to court, he was master of coin and a member of the small council, and today the crown’s revenues were ten times what they had been under his beleaguered predecessor . . . though the crown’s debts had grown vast as well. A master juggler was Petyr Baelish.
Oh, he was clever. He did not simply collect the gold and lock it in a treasure vault, no. He paid the king’s debts in promises, and put the king’s gold to work. He bought wagons, shops, ships, houses. He bought grain when it was plentiful and sold bread when it was scarce. He bought wool from the north and linen from the south and lace from Lys, stored it, moved it, dyed it, sold it. The golden dragons bred and multiplied, and Littlefinger lent them out and brought them home with hatchlings.
So, Petyr is armored in gold and breeds dragons… You see how clever Martin was to name a mundane thing like a coin after a dragon; it allows him to say things like “so and so really has a knack for breeding dragons” and we don’t think about Valyria or genetic blood magic experimentation or anything. Clever, clever man. And Petyr’s cast as clever man too here, of course, hinting at his Loki-like nature.
In terms of mythical astronomy, rubbing two dragons together to breed more equates to smashing the comet dragon into the moon mother of dragons, upon which time all the baby dragon moon meteors are born. The one who “rubs” the comet against the moon is usually seen as the sun, and indeed, Petyr is armored in gold and compared to an obvious solar king figure, Tywin. But when the comet is rubbed against the moon – sorry if that sounds raunchy, it’s meant to – the sun dies, or we can say it turns into the dark sun, which we think of as the Lion of Night, who came out during the Long Night after the “Maiden Made of Light” – the bright face of the sun – hid her face from the world. Sometime we sun a bright solar king turn dark, but sometimes the bright and dark sun are separate people, such as with the Maiden Made of Light and the Lion of Night. So where is the Lion of Night during the day?
Well, he’s invisible. He’s hiding, out there beyond the atmosphere in the darkness of space. The “night sun” can also be thought of as the darkness of space, and indeed, the Lion of Night is basically interchangeable with the Stranger, whom I always think of as deep space or the night sky, mainly because of this passage from ACOK:
And the seventh face . . . the Stranger was neither male nor female, yet both, ever the outcast, the wanderer from far places, less and more than human, unknown and unknowable. Here the face was a black oval, a shadow with stars for eyes.
That was Lady Catelyn in a small local sept right before Renly’s murder. A black shadow with star eyes sounds like we are looking at the face of outer space, and since comets are called wandering stars right in the prologue of ACOK, the wanderer from far places sounds like a comet coming from deep space!
All of which is a kind of trippy way to say that in a certain sense, you can see the Lion of Night or the Stranger as the hiding out in the darkness of space during the day, sending the comet to kill the moon and the sun. THAT is what Petyr did at the Purple Wedding! He hid out, nowhere near the scene of the crime, and orchestrated catspaws – who are comet figures – to kill the sun and steal the moon away to the underworld. That’s why we meet Petyr on the ghost ship Merling King, which floats on the dark river. The dark river is an underworld place, and parallels the black ocean of space as we mentioned earlier, so we can see that the very idea of a Merling King implies a king of the dark ocean underworld, more or less.
Alright, now that we have all the symbolism of giants and mockingbirds and mermaids and mermen, plus a little nod to Lyanna Stark, let’s get back to the chapter at hand and discover yet another mythological reference that implies Petyr as trying to lure and entrap Sansa, and that is of course the pomegranate!
Grisel reappeared before he could say more, balancing a large platter. She set it down between them. There were apples and pears and pomegranates, some sad-looking grapes, a huge blood orange. The old woman had brought a round of bread as well, and a crock of butter. Petyr cut a pomegranate in two with his dagger, offering half to Sansa. “You should try and eat, my lady.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Pomegranate seeds were so messy; Sansa chose a pear instead, and took a small delicate bite. It was very ripe. The juice ran down her chin.
Lord Petyr loosened a seed with the point of his dagger. “You must miss your father terribly, I know. Lord Eddard was a brave man, honest and loyal … but quite a hopeless player.” He brought the seed to his mouth with the knife.
This is one of the more well-known references to external mythology, the pomegranate of the Persephone and Hades myth. It’s also incredibly good news for Sansa fans that she chooses not to eat the pomegranate! In any case, here is the super-condensed version of the Persephone myth for those who might not know it or might not remember it well. I’m going to use the one from Theoi.com because it’s concise and I couldn’t really do any better that they have already:
Persephone was the goddess queen of the underworld, wife of the god Haides(Hades). She was also the goddess of spring growth, who was worshipped alongside her mother Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries. This agricultural-based cult promised its initiates passage to a blessed afterlife.
Persephone was titled Kore (Core) (“the Maiden”) as the goddess of spring’s bounty. Once upon a time when she was playing in a flowery meadow with her Nymph companions, Kore was seized by Haides and carried off to the underworld as his bride. Her mother Demeter despaired at her disappearance and searched for her the throughout the world accompanied by the goddess Hekate (Hecate) bearing torches. When she learned that Zeus had conspired in her daughter’s abduction she was furious, and refused to let the earth fruit until Persephone was returned. Zeus consented, but because the girl had tasted of the food of Hades–a handful of pomegranate seeds–she was forced to forever spend a part of the year with her husband in the underworld. Her annual return to the earth in spring was marked by the flowering of the meadows and the sudden growth of the new grain. Her return to the underworld in winter, conversely, saw the dying down of plants and the halting of growth.
In other myths, Persephone appears exclusively as the queen of the underworld, receiving the likes of Herakles and Orpheus at her court.
Persephone was usually depicted as a young goddess holding sheafs of grain and a flaming torch.
So there you have it – it’s pretty straightforward cycle of the seasons mythology. Demeter is an earth-mother type fertility goddess, which is why she can stop the earth from flowering when she is displeased by the absence of her daughter, who personifies the Spring. Stealing her is somewhat the idea of Night’s King stealing Dawn during the Long Night, if you will. The key thing is the pomegranate – eating the seeds is what binds Persephone to the underworld, for whatever reason. This is the reason why one of Jon Snow’s killers, Bowen Marsh, is nicknamed “the Old Pomegranate” – he sends Jon right along to the underworld, if you will. Sansa however, she wisely refuses to eat Petyr’s pomegranate seeds.
I suggested Petyr as a Night’s King figure, and it’s not hard to see how that can overlap with the idea of Hades as a Lord of the Underworld, stealing Persephone away from the living world and binding her there with an offer of pomegranate seeds. Petyr himself eats the seeds as he speaks of Eddard in the past tense as a poor player of the game of thrones – but of course it was Petyr who sent Ned along to the underworld more than anyone else. He’s literally picking the seeds out of the fruit as he speaks of Ned’s death, as if Ned were the seed being plucked out of the realm of the living by Petyr. Here we can see George performing a nice synthesis of Persephone/pomegranate symbolism and mockingbird/mermaid symbolism. It’s all about luring and entrapping! Just what Petyr’s good at, that pointy-haired sleazeball.
It shouldn’t surprise you that the symbolism suggests Sansa as not falling into Petyr’s trap, ultimately; that fits with her slaying the savage giant as a foreshadowing of her triumphing over Petyr. The pear she eats is not insignificant either, since pears symbolize immortality in Christian mythology and Chinese mythology as well, because the pear tree will yield fruit for decades. It’s also associated with the divine feminine, goddess such as Aphrodite, who is also called Venus. It’s very much a choice in opposition of eating the pomegranate, and signifies her future escape from the traps and prisons she finds herself in.
A moment later Littlefinger tries again to feed Sansa a messy red fruit, this time a blood orange. Again he cuts it in half and offers one part to Sansa, but this time she takes it. Then we have this funny interplay:
He tilted his chin back and squeezed the blood orange, so the juice ran down into his mouth. “I love the juice but I loathe the sticky fingers,” he complained, wiping his hands. “Clean hands, Sansa. Whatever you do, make certain your hands are clean.”
Sansa spooned up some juice from her own orange.
In other words, Sansa is already learning Petyr’s lesson, using a spoon to drink the blood orange juice so her hands remain clean – as opposed to Petyr, who is caught red-handed here. Petyr is getting the weirwood stigmata, and he’s eating the pomegranate; seems like he’ll be stuck here a while, and probably he will die here in the Vale, I’d guess, or perhaps in another ice moon place like Winterfell. Sansa has clean hands and chose pears over pom seeds, so the prospects for escape are looking good!
Oh, and what’s this (holds finger to earpiece) I’m getting a message… yes, it seems there’s yet more fruit symbolism having to do with Petyr as a thief. That was our good friend from way back in the Westeros.org days, Isobel Harper (@sarahtebazile) buzzing in to say that we need to talk about Idun and her apples of immortality. Thanks Sarah! So, this one is a Norse myth, and Idun is the Norse god of spring and rejuvenation, very like Demeter actually. She was the keeper of the apples of immortality, on which the gods depended to stay young (although they aren’t necessarily apples; in the original tale, the word used is a generic word for fruit). You can guess what happens when she gets kidnapped! The gods grew old and weak, and this would be paralleled in ASOIAF terms by the moon disaster which caused the Long Night of course.
The parallels to Sansa and the Eyrie come with the details of Idun’s abduction. It’s a two-part dirty deed, with Loki the trickster deceiving Idun and luring her out past the walls of Asgard, where she was promptly set upon by the giant Thjazi, who was in league with Loki. Thjazi was disguised as an eagle, and bore her away to his mountain abode. Quoting NorseMytholog .org, “This place was called Thrymheim (“Thunder-Home”), and was situated in the highest mountain peaks, whose icy towers growled down at the fertile fields below.” Sounds like some place we know? I mean, if anything inspired the Eyrie, this seems like it, especially with so much of the Idun kidnapping storyline playing out there. It would seem that Petyr plays the role of both Loki and abducting giant. Petyr doesn’t transform into an eagle, but by becoming Lord Protector of the Vale, he’s essentially pretending to be the Falcon, and obviously he’s abducting Sansa, the Idun figure. Petyr’s parallels to Loki should be abundantly obvious, I am sure, knowing you myth heads as well as I do.
Another great layer to this is the fire of the gods angle brought in by Idun’s fruits of immortality: once again the fire moon figure is implied as the fire of the gods, and Nissa Nissa as the one who can impart the fire of the gods to man. Petyr is therefore not only Loki and the giant kidnapping Idunn, he’s also Lucifer or the Grey King stealing the fire from heaven at great cost to everyone.
Last detail of the story: after Loki helps Thjazi kidnap Idunn, the gods are of course wroth with him and force him to rescue Idunn. Freya lent him her hawk (or falcon) feathers, and this allowed Loki to now transform into a hawk or falcon, depending on the translation. He flies up, finds the giant away and Idunn alone, and transforms her into a chestnut so he can carry her to safety – don’t ask me how he’s able to do that, he just does. You may recall the shade of hair Sansa dyes her auburn red to – that’s right, chestnut brown. It’s mentioned on several occasions, and it seems to really clinch to Idunn – Sansa parallels.
Making a prediction from the myth, I’d look for some sort of Loki and / or falcon symbolism attached to whomever helps Sansa escape the Vale and Petyr’s clutches. I think Sansa will largely engineer her own escape, but doubtless she’ll receive aid from someone. She’s a dragon locked in ice character, and there’s always some sort of symbol of the returning comet which awakens and frees the dragon locked in ice.
Now to the point about her engineering her own escape, consider the Ghost of the High Heart seeing her as a maiden in a castle made of snow slaying a savage giant. Idunn is trapped in a snow castle by a giant, and needs to be rescued – but George is telling us, straight up, that he is going to mess with the myth a bit and that this time it is going to be Idun cutting that mother-effing giant’s head off instead. You gotta like that.
Okay, there’s a tiny bit more I want to say about this chapter before we bring this episode to a close, but I am going to put in a section break and use this last section as a kind of outro.
In the Clutches of the Others
On behalf of Lady Shar, Wielder of the Sacred Shard, Ice Priestess of the House of the Unsleeping, I’d like to welcome three new members of the Starry Wisdom Priesthood: Ser Aenus Frey of the Loudwater, Ridiculous Edd Tollett, the Firebeard of the dragonglass forge, whose eyes are like pale morning mist; and Matthar o’ Moontown, fisher of the Shining Sea
There’s actually quite a lot that goes on in this chapter that we haven’t talked about, and some of it I want to save for when we talk about the snow castle / Lysa flies out the moon door chapter. But there are three things I do want to highlight, starting with a guest appearance by the Hound, Sandor Clegane!
That’s right, Sandor definitely makes an appearance in the back half of this chapter. The first sighting comes in the form of an actual dog:
It was eight long days until Lysa Arryn arrived. On five of them it rained, while Sansa sat bored and restless by the fire, beside the old blind dog. He was too sick and toothless to walk guard with Bryen anymore, and mostly all he did was sleep, but when she patted him he whined and licked her hand, and after that they were fast friends.
Alright, so she’s made friends with and old blind dog, so what? Well, later that night after the wedding, when Sansa is going to sleep, the dog becomes more interesting:
Sansa found Bryen’s old blind dog in her little alcove beneath the steps, and lay down next to him. He woke and licked her face. “You sad old hound,” she said, ruffling his fur.
A sad old Hound, aye? Now think about him being too sick and toothless to walk the guard anymore, and think of how the Hound has seemingly become the gravedigger in the Quiet Isle, where he is very much a reborn, but silent and you might say “toothless” hound for now. No offense to Sandor; the point is, he’s not swinging his sword any more, and he doesn’t stand guard or fight as he has done his whole life. He traded his sword for a shovel, for the time being.
The very next sentence has Marillion arriving, drunk and boorish. And look, you know someone is bad when they are cruel to animals:
The old dog raised his head and growled, but the singer gave him a cuff and sent him slinking off, whimpering.
So there’s the old sad hound, trying to protect Sansa as Sandor did at King’s Landing. The dog fails, but then Lothor Brune appears to halt the attempted assault. Except.. is it Lothor Brune?
Sansa heard the soft sound of steel on leather. “Singer,” a rough voice said, “best go, if you want to sing again.” The light was dim, but she saw a faint glimmer of a blade.
The singer saw it too. “Find your own wench—” The knife flashed, and he cried out. “You cut me!”
“I’ll do worse, if you don’t go.”
And quick as that, Marillion was gone. The other remained, looming over Sansa in the darkness. “Lord Petyr said watch out for you.” It was Lothor Brune’s voice, she realized. Not the Hound’s, no, how could it be? Of course it had to be Lothor …
That night Sansa scarcely slept at all, but tossed and turned just as she had aboard the Merling King. She dreamt of Joffrey dying, but as he clawed at his throat and the blood ran down across his fingers she saw with horror that it was her brother Robb. And she dreamed of her wedding night too, of Tyrion’s eyes devouring her as she undressed. Only then he was bigger than Tyrion had any right to be, and when he climbed into the bed his face was scarred only on one side. “I’ll have a song from you,” he rasped, and Sansa woke and found the old blind dog beside her once again. “I wish that you were Lady,” she said.
So, Sansa thinks Lothor is Sandor for a moment, then dreams of Sandor, then the last sentence has Sandor talking to Sansa as she wakes up to find the old blind dog, almost as if Sandor transformed into the sad old hound.
The other thing I notice is the potential other wordplay. When Marillion leaves, “the other remained,” and that other happens to have “other” in his name, as Lothor without the ‘L’ is othor. Say, that’s the name of a Night’s Watchmen who was wighted in a AGOT, and the same wight who had the moon face that filled Jon’s world before he slashed it and then burned it! I suggested his name, other, and his ice moon face made him representative of the Others in general, and I must make the same conclusion of Lothor Brune here. He appears and cuts Marillion, drawing blood, and I am reminded of the Others bloodying their swords on Ser Waymar together. Marillion is a baelish bard Night’s King figure in parallel to Petyr as I mentioned earlier, and so what he have here is Lothor Brune being cast as the good Other, the Eldric Snowbeard blood-of-the-Other Stark. You could also imply a blood magic ritual here, where Lothor the Other needs the blood of Night’s King to come alive.
Flashing back to Dontos’ death scene, Lothor gets other wordplay:
“Ser Lothor, the reward.” Lothor Brune dipped his torch. Three men stepped to the gunwale, raised crossbows, fired. One bolt took Dontos in the chest as he looked up, punching through the left crown on his surcoat. The others ripped into throat and belly.”
Almost sounds a bit like the prologue of AGOT, doesn’t it, with the Others ripping into the poor Ser Waymar. Lothor commands the Others here, which again fits his symbolism.
Finally, Lothor’s nickname is “Lothor Apple-Eater,” for his capturing or killing of three Fossoways during the Battle of the Blackwater. But considering Sansa as Idun… Lothor the Other is an apple eater means that the Others are indeed immortal in some sense. ice preserves, after all. Or it might imply Lothor as playing a reanimated good other / Eldric figure, with apples being symbolic of being resurrected. I favor the former – he attained the fiery apples of the gods, but has become a frozen fire of the gods figure. Sandor himself deserves an entire essay, but it should be clear at a glance that he is a fire and ice, Azor Ahai reborn hellhound figure, very much like the good Other / Eldric archetype. After his initial barbarism of killing Micah the butcher’s boy, mostly what he does is protect Starks for the rest of the books, so much so that Sansa imagines him as her mysterious protector when Lothor comes to her aid.
Okay, so that’s your Sandor appearance, chanelled through Lothor Brune and the blind old dog. Now let’s let Lysa make her appearance. Lysa’s Night’s Queen symbolism comes across pretty clearly when she arrives at the Fingers.
Petyr knelt to kiss her fingers. “The king’s small council commanded me to woo and win you, my lady. Do you think you might have me for your lord and husband?”
Lady Lysa pooched her lips and pulled him up to plant a kiss upon his cheek. “Oh, mayhaps I could be persuaded.” She giggled. “Have you brought gifts to melt my heart?”
“The king’s peace.”
“Oh, poo to the peace, what else have you brought me?”
“My daughter.” Littlefinger beckoned Sansa forward with a hand. “My lady, allow me to present you Alayne Stone.”
Lysa Arryn did not seem greatly pleased to see her. Sansa did a deep curtsy, her head bowed. “A bastard?” she heard her aunt say. “Petyr, have you been wicked? Who was her mother?”
“The wench is dead. I’d hoped to take Alayne to the Eyrie.”
“What am I to do with her there?”
“I have a few notions,” said Lord Petyr. “But just now I am more interested in what I might do with you, my lady.” All the sternness melted off her aunt’s round pink face, and for a moment Sansa thought Lysa Arryn was about to cry.
Starting with Lysa the ice queen, we see that there are two mentions of her melting – and of course that implies her as made of ice. Indeed, when the sterness “melts off” her face, Sansa thinks she’s going to cry, and this directly implies the tears as the meltwater runoff from Lysa the melting ice queen. It’s just the like the melting Wall being seen as weeping – Lysa is melting and about to weep. We’ll see a ton more of this in her death scene where cries and speaks of the Tears of Lys before getting thrown out of the moon door like a falling ice moon meteor, which is what the icy tear symbolizes.
Ice tears also symbolize the Others, and while speaking of the Vale lords who are courting her, Lysa mentions the uber-annoying Bronze Yohn Royce and then says “And the others all swarm around me.” Of course they do, you’re the Night’s Queen. The Queen Bee of the icy honeycomb, around whom the Others swarm like ice bees. Now there’s a nasty thought… probably worse than ice spiders when you think about it. Ice bees? No thanks. Kidding aside, think of all the frozen honeycomb symbolism we’ve seen so far… to get honey, you have to have bees.
Second observation, Lysa is looking for Petyr to melt her heart, and it is Petyr who melts the sternness off of her (and who makes her cry in her death scene, for that matter). This implies Petyr the Night’s King giving his fire to Lysa, which fits my hypothesis that Night’s King was an Azor Ahai person with the fiery blood of the dragon in his veins. This is paralleled in Marillion’s advances on Sansa, which begins with the line “The night is chill and wet. Let me warm you,” and continues with the line
I never get drunk. Mead only makes me merry. I am on fire.
So we have the Baelish one and the bard, both trying to warm up these cold women. Marillion puts his greasy, dirty, lowlife hand on Sansa’s thigh (how dare he!) and says “and you as well,” implying her as being on fire for him- but of course she is not. In any case, we will revisit some of this in the next episode, but I wanted to make the point about Petyr and Marillion as fiery men trying to melt ice queens.
Last point, and then we’ll go. As I mentioned, the Fingers seem to be analogous to the Eyrie, or serve as an extension of the Eyrie. This gives me a great excuse to use an obscure bit of mythical astronomy from TWOIAF concerning two ancient First Men heroes of the Fingers:
Dywen Shell and Jon Brightstone, both of whom claimed the title King of the Fingers, went so far as to pay Andal warlords to cross the sea, each thinking to use their swords against the other. Instead the warlords turned upon their hosts. Within a year Brightstone had been taken, tortured, and beheaded, and Shell roasted alive inside his wooden longhall. An Andal knight named Corwyn Corbray took the daughter of the former for his bride and the wife of the latter for his bedwarmer, and claimed the Fingers for his own (though Corbray, unlike many of his fellows, never named himself a king, preferring the more modest style of Lord of the Five Fingers).
First off, Dywen Shell and Jon Brightstone? Dywen and Jon are Night’s Watch rangers locked in the ice of the Wall. And what do you call a bright stone inside a shell? Some kind of meteor locked in an ice moon, naturally. Jon is the dragon locked in ice, so it’s logical to see him inside the shell. The shell is Dywen Shell, and he is burned alive in his wooden longhall, which reminds us that Dywen the Night’s Watch ranger has wooden teeth. Burning in a wooden building implies someone going into the weirwoodnet as Azor Ahai did… or waking in fire from the ice moon, like the moon faced Othor did when he burned, and like the King of Winter wicker man is supposed to burn to bring the spring. I’m not sure what the meaning is of Corwyn Corbray taking the daughters of each slain lord to bed, save for that it kind of implies him as unifying two oppositional things. Perhaps we can speculate about this in the follow up QnA livestream next week.
The idea of Jon Brightstone living at the fingers also has parallels with the idea of Sansa living at the fingers as Alayne Stone. We mentioned that Petyr says the Fingers are a great place to live if you are a stone, but that Sansa is a Stone, and along those same lines, when Sansa gets to the Fingers, she compares it to being held prisoner at the Red Keep and thinks that she could indeed make a home here at the Fingers. Then, during their confrontation in the high hall, Lysa threatens to send Sansa back here to the Fingers to live. So, stones live at the Fingers. Or, they symbolically die and rest there, or even really die and rest there, as Jon Brightstone did. And if the Fingers are parallel to the Eyrie as an ice moon place, we think of the Giant’s Lance and all the ice moon meteor shower symbolism, and then look back at the Fingers again.. and we see a giant, truly giant hand holding thousands of cold stones… and one Alayne Stone, who may still be fiery Sansa Stark underneath.
Sansa Stark is indeed in the clutches of of an ice giant, or perhaps the giant hands of the Others. Check out this scene from the high hall of the Eyrie
The High Hall had been closed since Lady Lysa’s fall, and it gave Sansa a chill to enter it again. The hall was long and grand and beautiful, she supposed, but she did not like it here. It was a pale cold place at the best of times. The slender pillars looked like fingerbones, and the blue veins in the white marble brought to mind the veins in an old crone’s legs. Though fifty silver sconces lined the walls, less than a dozen torches had been lit, so shadows danced upon the floors and pooled in every corner. Their footsteps echoed off the marble, and Sansa could hear the wind rattling at the Moon Door. I must not look at it, she told herself, else I’ll start to shake as badly as Robert.
So, those blue-veined marble pillars are now like fingerbones, huh? A moment later there’s a line about the “long blue carpet that ran between the rows of bone-white pillars.” Martin really wants to call our attention to it: first he tells us veined with blue like blue blood, then he tells us to think of fingerbones and the notorious “bone white” phrase.
When he opened his eyes the Other’s armor was running down its legs in rivulets as pale blue blood hissed and steamed around the black dragonglass dagger in its throat. It reached down with two bone-white hands to pull out the knife, but where its fingers touched the obsidian they smoked.
Sam rolled onto his side, eyes wide as the Other shrank and puddled, dissolving away. In twenty heartbeats its flesh was gone, swirling away in a fine white mist. Beneath were bones like milkglass, pale and shiny, and they were melting too.
The Others have bone-white hands, just like the bone white fingerbone columns at the Eyrie. The others have blue blood, like the columns and stone of the Eyrie. In other words, Sansa is standing in the hands of the Others, with their icy fingers closing around her. No wonder the hall is so cold! This is parallel to the idea of her living at the Fingers, where again she is inside huge, cold hands. Bone white stone columns also evoke the ribs of Nagga the “sea dragon,” which appear to be petrified weirwood, turned to pale stone. It is implied that a weirwood throne once sat in the Grey King’s hall, just as a weirwood throne sits in the high hall of the Eyrie, between those bone-white stone columns… we’ll just have to come back to that topic, now won’t we?
Going back to the previous quote, the chilly high hall has fewer than a dozen torches lit, so the shadows danced and pooled. Dancing shadows is obvious Others talk, since they are shadows that dance with Ser Waymar (and we’ll talk about Patchface and his “shadows come to dance my lord” rhymes soon). Shadows that turn into pools? Well that’s Ser Puddles again, as the Other who Sam stabs and melts is commonly known. Once again we see how unified Martin’s symbolism is: the pooling shadows work together with the blue blood and bone white fingers to collectively imply the presence of the Others.
So what about the dragonglass that melts the Other in Sam’s scene? Is there an analog for that here in the high hall of the Eyrie? Well, that would be Sansa, and here I will give the hat-tip to Maester Merry for this find. Remember when Lysa asked Petyr what he had brought to melt her heart? He said “the King’s peace,” she was not impressed, and then he said “and my daughter Alayne.” The thing is, Sansa IS the king’s “piece,” as in chess piece. Don’t forget at the end of the previous Sansa chapter which ends with everyone on board the Merling king, Petyr gives that cute little speech to Sansa about players and pieces, and about how everyone starts out as a piece. Giving a shout-out to my friends at Pawn to Player, where you can find all things Sansa and much more, Sansa’s arc can indeed be summarized as “pawn to player,” and it flows from this conversation with Petyr an Sansa’s obvious trajectory towards power and leadership.
So, Sansa is the King’s piece – first she was a pawn of Joffrey, and now of Petyr the Merling King and symbolic Night’s King. In the mythical astronomy sense, she’s also the fire moon meteor that enters the ice moon – and when that fire moon meteor wakes, it will indeed melt the ice moon. So what did Petyr bring to Melt Lysa’s icy heart? The King’s piece, Sansa, a burnt piece of the fire moon. I will also point out that Sansa parallels Jon as the dragon locked in ice, and dragonglass is Jon’s symbol. Good for melting ice, I’ve heard. It’s a bright stone when it’s in the form of a lit glass candle.
What we are seeing at the Eyrie with Sansa and Lysa appears to be the new ice queen basically supplanting the old one. Or perhaps we might say that dead Nissa Nissa or Nissa Nissa’s ghost is taken over the ice moon and evicted Night’s Queen. This matches the mythical astronomy of my theory about the Dawn meteor: that it was a piece of the ice moon which was cracked off when the original fire moon meteor hit the ice moon and became the dragon locked in ice. Indeed, almost as soon as Petyr brings a dead Nissa Nissa to the Eyrie, Lysa ends up falling out the moon door like a melting tear, weeping all the way. An icy moon maiden flying out of the moon door and falling from the sky, that’s pretty clear ice moon meteor symbolism if anything is, right? And once again, this happens as a direct result of a fire moon remnant impacting the Eyrie, just as I have speculated since my very first draft, more than three years ago!
This supplanting idea will be a major topic of the next episode or two, where we will try to drill down on the relationship between dead Nissa Nissa and Night’s Queen and what exactly happens inside the “ice moon” part of the underworld. We’ll also go deeper on the idea of the weirwoodnet acting as a sort of portal from fire to ice, and we’ll talk about the weirwoods as bridges, and what all this cosmic river and frozen pond stuff has to do with squishers and Patchface. It’s going to be the most magical and metaphysical series yet, and we will be building on all of the prior episodes of Mythical Astronomy to begin to tie together the crucial triumvirate of Azor Ahai and dragons, greenseers and weirwoods, and the Others and ice magic. Thanks for joining me, and I will see you all next time!
Once, when she was just a little girl, a wandering singer had stayed with them at Winterfell for half a year. An old man he was, with white hair and windburnt cheeks, but he sang of knights and quests and ladies fair, and Sansa had cried bitter tears when he left them, and begged her father not to let him go. “The man has played us every song he knows thrice over,” Lord Eddard told her gently. “I cannot keep him here against his will. You need not weep, though. I promise you, other singers will come.”