Welcome friends, myth heads, patrons, YouTube and podcast listeners and blog readers all. Welcome to your court-side seat to history in the making. That’s right. It’s the wordplay that was promised, the hidden key to understanding all the merling and squisher symbolism and, more importantly, the key to the weirwoodnet. Ever wonder why there are so many fish people legends on the margins of ASOIAF? Ever wonder what the hell Patchface is talking about? The ridiculously fishy symbolism of House Manderly or House Velaryon? There’s a way to understand all of this, and doing so will tell us a ton about the weirwoods and the greenseers.
But only if you have eyes to see… and we are going to give you those eyes today.
I say “we” because I actually can’t take credit for this discovery. For the most part I write about my own theories, and let other people develop their theories on their own… but every once in a while, one of my friends and collaborators discovers a symbol or metaphor or theory which is so central to the action that I have to write about it. You may remember the first episode of Moons and Ice and Fire, Prelude to a Chill, which was largely based around the theory that Night’s Queen was actually more like an ice priestess, an icy version of Melisandre, as opposed to a wight or a female Other. That theory belongs to Durran Durrandon, a very old friend of mine from the Westeros.org forums, who has also just recently become the zodiac patron for House Pisces. (Thanks for your support buddy!) He wrote it a few years back on the forums, and it’s always seemed on the mark to me. When I began researching to write about the Others, I found the idea central to understanding the Others – and so, with his permission and collaboration, I brought the theory to you, and built upon it.
We’re doing something like that again. Ravenous Reader, the Poetess of the Nennymoans, is the one who discovered the wordplay-based symbolism we are about to unveil, and as you’re about to see, it’s quite the discovery. I’m practically green with envy for not seeing it first! I kid of course, and I’m happy to give all credit and aplomb to Ravenous Reader for this one. Additionally, we in the community, including Ravenous, myself, and countless, countless others have been developing these ideas for over a year now, on Twitter and Westeros.org and wherever else. It’s an idea whose time has long been at hand, and I am honored and privileged to have Ravi’s blessing to guide you beneath the waves and into the green sea.
To be honest, we’ve mostly been ignoring water symbolism, apart from discovering the waves of moon blood symbolism that is tied to the concept of bleeding stars and floods caused by moon meteors. But apart from that, I’ve been skillfully side-stepping all the watery symbolism that has, quite frankly, been popping up everywhere we go.
Take the sea dragon myth for example. The sea dragon, a legend ostensibly about a sea monster, turns out instead to be about a weirwood boat – still something large that belongs in the sea, and maybe it had a nice sea monster for a masthead, who knows. Of course the primary significance seeing the truth of the weirwood boat was that it led us to discover the weirwood throne, the weirwood crown, and the rest of the greenseer symbolism that clings to the Grey King like barnacles on the hull of a weirwood submarine. Ultimately, the sea dragon myth seems to be less about Poseidon-related matters and more about a person who possesses the “living fire” of the weirwoods, as well as the fire or power of the fiery dragon meteors which are also a part of the sea dragon myth. It’s actually a version the Azor Ahai story about a dragon-blooded greenseer and meteor swords, in other words, but coded in the language of the sea – sea monsters and boats and a mermaid wife, a Drown God who brings fire out of the sea and battles the Storm God, and a nation of pirates and mariners.
That’s the sea dragon. Now, in Weirwood Compendium 5: To Ride the Green Dragon, we have introduced the green dragon motif and explored all the symbolism that goes with it, symbolism that revolves around Rhaego and Rhaegal and Daenerys, with assists from people like Quentyn and Aegon the Unworthy and even Moondancer the green dragon. Funny thing – just like the sea dragon symbolism, the green dragon ideas again lead us to the idea of a dragon blooded greenseer who sounds a damn lot like Azor Ahai reborn, and it too seems to use watery language to do so.
✧ 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
As we saw in the last episode, the green dragon is heavily tied to the thunderbolt and storm symbolism that comes from the Ironborn myth of the Grey King and the Storm God’s Thunderbolt, which is watery mythology, but it’s watery mythology about meteor thunderbolts and obtaining the fire of the gods. The green dragon is also linked to wildfire, which is basically liquid fire! It’s also green, and it’s associated with magicians (the alchemists who make it) and dragons (the Targaryens who use it). Wildfire evens burns on the water, as we know well from the Battle of the Blackwater, so it really is like sea dragon fire (Tyrion compares the wildfire at the battle to dragonfire directly, in fact).
Then at the end of “To Ride the Green Dragon,” we took a look at Rhaegal’s scenes in Meereen and we found our friendly green dragon linked to a bunch of wordplay about drowned fire and fire that washes over things. More importantly, we saw Rhaegal linked to a bunch of sea dragon symbolism, starting with Quentyn’s plan to ride the green dragon being compared to King Aegon the Unworthy building those wooden dragons full of wildfire which catastrophically caught on fire in the Kingswood, with those burning wooden dragons being amazing sea dragon symbols. Then there was Quentyn seeing Rhaegal “uncoiling like some great green serpent” in the climax scene of the Dragontamer chapter, which puts us in mind of the sea dragon myth again, since Nagga means “cobra” or “snake” and is tied to a whole host of water dragon and water snake symbolism.
We even saw sea dragon symbolism in the placement of Rhaegal’s egg on Drogo’s pyre during the alchemical wedding: it was surrounded by Drogo’s black, “river of darkness” hair, which gives us the image of the green dragon as a sea dragon swimming in a river of darkness.
The watery language is not only found in people and dragons who symbolize ‘Azor Ahai the greenseer,’ but also in some of the actual Azor Ahai mythology itself. According to what Melisandre tells Stannis, Azor Ahai reborn is supposed to be “a hero reborn in the sea.”
The darkness will devour them all, she says. The night that never ends. She talks of prophecies . . . a hero reborn in the sea, living dragons hatched from dead stone . . .
This has never made much sense, really, beyond the idea of the sea dragon as ‘stone dragon’ moon meteor that falls into the sea, since the moon meteors which drank the fire of the sun do represent Azor Ahai reborn, offspring of sun and moon. Additionally, Azor being reborn in the sea does seem a good match for all the Grey King and Drowned God mythology about being reborn in the sea and bringing fire out of the sea, although these ideas are still somewhat cryptic.
What we can say is that again and again, the clues about Azor Ahai being a greenseer seem to come to us in the language of leviathan, in the speech of the green sea.
Green sea… the clues about the greenseers are found in the green sea… we have sea dragons and green dragons, both of which are talking about greenseer dragons, and in the language of the green sea. What kind of dreadful wordplay is this?
Why, it’s the green see wordplay of the one and only Ravenous Reader! Well, it’s George R. R. Martin’s wordplay of course, but Ravenous is the one who sniffed it out. George is basically having a roaring good time with the wordplay of greenseer and green sea. It’s all very clever, and ultimately the point is this: the undersea realm, the green sea, is serving as a metaphor for the weirwoodnet, where the greenseers live. When things happen under the sea, they are often metaphors for things which happened inside the weirwoodnet, which we can think of as the green see. A dragon that ‘comes from the sea’ like the sea dragon… Azor Ahai being reborn in the sea… both are really talking about Azor Ahai the dragon being reborn in the green see of the weirwoodnet… see? A greenseer dragon is a see dragon in that he is a dragon person that inhabits the green see of the weirwoodnet, where the greenseers live.
Yes, that’s right my friends… from Patchface’s riddles to drowning moon maidens to the Nimble Dick’s favorite squisher legends, to Azor Ahai being a hero reborn in the sea, it’s all really about the weirwoodnet and the freaky things that go in there. I know I know, oh oh oh. So much to discuss.
Here’s how the rest of this episode is going to go: I’m going to run through a bunch of quick examples of Azor Ahai reborn people drowning and transforming in the see in various ways, and then we’ll go in depth on on example in particular which sort of ties everything together. Then we’ll do the same with Nissa Nissa figures, going more quickly through some of the moon maiden drownings to compare them, then going deep on one in particular. Deep on one… deep ones… okay. Let’s dive in.
But not before we thank the thank yous! Not only are we grateful for Stanley Black for our intro music and to John Walsh for our flamenco music; not only do we humbly thank Quinn from Ideas of Ice and Fire for performing the vocal readings as well as the man himself, George R. R. Martin, for writing the books. No, on this special day, we must not only thank our myths heads and Patreon sponsors who make all of this happen, we must stop and single out our two new dragon patrons! Yes! Three heads has the dragon! Joining Bronsterys the Wise Old Dragon, I’d like to give a warm myth head welcome to Vaespeyrs the Nightbringer, the Shadowfire Dragon, whose scales are dark as smoke, whose horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are the color of molten silver, and whose eyes are two black moons. It is said that Vaesperys is the secret spawn of Meraxes, and is known by some as “The Phoenix of Hellholt.”
So we have a wise old dragon, a terrifying shadowfire dragon, and for the third head of the Patreon dragon, we have a stoned dragon! That’s right, a stoned dragon, not a stone dragon. Please give a hazy, smokey myth head welcome to Falcoerys the ShagDragon, whose black stone scales are covered in purple and green 70’s shag carpeting and whose eyes, horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are as grey as a puff of smoke. It is said that Falcoerys, who has little interest in fighting unless roused, once blew a smoke ring large enough to encircle the black walls of Volantis.
One final note: this week’s livestream, and that’s for Sunday, Sept 23rd, will be on my new Between2Weirwoods YouTube channel. It will in fact be a Between2Weirwoods discussion panel on the topic of religion, featuring Brynden BFish, Gretchen Ellis, and Sanrixian, and if you want to see it, you’ll need to go subscribe to the Between2Weirwoods YouTube channel. That’s Between2Weirwoods with a number 2, as in a digit, a numeral. See you at 3 EST! Now on with today’s episode.
The Merling that Was Promised
This fishy section brought to you the Sacred Order of the Black Hand: Viseryia Sunbreaker, Mattias Mormont, the Sea-Goat of the Bottomless Depths, Count Magpie the Rude, the dinky giant, Hornblower of the Oslofjord, The Lady of Stellar Reason and Maleficence, Lord Brandon Brewer of Castle Blackrune, Sworn Ale-smith to House Stark, Grand Master of the Zythomancers’ Guild, Keeper of the Buzz
Calling Azor Ahai a merling is my fun way of saying that Azor Ahai is our hero reborn in the see. I was going to title this section with the more straightforward “A Hero Reborn in the See,” but then my spirit of fun kicked in. So, Azor Ahai was a merling, but not really. His rebirth is simply tied to the weirwoods, which is an idea that is well familiar to us, since we discovered it already by other means. That’s what’s great about the under the see symbolism – it’s going to interlock seamlessly with and confirm all the best theories that are right and good, because the under the see wordplay is right and good.
It all starts with the concept of the weirwoods as a fishing weir, I think. I’ve quoted this line many times, but I’m gonna quote it again, and think about the watery realm as the realm of the greenseers:
For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them. The oak is the acorn, the acorn is the oak. And the weirwood … a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past.”
A fishing weir spans a river and is not moved by it, very like a bridge – and in fact some weirs do serve as bridges. The weirwoods are something like a cosmic fishing weir or bridge which spans the cosmic river of time. This is very like Yggdrasil of course, the world tree that spans all nine realms, and you can see how it is literally true of the weirwoods, which are indeed gates through which the greenseers can see the past and perhaps a bit of the future. They do indeed exist partially outside the river of time, unmoved by it, and even more, they seem to have access to any point in that river.
In this schema, men are the fish trapped in the river, with the fishing weir of the weirwoodnet occasionally plucking a fish from the river of time and and trapping him in the weir, which is akin to plucking him from the realm of mortal men and giving him god-like powers. You can see how well the metaphor works – the greenseer is physically pinioned to the weirwoods like fish caught in a weir, but in doing so are freed from the river of time and the mortality of humans. This is the theme of most Odin myths and shamanic practices – giving up physical abilities to gain magical ones. Denying the flesh to unleash the spirit.
Our prime example of such a greenseer fish caught in the weir is Bloodraven, a.k.a. Brynden Rivers. That’s right – he’s literally a man of the rivers who is physically entangled in a wooden weir. His dual Targaryen / Blackwood heritage implies him as a tree person and a dragon person, and he is indeed a dragon-blood person merging with a tree. That takes care of the “dragon entering the weirwoodnet” symbolism, and his name “Rivers” adds the connotation of water and thus makes Lord Brynden a sea dragon or a fish-man caught in the weir. Don’t forget that our young Lord Brandon Stark is also half Tully, and therefore a bit of a wolf-fish! Just don’t call him a merman… although because of his broken legs, he does crawl on land like a mermaid or merman would have to.
As I mentioned in the Grey King and the Sea Dragon, a great likeness is drawn between Bloodraven and the Grey King when we see the white weirwood roots that coil around and through Bloodraven’s body described as “white wooden serpents,” which is evocative of the “sea dragon” that turned out to be a white weirwood boat. Grey King sat in a throne of sea dragon weirwood, and Bloodraven sits in a throne of white serpent weirwood roots.
Now think about the weirwood boat thing as a metaphor for sailing the cosmic ocean via the power of the weirwood. Ah ha, now you’re beginning to see how this works… the weirwoods are like a ship or a vehicle for astral projection, which is akin to sailing the cosmic ocean. That’s why the Grey King sits in a weirwood throne inside a weirwood boat… it’s a double metaphor.
The Grey King didn’t acquire fire from a sea monster, or an actual burning tree for that matter; he found it inside the green see of the weirwoodnet. He is the Drowned God-man who died to immerse himself in the green see and then became a hero reborn in the see who brought the fire of the gods out of that see for man to possess. This lines up with what I’ve been speculating about Nissa Nissa opening the weirwoods for humans to become greenseers, and about Azor Ahai being the first such. We are going to see a lot of evidence for these ideas today.
The idea of the sea dragon – a wooden boat – possessing living fire, has led us to some great burning boat imagery. Consider the Tully funeral rites, which they imagine to send their dead down to “the watery halls where the Tullys held eternal court, with schools of fish their last attendants.” Before they are submerged in the river however, they are set on fire! Fiery death transformation, and then drowning. Then it’s destination: watery halls… which are really a symbol of the weirwoodnet. So in terms of symbolism, the dead Tully is undergoing fire transformation while using a ship to sail to the afterlife, and in particular, he’s using a burning ship to enter the green see of the weirwoodnet. He’s possessing the sea dragon’s fire.
We saw a similar burning boat funeral with Dontos in Signs and Portals 2, if you’ve listened to that one already. The sequence is very important: Dontos offered up his moon maiden, Sansa, for which Petyr had promised him 30,000 dragons in return, creating the “thousands of dragons coming from the sacrifice of the moon maiden” symbolism. But instead, Petyr gave Dontos actual death and symbolic fire transformation via setting the little boat Dontos is in on fire. Presumably, Dontos and the boat eventually sink and symbolically go down to the “watery halls,” a la a Tully funeral. This scene depicts a foolish Azor Ahai meddling with forces he doesn’t understand by offering Nissa Nissa to the gods, with the result being that Azor Ahai himself dies and enters the weirwoodnet. Dontos is symbolically using the burning boat as a vehicle to enter the see, just like we saw with the Tully funeral rites, and of course, just like Grey King using his weirwood boat to access the green see of the weirwoods.
There was an interesting and important line in the Dontos scene where Petyr suggests that Dontos, who is a raging alcoholic, would simply have drunk up those 30,000 dragons. This implies the fire dragons that come from the moon as an intoxicating substance, which seems like obvious “food and drink of the gods” imagery, as that’s basically the same thing as the fire of the gods. Consider this line from Jojen in ADWD:
“It is given to a few to drink from that green fountain whilst still in mortal flesh, to hear the whisperings of the leaves and see as the trees see,” said Jojen.
That’s a little bit round about, as a fountain is not a sea, but of course that doesn’t really matter – the green see symbolism works with green lakes, rivers, ponds, or even glasses of green wine or a flask of wildfire. Honestly, any body of water can be used. The description of the greenseer gift as a green liquid that one can drink and that might kill you is what I find compelling, as it again puts the “fire of the gods” in liquid form, just like the Dontos scene, but this time it’s a green liquid that is specifically used as a metaphor for greenseeing by Jojen. This is George waving the metaphor in front of our faces here – he’s showing us that green liquids can symbolize greenseeing, then throws in the line about being able to “see as the trees see.”
The idea of drinking a green drink which represents the fire of the gods and might kill you has to put us in mind of Aerion Brightflame, the Targaryen prince who died drinking wildfire, imagining it would turn him into a real dragon. The line was
One night, in his cups, he drank a jar of wildfire, after telling his friends it would transform him into a dragon, but the gods were kind and it transformed him into a corpse.
This compares very well to the idea of Dontos “drinking up” the thousands of dragons he was promised for surrendering up the moon maiden and then being turned into a burning corpse. It also compares very well to a greenseer like Bloodraven turning into a wooden corpse as he drinks from the green fountain. Dontos’s second life as a greenseer is implied by his fiery death in a sea dragon boat, while Aerion drank from “the green fountain” in order to have a second life inside the dragon, with the dragon standing in for the tree. Dragons and weirwoods both eat people after all.
You may recall the famous line from a Tyrion chapter of ADWD which I used to make the case for Tyrion as a secret Targaryen which fits right in here:
If I drink enough fire wine, he told himself, perhaps I’ll dream of dragons.
Which indeed he does – that night he dreams of meeting Daenerys and being fed to her dragons, and the next night, after a line about matching Illyrio cup for cup of wine, he dreams of that weird battle scene with Barristan the Bold and Bittersteel with dragons wheeling across the sky above.
There’s also the very first line of Tyrion’s first chapter in ADWD: “He drank his way across the narrow sea.” That one really stands out! Drinking the fire of the gods is what allows you to use the green see as a portal, something we’ll be following up on in the Signs and Portals series.
Ravenous Reader chimes in here with a find that relates. Viserys is another foolish dragon figure, like Dontos, who sold his moon maiden, like Dontos, and in return was famously crowned with molten gold. That’s definitely a depiction of someone obtaining the liquid fire of the gods and dying at the same time, and when Dany sees a vision of Viserys later in ADWD, it says that
Viserys began to laugh, until his jaw fell away from his face, smoking, and blood and molten gold ran from his mouth.
It’s like George is showing us that Viserys tried to drink the liquid fire of the gods, the molten gold, and couldn’t handle it – his jaw falls off to signify his inability, or you might even say unworthiness. During Dany’s wake the dragon dream in AGOT, she saw a nightmare vision of Viserys and it says that “the molten gold trickled down his face like wax, burning deep channels in his flesh,” evoking the face carving of a weirwood tree, and that same passage also has his eyes bursting open, again suggesting the bloody eyes of a weirwood tree.
All of this – the death of Viserys, and Dany’s two visions of Viserys, five books apart – takes place in the green “Dothraki Sea.” Which we will talk more about in a bit. Because yeah, Dany was also reborn as Azor Ahai in the green Dothraki Sea.
Perhaps more important than Azor Ahai drinking the fire of the gods is the idea of his being drowned or immersed in a sea or river, with bonus points for the water being green. As we discussed in the last episode, Rhaegar’s body falling into the “green banks of the Trident” depicts a sea dragon landing in the water, and now you can see how true that really is: he fell into the green banks of a river named for the sea god’s symbol of power, the trident. Rhaegar is definitely an Azor Ahai figure dying and going in to the green see of the weirwoodnet…. and then later, on the green Dothraki Sea, Rhaegar is symbolically reborn as Rhaegal the green dragon.
Then there’s Beric, the corpse lord with a flaming sword who sits a weirwood throne. He has watery weirwoodnet symbolism in his death and resurrection, as his first death took place at the Mummer’s Ford, with his body falling into the water much like Rhaegar’s did. He dies in the river, but is resurrected and reborn “in a grove of ash,” which is of course code for “inside the weirwoodnet,” then inhabits a dark weirwood root-infested cave like Bloodraven’s. To say it simply, Beric died in the water and was reborn as a symbol of a greenseer dragon.
Don’t forget magnificent King Renly, with his deep forest green / deep pond green armor, because he drowned in his own blood:
He had time to make a small thick gasp before the blood came gushing out of his throat.
“Your Gr—no!” cried Brienne the Blue when she saw that evil flow, sounding as scared as any little girl. The king stumbled into her arms, a sheet of blood creeping down the front of his armor, a dark red tide that drowned his green and gold. More candles guttered out. Renly tried to speak, but he was choking on his own blood. His legs collapsed, and only Brienne’s strength held him up. She threw back her head and screamed, wordless in her anguish.
Renly is a stag man solar king and a green man, and he’s dying and drowning. His legs collapse, folding like a stag, even. Think of Coldhands’s elk letting Sam and Gilly climb on with the line “The creature sank to his knees to let them mount.” When Renly is “resurrected” as Garlan Tyrell wearing Renly’s armor, he appears as a fiery stag man leading a host of demons, who we can now see as being implied as coming out of the weirwoodnet.
Speaking of drowning on your own blood, there is a great quote foreshadowing the “drowning” death of Mikken, the Winterfell smith, which is ripe with the green see wordplay and is interwoven with actual greensight. It’s one that ColinVanW, a.k.a. Colin Longstrider, the Eighth Spoke of the Wandering Wheel, found in ACOK:
“The past. The future. The truth.”
They left him more muddled than ever. When he was alone, Bran tried to open his third eye, but he didn’t know how. No matter how he wrinkled his forehead and poked at it, he couldn’t see any different than he’d done before. In the days that followed, he tried to warn others about what Jojen had seen, but it didn’t go as he wanted. Mikken thought it was funny. “The sea, is it? Happens I always wanted to see the sea. Never got where I could go to it, though. So now it’s coming to me, is it? The gods are good, to take such trouble for a poor smith.””
Jojen actually sees Mikken and a couple other Winterfell residents drowning in his dream, which turns out to be a metaphor for the invasion of Theon’s dripping wet Ironborn. But for Mikken, who always wanted to see the sea, it’s a bit more literal when he offers stubborn defiance to Theon the conqueror:
The bald man drove the point of his spear into the back of Mikken’s neck. Steel slid through flesh and came out his throat in a welter of blood. A woman screamed, and Meera wrapped her arms around Rickon. It’s blood he drowned on, Bran thought numbly. His own blood.
Such a violent metaphor. But it works – he’s drowning on blood and ‘seeing the see,’ just as Jojen of the moss-green eyes had foreseen Mikken would. It’s not so much about Mikken being Azor Ahai as it is a simple demonstration that someone sacrificed with a red smile-type throat wound can be seen as drowning in the see, which is again simply a confirmation of the weirwood stigmata theory, which already suggested that red smiles, bloody smiles, and throat wounds are part of the symbolism that indicates someone going into the weirwoodnet.
Tyrion, another Azor Ahai reborn figure, was knocked unconscious and nearly died during that battle in AGOT, the one where he commanded a host of Mountain Clansmen from the Mountains of the Moon… and that battle was called “The Battle On the Green Fork. Tyrion says to Sansa afterward that “One of your northmen hit me with a morningstar during the battle on the Green Fork. I escaped him by falling off my horse,” with falling off your horse being a great metaphor for being knocked out of the heavens. Tyrion ended up “showered in blood and viscera” when he stood up suddenly beneath his enemy’s horse and eviscerated it with his spiked helm. Gross, but the point is Azor Ahai reborn symbolism and river of blood symbolism paired with the battle being “on” the green fork.
Tyrion has another death transformation scene that combines the notion of drinking the green see and being immersed in it, even more so that Tyrion ‘drinking his way across the Narrow Sea.’ That would be his drowning in the Rhoyne of course. When he goes into the river, it says “The stone man went over backwards, grabbing hold of Tyrion as he fell. They hit the river with a towering splash, and Mother Rhoyne swallowed up the two of them.” That’s the river swallowing Tyrion, and then we see that it works the other way around as well when Tyrion asks Haldon Halfmaester when he can stop worrying about contracting greyscale, and Haldon says
“Truly?” said the Halfmaester. “Never. You swallowed half the river. You may be going grey even now, turning to stone from inside out, starting with your heart and lungs.”
There is more to discuss here at the Bridge of Dream – especially since a fishing weir can also be a bridge, meaning that a bridge of dream is a weir of dream. It’s straddling the river, it’s made of pale stone – like a petrified weirwood – and it collects people who slowly turn into statues. Recalling that Bran describes Bloodraven as “some ghastly statue made of twisted wood, old bone, and rotted wool,” we can see that the weirwoods pluck people from the river and turn them into statues. You’ll also recall that they only get trapped in a fight with the stone men after time and space sort of short-circuit and puts Tyrion’s company somehow passing under the same bridge twice. Jon Connington says that “rivers only flow one way,” but of course we know that the weirwoods stand outside of the river of time, and we could say the same about the Bridge of Dream.
So with all that set up, Tyrion is swallowed by the river, and swallows the river in turn, and Haldon Halfmaester specifically ascribes a transformative power to the waters themselves when he says that swallowing the river could mean his insides are turning grey from the inside out. Turning grey, huh? The Azor Ahai reborn figure drowns in the green see beneath the bridge of dream, is reborn, and might now be turning into a grey statue? You see how the Grey King mythology and Azor Ahai mythology dovetails so nicely: the Grey King obtains the living fire of the sea dragon and the fire of the burning tree and then becomes a grey-skinned man sitting on a weirwood throne and supposedly living for a thousand years.
To say it another way, Azor Ahai was reborn in the sea as Stannis says, but not like Stannis thinks, because he was really reborn in the green ‘see’ of the weirwoodnet. He came out as the Grey King, possessing the fire of the gods, who seems to be a living corpse sitting on a weirwood throne. A green zombie, is what I would call him. This is probably the same story as the last hero dying and being resurrected through the weirwoodnet, receiving the help of the children of the forest, then becoming a green zombie hero leading the Night’s Watch with his sword of Dragonsteel. That’s a pretty nice alignment, isn’t it? We’ll talk more about this when we shift over to Nissa Nissa figures who go swimming in the green see in the back half of this episode.
We can’t talk about the Grey King and being reborn in the sea without mentioning the Damphair, right? He even has a chapter called “The Drowned Man!” Aeron Greyjoy, a.k.a. the Damphair, is like Tyrion in that he both drinks and drowns. Here’s the relevant quote from AFFC:
At six-and-ten he called himself a man, but in truth he had been a sack of wine with legs. He would sing, he would dance (but not the finger dance, never again), he would jape and jabber and make mock. He played the pipes, he juggled, he rode horses, and could drink more than all the Wynches and the Botleys, and half the Harlaws too. The Drowned God gives every man a gift, even him; no man could piss longer or farther than Aeron Greyjoy, as he proved at every feast. Once he bet his new longship against a herd of goats that he could quench a hearthfire with no more than his cock. Aeron feasted on goat for a year, and named the longship Golden Storm, though Balon threatened to hang him from her mast when he heard what sort of ram his brother proposed to mount upon her prow.
And then a moment later, thinking of his young, foolish, self, he thinks “That man is dead. Aeron had drowned and been reborn from the sea, the god’s own prophet.” He drinks more than anyone, then he drowned and was reborn. The idea of his being hung from the mast is also a callout to Odin’s hanging on a tree, especially he re in the context of Aeron gaining the ability to hear the Drowned God and speak with his voice. Check out this quote from ACOK:
“And what of you, Uncle?” Theon asked. “You were no priest when I was taken from Pyke. I remember how you would sing the old reaving songs standing on the table with a horn of ale in hand.”
“Young I was, and vain,” Aeron Greyjoy said, “but the sea washed my follies and my vanities away. That man drowned, nephew. His lungs filled with seawater, and the fish ate the scales off his eyes. When I rose again, I saw clearly.”
When he rose from the sea, he could see. I think that pretty neatly encompasses today’s idea! There’s even a line I didn’t quote about Aeron winning a bet by being able to quench a hearthfire with his… stream. This evokes the “pyromancer’s piss” description of wildfire, and relates his legendary drinking to the drinking the fire of the gods concept. Heck, even his name, Aeron, sounds like Aerion, the man who drank wildfire and killed himself. Finally, notice Theon’s sort of frozen mental image of young Aeron: singing old reaving songs with a horn of ale in hand. Odin always drank his mead of poetry from a horn, which I think is being evoked here, and singing songs of the sea simply reminds us that the natural residents of the green see, the children of the forest, are really called “those who sing the song of earth.”
Now look, we’re talking about drowning and being reborn and the see, and how everything under the sea is a metaphor, and I know you want to hear about Patchface. Well, Patchface needs his own episode, that’s all I can say, but we’ve already taken a quick look at him in the Sacred Order of Green Zombies series, and we remember that he is a stag man with red and green patchwork tattoos on his face who mysteriously drowned at sea and washed on shore three days later to be reborn. He’s lost most of his wits but can now hear some sort of voice of prophecy from under the sea, which is a classic shamanic motif, the idea that gaining third sight can render you half mad (and one of the connotations of Odin’s name is madness). He’s acquired the ‘terrible knowledge,’ as indicated by his knowing lament of “I know I know, oh oh oh.”
Before Patches drowned, he was a child who was as “nimble as a monkey and witty as a dozen courtiers. He juggles and riddles and does magic, and he can sing prettily in four tongues.” A magic-wielding child-man who can sing in many languages? Red and green? Antlers? Reborn in the sea? Now all this makes a bit more sense. It’s just a weird take on the same story of Azor Ahai being a demonic stag man who was reborn in the green see of the weirwoodnet. Another time we will go through all of his little sayings and songs and try to decode them one by one, but for now I will just quote one of them to tide you over. This is Ser Malegorn, one of Queen Selyse’s knights, talking to Jon in ADWD:
“Who will lead the ranging?”
“Are you offering yourself, ser?”
“Do I look so foolish?”
Patchface jumped up. “I will lead it!” His bells rang merrily. “We will march into the sea and out again.”
You can see how loaded all the Patchface quotes are going to be. There’s even more to this one, but just that one line says a ton: a reborn-stag man hero leading the Night’s Watch into the see and out again? This is a tremendous synthesis of Grey King mythology, Azor Ahai mythology, last hero / green zombie symbolism, stag man symbolism, and sheer madness.
Alright, well, let’s go ahead move on to our one deep dive example of an Azor Ahai figure drowning amidst fire and being resurrected from the sea.
The Jade Demon
This section is brought to you by the Sacred Order of the Black Hand: Ser Vorian, The Warg of the Morning, Wielder Of The Dual Blades Of Sunrise; Poseidon of the Dragonglass See, the Orcish Priest; WesterRoss of the Cosmic Mill, the Unchained Uncle, Host of Bards; Lady Shar, Wielder of the Sacred Shard, Avatar Witch of the House of the Unsleeping; Ridiculous Edd Tollett, the Firebeard of the dragonglass forge, whose eyes are like pale morning mist, and Ser Morris Mayberry the Upright, climber of Jacob’s Ladder, whose words are “I drink, and tweet things”
That’s right, it’s Davos at the Blackwater time. We won’t deal with the whole battle, which is immense, but we’ll cover Davos’s part in it. The basic elements at play are readily apparent: tons of wildfire, including the infamous swirling demon of green flame, burning ships, not one but two weirs – Tyrion’s chain boom and the bridge of ships that temporarily forms – and finally, Davos’s drowning and resuscitation on the Spears of the Merling King. Some of the ship-ramming is important too, I suppose.
Let’s set sail!
Davos’s ACOK chapter about the Battle of the Blackwater starts off with vivid imagery. Davos’s ship, Black Betha, rides the “flood tide” of the choppy Blackwater Bay. That’s interesting that Davos sails a ship named after Black Betha Blackwood, a woman whose house is strongly tied to weirwoods and greenseers, but who married a dragon – Aegon the V, a.k.a. Aegon the Unlikely, a.k.a. Egg from Dunk and Egg. That makes Davos’s ship “Black Betha” a ship associated with both weirwoods and dragons, and specifically to weirwood goddesses giving birth to dragon offspring.
That’s a deeply layered sea dragon metaphor, recalling Grey King in his weirwood throne and weirwood boat. Spoiler alert: Black Betha does indeed catch on fire. This puts Davos as our Azor Ahai greenseer figure who is set to undergo death transformation and enter the green see, as he’s the captain of the fiery weirwood / sea dragon boat. Davos wears “an old green cloak” for what it’s worth.
Considering that this entire fleet belongs to Stannis, all of the ships are really sea dragon boats, since Stannis is a little bit Targaryen and is of course an Azor Ahai figure. But hey, don’t take my word for it. This is the second paragraph of the chapter:
Across the sea warhorns boomed, deep throaty moans like the calls of monstrous serpents, repeated ship to ship.
Well then – the boats are sea serpents with deep throaty warhorn calls. They speak the language of leviathan, apparently. That’s clear enough! And again, most of these boats burn. And although I hate to step away from the Davos chapter, I have to compare this line to the sighting of the Old Man of the River on the Rhoyne in Tyrion’s chapter:
It was another turtle, a horned turtle of enormous size, its dark green shell mottled with brown and overgrown with water moss and crusty black river molluscs. It raised its head and bellowed, a deep-throated thrumming roar louder than any warhorn that Tyrion had ever heard.
It’s a dark-green horned sea monster with a deep-throated warhorn call, very like Davos and Stannis’s fleet of sea dragon boats. I thought I’d point it out since this is the same river Tyrion swallowed and was swallowed by that we just talked about. You may also recall that it was the wooden “turtle” that the wildlings used to try to ram the gate at Castle Black that Jon compared to a flipped over boat hull that drew a link between ships, turtles, and sea monsters.
Returning the to the battle:
The warhorns sounded again, commands drifting back from the Fury. Davos felt a tingle in his missing fingertips. “Out oars,” he shouted. “Form line.” A hundred blades dipped down into the water as the oarmaster’s drum began to boom. The sound was like the beating of a great slow heart, and the oars moved at every stroke, a hundred men pulling as one. Wooden wings had sprouted from the Wraith and Lady Marya as well. The three galleys kept pace, their blades churning the water.
Okay, so our fleet of see dragon boats has sprouted wooden wings – what a great metaphor for flying through the weirwood trees, as Bran does. It’s the weirwood boat as a ship for astral projection motif again, and it’s a good one. Twice the oars are called blades, which shows us our sea dragon thrusting blades into the water – you can’t forget the sea dragon-as-falling-meteor part of the myth, right? We also have to notice that our sea dragon boats have a heartbeat, and it’s made up of a hive-mind of sorts, with hundreds of men pulling as one. Oh and all of this is triggered by blowing horns – the ones which sound like sea serpent calls.
There’s a matching line a bit further on:
The sea was full of sound: shouts and calls, warhorns and drums and the trill of pipes, the slap of wood on water as thousands of oars rose and fell.
As you can see, the see is full of sound – it’s full of singers at the very least, and maybe a few dudes with horns.
Next up we get an important line of ominous foreshadowing about the ship named Swordfish “lagging as ever,” and about Davos having “grave doubts about her captain.” Swordfish is the ship that first rams the bait ship full of wildfire and looses the jade demon. Of course… sword-fish. It’s like the sea dragon being a sword, or like the Castle Pyke sitting on the point of the sword land that plunged into the sea, and oh by the way the word pike can refer to both a spear or a fish, ha ha.
Next we get a list of ships in Stannis’s sea dragon fleet, a few of which are worth mentioning. Ships such as Stag of the Sea – that’s our man, Azor Ahai, the horned lord of the green see (and there’s another ship called Horned Honor). Brightfish gives us fish-boat imagery combined with an allusion to light-bringing or fire or explosions or something, and then we have the unfortunately named Sea Demon, which sounds like foreshadowing of the unleashing of the jade demon on the river, and of course both of these demons of the green see ultimately refer to Azor Ahai. Swift Sword is a bit like Swordfish in that it gives us the falling meteor sword aspect of the sea dragon. There’s also a Trident Three, which sounds like it could be a name for a ship from Starfleet, as in Star Trek, but is also a ship that is a weapon, and evokes the Trident River and the trident as a symbol of the sea god’s power (and there’s a ship named Sceptre as well). Princess Rhaenys and Red Raven seem evocative of fire moon death and bleeding stars as ravens, and of course a red raven is very close to Blood-raven, and thus this sea dragon boat is further tied to greenseer dragons. Finally, Salladhor Saan’s Valyrian is simply yet another dragon boat in Stannis’s fleet.
These ships all have one thing in common, it turns out, and it’s more ominous foreshadowing, given the events of the battle:
From every stern streamed the fiery heart of the Lord of Light, red and yellow and orange.
Burning sea dragon boats… and the metaphor is about to come to life.
As they approach the river mouth, we read that “The river that had seemed so narrow from a distance now stretched wide as a sea…”, which makes the river into a sea – just to make sure we get the metaphor. As we know, the river is about to become a sea of green fire. Davos tastes a trap, and notices the chain boom on the way in, giving us the beginning of the weir-as-a-trap metaphor. Later we see that the “riverfront was a blackened desolation,” burned by the Lannisters, and contains the hulks of sunken ships, recalling the scene at Lordsport where Theon compares the sunken ships there to “the bones of dead leviathans.”
The chain itself has good symbolism, as Davos sees it “snaking out from a hole no bigger than a man’s head and disappearing under the water.” It’s fun to imagine a Cthulhu-like nagga man with a snake instead of a head, specially since the chain catches on fire. The hole would be the black hole / dark star that forms when the moon explodes in front of the sun, and it is indeed from the black whole that the black meteor snakes come, bearing fire. Then they “disappear under the water,” like a drowning sea dragon meteor. The arrows “hiss like snakes” throughout the battle, and are frequently fire arrows, so this fiery-snake-as-meteor symbolism abounds throughout the battle. The falling arrows are also called a rain of shafts at one point.
Then we get an even better meteor metaphor:
Ashore, the arms of the great trebuchets rose one, two, three, and a hundred stones climbed high into the yellow sky. Each one was as large as a man’s head; when they fell they sent up great gouts of water, smashed through oak planking, and turned living men into bone and pulp and gristle.
Decapitated stone heads make us think of the moon as the face of a man with an invisible body, especially falling out of the sky to strike the sea dragon ships. They are also turning men into bone and pulp and gristle, which is another way of saying “blood and bone” and thus might be a depiction of sea dragon men entering the weirwoods by turning into images of them – pulpy, bloody tree-people struck with the meteor fire of the gods. That’s what it means when someone burns on a sea dragon boat or drowns in the water anyway – sea dragon men entering the net – so it fits. A moment later, one of the boulders that strikes a ship is “as big as an ox,” giving us a dash of lunar bull symbolism.
Davos’s Black Betha rams her first target successfully, but then Davos catches his first sight of the green hell that awaits:
A flash of green caught his eye, ahead and off to port, and a nest of writhing emerald serpents rose burning and hissing from the stern of Queen Alysanne. An instant later Davos heard the dread cry of “Wildfire!”
He grimaced. Burning pitch was one thing, wildfire quite another. Evil stuff, and well-nigh unquenchable. Smother it under a cloak and the cloak took fire; slap at a fleck of it with your palm and your hand was aflame. “Piss on wildfire and your cock burns off,” old seamen liked to say. Still, Ser Imry had warned them to expect a taste of the alchemists’ vile substance.
Oh George, you randy bastard – the seamen have saying about pissing on wildfire and your cock burning off? The seamen? Very funny. But of course we know wildfire is called pyromancer’s piss, unfortunately Davos and the sea dragons are about to get “a taste of the alchemists’ vile substance.” Again, send your complaints to George, he set up the joke, not me. In any case, it’s more drinking wildfire / drinking from the green fountain (please don’t @ me) line of symbolism that we just discussed like mature adults. It really does line up with Aerion Brightflame and all the rest though.
Thus begins the fire transformations:
Men wreathed in green flame leapt into the water, shrieking like nothing human.
Ah ha! More men robed in fire – they’re wreathed, giving them King of Winter symbolism we have seen on other burning men, and then they leap into the water – into the river which is like a sea. They are also losing their humanity, shrieking like nothing human.
Then, “through black smoke and swirling green fire,” Davos sees the mass of rotten hulks that hides the big payload of wildfire. Davos calls them driftwood, which is fairly awesome. From this driftwood will be born the jade demon, making the demon itself a manifestation of Azor Ahai the fire sorcerer waking from burning wood of symbolic import.
Black Betha ends up ‘locking horns’ with an enemy ship called White Hart, which Davos’s crew successfully boards and captures. This is a stag / tree yin-yang of sorts, a ship named for a white stag (a hart) and one named for a Blackwood. One thinks of the doors of the House of Black and White. In any case, we then get this bonkers line which seems a reference to the Gods Eye as the eclipse alignment as Black Betha and White Hart are locked together:
For those few instants, Black Betha and White Hart were the calm eye in the midst of the storm.
The White Hart would be a symbol of the solar king, the bright stag man figure, and it is boarded by Black Betha, who seems to be representing the fire moon, and therefore in terms of astronomy I believe what we are seeing here is the sun being darkened by the moon that wandered too close – the eclipse alignment. That is exactly what the Gods Eye represents according to me, and this is indeed the moment of calm right before the big explosion, mimicking the idea of the comet striking during the eclipse.
To set up that big explosion, we get a very long paragraph about the “raging green inferno” the river has become, with various ships burning and tangling with one another. It’s now close to the full hellscape that we remember from this battle, and then comes the fateful moment…
“Captain ser!” Matthos touched his shoulder.
It was Swordfish, her two banks of oars lifting and falling. She had never brought down her sails, and some burning pitch had caught in her rigging. The flames spread as Davos watched, creeping out over ropes and sails until she trailed a head of yellow flame. Her ungainly iron ram, fashioned after the likeness of the fish from which she took her name, parted the surface of the river before her. Directly ahead, drifting toward her and swinging around to present a tempting plump target, was one of the Lannister hulks, floating low in the water. Slow green blood was leaking out between her boards.
When he saw that, Davos Seaworth’s heart stopped beating.
A sea dragon that’s also a sword, trailing a head of flame like a comet, is set to impregnate the plump green-blooded Lannister ship. Davos Ahai’s heart stops, symbolizing the beginning of his death transformation that coincides with the moon explosion. By the way, do you think George is making some incredible Hulk references here, with all these “hulks” full of the jade demon? One of which turns into a giant green monster? I certainly do. Picking up right where we left off:
With a grinding, splintering, tearing crash, Swordfish split the rotted hulk asunder. She burst like an overripe fruit, but no fruit had ever screamed that shattering wooden scream. From inside her Davos saw green gushing from a thousand broken jars, poison from the entrails of a dying beast, glistening, shining, spreading across the surface of the river …
“Back water,” he roared. “Away. Get us off her, back water, back water!” The grappling lines were cut, and Davos felt the deck move under his feet as Black Betha pushed free of White Hart. Her oars slid down into the water.
Given the river of time metaphor, Davos saying back water is almost like saying “do over! Do over! I want a do-over!” which is kinda funny, as it makes me think of Azor Ahai stabbing NIssa Nissa, looking up at the moon, and thinking… “Do over! Do over!” In any case, Gods Eye union of White Hart and Black Betha breaks up, right in sync with the Swordfish colliding with the rotted hulk (there’s that word again) and evoking the shattering wooden scream, an obvious call-out to Nissa Nissa’s scream. That’s all pretty great mythical astronomy.
The overripe fruit description of the rotted hulk is the same language used to describe the older flask of wildfire the pyromancers show Tyrion, so this is simply Martin being consistent about implying wildfire as the fruit of the burning tree. The symbolic burning tree is the weirwood, so of course it would have burning green fruit… and once again you can see that the ideas of wildfire as green liquid fire and the “green fountain” representing the greenseer fire of the gods overlaps quite nicely. Hat-tip to Gretchen Ellis a.k.a. Ba’al the Bard for that observation.
The entrails of a dying beast strongly evokes the idea of Nissa Nissa as a slaughtered sea serpent, like Jormungandr or Tiamat or Nagga herself. But only death can pay for life, and this dying beast is about to give birth to a monster.
Then he heard a short sharp woof, as if someone had blown in his ear. Half a heartbeat later came the roar. The deck vanished beneath him, and black water smashed him across the face, filling his nose and mouth. He was choking, drowning. Unsure which way was up, Davos wrestled the river in blind panic until suddenly he broke the surface. He spat out water, sucked in air, grabbed hold of the nearest chunk of debris, and held on.
Swordfish and the hulk were gone, blackened bodies were floating downstream beside him, and choking men clinging to bits of smoking wood. Fifty feet high, a swirling demon of green flame danced upon the river. It had a dozen hands, in each a whip, and whatever they touched burst into fire. He saw Black Betha burning, and White Hart and Loyal Man to either side. Piety, Cat, Courageous, Sceptre, Red Raven, Harridan, Faithful, Fury, they had all gone up, Kingslander and Godsgrace as well, the demon was eating his own. Lord Velaryon’s shining Pride of Driftmark was trying to turn, but the demon ran a lazy green finger across her silvery oars and they flared up like so many tapers. For an instant she seemed to be stroking the river with two banks of long bright torches.
Sea dragon boats carrying banks of torches, like the fire the Drowned God brought from the sea. They’ve been given the living fire of the jade demon, and now they are all awesome burning boat sea dragon symbols! That will probably come as small consolation to the burning men leaping off of them, however.
Center-stage is the swirling demon of green flame, dancing upon the river. The horned moon is known to dance upon the river, and that’s who this fellow is – he’s the son of sun and moon, a horned devil version of Azor Ahai reborn as a green demon. He bears the fiery whip symbol that we also saw in the hands of the fiery vision of Khal Drogo rising from the pyre of the alchemical wedding, the one that cracked the dragon’s egg. Drogo, like the green demon here, also represent Azor Ahai reborn from burning wood as a being of fire. Here we have green fire and the burning water to denote the greenseer symbolism, whereas Drogo had the rising column of ash and the smokey stallion, the firestorm, and the thunderous hatching of the green egg, but the message of Azor Ahai’s fiery rebirth in the green see remains the same.
The line about the demon eating its own is another weirwood reference, since when a new greenseer hooks up to a weirwood tree, he is slowly being consumed by the tree, which harbors the spirits of his or her ancestors. We figured this out by thinking about the legend of the Rat Cook, who violated guest rite and was therefore transformed into a huge white rat with red eyes who was condemned to eat his offspring. White with red eyes is giveaway weirwood symbolism, and the principle of a weirwood consuming the descendants of the people already in the tree is the same.
Returning to the action, Davos, who has been thrown into the river and narrowly avoided drowning, grabs on to debris and is carried back toward the mouth of the river amidst all the fiery green chaos. We read that “the Blackwater itself seemed to boil in its bed, and burning spars and burning men and pieces of broken ships filled the air.” Look mommy, the bad men are flying! That’s the point of the burning ships as weirwoods metaphor, they enable you to possess the fire of the gods and fly. It’s not for everybody though, clearly.
Davos starts to think maybe he’ll survive, since he’s a strong swimmer and Salla’s ships are out in the bay proper. But then…
And then the current turned him about again, and Davos saw what awaited him downstream. The chain. Gods save us, they’ve raised the chain.
Where the river broadened out into Blackwater Bay, the boom stretched taut, a bare two or three feet above the water. Already a dozen galleys had crashed into it, and the current was pushing others against them. Almost all were aflame, and the rest soon would be. Davos could make out the striped hulls of Salladhor Saan’s ships beyond, but he knew he would never reach them. A wall of red-hot steel, blazing wood, and swirling green flame stretched before him. The mouth of the Blackwater Rush had turned into the mouth of hell.
And here we see the flaming weir spring to life. It’s the mouth of hell, so it’s both a weir stretching across the river and a portal to the fiery underworld. It’s functioning exactly like a weir here, catching the sea dragon boats and straining them out of the river current. Notice the terrific War for the Dawn language here: the flaming weir had already captured a dozen burning galleys – a dozen sea dragons, representing our Night’s Watch green zombies – and “the current was pushing others against them.” The river is pitting the others against a dozen burning sea dragons caught in the weir… it’s pretty terrific.
As I mentioned, the chain boom ‘mouth of hell’ is only one of two flaming weir symbols spanning the river, with the other being the temporary bridge of ships, as it’s called. That is all in Tyrion’s chapter, and I will cover it another time when we are focusing on the bridge function of the weirwoods more specifically, but just know that it is there. I’ve interpreted a burning ship as symbolizing a sea dragon and thus a weirwood, so seeing a bridge – a weir – made out of burning ships seems like a confirmation of that interpretation. I will quickly note that on the other side of that bridge of ships from Kings Landing is the Kingswood, the same wood set on fire by Aegon the Unworthy’s wooden dragons.
I do have to pull this one line from Tyrion’s chapter, as it associates the wildfire and the green demon with dragons:
A dozen great fires raged under the city walls, where casks of burning pitch had exploded, but the wildfire reduced them to no more than candles in a burning house, their orange and scarlet pennons fluttering insignificantly against the jade holocaust. The low clouds caught the color of the burning river and roofed the sky in shades of shifting green, eerily beautiful. A terrible beauty. Like dragonfire. Tyrion wondered if Aegon the Conqueror had felt like this as he flew above his Field of Fire.
The green fire is like the fire of the green dragon, and also like a burning house that burning people and burning ships live inside. That’s because the green dragon and the burning ships both represent the weirwoodnet, the “house of green fire” I guess you could call it.
There’s a line from a Sansa chapter that needs to be mentioned as well, as it has great green see wordplay:
The southern sky was aswirl with glowing, shifting colors, the reflections of the great fires that burned below. Baleful green tides moved against the bellies of the clouds, and pools of orange light spread out across the heavens. The reds and yellows of common flame warred against the emeralds and jades of wildfire, each color flaring and then fading, birthing armies of short-lived shadows to die again an instant later. Green dawns gave way to orange dusks in half a heartbeat.
George is hitting us with an as-above-so-below thing straight out, and showing us baleful green tides and pools of orange light swirling in the sky. That’s a symbol of the green see also representing the cosmic ocean in the sky. Of course the idea of the heavens being on fire is loaded with mythical astronomy and is suggestive of Lucifer warring against God in the heavens. The green fire and red fire fight one another, birthing shadow warriors to fight one another like dawn and dusk. This is incredibly suggestive of the War for the Dawn, where we had black shadow Night’s Watchmen against white shadow Others.
Before we move on from Davos, we do have to mention a couple of bits from his ASOS chapter where he washes up on the Spears of the Merling King. First off, being fished out of the sea on the prongs of the Merling King’s spear is more weir talk, with the god of the green see himself plucking Davos out, akin to Sansa escaping King’s Landing on the boat named Merling King.
Recalling his escape from the green hellscape on the river by swimming under the chain boom while sitting on this rock, we see references to swimming through “green murk” and “green darkness,” emphasizing the water as the green see. Davos thinks that “In his dreams the river was still aflame and demons danced upon the waters with fiery whips in their hands, while men blackened and burned beneath the lash,” just to reemphasize the symbolism of the battle.
The important part is when delirious Davos begins to hear the voice of God after praying desperately to the Mother:
Perhaps it was only wind blowing against the rock, or the sound of the sea on the shore, but for an instant Davos Seaworth heard her answer. “You called the fire,” she whispered, her voice as faint as the sound of waves in a seashell, sad and soft. “You burned us … burned us … burrrrned usssssss.”
What is implied here is that Davos is hearing the voice of the wooden statue of the mother that was burned on Dragonstone – one of the burning wooden sea dragon gods! She’s reaching out from the grave to incriminate those who called the fire. This is the voice of dead Nissa Nissa in other words, which Davos now hears as the whispering of the sea. But Nissa Nissa dies and becomes part of the green see, I am thinking, so it makes sense to imagine the burning wooden version of Nissa Nissa now speaking with the voice of a sea goddess. Saying that her voice is like the waves brings to mind Aeron Damphair beseeching the Drowned God to speak to him “in the rumble of the waves.” Davos also calls the Blackwater Bay “a grey-green sea” in this scene.
Note the line about calling down the fire: this highlights the key role of the Azor Ahai / Grey King mythology: calling down the fire of the gods and paying a terrible price. When someone on the ship that comes to rescue Davos calls up to ask who he is, he thinks “a smuggler who rose above himself, thought Davos, a fool who loved his king too much, and forgot his gods.” Standard Morningstar / Lucifer language here of rising too high, with a nod to Azor Ahai as a fool, such as with Dontos, Aegon Jinglebell, Cressen wearing Patchface’s helm, and a few others.
Alright, well as you can see, Davos and the Battle of the Blackwater is simply packed with under the see and sea dragon symbolism. It’s really impossible to break down without those things, which is why I have saved it for so long. At the heart of the matter is the unification of drowning and burning symbolism, neatly summed up by Davos later when he thinks of those who died at the Blackwater:
Drowned or burned, with my sons and a thousand others, gone to make a king in hell.
This is a nod to Azor Ahai as that demon king role, such as we saw with the green demon on the river. It’s also a nod to Azor Ahai having something to do with making the Others, and about the Others coming out of the green see (which they do). Most of all, it shows how drowning in the green see and burning with green fire or on a sea dragon boat are all getting at the same idea, which is Azor Ahai / the Grey King entering the weirwoodnet. Davos is our Azor Ahai figure drowning beneath the burning weir, and Tyrion will be undergoing face-carving and death transformation on the fiery bridge of ships in parallel fashion.
Now this whole idea of Azor Ahai being reborn in the sea is starting to make more sense, right? Same for the Grey King coming to and from the see… now this more than just cryptic folklore.
The Grey King wasn’t just reborn in the green see however – he also took a wife from the sea, didn’t he? A mermaid wife, I believe it was. But Azor Ahai took Nissa Nissa to wife, who was a weirwood goddess in our estimation, an elf woman who already had a link to the weirwoods. Of course if the green sea is a metaphor for the weirwoodnet, we can see that the tales match up after all – taking a wife from the sea means taking a woman from the trees, or from the forest. Describing her as a mermaid implies that this woman is a natural denizen of this see, a see-creature, just as you would think of the children of the forest as well, the natural residents of the forest.
That brings us to the symbolism of drowning moon maidens, who I have been comparing to mermaids for a long time. You may even recall that Nysa was an Okeanid water nymph in Greek Mythology, for example, which invites us to consider Nissa Nissa as a mermaid – but everything about the moon drownings and mermaids takes on new meaning now. A moon goddess who drowned? No, more like a Nissa Nissa weirwood goddess who died and went into the green see. We’re going to have a field day with Dany being reborn in the green Dothraki Sea in just a minute (see what I did there, field day, Dothraki sea…)
Goddess of the See
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Those of you who have done Signs and Portals 1 and 2 will know that we’ve already stumbled upon a pattern of Nissa Nissa figures undergoing a death transformation during a Lightbringer forging scene followed by a journey to a watery underworld location, beginning with Sansa’s flight from King’s Landing in the aftermath of the Purple Wedding. Sansa doesn’t die at the Purple Wedding obviously, but rather disappears and transforms; you may recall the rumor about Sansa turning into a winged bat-wolf and flying away from a tower top, which embodies the symbolic death transformation.
In actuality, she fled through the godswood (i.e. into the weirwoodnet) and down into a “dragon underworld” location beneath the Red Keep, then climbed down the cliff face and escaped into the foggy and ethereal Blackwater Bay aboard the Merling King. This all makes more sense now – we already interpreted her flight through the godswood, where she pulls a deep green cloak from the bole of a tree, as a representation of Nissa Nissa fleeing into the weirwoods, but now we can see that her escape into the sea aboard the Merling King really drives the point home by showing Nissa Nissa fleeing into the see.
Sansa was faaaarrr from the only Nissa Nissa who fleas into the “see” after a symbolic death or symbolic Lightbringer forging scene, and they are all going to add even more confirmation to the basic theory of the Weirwood Goddess series, that Nissa Nissa went into the weirwoods. As we have discussed, Catelyn Stark was given the weirwood stigmata at the red wedding, which signifies her as a Nissa Nissa figure being sacrificed and sent inside the weirwoods… and of course right after this happens, Catelyn’s body is thrown “into the Green Fork in a savage mockery of House Tully’s funeral customs,” as Tyrion think to himself. It’s the same message as the stigmata: Nissa Nissa is dying and going into the green see. The comparison to the Tully rites triples down on the message, since that is trademark burning boat sea dragon stuff, as we know.
There’s another great reference to drowning in the green see connected to Catleyn that comes when she looks at Renly’s armor, and you may have thought of this one already, as it’s just so tremendously big and tremendously wet:
Beside the entrance, the king’s armor stood sentry; a suit of forest-green plate, its fittings chased with gold, the helm crowned by a great rack of golden antlers. The steel was polished to such a high sheen that she could see her reflection in the breastplate, gazing back at her as if from the bottom of a deep green pond. The face of a drowned woman, Catelyn thought. Can you drown in grief?
Yikes. This green see stuff really hits you in the face, huh? Renly, the sacrificed green stag man who drowns in his own blood, has armor like a green pond. This is quite useful if you are a character in a fictional novel trying to foreshadow your own death and drowning, ha ha. Cat sees herself as a drowned woman in a green pond, then her corpse is thrown into the Green Fork. The thing is, Renly’s armor isn’t just described as a green pond – it’s called “forest green,” right in this same quote! Is it a green pond, or a green forest? Then in the very chapter where he died in front of Cat and Brienne, Cat observes his armor again and it’s described as a deep wood:
The king’s armor was a deep green, the green of leaves in a summer wood, so dark it drank the candlelight. Gold highlights gleamed from inlay and fastenings like distant fires in that wood, winking every time he moved.
Renly’s armor is like a deep green wood or a deep green pond, but those are really referring to the same thing: the green see of the weirwoods. The fires in the deep green wood are the same thing as the fire-in-the-sea motif of the sea dragon and the Drowned God carrying fire from the sea… and they’re winking at us like stars.
When Catelyn is resurrected as Lady Stoneheart, she is pulled out of the river and given back the fire of life by Beric, and then inhabits the famous weirwood cave in the Riverlands. You can see how the symbolism is working here, with her being pulled from the river serving as a visual depiction of her coming back from death and becoming a weirwood ghost / undead Nissa Nissa figure. Also note the Cerberus / guardian of the River Styx role played by Nymeria the direwolf, who was the one to fish Cat’s body from the river. It’s almost like Nymeria was granting permission for Catelyn to return from the land of the dead. It’s also a humorous call-out to Arya’s imagined Tully-Stark sigil as a wolf with a fish in its mouth.
Calling Catelyn a fish is obviously no accident, since House Tully has the trout as their sigil. Many have remarked that Catelyn’s fish associations, combined with her being thrown in the river, give her a grisly sort of mermaid symbolism. That’s absolutely correct, and sends the same message as the Grey King or Durran Godsgrief having mermaid wives: Nissa Nissa was a native of the green see, and went into the weirwoodnet when she died.
The Ghost of High Heart sums it up best, actually:
I dreamt of a roaring river and a woman that was a fish. Dead she drifted, with red tears on her cheeks, but when her eyes did open, oh, I woke from terror.
The red tears of the weirwood stigmata are nicely juxtaposed with Catelyn as a fish woman after the red Wedding. Catelyn is our signature weirwood goddess – her and Melisandre, that is – and Cat is indeed a kind of mermaid.
So what about Melisandre, you ask? Well, the first time we meet her is in Cressen’s ACOK prologue chapter, it says:
“Maester,” said Lady Melisandre, her deep voice flavored with the music of the Jade Sea. “You ought take more care.” As ever, she wore red head to heel, a long loose gown of flowing silk as bright as fire, with dagged sleeves and deep slashes in the bodice that showed glimpses of a darker bloodred fabric beneath.
Oh, so her voice is flavored with the music of jade sea? You mean the green see? The children of the forest are actually “those who sing the song of earth,” making them singers of the green see. Melisandre’s voice is like the music of the green see… because Nissa Nissa was, in some sense, a “singer.” An elf woman. As a bonus, her “flowing silk as bright as fire” creates the image of garments made of liquid fire, and the blood-red fabric beneath suggests robes of flowing blood. Sounds like someone got some fire and blood in the jade green see here.
Then a few chapters later in ACOK, we get the burning of the Seven on Dragonstone, and Martin builds on the idea that her voice has the music of the Jade Sea by saying that “Melisandre sang in the tongue of Asshai, her voice rising and falling like the tides of the sea.” Again, this isn’t just ‘singer’ symbolism, but singer symbolism tied to the sea… and coming from a weirwood goddess during a Lightbringer forging scene.
Consider Davos rowing Melisandre into Storm’s End – here’s another scene which takes on new meaning now. Melisandre is a fire moon Nissa Nissa who has just taken the seed and life fires of Stannis and is now pregnant with a shadowbaby, and transits the pitch-black Shipbreaker Bay to her final destination. This tracks very well to Sansa fleeing the purple wedding through the godswood and into the Blackwater Bay aboard the Merling King. The hollow knights of dragon armor beneath the Red Keep that seem to come to life when Sansa passes by are the equivalent of Melisandre birthing the shadowbaby in the cavern, as I mentioned last time.
Mel transits the dark bay to Storm’s End – specifically to that cavern below the castle. Recalling our examination of Storm’s End during In a Grove of Ash, we saw that the white cliff face and the rising fist description of Storm’s End make it a rising ash cloud / weirwood symbol, and of course the castle was famous for is huge and ancient weirwood until Mel burned it, adding to Storm’s End’s weirwood symbolism. That fits with Melisandre entering through the watery cavern: the cavern evokes Bloodraven’s cavern since it’s below a weirwood symbol, and the sea flowing into the cave is simply bringing in the green see / greenseer symbolism. The shadowbaby itself represents the rebirth of Azor Ahai as the dark solar king, as I have been saying since early in the Bloodstone Compendium, and its birth in the watery cave is another depiction of Azor Ahai being reborn in the see. Note the sequence: a pregnant weirwood goddess goes into the weirwoodnet, and then gives birth to Azor Ahai reborn. It’s quite suggestive.
Ravenous Reader would also like me to point out that there is indeed a river in Bloodraven’s cave:
The caves were timeless, vast, silent. They were home to more than three score living singers and the bones of thousands dead, and extended far below the hollow hill. “Men should not go wandering in this place,” Leaf warned them. “The river you hear is swift and black, and flows down and down to a sunless sea. And there are passages that go even deeper, bottomless pits and sudden shafts, forgotten ways that lead to the very center of the earth. Even my people have not explored them all, and we have lived here for a thousand thousand of your man-years.”
Note the timeless caves reference – shout-out to Wizz the Smith and his “Hollow Hills: the Caves are Timeless” essay. That’s another example of the weirwoods existing outside of time. The sunless sea is a reference to a famous poem “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream” by Samuel Taylor Colerige for those of you who want ot do a bit of further reading.
For our next drowning moon goddess Nissa Nissa figure who is symbolically entering the weirwoodnet, we have Ygritte. In Grey King and the Sea Dragon, we mentioned that when Jon is offered Winterfell and the Stark name by Stannis, the price is setting fire to the heart tree at Winterfell. While he is anguishing over the choice, he dreams of swimming with Ygritte in one of the hot pools beneath the heart tree:
When the dreams took him, he found himself back home once more, splashing in the hot pools beneath a huge white weirwood that had his father’s face. Ygritte was with him, laughing at him, shedding her skins till she was naked as her name day, trying to kiss him, but he couldn’t, not with his father watching. He was the blood of Winterfell, a man of the Night’s Watch. I will not father a bastard, he told her. I will not. I will not. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” she whispered, her skin dissolving in the hot water, the flesh beneath sloughing off her bones until only skull and skeleton remained, and the pool bubbled thick and red.
Ygritte is of course a kissed-by-fire red-headed weirwood goddess figure, just like Cat, and here she is dissolving into the pool beneath the heart tree, which we can now see for a metaphor for merging with the weirwoods, and for the ego-dissolution which is necessary to join a hive mind. By filling the pool with her blood, it’s implied that the weirwood tree will drink her blood anyway, but the green sea / greenseer wordplay makes the meaning of her melting into the pond crystal clear – she’s melting into the pond. Ygritte “sheds her skins” and then her real skin melts, a depiction of Nissa Nissa as a skinchanger dying and going into the tree. She’s literally turning into “blood and bone,” the famous description of the coloring of the weirwoods, which is like taking weirwood stigmata to a whole new level.
Ygritte’s boiling also reminds us of Dany’s dreams of being immolated in dragonfire, with her flesh melting and sloughing off her bones in the same fashion. They are both dying Nissa Nissa figures, entering the sea of green fire, in a manner of speaking, and filling it with blood. They are losing their flesh – symbolic of their mortal life – to become only blood and bone, the look of a heart tree.
I’ve often said that the idea of Nissa Nissa opening the door to the weirwoodnet for Azor Ahai and all of mankind may go as far as Nissa Nissa essentially becoming the weirwoodnet as we know it by merging with the tree consciousness when she died. That is kind of implied here, as Ygritte’s blood transforms this mini-sea before the heart tree into a sea of moon blood. The sea IS Nissa Nissa, in other words. Sansa has a similar scene where she takes a hot bath and turns it bloody, which comes after that whole ridiculous scene where she gets her moon blood and tries to burn her entire mattress in the hearthfire, which you may recall from Bloodstone Compendium 3, Waves of Night and Moon Blood.
Jon’s dream of melting Ygritte in the pond is obviously a partial memory of the unforgettable “Jon and Ygritte cave scene,” where Jon discovers the “Lord’s Kiss” on pure instinct (attaboy, Jon). The key thing I want to point out is that Ygritte famously suggests to Jon that they stay in the cave forever:
They were soon fumbling and bumping into each other as they tried to dress in the dark. Ygritte stumbled into the pool and screeched at the cold of the water. When Jon laughed, she pulled him in too. They wrestled and splashed in the dark, and then she was in his arms again, and it turned out they were not finished after all.
Jon Snow,” she told him, when he’d spent his seed inside her, “don’t move now, sweet. I like the feel of you in there, I do. Let’s not go back t’ Styr and Jarl. Let’s go down inside, and join up with Gendel’s children. I don’t ever want t’ leave this cave, Jon Snow. Not ever.”
This scene has even more going on that you thought, huh? Once again we have the cave and water symbolism appearing together, which suggests a greenseer cave and the green see metaphor. Ygritte, a weirwood goddess, wants to trap Jon here in the weirwoodnet and join up with “children,” an obvious allusion to the dead children of the forest greenseers who inhabit the net. And once again we see the suggestion of copulation and reproduction inside the weirwoodnet.
The first time Jon and Ygritte hook up has amazing weirwood goddess symbolism, almost too much to believe when I found it just recently:
My vows, he’d thought, remembering the weirwood grove where he had said them, the nine great white trees in a circle, the carved red faces watching, listening. But her fingers were undoing his laces and her tongue was in his mouth and her hand slipped inside his smallclothes and brought him out, and he could not see the weirwoods anymore, only her. She bit his neck and he nuzzled hers, burying his nose in her thick red hair. Lucky, he thought, she is lucky, fire-kissed. “Isn’t that good?” she whispered as she guided him inside her.
Once again the technique of flashback is used to superimpose one symbol on top of another, like Jon and Ygritte on top of one another here, hah. Jon recalls the weirwood grove of nine circle as they copulate, placing them inside the weirwoods, and then as he enters the weirwood goddess, he “could not see the weirwoods anymore, only her,” but she is the weirwood, and she’s biting him on the neck like some sort of vampire tree. This is Azor Ahai going into the weirwoods via some sort of magic ritual with Nissa Nissa. Here the sex serves as a metaphor for Azor Ahai entering the tree, but also may imply some sort of baby-sacrifice or magic child being involved, as we have discussed before.
Now, we have plenty more drowning moon goddess to examine and reexamine. Many of them are icy moon maidens dealing with blue pools and icy ponds, and we’ll tackle those another time. There are two more major Nissa Nissa, fire moon maiden characters left who have by far the most green see / moon drowning symbolism, and one of those, Asha Greyjoy, will be the in-depth section we will close the episode with, while the other is Daenerys, whose green see symbolism needs her own entire episode to discuss. The Asha stuff is just insane, so let’s get into that.
An Ocean of Leaves
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Another great example of a Nissa Nissa character who drowns and enters the weirwoodnet is Asha Greyjoy in her Wayward Bride chapter. That’s right, it’s the Wayward Bride again. I told you this was my favorite chapter! The climax scene gives us the dichotomy as clear as day: Asha is backed up against a tree like a weirwood sacrifice, struck a lightning blow to the head, then catches a quick vision of a burning stag man in a dark wood before thinking of the Drowned God’s Watery Halls and losing consciousness.
I don’t want to pull the whole quotes again, since we’ve done that before, so I’ll just read the key phrases. Asha’s wooden shield is turning into “kindling” as the northman’s axe peels off “long pale splinters,” with the kindling suggesting burning wood and the long pale wooden pointy things suggesting Nagga’s fangs or ribs as you prefer. She’s dancing right and left, and “then her back came up hard against a tree, and she could dance no more.” Then “her feet were tangled in some roots, trapping her,” which is flagrant greenseer-trapped-in-the-weir symbolism (and remember Asha is a squid, meaning a sea creature). The blow to the head makes a “scream of steel,” giving us Nissa Nissa’s widow’s wail of agony and ecstasy, then “the world went red and black and red again” and “pain crackled up her leg like lightning,” giving us the dramatic mythical astronomy language and the reference to the Storm God’s Thunderbolt.
So she’s pinned to the tree when they are both struck by lightning – this really sounds like a blood magic killing of Nissa Nissa that somehow involves the moon meteors… if you ask me.
Then comes the reference to her going under the sea:
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.
This is a wonderous conflation of the sea and the woods: she’s almost dying in the actual woods, thinking she’s on her way to the watery halls, and dreaming of a wood – a golden wood containing burning hearts and a black stag with fiery antlers. Not only fiery antlers – the fire is streaming from the antlers, like a river of fire. The burning stag man is a vision of resurrected Azor Ahai inside the weirwoodnet that matches resurrected Renly at the Blackwater, and a golden wood full of burning hearts is another of way of talking about burning trees and heart trees. So what we are seeing here is Asha as a Nissa Nissa sacrifice going into the fiery green see of the weirwoodnet, where we find Azor Ahai living inside her dream wood. This configuration again suggests the weirwoodnet as a dream of Nissa Nissa which the greenseers inhabit. Fans of Tad Williams’ Otherworld series might recognize this idea.
The conflation with the see and the woods actually runs all through this chapter, just as the moon drowning language appears no less than six times in this chapter, I believe I counted once. This chapter, more than any other, functions like a dissertation on the green see wordplay.
Check out this quote from early in the chapter:
The sea was closer, only five leagues north, but Asha could not see it. Too many hills stood in the way. And trees, so many trees. The wolfswood, the northmen named the forest. Most nights you could hear the wolves, calling to each other through the dark. An ocean of leaves. Would it were an ocean of water.
This Martin leading us, the horse, to water. The trees are like an ocean, he tells us. The sea was closer… but she could not see it. It’s pretty thick, and it continues as the chapter does:
I cannot go home, she thought, but I dare not stay here much longer. The quiet of the woods unnerved her. Asha had spent her life on islands and on ships. The sea was never silent. The sound of the waves washing against a rocky shore was in her blood, but there were no waves at Deepwood Motte … only the trees, the endless trees, soldier pines and sentinels, beech and ash and ancient oaks, chestnut trees and ironwoods and firs. The sound they made was softer than the sea, and she heard it only when the wind was blowing; then the sighing seemed to come from all around her, as if the trees were whispering to one another in some language that she could not understand. Tonight the whispering seemed louder than before. A rush of dead brown leaves, Asha told herself, bare branches creaking in the wind.
Is Asha writing a thesis on the similarities and differences of the woods to the ocean, or what? The whispering sound of the ocean of leaves is compared to the ocean proper, enhancing the correlation, but what’s interesting is that the whispering of the leaves is the communication of the greenseers, so again we have a conflation the idea of a green sea and greenseers. In the last paragraph, Asha describes being able to hear the wolves call to each other through the wood-that-is-like-an-ocean, which suggests the same thing. Asha passes off the whispering sounds as “a rush of dead leaves” and “bare branches creaking in the wind,” implying that the whisperings are coming from dead greenseers, which of course is right on the money.
One of the most outstanding lines in this chapter is the one where the trees seem to be attacking the moon, which I pointed previously as evidence that greenseers had something to do with pulling down the moon, as the Hammer of the Waters legend implies:
Deepwood was aptly named. The trees were huge and dark, somehow threatening. Their limbs wove through one another and creaked with every breath of wind, and their higher branches scratched at the face of the moon. The sooner we are out of here, the better I will like it, Asha thought. The trees hate us all, deep in their wooden hearts.
Forgive me for using the same quote in multiple episodes, but there are some things we can pull from this now which we were not ready for last time. First, Deepwood is aptly named, because if a forest is supposed to represent the sea, it needs to be deep, like the sea. Second, remember that these are the green sea trees which were whispering to one another in some secret language, and here they have wooden hearts, so now we can see that these trees really are intended to represent greenseers and heart trees. And here they are, antagonizing the moon with hatred in their wooden hearts.
As I mentioned, Asha is the moon maiden in this chapter, and the trees are equally antagonizing to her, both in this paragraph quoted here and in many others. This really takes flight when the Northmen attacking Asha’s Ironborn dress up like trees to attack in stealth. Once again, we have green sea metaphors:
The wooden watchtower was the tallest thing this side of the mountains, rising twenty feet above the biggest sentinels and soldier pines in the surrounding woods. “There, Captain,” said Cromm, when she made the platform. Asha saw only trees and shadows, the moonlit hills and the snowy peaks beyond. Then she realized that trees were creeping closer. “Oho,” she laughed, “these mountain goats have cloaked themselves in pine boughs.” The woods were on the move, creeping toward the castle like a slow green tide. She thought back to a tale she had heard as a child, about the children of the forest and their battles with the First Men, when the greenseers turned the trees to warriors.
First, notice that the tree-warriors coming from beneath the forest-ocean are a green tide. As I said, the forest-as-a-green-sea symbolism is rather persistent in this chapter. The trees appear to be moving, of course, because Stannis’s allies, the Mountain Clans of the north, have cloaked themselves in pine boughs. They’re “mountain goats,” implying them as horned lords hiding in the forest… in the weirwoodnet. Stannis sends the same image when Asha dreams of him as a black stag in a golden wood, as we just saw.
Asha’s recalling of the legend of the greenseers turning the trees to warriors could actually apply equally well to the Others or to the green zombies, since both seem to have come out of the weirwoodnet. That’s kind of a topic for another day, but we already know that green zombies, if they exist, come from the weirwoodnet, and the Others sure seem to as well. Notice what Asha sees when she looks out: trees, shadows, moonlight and snow. That’s a good description of the Others – they are white shadows that emerge from the “dark of the wood,” they are made of ice, and they shine with reflected moonlight. The sentinel trees and soldier pines add to the suggestion of tree warriors, so once again Martin is presenting an idea in multiple forms at the same time.
Jon Snow has a couple of wonderful green forest / green see clues in a couple of his scenes beyond the Wall that match the quotes from the Wayward Bride, and are equally explicit. They are less about anyone going into the weirwoodnet so much as what is in there and what may come out of it. The first is from ACOK:
A blowing rain lashed at Jon’s face as he spurred his horse across the swollen stream. Beside him, Lord Commander Mormont gave the hood of his cloak a tug, muttering curses on the weather. His raven sat on his shoulder, feathers ruffled, as soaked and grumpy as the Old Bear himself. A gust of wind sent wet leaves flapping round them like a flock of dead birds. The haunted forest, Jon thought ruefully. The drowned forest, more like it.
A drowned forest, with leaves like dead birds – but of course this simply suggests birds and trees with the spirits of the dead inside them, which is what we see in Bloodraven’s cave. The motif is emphasized again two paragraphs later when it says that “Up ahead a hunting horn sounded a quavering note, half drowned beneath the constant patter of the rain.” This is not only a drowned forest, it’s an undersea forest, and everything else here is drowned too… including the half-drowned horn of Joramun– I mean Jarman Buckwell. Under the sea, you’re supposed to be welcomed with horns, right? Isn’t that what Asha said?
Even better is this quote from a Jon chapter later in ACOK at the Fist of the First Men:
Closer at hand, it was the trees that ruled. To south and east the wood went on as far as Jon could see, a vast tangle of root and limb painted in a thousand shades of green, with here and there a patch of red where a weirwood shouldered through the pines and sentinels, or a blush of yellow where some broadleafs had begun to turn. When the wind blew, he could hear the creak and groan of branches older than he was. A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.
Ghost was not like to be alone down there, he thought. Anything could be moving under that sea, creeping toward the ringfort through the dark of the wood, concealed beneath those trees. Anything. How would they ever know? He stood there for a long time, until the sun vanished behind the saw-toothed mountains and darkness began to creep through the forest.
The communication of the greenseers through the weirwoods is done through the rustling of the leaves, as we have seen many times. Thus, the wording here is very precise: a thousand leaves flutter, and that is when, for a moment, the forest seemed “a deep green sea.” The forest also goes on “as far as Jon can see,” another hint at this devilish green see wordplay.
As for what is really moving under that green sea, it turns out to be the Others and their army of wights. In the prologue of AGOT, the Others are shadows which “emerge from the dark of the wood,” and here Jon uses that exact phrase, “the dark of the wood,” interchangeably with “that sea” of trees. Later, Jon Snow refers to their attack on the Fist as “a tide of living dead men,” adding to the forest-as-sea imagery and drawing a link to the “green tide” of forest that seemed to be attacking Asha at Deepwood Motte. We’ve also seen that the Others have a ton of symbolism about icy ponds and frozen lakes, and they seem to parallel Dante’s Lucifer, who is trapped in a frozen lake until Armageddon. That’s obviously an idea we’ll follow up on, and you can see right away how the aquatic symbolism of the Others coming from the icy lake dovetails with the idea of them coming from the dark of the wood. For now I mention it only to see that the things moving beneath that sea are associated with greenseers, in my estimation.
Ghost is also said to be under that green sea, and Ghost has the exact coloring of a weirwood, as Jon notes to himself: blood and bone. He’s a weirwood ghost; of course he’s under the green see! The Others and Ghost as both referred to as white shadows, but unlike the Others, Ghost has eyes of hot red fire – they are called two red suns by Jon one time. This seems a clue that not everyone under the see is an Other – of course not, as we know Bran and Bloodraven are symbolically under the sea too. As I have mentioned, there seems to be different parts of the weirwoodnet, a part which is under the control of the Others and one which is not, at the very least.
Just to be clear, the reason why we look under the green forest sea and find both icy beings like the Others and their dead servants and a being whose symbolism implies fire like Ghost is because I believe that what we think of as ice and fire magic are both somehow tied to weirwood magic. So far in the weirwood compendium we have been tracking down the connection between fire magic and greenseer magic, and as I said there is an entire line of evidence and symbolism linking the Others to greenseer magic. Obviously there is A LOT of under the sea symbolism to explore, and obviously the weirwoodnet is a complex place, with a lot going on that we have yet to learn about. But right away, just with the examples of Nissa Nissa moon maidens drowning or coming from the sea and the symbolism of Grey King and Azor Ahai being reborn in the sea, you can already see how the greenseer / green sea wordplay makes a ton of sense. It fits seamlessly with everything we have discovered in all of our research so far… and we haven’t even talked about Dany yet.
I’ll close with the freebie of freebiees: Sea Dragon Tower on Dragonstone, which has two relevant lines about it. It has a “turnpike star,” which reminds us of castle Pyke on the Iron Islands where we found all that sea dragon symbolism, and then there is this line from a Davos chapter of ASOS:
The towers were dragons hunched above the walls or poised for flight; the Windwyrm seemed to scream defiance, while Sea Dragon Tower gazed serenely out across the waves.
What is the See Dragon tower doing? Why, gazing, of course. It could be doing anything at all, and Martin chose to portray it as gazing out to see. A small detail, but a nice one.
See you next time!